12/26/2010 2:11PM

The sun breaks through for Santa Anita opener

Benoit & Associates
Santa Anita's new dirt track, here earlier this month on the first day of training, is in good shape for Sunday's opener despite overnight rain.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Sunshine was a welcome arrival at Santa Anita on Sunday morning, hours before the start of the winter-spring meeting.

The track sustained three-quarters of an inch of rain overnight, bringing the 10-day total to 14 inches, according to track superintendent Richard Tedesco. As a result of the latest rain, there is no turf racing for Sunday’s program, which begins at noon.

Sunday’s program is the first to race on a sand and clay track installed in November. Santa Anita removed its troubled synthetic track in October and early November after three years in which the surface was plagued by drainage problems.

The track has not raced since the end of the 2009-10 winter-spring meeting in April, leading to expectations for enthusiastic support from racing fans, according to track president George Haines. Last year’s opening day, held on a Saturday, drew an ontrack crowd of 35,667. The last time the track opened its winter-spring meeting on a Sunday, in 2004, there was an ontrack audience of 31,874. He was hoping for a crowd of at least 35,000 today.

“We’re getting a lot of calls at the switchboard,” Haines said. “It’s the (general admission) people that will make it or break it.”

There was training on the main track on Sunday morning, but it was closed at 9 a.m., an hour earlier than scheduled. Tedesco said there were a few wet spots on the track, but he doesn't expect any problems racing over the surface.

"Hopefully with this weather, we can get it firmed up,” he said.

The rain Sunday was expected, Haines said.

There are early scratches in four races. In the third race, Tale of the Bat has been withdrawn. The longshot Special Kid is out of the fourth race.
The Grade 1 La Brea Stakes for 3-year-old fillies will have 11 runners, following the scratches of Pica Slew and Arte Viva. The $150,000 Sir Beaufort Stakes for 3-year-olds over a mile was originally scheduled for turf and has been moved to the main track. Sebastian Flyte, second in the Hollywood Derby in late November, will not start.