02/14/2008 12:00AM

Surface sees glitches, but rain no problem


ARCADIA, Calif. – Santa Anita’s synthetic track survived its latest crisis on Wednesday and Thursday, after jockeys criticized the track for being too hard on Wednesday, requiring two renovation sessions, and approximately a quarter-inch of rain fell early Thursday.

Racing was briefly delayed after the fourth race on Wednesday when several jockeys said the course was too firm. The surface was harrowed to a greater depth, and it performed better in the final three main-track races, jockeys said. The track was harrowed again after dusk on Wednesday.

On Thursday, training and racing went on as scheduled after rain fell in the morning. Eleven days of racing were canceled in January and early February because the track failed to drain after rain.

Leading jockey Garrett Gomez praised the condition of the track on Thursday morning after refusing to ride his final mount on Wednesday, Warren’s Adventure in the sixth race, because of concerns over safety. Warren’s Adventure won the race under Martin Pedroza.

“It’s a lot better today,” Gomez said after working a horse on the surface.

Gomez was part of a group of jockeys that expressed concern with the surface after the first half of Wednesday’s nine-race program.

Times were very fast during the early races Wednesday. The third race, a maiden special weight race at 5 1/2 furlongs, was run in 1:02.08, while the following race, a six-furlong event for $14,000 to $16,000 claimers, was timed in 1:07.61. The third race was marred by the fatal breakdown of Hilogold in the stretch. After the renovation, an optional claimer at 6 1/2 furlongs was timed in 1:15.08. The last race, a six-furlong maiden claimer, finished in 1:09.81.

Track executives and stewards met with jockeys between the fourth and fifth races on Wednesday. Jockeys were informed that the track would be “power-harrowed” or groomed to a greater depth. That was not enough to convince Gomez to continue riding.

“I didn’t think they could fix it to satisfy us,” Gomez said Thursday. “I thought I’d be better waiting. It’s my life out there. I’m not a test pilot.

“We didn’t feel the surface was safe. It was great on Monday. We showed up on Wednesday and it was completely different.”

Early Wednesday, jockey David Flores said, the track “was kind of peeling off a layer on the top, and the bottom was like cement. It was too hard.”

Declan’s Moon, the champion 2-year-old male of 2004, and two other horses were scratched from the day’s feature, race 8.

There were only 49 recorded works on the main track on Thursday. Trainer Jeff Mullins worked six horses, but only after seeing how the track performed in the early hours.

“It’s better than it was” Wednesday, Mullins said.

The synthetic track underwent five days of renovation from Feb. 4-8 to improve drainage. Polymer and fiber from the Australian synthetic surface Pro-Ride was added to the existing Cushion Track surface during the renovation. Ian Pearse, the founder of Pro-Ride, was consulted in Australia several times on Wednesday and Thursday as events unfolded.

Santa Anita president Ron Charles said the newly renovated track will likely need more maintenance on a regular basis than originally thought.