06/09/2010 11:00PM

Timing key for Santa Anita track


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - An expected replacement project for Santa Anita's main track later this year may lead to changes in the location of everyday training for hundreds of Thoroughbreds in Southern California after the conclusion of the Del Mar meeting on Sept. 8.

Dennis Mills, chief executive officer of Santa Anita parent company Magna International Developments, said Thursday that the track is exploring options for its current main track, a Pro-Ride brand synthetic surface that failed to drain sufficiently last winter during heavy rain.

Mills said that any renovation project undertaken may not have as narrow of a timeline as in past years when Santa Anita installed a Cushion Track brand surface in 2007 and replaced it with Pro-Ride in 2008. Those projects were conducted during the Del Mar meeting, from late July to early September, and were finished in time to accommodate horsemen returning to Santa Anita from Del Mar.

"That cost millions of dollars in overtime, and there was a rush," he said. "We're not going to do that again. I don't know for certain how long it would take. It could take as long as three months."

He said no decisions have been made on the type of a new surface but that the issue has been discussed with the California Thoroughbred Trainers and will be part of company chairman Frank Stronach's much-anticipated presentation to the California Horse Racing Board at its monthly meeting at Hollywood Park on June 22.

"We haven't made any decision," Mills said. "We are examining the possibilities with the CTT for various surfaces. Should we come to a decision, this will tie with Mr. Stronach's presentation to the CHRB on June 22."

Sadler, the president of the CTT, said a longer timeline for the installation of a new surface could lead to asking Del Mar to stay open in September, stables relocating to Hollywood Park, or asking Fairplex Park to remain open after the Los Angeles county fair meeting in September. He was hopeful that Santa Anita would allow training on its infield training track, even if the main track was not completed.

"We'd hope the training track would be open," he said. "Secondly, we'd be looking at Del Mar or Pomona to override that."

It is unclear whether Santa Anita will have a rush to finish a track installation project as in past years. Last month, Magna International Developments voided its lease with the Oak Tree Racing Association, which conducts a fall meeting at Santa Anita. Oak Tree has yet to discuss terms of a potential new lease and could operate its fall meeting at Hollywood Park.

If Oak Tree runs at Hollywood Park, the next live racing at Santa Anita would be on Dec. 26, opening day of the winter-spring meeting.