02/06/2008 1:00AM

Track uncertain about racing Friday


ARCADIA, Calif. - Santa Anita president Ron Charles said he was "guarded" about whether racing could resume on Friday, saying that track maintenance crews may need that day to complete a renovation project to improve drainage of the Cushion Track.

Charles said he will make a decision on Friday's program after talking with Ian Pearse, the Australian track consultant and founder of the Pro-Ride synthetic surface, who is working with Santa Anita officials on the renovation. The project consists of adding polymers and fibers to the one-mile main track.

"I am guarded because what I don't want to do is push Ian into racing on a surface that he isn't totally comfortable is the best surface he can give us," Charles said. "We want a surface the industry will embrace. I don't want to push it. He's certain we'll race Saturday and Sunday, and he's a little apprehensive about Friday."

The renovation project has been slowed by inconsistencies in the Cushion Track surface and approximately a half-inch of rain that fell on Sunday, which led to the cancellation of racing that day. The wet weather on Sunday led to delays in the start of the renovation project, Charles said.

"When you hit some of those areas where we had wetness, it slows us down," Charles said.

By Wednesday morning, the maintenance crews had added polymer and fibers to the backstretch and were working on the first turn.

"Talking to Ian, he's happy with the way we've been able to get it down," Charles said. "We still have more mixing to do, in mixing the polymer and fiber and get a finished project."

Track superintendent Richard Tedesco said he was hopeful that crews could complete most of the homestretch by early Thursday morning. Crews are working from approximately 7 a.m. to 1 a.m.

"It's a long process," Tedesco said. "We spray [the polymers] and work it in. We've got four pieces of equipment working it in. It takes more time. The fibers go in pretty quick. The first day was slow, trying to get the bugs out of the operation."

Tedesco said it was unclear what else needs to be done to prepare the surface for racing once the polymers and fibers are added.

"I don't know what the next process is after we finish," he said. "I don't how much working on the racetrack it needs before it's ready."

When racing does resume, there will be a pick-six carryover of $181,514 from last Saturday's program, the most recent day of racing.

If racing is not conducted on Friday, it would be the 11th racing day lost since the start of the year. The track lost eight days of racing in January and last week because the main track failed to drain following substantial rain. Racing was canceled Monday and Thursday this week to allow work crews to begin the renovation. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are dark.

Two Grade 1s and a Grade 2 Saturday

Santa Anita has scheduled a 10-race program on Saturday, which will include two $250,000 Grade 1 races - the Las Virgenes Stakes and Santa Maria Handicap - and the Grade 2 San Antonio Handicap, which was postponed from Feb. 3.

Tough Tiz's Sis, the winner of the Grade 1 Lady's Secret Stakes in October, is the 119-pound highweight in the Santa Maria, which is run at 1o1/16 miles. The race has drawn six fillies and mares.

Tasha's Miracle, the winner of the Grade 3 Sorrento Stakes last August, makes her 3-year-old debut in the one-mile Las Virgenes Stakes for fillies. Tasha's Miracle has not started since finishing fourth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies at Monmouth Park in October.

In the Las Virgenes, Golden Doc A, the winner of two sprint stakes last year, makes her first start for owner Ron McCauley, who purchased her privately earlier this month. Golden Doc A remains with trainer Barry Abrams.

The $250,000 San Antonio Handicap, a leading prep to the $1omillion Santa Anita Handicap on March 1, has drawn the same nine horses that entered the race last weekend. Student Council, the winner of the $1 million Pacific Classic last August, is the 119-pound highweight. The 1 1/8 mile-race will be the first start of the year for Awesome Gem, who finished third in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Monmouth Park in October in his last start.

Board pursues two clenbuterol cases

The California Horse Racing Board has filed complaints against trainers David La Croix and Melody Conlon after they had starters test in excess of the permitted level of clenbuterol at the Hollywood Park fall meeting.

Clenbuterol is a bronchial dilator used to aid horses with breathing problems. It is allowed to appear in postrace tests at minute levels.

La Croix was cited after Happyhour Atthebrig tested in excess of the permitted levels following a second-place finish in the fourth race on Dec. 1, a maiden claimer for sprinters.

Conlon was cited after Tommys Luck tested in excess of permitted levels following a win in a maiden claimer in the sixth race on Nov. 21.

Hearings in both cases will be heard before the Santa Anita stewards later this month.