12/01/2005 1:00AM

Trainers and CHRB push for Polytrack


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Citing concern about injuries and short fields, a group of 25 trainers appealed to the California Horse Racing Board on Thursday for improvements in Southern California racing surfaces and urged the state's racetracks to install Polytrack.

Board members supported a call for Polytrack, a sand-based synthetic material that has proven popular as an all-weather surface in England and has been well-received at Turfway Park in Kentucky since it was installed there this summer.

At one point during the meeting, CHRB commissioner Richard Shapiro proposed that California racetracks be required to install Polytrack by 2007 to receive racing dates, but later he backed off that statement.

Instead, the board formed a committee - headed by Shapiro and commissioner Jerry Moss - to follow the progress of tracks pursuing Polytrack as well as conduct ongoing discussions on ways to improve the condition of California's racetracks.

Two California tracks are evaluating whether to install Polytrack.

Del Mar is considering installing Polytrack in 2006, but has yet to determine how it would fund the installation of the surface or complete engineering plans.

Hollywood Park is considering installing Polytrack for the 2006 fall meeting, but has yet to acquire the 15,000 to 20,000 tons of sand that would be needed, track president Jack Liebau said.

Santa Anita officials were non-committal about plans for Polytrack. "We are committed to short-term and long-term solutions," track president Ron Charles said.

Citing injuries to horses, trainers say they are concerned about losing owners, and that some owners refuse to race in California.

"I hear the noise level and we've gone from orange alert to red alert, and the entries show it," trainer Howard Zucker said. "We can't go farther or we'll have match racing out there."

Zucker, who heads the California Thoroughbred Trainers' track safety committee, said he felt progress was being made. "I've had so much response in the last two weeks," Zucker said. "There is a total cooperation between the horsemen and tracks to better our tarnished image."

* In other news, the board approved a transfer of $166,000 from the purse pool at Hollywood Park to Golden Gate Fields to increase purses for turf races run at the northern California track this fall.

Hollywood Park is not running turf races this fall because its grass course failed to grow properly when it was re-sodded in the summer.

The board approved the transfer by a vote of 5-2 with chairman John Harris and new commissioner John Andreini opposing.

Harris said he was unclear whether such a transfer was legal under state racing law, but a representative of the state attorney general's office said racing law allowed for the transfer.

* Shapiro was voted chairman for 2006, replacing Harris. Marie Moretti was voted vice-chair.