01/06/2009 12:00AM

Training yields to surface work

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Golden Gate Fields closed its Tapeta surface to training on Monday and Tuesday to perform routine maintenance, said the track's general manager, Robert Hartman.

Hartman said he had received complaints from some trainers of a recent increase in injuries while racing or training on the surface. One trainer, Bud Klokstad, said that three of his horses have been taken out of training because of injuries on the Tapeta since the meet opened Dec. 26, and that he didn't have any such injuries on the surface last year.

Tapeta's creator, Michael Dickinson, and his crew added more wax and fiber to the track, which is made of sand, rubber, and carpet fibers.

"It's like maintenance on a car, like changing the oil," said Hartman. "There is the daily maintenance and then bigger-picture refurbishment."

The Tapeta surface has won near-universal approval since it was installed in 2007. Still, synthetic tracks are still new enough that there is a learning process involved with their upkeep.

Golden Gate found out during its first meet on Tapeta that more water than originally estimated was needed to keep the surface at its optimum. New equipment had to be purchased for daily maintenance.

Hartman said the track is being proactive in an attempt to keep the surface safe and popular with horsemen.

"We know where we need to go, and we're going to try to get back to where we were," Hartman said.

Big crowd for opener

Golden Gate Fields began the new year with its largest crowd of the millennium. The New Year's Day crowd of 8,038 was the largest attendance since the 1999 Kentucky Derby Day crowd of 8,335.

Many were there to take advantage of a promotion, which will be offered on Sundays during the meet, that offers $1 parking, admission, programs, hot dogs, beer, and soda.

"We had a lot of advertising because the week between Christmas and New Year's is slow, so we were able to get more spots," Hartman said.

Golden Gate has offered the $1 promotion on Sundays since September.

"We see different and younger faces on Sunday," Hartman said.

Free Action looking versatile

While Backbackbackgone concentrates on sprinting following his New Year's Day victory in the six-furlong Golden Bear, runner-up Free Action seems to have lots of avenues open.

Free Action's trainer, Bud Klokstad, was pleased with the way the 3-year-old Free at Last gelding finished. He rallied from fourth of five, making up 1 1/2 lengths in the lane and losing by one length to a colt who was already a multiple stakes winner.

"He's a pretty good little horse," Klokstad said of Free Action, for whom he paid $12,000 when the gelding was a yearling in 2007. Klokstad's wife, Billie, owns Free Action. "If the race was 6 1/2 furlongs, I think we would have won."

Free Action "just galloped" in winning his debut in a $20,000 maiden claimer at Emerald Downs last June, Klokstad said.

"I said after that I thought he was nice enough to be a stakes horse," he said, "but then he wouldn't do nothing in the morning, so we turned him out."

Klokstad said that Free Action's shins were probably the cause of his problems. Klokstad kept him out of action for five months, and he came back to win a Nov. 14 starter allowance race here.

Klokstad believes Free Action should be able to handle two turns, but he's not sure if the gelding will come back in the Jan. 17 California Derby at 1 1/16 miles.

Tiburon field takes shape

Three-year-old fillies will sprint six furlongs Saturday in the $75,000 Tiburon.

Considered likely for the race are Montana Fields, who sandwiched a seventh in the Grade 1 Oak Leaf at Santa Anita in October and a 10th in the Moccasin at Hollywood Park in November around a Golden Gate optional claiming win; Pretty Katherine, who set the pace and faded to seventh in the Grade 3 Miesque on the turf at Hollywood Park; Ultra Blend, who has won three straight; and Paprika Red, a longshot winner in her debut.

* All seasons not sold at the fund-raising stallion auction for the Glen Ellen Vocational Academy are up for bid on a default auction that closes Saturday at 5 p.m. The stallion roster and information on the default auction are on GEVA's website at .