05/15/2007 12:00AM

Will it be Cushion Track or Pro-Ride?


Santa Anita has narrowed its choices for a synthetic surface to Cushion Track or Pro-Ride and is expected to make a decision within a week, according to a person close to the discussions.

Whichever material is chosen, the installation is scheduled for late summer. Santa Anita is closed for training during the Del Mar meeting, from July 18 to Sept. 5. The new track would be in place for the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting, which begins on Sept. 26.

If Santa Anita installs Cushion Track, the two major Los Angeles racetracks would have the same type of synthetic surface. Hollywood Park installed a Cushion Track in September 2006, the first California track to install a synthetic surface.

Cushion Track is manufactured by Equestrian Surfaces of Burnley, England. The material consists of silica sand mixed with synthetic fibers, elastic fiber, and granulated rubber. The material is coated with a blend of wax.

The Pro-Ride surface is in place only at several training centers in Australia. In April, track president Ron Charles and jockeys Richard Migliore and Aaron Gryder visited Australia to allow the riders to exercise several horses over the surface.

Pro-Ride is a mixture of sand and polymeric binder. If Pro-Ride is chosen, the four major California tracks would each have a different synthetic surface. Del Mar near San Diego installed a Polytrack surface this spring, which will be used for the first time this summer. Golden Gate Fields, the Albany racetrack which like Santa Anita is owned by Magna Entertainment, will install a Tapeta Footings surface this summer, and it will debut in the fall.

Bay Meadows in San Mateo asked for a two-year exemption earlier this year on the installation of a synthetic surface, but the board denied the request. Bay Meadows, which is scheduled for development in the next couple years, then decided not to request racing dates for 2008.

Citing safety issues, the California Horse Racing Board last year mandated that all California tracks that run four consecutive weeks of Thoroughbred racing must install a synthetic track by the end of this year, or risk losing racing dates in 2008.

Synthetic surfaces are believed to provide less concussion for horses and reduce injuries.