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Santa Anita races to get track ready

December 20, 2007|Larry Stewart | Times Staff Writer

The rain that played havoc with commuters Tuesday wasn't kind to workers at the Santa Anita racetrack either.

Six days before the Arcadia facility is scheduled to begin its prestigious winter meet, with some 2,000 horses participating, the main track remains closed for training while crews work to renovate the new synthetic track to rectify a drainage problem.

Veteran horse racing observers are calling the situation unprecedented.

"Imagine an airport with runways ripped up and littered with workmen, while planes circle overhead," is how Jay Hovdey described it in the Daily Racing Form.

Visitors to the track Wednesday saw a very wet, sandy main track. Graders and other machinery were on the track, but no horses.

"We had an inch and a half of rain overnight, delaying our primary task," said Mike Willman, Santa Anita's publicity director.

He said the task is mixing synthetic fiber and rubber with the sand.

Willman said the track now is scheduled to open for training Friday morning.

"We're very anxious to get this thing finalized and get horses on the main track," he said, "and to also be sure the track is 100% safe and consistent."

A synthetic Cushion Track was installed this summer at a cost of close to $11 million. But just before the start of the Oak Tree meet that began Sept. 26, a rainstorm hit Southern California and it was discovered the track did not drain properly.

That necessitated a major renovation with crews working almost around the clock. The project began Dec. 4 and was scheduled to take about a week.

But the difficulty of the job and the recent rains have caused the delays, and it is now nervous time for Santa Anita officials.

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