With the main track reopened as planned, Santa Anita was abuzz Saturday for the first time in three weeks.
There were once again horses on the track -- close to 100 worked anywhere from three to six furlongs -- and the usual crowd was back at Clocker's Corner for their morning coffee and breakfast. For some, it was a chance to get caught up with friends they hadn't seen for a while.
The new synthetic track has been closed for training since Dec. 4 for repairs to improve a drainage problem.
"It's back to normal," proclaimed Rosie Yrbarra, a longtime employee at Clocker's Corner, who was sporting an elf's costume and a big smile Saturday. "And everybody is happy."
On this cool but sunny morning, there were only good comments about the condition of the track.
Retired jockey Chris Loseth, who worked Smooch for trainer Sean McCarthy in 34.2 seconds at three furlongs, said, "It felt good to me. Very even."
Trainer Vladimir Cerin has been working his horses exclusively on the inside dirt training track since October and that was the case again Saturday, so he couldn't comment about the condition of the track.
But he did say, "I really appreciate the effort Santa Anita has put into [fixing the track]. I hope it all works out."
Santa Anita's winter meet opens Wednesday, and there is no rain forecast through the week.
The big test for the repaired track will come with the next rainstorm.
-- Larry Stewart