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Santa Anita’s track gets stellar rain reviews now

Times Staff Writer

What a difference a day makes -- and a little rain.

Santa Anita’s revamped synthetic track was again getting rave reviews Thursday.

On Wednesday, concern was raised when jockeys complained of soft spots and inconsistencies on the track. But after the track was power harrowed, delaying the sixth race by nearly 25 minutes, racing resumed.

Then came an overnight rain that tested the track’s ability to drain, and it passed with flying colors. Plus, the rainwater seemed to help bind loose material that had contributed to the problems the day before.

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Santa Anita President Ron Charles said, “The track is now in the best shape it’s ever been.”

Trainer Vladimir Cerin, who generally shies away from superlatives, called the track “great.”

The word “great” was being used a lot to describe the track by horsemen at Clocker’s Corner after it opened at 5 a.m. for morning workouts despite a steady rainfall.

And the times for the races on the main track in the afternoon were about what they should be.

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If the new track continues to hold up against rain and draw praise, it could mean vindication for the California Horse Racing Board, which had mandated that the state’s five major tracks install synthetic tracks by the end of 2007.

Board Chairman Richard Shapiro, in particular, has been a target of criticism, even though the vendor who installed Santa Anita’s original synthetic track admitted mistakes that resulted in 11 lost racing days because of a drainage problem.

Still, criticism of Shapiro grew this week after he was quoted in Monday’s Times saying, “I think those lost 11 days were the best thing that could have happened. We learned an awful lot.”

Shapiro said Thursday that one e-mailer went as far as to contend that he would have also said such events as Hurricane Katrina and the Sept. 11 attacks were good things.

“I was just trying to say we are hoping that, despite all this, there may be a silver lining,” he said.

“Of course I feel horrible that people have lost wages and racing opportunities. I feel terrible for the fans, owners, trainers and everyone involved in horse racing.

“And for anyone to think I feel different, that is contrary to my whole being.”

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larry.stewart@latimes.com


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