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Santa Anita to replace track

Times Staff Writer

The decision has been made. Santa Anita will replace its existing synthetic track with a new one this summer.

Santa Anita President Ron Charles initially had said a decision on whether to replace the track or keep the revamped one now in place wouldn’t be made until after the winter-spring meet ends April 20.

But at the end of an all-day special California Horse Racing Board meeting Wednesday at Santa Anita, Charles made the surprise announcement.

“Our aim is for this track to get us through the next nine weeks of this meet,” Charles said. “Then we’ll examine all possibilities and proceed from there.”

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Work on taking out the current track and installing a new one won’t begin until after Hollywood Park’s spring-summer meet because some horses that run at the Inglewood track train at the Arcadia facility, Charles said.

One reason it is imperative for Santa Anita to have a first-rate track is because it will play host to the Breeders’ Cup during the Oak Tree meet this year and in 2009.

Charles said Wednesday that recent troubles with the track led to the decision to replace it.

A week earlier, the sixth race at Santa Anita was delayed 25 minutes while repairs were made to the track after jockeys complained about soft spots and inconsistencies. Officials came close to canceling the remainder of that day’s card.

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Santa Anita’s problems with its synthetic track were the impetus behind the CHRB calling Wednesday’s special meeting, attended by some of the biggest names in horse racing and where nearly 50 people voiced opinions.

Despite outspoken critics, the consensus was synthetic tracks provide a safer surface for horses and jockeys and are generally good for the sport.

However, Santa Anita has had more than its share of problems with its synthetic track, having lost an unprecedented 11 racing days this meet because of a drainage problem and an unusually wet winter.

The initial vendor, Paul Harper of England-based Cushion Track, attempted to fix the drainage problem but apparently only made things worse.

Another vendor, Ian Pearse of Australia-based Pro-Ride, was brought in and, working with USC professor Jean-Pierre Bardet, found a solution to the problem.

After an intense 4 1/2 -day repair project, racing resumed Feb. 9, and the first three days went well.

But then came last week’s problem.

Trainer Richard Mandella said before Wednesday’s meeting that leading Triple Crown candidate Crown Of Thorns has a sore left shin and the start of a possible stress fracture.

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That means the horse is out of the Kentucky Derby picture.

“He’ll be out a couple of months,” Mandella said of the $300,000 son of Repent owned by B. Wayne Hughes.

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larry.stewart@latimes.com


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