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Santa Anita says track will be repaired

Times Staff Writer

As expected, Santa Anita officials announced Tuesday that, in hopes of solving an ongoing drainage problem, the existing synthetic Cushion Track will be repaired rather than replaced with a sandy loam dirt surface.

The decision came after extensive testing in Australia and in the civil engineering department lab at USC.

“The test results are dramatic and extremely encouraging,” Santa Anita President Ron Charles said. “We have only a short window of opportunity to get this done and we believe we have finally solved our Cushion Track drainage problem. After exhaustive research, we feel strongly that this is the way to go.”

He said that a polymeric binder and fiber will be added to the top seven-inch layer of the Cushion Track to not only allow it to drain vertically, but also make it more consistent and easier on the horses.

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Charles said it will take 10 to 12 days to produce the material and then, he estimates, four days to apply it.

As for canceling any race days, Charles said those decisions have not been made.

“We’re exploring all options,” he said.

Those options include grass-only racing, canceling race days or moving races to Hollywood Park.

One source said that if rain comes before the running of the Sunshine Millions races Jan. 26, which would be before the Cushion Track can be reformulated and repaired, those races might be switched to Golden Gate Fields. Santa Anita and Golden Gate Fields are owned by Magna Entertainment.

Another problem, which surfaced last week, were rocks showing up on the track. Some jockeys complained it could create a dangerous situation. The rocks apparently are pieces of asphalt that broke off from the base during a recent renovation project to try to alleviate the drainage problem.

About 80 volunteers, along with trainers and jockeys, walked the track picking up the loose asphalt Tuesday. Charles said he walked the track and believes a different maintenance program will help alleviate it.

As for solving the drainage problem, tests initially were conducted in Australia by Ian Pearse, managing director of Pro-Ride, and then at USC under the direction of Jean-Pierre Bardet, professor and chairman of the school’s civil and environmental engineering department.

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Said Charles: “Trainers, owners and jockeys have witnessed numerous demonstrations over the past three days and all parties have been overwhelmingly supportive.”

Charles said that the possibility of replacing the Cushion Track with dirt hit a number of snags. For one thing, finding 20,000 tons of high-quality dirt was unsuccessful.

A regularly scheduled California Horse Racing Board meeting will be held today at Arcadia City Hall, and a discussion of the drainage issue is on the agenda. But a special teleconference vote scheduled for Thursday to consider giving Santa Anita a waiver to install a dirt track if necessary has been canceled.

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larry.stewart@latimes.com


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