Santa Anita tracks rain ahead of key races

Times Staff Writer

The combination of heavy rain and a defective synthetic track has put racing at Santa Anita in jeopardy through the weekend, which includes one of the marquee events of the Arcadia racetrack’s winter meet.

Scheduled for Saturday are four of the eight races that make up the Sunshine Millions. The other four are scheduled to be run Saturday at Florida’s Gulfstream Park. The eight races offer a total of $3.6 million in purses.

Entries are limited to horses bred in California and Florida. About a dozen were flown from Florida to Ontario Airport and transported to Santa Anita on Tuesday, and a like number flew from California to Miami.

But everything remained in limbo Wednesday, particularly after the rain that had been predicted hit just before 4 p.m.


Santa Anita’s synthetic Cushion Track was sealed, or compacted tightly after the morning workouts.

“We’ll see how it weathers the storm overnight,” Santa Anita President Ron Charles said late Wednesday.

“Everyone is well aware this track has a major, major defect in its ability to drain, and it is frustrating for everyone in the industry, not just us at Santa Anita. But I must say the owners and trainers I’ve talked to have been very understanding.”

A heavy rain resulted in Santa Anita canceling three days of racing Jan. 5 to 7. Never before had three consecutive days of racing at the track been canceled because of rain.

The Cushion Track was installed last summer at a cost of nearly $11 million.

A polymer binder and fiber, which in tests have shown to remedy the drainage problem, will arrive from various sites this weekend and be ready to apply next week, weather permitting, Charles said.

There has been speculation about possibly moving races to Hollywood Park in Inglewood or Golden Gate Fields in Northern California, but Charles declined to comment on that.

Moving Saturday’s races, particularly at this stage, would seem to be unlikely because of the logistical problems it would create.