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Santa Anita still on track

Despite the biggest rains in decades and more to come over the next couple days, Santa Anita Park president George Haines says the horse race facility expects to have great racing on opening day Sunday, as scheduled. Before the rains, officials were expecting crowds of more than 40,000 for the 2010-2011 meet. That’s still a possibility if forecasts for a let-up in the rain by Thursday, or at least by the weekend, hold true.

UPDATE 11 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 22: After more than 12-inches of rain on the Santa Anita track since the rains began in the past week, Track Superintendent Richard Tedesco was walking the track at the quarter pole and reported “it’s pretty firm. We plan to open most of the track for training Thursday and all of the track Friday, if things go as expected. The forecast calls for clearing soon, but there could be another system in Saturday that could bring another quarter inch of rain. We’ll see.” The rains resumed in force a short while later Wednesday afternoon.

Running a "float" on a wet surface to make it smooth enough to race.

Haines told that the track, which was just re-installed again earlier this month, has been “sealed,” meaning the newly laid dirt has been compacted so that heavy rain will run off the surface and  flow to the inside drains so and not get into the base. That’s the theory, anyway. That was also the plan with the previous two synthetic surfaces installed over the last couple years, but it didn’t work even as well as the dirt tracks of the previous 70-plus years, causing a record number of racing days to be canceled the past couple of seasons. The return to a dirt track is getting an immediate trial by fire this week — well, by rain — with many inches of precipitation that isn’t supposed to let up until Thursday, just three days before opening day. Forecasts call for partly cloudy weather and temperatures in the mid-60s Thursday – Sunday. “With a break in the weather and a little luck the track will be in good shape for opening day,” Haines said today as it continued to pour. Since there are no guarantees with weather, Haines said if it is raining on opening day, will prepare the track with floats, a trailer pulled by a tractor that flattens the surface to a smooth finish (see photo, above left). Because the water will drain off the top, Haines said the track may be muddy on top but the base will still be in good enough condition to race, rain or shine.

— By Scott Hettrick

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