Santa Anita’s announcement delayed

Santa Anita President Ron Charles said over the weekend that the official word on what surface the track will install after the current meet has been delayed by parent company Magna Entertainment Corp’s bankruptcy proceedings.

Although, through maneuvering, Frank Stronach will retain his major race tracks, including Santa Anita, Golden Gate Fields and Gulfstream Park, Santa Anita officials are waiting before they can make the official announcement about the racing surface because of legalities concerning Magna’s bankruptcy.

Charles said Stronach is due in town shortly and that an announcement will be made at that time. It will be dirt, because there’s no way in heck Stronach will OK another synthetic, but no track official will confirm that dirt will be the new racing surface. Charles announced on Jan. 18 that the track would replace its current synthetic Pro-Ride surface at the end of the meet and at the time expected to have a decision in a matter of days, not weeks.

Meanwhile, some in the Santa Anita press box were second guessing the decision to go back to dirt over the weekend, claiming the sealed tracks will lead to the type of breakdowns that plagued the SoCal tracks before the synthetics.

Two things about that:

(1) The bases are now new, not decades old like before the synthetic tracks were installed.
(2) The tighter scrutiny designed to spot unsound horses before they race, both while they warm up and then before they enter the starting gate, was not in place the last time we had sealed tracks.

Put in a quality dirt surface and, coupled with these new bases, they will be just fine. Yes, there will be some breakdowns, there are always going to be breakdowns because these powerful horses carry a ton of weight on those spindly legs.

But the fatalities will be no worse than over the synthetics, and we won’t have the different types of injuries that began cropping up when the synthetics were installed.

14 thoughts on “Santa Anita’s announcement delayed

  1. Keep reporting the truth Art and don’t let the spinners in the Press Box get away with their propaganda.

    You are right on the money about the new bases and increased race day scrutiny.

  2. I hope it will be dirt,or the meager support remaining for California Horse Racing will go down the tubes.

    Does anyone think track president Ron Charles wants to try another synthetic after two tries have failed? In another sport that would be “STRIKE THREE!

    I give him more credit than that.


  3. The base is a significant part of the problem with Santa Anita’s current track. Because of shortcuts in construction and materials, the base’s drainage properties are compromised. Taking up the existing surface and replacing it with a new dirt cushion isn’t going to get it done.

  4. California racing is in a death spiral. More should be addressed on the issues behind this, instead of constant harping on the track surface. Track surface is fine at some tracks and problems at others. I remember very recently Golden Gate struggled to fill a 4 horse field, and that was in better times for CA racing. Hollywood is fine, SA is up for debate, the drainage has been a big problem. I read this articles and you would think, change the surface, all is good again. Not. Talked to some owners who have trainers raising costs almost monthly, first 2% barn fee, then 3% barn fee on top of the 10%. Then used to be trainers gets 10% 5% 5% for hitting the board, now 10% down the 5th. Give me a break. 9.75% tax on claims in CA. Nice, claim a 32K horse, with tax and estimate of 30 days before the next race you are in the hole 7500.00. CA is a mess, the track surface would not be in my top 10 list as to why.

  5. Ken — I can understand if you don’t think synthetic tracks are the main reason CA is in such a mess, but to say they are not even in the top 10 when you consider the number of owners/trainers who don’t want to run on the stuff, well, I’m afraid you have your head in the sand, my friend.

  6. Marcus — They were not mandated by state law, they were mandated by the California Horse Racing Board, which is now willing to relax its mandate since they have caused many problems.

  7. Art,

    I can quickly name 5 trainers who have no problems with the surfaces in CA and find 5 that feel the opposite. I would say that the majority now fall into the side of they dont like the surface. But I would also say majority of the ones who dont like the surfaces are sick degenerate gamblers and that is a major issue in their opinions. Talk to Dick Mandella, Barry Abrams, Eion Harty, David Hofmans..all top horseman who love the surfaces. I just think its not the major issue in CA racings decline. Flat to declining purses are the reason with skyrocketing expenses. I have not seen your name in the claimbox lately, How many horses do you own? I recently got a bill from a trainer of two horses I have and it had an add on for “dispensables” for 300.00. I asked “what is the 300.00 for?” He said “everyone is starting to add it, it is for him or the vet to give basic medications”!! Talk to Bob Bone about why he is phasing out, or Maggi Moss who came to CA a year or so again and ran out of town. If the purses in CA doubled the problems 99% are crying about in CA would be gone, until then its not going to turn around in CA.

  8. Ken, I agree … dwindling purse sizes are one of if not the biggest problems facing CA racing. I don’t disagree one bit. But when handle is down, purses go down, and the heavy bettors do not like betting on synthetics. When they were first put in, 65 to 70 percent of trainers were in favor of them. Now 70 to 75 percent are against them. Why? They’re not all degenerate gamblers. John Shirreffs is not a gambler and he’s never liked them. My disagreement with your first post was your assertion that synthetics were not even among the top 10 issues plaguing the industry. I think it’s definitely among the top five.

  9. Ken, I think at least one of the guys you mentioned doesn’t like synthetics as a gambler but loves them as a trainer. More than one of the guys you mentioned bets.

    There are other significant problems besides the surface but to deny that synthetics are a fraud is to deny the truth.

  10. Agree for sure that betting on them has turned many off. I think Hollywood is the easiest surface to handicap I have ever seen.. Plays to speed, yet closers can get there. SA is tougher, and Del Mar is almost impossible. But think the small field size is the issue, even at Del Mar field size is small for all but MC 32K races. Woodbine has no problem with field size due to huge purses, and it has Poly. I know these tracks are safer for breakdowns, no doubt about it, but other injuries, nagging ones, foot issues etc are more prevalent on synthetic vs dirt. Just think Woodbine shows that quality racing with good fields and people will wager. Love CA racing, but I am not optimistic, dirt or synthetic unless purses get a serious infusion, and handle nowadays is not enough, it has to have slot enhanced revenue. I am on the side that I hope it all works out somehow…but unless the state or casinos step in it is not coming back here.

  11. Ken, I got this email from a Southern California Trainer this morning. I forwarded it to Art.

    Here it is:


    Thanks for your comments. Horsemen have been unable to reconcile their experiences on the synthethic surfaces with Dr. Arthur’s conclusions. As you know Dr. Arthur has refused to provide the raw data underlying his conclusionary reports.

    As evidence of Dr. Arthur’s incompetence or misfeasance, I direct your attention to his summary found on page 36 of the CHRB Annual Report Fiscal Year 2007-2008

    ( In Table I Fatalities by Track & Surface, Dr. Arthur adds fatality figures from Los Alamitos (including Quarter Horse Racing) to establish his conclusion that synthetics are safer than dirt. Please note that 50 of the 77 fatalities reported on dirt are from Los Alamitos. Absent the inclusion of the Los Alamitos fatalities the report would show 27 fatalities on dirt vs. 43 fatalities on synthetics. Without the Los Alamitos fatalities, Dr. Arthur’s conclusion regarding the fatality rate per 1,000 starts would be reversed and would rightfully show that synthetic surfaces are significantly more harmful than dirt surfaces. He has promulgated more recent studies which continue to fly in the face of the experience of most California Horsemen.

    Quite simply, Dr. Arthur must submit his data for peer review and validation before it can be accepted. His continual refusal to allow interested parties access to the underlying data (redacted with regard to names of horses, trainers, etc.) is indefensible.

  12. Ken,

    As one of the sick degenerate gamblers you describe above(apparently,in your opinion the majority of dollar contributors to your handle),I have to tell you to get your head out of the sand.

    We are also known as customers.

    Horse racing is not your game alone. The horseman put on the show. For who? Themselves?

    Horse racing is a participatory sport,the customers are competing against each other via the pari-mutuels.

    You are supposed to put on the show to attract customers. If the horseman do not put on the show to attract customers,the horseman are failing.

    Customers pay the majority of the purse money,fewer customers equal less purse money.

    It is a gambling game,and customers do not attend to just be entertained by the horseman,they want to bet.

    Customers are trying to tell you what they want,and they do not want synthetics,they do not like them to wager on.

    Nothing has been proved on the safety issues,so that is pure B.S

    Slots have not proven to be beneficial to the horseman in most parts of the country,so that is more B.S.

    Useing insults to support your self interest position is not helpful to anyone.

    California racing needs customers ,not slots and you and your horseman friends should try to listen more carefully to the needs of the most important element to your industry, the CUSTOMERS(AKA..sick degenerate gamblers)


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