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.