Training Track At Santa Anita Could Re-Open Friday


If veteran trackman Dennis Moore gives the Santa Anita training track the thumbs-up after he has evaluated it Thursday, the track could re-open for training Friday morning, said California Thoroughbred Trainers (CTT) president Jim Cassidy after a meeting Wednesday morning.

This sentiment was mirrored by California Horse Racing Board member Alex Solis, who also attended the meeting. He said there's a “good chance” the track will be open Friday. “It's a different surface [to the main track],” said Solis. “It can absorb more water.”

Should the training track re-open Friday morning, the hours will be extended to “at least 10:30” a.m., Cassidy said, and horses will be restricted to routine exercise. “No workouts,” he said, adding that there could possibly be a cessation of workouts lasting a week.

“I think you'd need at least a week on the training track before anybody was allowed to work on it,” said Cassidy. “You've got to understand, you're talking about a lot of horses on that training track, and it can get torn up just as easily.”

Of the 21 equine fatalities since the start of the Santa Anita winter-spring meet Dec. 26, there have been no catastrophic injuries sustained on the training track.

Solis said that Dennis Moore also attended the meeting, along with P.J. Campo, executive vice president, Racing Division, for The Stronach Group, state veterinarian Dr. Tim Grande, jockey Aaron Gryder, and exercise rider Humberto Gomez.

The Stronach Group announced late Tuesday evening that Santa Anita would close for live racing and training while the one-mile main track undergoes additional extensive testing.

According to Solis, the picture could be much clearer as to when the main track re-opens for training and racing by next Monday, by which time Moore will have had “a few days” to conduct his tests. “We're working hard on finding solutions for the safety of the horse and the rider,” he said.

Cassidy said that if the training track re-opens Friday and workouts are restricted for a period of time, trainers needing to work their horses can take them to Los Alamitos or San Luis Rey Downs.

According to CTT executive director Alan Balch, there are roughly 350 available stalls at Los Alamitos. A well-placed source said that there are between 50 and 70 available stalls at San Luis Rey Downs.

“Personally, I don't see anything wrong with not working for a while, but that's my take,” Cassidy said. “We've missed a lot of works anyway because of the weather.”

Cassidy said that he hadn't heard of any other trainers who have started shifting their horses from Santa Anita to other training facilities.

According to trainer John Sadler, he'll have to get “creative” if workouts are restricted on the training track for a period of time. “I'll probably work some of my horses at Los Alamitos,” he said. Sadler typically maintains a string of between 25-35 horses at Los Alamitos. “It'll be on a case-by-case basis,” Sadler added.

“I feel very good about Dennis Moore being back in there,” Sadler added. Moore was the former Santa Anita track superintendent, until he left his position in December of last year. Just this Tuesday, it was announced he would be back as a consultant at Santa Anita, expanding on the ground radar testing conducted by the University of Kentucky's Dr. Mick Peterson last week.

“We have a lot of confidence in him, and I think I'm speaking for the majority of the horsemen. He's a very strong track man, very popular,” said Sadler. “I have great confidence he'll get it up and going in short order.”

No evaluation was conducted on the track Wednesday, however, due to heavy rain. In Wednesday's announcement, Santa Anita said that Moore would be using for his work the Orono Biomechanical Surface Tester, “a device that mimics the impacts of a horse running at full gallop, allowing engineers to see how the track holds up.”

The rain could corrode the “sensitive” bearings of the Orono Biomechanical Surface Tester, potentially leading to inaccurate readings, hence why the machine was left idle Wednesday, said Kaleb Dempsey, a laboratory manager who works with Peterson. Dempsey is currently at Santa Anita, helping Moore and the Santa Anita track crew, headed by current superintendent Andy LaRocco.

Earlier in the day, Balch warned that if the training track remains closed for any longer than Friday, it could jeopardize the health and safety of horses who are currently restricted to exercise around the barns. “We're trying to do what's best for the horses,” said Balch, stressing the volatile nature of the Thoroughbred. “The main concern is the training track and being able to get horses out of their stalls and out of the backstretch.”

Balch also pointed to a number of concerns trainers raised at the meeting, including the “pressure” trainers are under to run horses in conditions they're not entirely happy with, including a sealed track.

“Horses can suffer an injury that might not be evident after running over a sealed racetrack,” said Balch, who added that perhaps “the time has come where we should at least consider not running when you have to take these steps to protect the racetrack. Horsemen made the point that races are canceled in the East [Coast] all the time [due to inclement weather].”

Interestingly, Peterson had previously told the TDN that data shows how sealed tracks are not unsafe tracks. “The challenge is when you transition from a sealed track to an open track. You run the risk of a very hard sealed track as it's beginning to dry out,” he said.

As for the owners and trainers who were pointing for the

GII San Felipe S., it appears that many of are taking a wait-and-see attitude and are putting off their decisions on where to run for at least a few days.

Elliott Walden, the CEO and President of WinStar Farm, a co-owner of Improbable (City Zip), told the TDN that they will see how things develop at Santa Anita before firming up the schedule for their horse. Another option is the Mar. 16 GII Rebel S. at Oaklawn.

Improbable is a stablemate of Game Winner (Candy Ride {Arg}). By text, trainer Bob Baffert said he had nothing to report so far as where his two 3-year-old stars would go next. Eclipse Award winner Game Winner, who has yet to race this year, was also pointing for the San Felipe. Later in the day, agent Ron Anderson tweeted Game Winner, along with jockey Joel Rosario, would start in the Rebel. And the possibility of other Santa Anita sophomores being re-routed to the Rebel had Oaklawn officials announcing the race might be split into two divisions.

Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, who had been planning on running Gunmetal Gray (Exchange Rate) in the San Felipe, is also on the fence.

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