by | 11.17.2010 | 12:46am

By Ray Paulick

The installation of the new Pro-Ride synthetic surface that began at Santa Anita Park in mid-July is “ahead of schedule,” according to Ron Charles, the track's president and chief operating officer of Magna Entertainment. Santa Anita is hosting the 2008 and 2009 Breeders' Cup world championships during the Oak Tree Racing Association meeting that opens Sept. 24. The two-day Breeders' Cup is schedule Oct. 24-25. 

“Right now it all looks good,” Charles told the Paulick Report. “We did run into areas where the drainage system had problems; sand had gotten down in there, but those sections have been fixed. The entire drainage system was replaced before, but a lot of it has been replaced again because of the damage.”

Pro-Ride was chosen by Santa Anita officials, Charles said, after they took a long look at synthetic surface and conventional dirt options. “I truly believe this was the right choice,” Charles said. The previous synthetic surface, Cushion Track, developed serious drainage problems last winter that led to the cancellation of 11 racing days. Santa Anita has filed suit against the manufacturers of Cushion Track, which is also in place at Hollywood Park. The California Horse Racing Board mandates that all major Thoroughbred tracks in the state have synthetic surfaces.

Ian Pearse of Pro-Ride was brought in to help repair Santa Anita's Cushion Track problems, developing a hybrid of Cushion Track and Pro-Ride that allowed Santa Anita to complete its meeting without further cancellations. Following the completion of the meeting, Santa Anita reviewed its options and in June announced it was going with Pro-Ride, a company based in Australia. 

A small percentage of the Cushion Track surface will remain, Charles admitted. “Some of the original sand and fiber and rubber will still be in there, but it all will be mixed with the binder and new fiber,” Charles said. “It will be 95% Pro-Ride. We've been screening the material and have removed some rocks, a lot of the rubber, and have reduced whatever odor there was.”

Charles said the timetable calls for the installation to be completed a week before horses return to Santa Anita from Del Mar, which closes its meeting Sept. 3. The surface will be flooded twice to test its drainage efficiency – once before the Pro-Ride material is added to the drainage system and rock base and once after the material is added. “We'll test it extensively,” Charles said. “We want it to be 100% right before we let 1,500 horses on there for training.” 

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