Oak Tree meeting appears headed for Hollywood Park
In the face of firm opposition from groups representing owners and trainers, the Oak Tree Racing Assn. had its application to run its fall meeting at Santa Anita rejected by the California Horse Racing Board on Thursday.
Oak Tree is expected to present a new application to run its meeting from Sept. 29 through Oct. 31 at Hollywood Park.
Sherwood Chillingworth, executive vice president for Oak Tree, told the CHRB meeting held at Del Mar that his organization was confident that problems associated with Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride synthetic surface could be resolved in time for the start of the meeting.
But commissioners denied the application after John Sadler, president of California Thoroughbred Trainers, and Arnold Zetcher, chairman of Thoroughbred Owners of California, indicated both of their organizations opposed running the meeting at Santa Anita.
Santa Anita has already announced it will replace its synthetic track with a new dirt surface by its Dec. 26 winter meeting.
Also influencing the vote was a presentation by an expert on synthetic racing surfaces hired by the CHRB to inspect and run tests at Santa Anita who reported that he had significant concerns about rocks found on the surface, along with an “inconsistency of the false base.”
Dr. Mick Peterson, a professor of engineering at the University of Maine, declined to specifically answer the question from CHRB Chairman Keith Brackpool, “Is the track safe to run on?”
“What we see is that the track is deep on the turns and shallow around the finish line,” he said. “There’s also some issues around the chute where there’s some unevenness. “
He said the philosophy for a track should be that a horse traveling around the course have a consistent surface, and that at the Arcadia track, it varies. The track has been plagued by drainage and other issues since it was changed to a synthetic surface in 2007.
After Peterson’s presentation, Chillingworth asked to hold a meeting with horsemen, Peterson and Richard Tedesco, Santa Anita’s maintenance supervisor, in an attempt to gain a consensus whether the monthlong Oak Tree meeting should be held at Santa Anita.
“I know there’s a group of trainers who would not like to race at Santa Anita,” he told the CHRB. “We also have a group of trainers who think the track is perfectly safe.”
Tedesco insisted the track was safe.
The CHRB is expected to hold a special meeting in the next 10 days to consider Oak Tree's new application.
-- Eric Sondheimer