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Santa Anita may be on verge of returning to dirt surface

January 18, 2010 |  2:21 pm

Santa Ron Charles, the president of Santa Anita, said today that the track intends to remove its Pro-Ride synthetic surface at the end of this meeting and that a return to a dirt surface is "very seriously being considered."

The California Horse Racing Board banned dirt surfaces from the state's main thoroughbred tracks in 2006. However, it gave an indication last year that if any track wanted to return to dirt, it would not stand in the way, and Charles said, "I don't think it would be a problem."

A growing number of trainers have lost confidence in synthetic surfaces, which are supposed to be all-weather, durable, dependable and safe. But Santa Anita's synthetic surface has faced drainage issues from the beginning, and the track was forced to cancel its race card today because of heavy rain and poor track conditions.

That motivated Charles to publicly admit what has been discussed privately -- that Santa Anita is ready to get rid of its synthetic surface.

"The time has come to definitely make a change," he said.

Charles refused to say that dirt would be selected as the next surface, but all signs point in that direction.

-- Eric Sondheimer

Photo: Jockey Mike Smith rides Zenyatta to victory during the Breeders' Cup Classic race on Nov. 7 at Santa Anita. Credit: Harry How / Getty Images