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Okay, scrap everything I wrote in the last blog posting (“Cushion Track Debacle”). Although my speculation regarding what Santa Anita was going to do about Cushion Track (along with ensuing timetables) was sound at the time, track President and CEO Ron Charles has now laid out a different plan of attack. In a last-ditch effort to salvage the $10 million-plus Cushion Track (and unable to find enough quality sandy loam to replace the synthetic track with “real” dirt), Charles brought in Ian Pearse, a synthetic-track expert and founder of the Australian company Pro-Ride. Pearse, along with USC civil engineers, spent last week tinkering with samples of the Cushion Track, adding polymers (chemical compounds formed by the union of small molecules, according to Webster’s Dictionary) to the track in hopes of getting water to drain through properly. According to more than one leading trainer who was present, the results were encouraging.

At today’s CHRB meeting, Charles, according to Steve Andersen in DRF, said the polymers would be available within 10 days and work on the strip would likely begin as early as Monday, Jan. 28, weather permitting. The process of adding these polymers and fibers to the track takes four days, so Santa Anita will lose two more days of racing to go along with three previous cancellation days. With Sunshine Millions set for Jan. 26, Santa Anita needs to get lucky with dry weather over the next couple of weeks or be faced with another potential PR disaster. What happens if we get more wet weather between now and the time repair work begins? With one forecast calling for a 40% chance of rain on Monday or Tuesday, Santa Anita management must be on pins and needles.

Synthetics, polymers, civil engineers. Who could have envisioned these words being used in racing language just a few short years ago?

Speaking of Sunshine Millions, the banners are up and sponsorship flags are flying. California vs. Florida. Santa Anita and Gulfstream Park. Sorry, but the whole rivalry between state-breds (and point totals kept for each state as the day progresses) has never caught on. Does the average horseplayer care one iota if the horse he just cashed on was bred in California or Florida? Absolutely not. It’s a fun day with quality horses running for extremely exaggerated purse money. But not one person at the track gives a hoot where these horses were bred.

NOTES: After starting the meet 0-for-30, Joe Talamo busted out of his slump in a big way. The recently-turned 18-year-old won with eight of 25 mounts last week, including a stakes win on FINAL FLING in Sunday’s Santa Ysabel. Not only that, Talamo got a hole-in-one while playing at a local par-3 course…ZENYATTA was awesome again in taking the El Encino while INDIAN BLESSING was straight as a string to take the Santa Ynez in her first start since winning the BC Juvenile Fillies. Based on what we saw here, she has no chance of beating COUNTRY STAR when those two meet in the upcoming SA Oaks…undefeated EL GATO MALO was visually impressive in winning the San Rafael but to me the jury is still out. He ran by exhausted leaders who had dueled through crazy early fractions, so he couldn’t help but win given the way the race came up…ZAPPA continued up the ladder while pulling off the upset in the San Pasqual, further underscoring the weakness of the local handicap division…AIR COMMANDER got the best of the head bob to narrowly defeat tough-as-nails JOHNNY EVES in the San Fernando, second leg of the Strub Series. Tiago ran a decent third in his first start since the BC Classic…WAIT A WHILE outclassed her opponents in the San Gorgonio, giving Todd Pletcher another important stakes win the day after he scored his 2,000th career traning victory…Western Canada win machine MONASHEE showed that she could beat the big girls, wiring her opponents in the Paseana for her 18th win in 24 career starts…favorites are winning at only 28% for the meet, so I’m feeling pretty good about my 32% win percentage (38 top choice winners from 118 races), while showing a healthy flat-bet profit with $286.40 in mutuels…there is a Pick Six carryover of more than $93,000 into Thursday’s card.

With a total of at least five days likely to be cancelled at this meet, here’s hoping Santa Anita management does not approach the CHRB about make-up dates. The idea of six-day race weeks tacked on to an already endless 17-week meet is madness. We already have too many racing dates on the calendar—we certainly don’t need more. Bite the bullet, Santa Anita. Run a few extra races each week to make up the difference, but don’t add more work days to an already-fatigued population of horses, trainers, track employees and horseplayers.

To View Free Samples of last week’s Premium Plays, click on the links below: Jan. 10Â Â Jan. 11Â Â Jan. 12Â Â Jan. 13Â Â Jan. 14

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