First Horses Train Over Santa Anita's New Tapeta Track


Photo: Benoit Photo
The new Tapeta training track at Santa Anita Park

Santa Anita Park opened its all-new synthetic Tapeta inner training track for usage March 2. Following the Breeders' Cup World Championships in early November, Santa Anita embarked on an $8 million project to provide horsemen with a state-of-the-art all-weather surface that will complement its one-mile natural dirt main track and serve as a safe and viable component in the conditioning of Thoroughbreds on a year-round basis.

Horses entered to race March 3-4 at Santa Anita were permitted to jog clockwise around the track during a two-hour window beginning at 6 a.m. Saturday.

Former jockey Aaron Gryder, currently senior vice president of racing for 1/ST, took the first test run of the new all-weather surface on Friday. He galloped a horse trained by Jeff Mullins, who had historically been a frequent user of the training track.

“I was there when they put the new synthetic track at Gulfstream Park a couple years ago. It takes a little time for the material to completely settle at the top, but the base is very even. The horses got over it good,” Gryder observed.

In addition, Gryder was particularly impressed by how it handled Saturday morning’s rain.

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“It’s definitely doing its job today,” he said. “We had a couple of downpours and there is no standing water whatsoever. The drainage is working excellent.”

Like Mullins, trainer Phil D’Amato employs the training track heavily for his horses. He also had a horse gallop Friday over the new surface. All 11 horses he has entered this week went out and jogged Saturday.

“So far so good,” D’Amato said. “We galloped one yesterday to get a feel for it and I was very happy with it. This morning, all my riders said everything felt fine. It also drained very well from what I saw.”

Santa Anita’s new training track is from Tapeta Footings, which is also the manufacturer of the synthetic racing surfaces at Golden Gate Fields and Woodbine among other locales. Installation at Santa Anita began in early November.

According to officials, a few minor details with the training track remain to be completed. As a result, training will remain limited to joggers until mid-March.

Tapeta is currently in use at a total of nine different racecourses and has proven to be the safest and best all-weather surface in the world.

"At Tapeta, our aim is to maintain the surface so that we have a soft cushion below and a slightly firmer finish on top," said Tapeta Footings' Joan Wakefield.  "This helps to reduce kickback and provide stability without as much impact on the horse. For the training track at Santa Anita, we have used a high-temperature wax specially blended to suit the California climate."

Santa Anita's original training track, "Anita Chiquita," was eliminated in the early 1970s when construction began on what is now The Shops at Santa Anita Mall which adjoins the racetrack off of Baldwin Ave.  Subsequently, Santa Anita's current inner training track was constructed at that time. At 4,200 feet, it is just shy of 6 1/2 furlongs in circumference.

 "We are delighted to have finished construction on this very important project and I know our horsemen are anxious to begin utilizing it," said Santa Anita senior vice president and general manager Nate Newby. "It's been a major undertaking and we are so fortunate to have the project headed up by Dennis and Rob Moore along with Jesse Martinez.

"We'd also like to thank our horsemen, owners, and all Thoroughbred stakeholders for their patience throughout this process. We look forward to fully utilizing this asset during morning training and to presenting the best possible product for everyone in the afternoon."