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Trainers sound off on turf course

ARCADIA, Calif. -- Santa Anita's decision to replace its turf course in June, before the end of the spring-summer meeting, drew mixed reactions from a few leading trainers on Thursday.

Some are concerned about the potential for missed racing opportunities this summer, while others say a revamped turf course will be welcome before a Santa Anita autumn meeting highlighted by the Breeders' Cup races on Nov. 4-5.

Santa Anita will run races on the hillside turf course through June 5 and on the oval portion of the turf course through June 19. The spring-summer meeting ends July 10. Work to remove and resod the turf course will begin on the hillside June 6 and the main oval June 20.

The plan leaves a gap of no turf races in Southern California until the start of the Del Mar summer meeting July 15. There is likely to be a high demand to run horses on turf at Del Mar. That could lead to oversubscribed races at the start of that meeting and result in some horses being unable to draw into races.

"This will give Del Mar too many grass races," Sadler said. "It puts the horsemen in a bad spot."

Sadler said the existing turf course at Santa Anita has not caused his stable any issues.

"Riders haven't been complaining to me," he said.

A new turf course at Santa Anita would be welcomed by trainer Peter Eurton. He has noticed that some of his runners have struggled to gain footing on a course that has produced more sand kickback and divots in the last six months.

"It's better to do it now because you have the Breeders' Cup," he said. "This is too loose on top. The heavy horses can't get a hold of it.

"They used to have the greatest turf course in the world."

Leading trainer Doug O'Neill said he is in favor of replacing Santa Anita's turf course but has not encountered issues with the current surface.

"We've had good experiences so far," he said. "You can see when it's coming up. It's had more divots than in past years."

The existing surface will be removed and replaced with a Bermuda turf course. The sod for that course is being grown in La Quinta, Calif., track officials said on Wednesday. The Santa Anita autumn meeting begins Sept. 30.

Track officials said in a statement Wednesday that the turf-course racing program at Golden Gate Fields will be enhanced in June to offset the absence of races in Southern California. That could lead to more runners trained by Phil D'Amato heading north on Interstate 5.

"You have Golden Gate as an alternative," he said. "Their grass course is consistent."

At the same time, D'Amato might rest some runners.

"You can look at it two ways," he said. "You can look for other races [on dirt] or freshen them and be ready to fire at Del Mar."