Trainers wonder why Frank doesn't talk about the surface and instead talks about "free enterprise". Again leaves confusion:
HORSE RACING: Santa Anita won't scratch surface
By Art Wilson, Staff Writer
Created: 03/01/2010 10:36:25 PM PST
A group of about a dozen Southland trainers showed up at Santa Anita on Monday to discuss the track's racing surface with owner Frank .
After the announcement Jan. 18 that Santa Anita would replace its existing synthetic Pro-Ride track at the end of the current meet, trainers were anxious to express their feelings and hear what had in store for the Great Race Place.
A self-described anti-synthetic horseman, would be installing a new traditional dirt surface?
Would he opt for the untested sandy track he spoke about last week? Or would he shock the racing world and announce he was leaning toward another synthetic?
Would you believe none of the above?
told a roomful of mostly befuddled horsemen, which included California Thoroughbred Trainers president John Sadler, John Shirreffs, Darrell Vienna, Bruce Headley, Mark Glatt, Eoin Harty, Vladimir Cerin, A.C. Avila, Rafael Becerra, James Cassidy and Barry Abrams, what they perhaps didn't expect to hear.
Santa Anita will stick with Pro-Ride for the time being until gets what he wants - the ability to run the track with less state regulations.
He told the trainers in a two-hour meeting that he won't dole out the estimated $8 million to $10 million needed for a new surface without assurances he can race at Santa Anita whenever he wants, calling it "free enterprise," and he also wants a partnership between the tracks and horsemen.
"We kept telling him we're here to talk about the track and you can't shut him up about free enterprise," said Headley, a longtime critic of synthetics. "He thinks he'll be able to change everything so he can race any time he wants, against Del Mar, Hollywood Park or Pomona.
"We told him we weren't there to discuss free enterprise, that's not our decision because we're the track committee, but he still kept going on and on about it."
Zenyatta's owner Jerry Moss, another anti-synthetic horseman, met with on Sunday at Santa Anita and reportedly got the same message the trainers received about 24 hours later.
"Free enterprise, free enterprise, free enterprise," Headley said. "And he's never going to get it. Of course, there won't be a horse left (in California) by that time.
"He also said if he wanted to change it (track), he has the resources to do it, but he's not going to do it."
was flying home later Monday and did not return two messages seeking comment.
A drainage problem with both of Santa Anita's synthetic tracks has forced the cancellation of 16 racing days dating to 2008, including five this year. has said he's spent an estimated $24 million on Cushion Track and Pro-Ride and refuses to spend another dime on a sport that's in decline until it's fixed.
"You know, the (current) model in horse racing doesn't work," said last week before his arrival over the weekend. "It's broken."
Hollywood Park president Jack Liebau said he's heard the same message before.
"What I understand to be saying is vintage ," Liebau said. "His mantra has always been free enterprise, which I understand to be some form of deregulation. I differ with in that I believe racing in California needs to be subject to additional oversight with respect to financial responsibility.
"The bankruptcies of Santa Anita and Golden Gate Fields (another -owned track) have rained financial havoc upon California racing."
, who's owned many top horses over the years, currently has none stabled at Santa Anita because he doesn't like the track.
He told the horsemen he'll be back in April to talk more.
"Hopefully, he will discuss the track then because we all told him, which most of us hadn't discussed with him before, how many injuries we're having," Headley said.