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Santa Anita Unveils Cushion Track
In California, Santa Anita racetrack "will unveil racing over the Cushion Track surface on September 26, when the Oak Tree Racing Association begins its 39th season," reported bloodhorse.com. Oak Tree Racing Association vice president Sherwood Chillingworth said in a Sept. 21 press release: "We're excited that Oak Tree is going to be the 1st meet at Santa Anita to run on Cushion Track & it's especially gratifying to know that with the Breeders' Cup returning to Oak Tree in 2008, next year's edition will be the 1st ever to be run on a synthetic surface." Cushion Track "is the same brand Hollywood Park installed earlier, but varies from the Polytrack for which Del Mar opted"; in each instance, however, Southern California's 3 major tracks "have now complied with the mandate of the California Horse Racing Board which decreed that in order to be issued dates, these tracks must have synthetic main surfaces by the end of 2007". Santa Anita president Ron Charles enthused: "The new track will be kinder & gentler to horses. They will run longer & stay sounder. Safety is our primary concern & this surface will save the lives of race horses." And leading California-based trainer Doug O'Neill dismissed detractors who suggest "patience should have been exercised before the mandate was implemented", declaring: "You could be running on orthopedic mattresses & you'd have people complaining! That's the nature of any business. You're going to have people who want to bash certain things, but I think what (CHRB chairman) Richard Shapiro has done for California racing has been brilliant. He's put the horse first. People will come back to the races if they can go & not worry about a handful of horses being vanned off the track every day. I don't know the exact numbers, but we've already seen field sizes increase, and it sure looks like Del Mar & Hollywood had a lot better meets than before."