08/07/2007 12:00AM

Barn area full as 10-day meet opens

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FERNDALE, Calif. - Humboldt County Fair racing secretary Ella Robinson has a pleasant problem on her hands as the 111th race meeting at the tiny track opens Thursday. The barn area is so overfilled that portable stalls have had to be brought in for the 10-day meet that runs through Aug. 19.

"It looks very promising," she said. "We have some new trainers coming up, and the usual suspects have more than they usually bring."

Defending training champion Karen Haverty will have a full barn. Haverty had 6 wins, 8 seconds, and 9 thirds from 37 starters last year.

Ray and Ruby Thomas are expected to bring close to 60 runners of all breeds.

"People are showing more interest than in the past," Robinson said.

Ferndale is located roughly 200 miles north of Santa Rosa, which completed its fair meet Monday, and 250 miles from Golden Gate Fields. Fair manager Stuart Titus said that the horsemen have been arriving at the track for the past week and have been pleased with the track surface during morning workouts.

Ferndale racing fills a niche for the smaller stables with a condition book that offers races for horses who have trouble winning at bigger venues. Fields are full, and the racing on the half-mile, unbanked track is usually competitive. The condition book is designed to offer trainers a chance to run twice and sometimes even three times during the short meeting.

The track offers 11 stakes races, although purses don't qualify for Thoroughbred black type.

Six Thoroughbred stakes are contested, including the traditional closing-day feature, the 1 5/8-mile C.J. Hindley Humboldt County Futurity, where runners cross the finish line four times.

Two Arabian and three mule stakes are also offered.

The track has three different starting post times, tied to racing at the Bay Meadows Fair and Del Mar. First post is 2:25 p.m. on weekdays, 3:25 p.m. on Fridays, and 1:55 p.m. on weekends.