09/05/2013 3:24PM

Barretts at Fairplex: E.B. Johnston fails to fill; optional claimer is Saturday feature

Shigeki Kikkawa
D'pendable, with two victories in seven career starts, is favored in Saturday's featured optional claimer at Barretts at Fairplex.

POMONA, Calif. – Revisions to the stakes program at the Los Angeles County Fair will be necessary next fall if the E.B. Johnston Stakes, originally scheduled for Saturday, is to be saved.

For the second time in three years, the $50,000 route for California-bred fillies and mares did not fill. Five nominated, none entered, and the first Saturday of the 13-day Barretts at Fairplex season will not have a stakes.

“It’s an important day for us, and we should have a stake,” racing secretary Tom Knust said.

He may propose shortening the 1 1/16-mile race to seven furlongs and moving it to opening day, trading spots with the Beverly J. Lewis Stakes, which was scheduled to be run Friday. The challenge is moving stakes without negatively impacting others.

“I don’t want to write anything that will interfere with the other stakes that are filling,” Knust said.

The Johnston is the only Barretts stakes restricted to statebreds and therefore faces an uphill climb. Over the last decade, the California foal drop has shrunk in half, according to data from The Jockey Club. In 2001, there were 3,773 registered foals in California; in 2011, there were 1,811. The 2012 foal crop in California was 1,626.

The E.B. Johnston Stakes is named for the founder of the renowned California breeding farm Old English Rancho.

The stakes-horse shortage might be an issue next week, with four races for 2-year-olds jammed in a five-day window: the $50,000 C.B. Afflerbaugh on Sept. 11, the $50,000 Phil D. Shepherd for fillies Sept. 13, the $100,000 Barretts Debutante on Sept. 14, and $100,000 Barretts Juvenile on Sept. 15.

The meet is expected to finish strongly during its closing week, Sept. 18-22.

“The Governor’s Cup, Bangles and Beads, Ralph Hinds, Las Madrinas, the [Pomona] Derby . . . all those are always solid, and I think they will be solid this year, too,” Knust said.

Replacing the E.B. Johnston, the race-10 feature Saturday is a $40,000 optional claimer at six furlongs. Five of the seven entrants will run for the claiming tag, including 2-1 favorite D’pendable.

Trained by Bob Baffert, D’pendable has won 2 of 7 starts and will be racing for the first time since a runner-up finish July 13 in a $25,000 claiming race at Betfair Hollywood Park. Martin Garcia is named to ride.

The lightly raced Majestic Stride makes his first start since February 2012. A runaway maiden winner in his second start at Oaklawn Park that winter, he has not raced since setting the pace and finishing fifth in the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes. Jeff Bonde trains the 1-for-3 Majestic Stride, whose rider is Edwin Maldonado.

The other entrants are Syndicated, Crimson Giant, Coo Cachoo, First Strike, and Explain.