07/26/2004 12:00AM

Clocker's tricks get fractions right


SANTA ROSA, Calif. - Melody Truitt, even more than most people, is happy to move to Santa Rosa from the just-concluded Solano County Fair.

Truitt, who has worked the fairs the past three years, clocks workouts in the morning and times races in the afternoon. Unlike at Solano, Truitt operates an automatic timing system at Santa Rosa. At Solano, Truitt must manually trip the timing system to record fractions. At Santa Rosa, the horses trip beams of light from electronic eyes that are installed on poles around the track.

(Races on the Bay Meadows turf course at 7 1/2 furlongs and at Pleasanton at a mile and 70 yards also are hand-timed.) Truitt also uses a stopwatch to time every race at every track she works in case of an electronic malfunction.

"The fractions on my stopwatch are always very close to the electronic fractions," Truitt said. "To get accurate fractions, I've found you must hit your watch before the lead horse reaches the pole. If you wait till they're at the pole, they're past the pole by the time you click.

"I think I have consistent fractions. When one person does it all the time, it helps, too."

One of the toughest things about timing races at Solano is judging when the horses reach the eighth pole, because, Truitt said, the horses are coming straight at her.

Clocking horses during morning workouts is difficult on the fair circuit because Truitt does it at track level, sitting on the back of a pickup truck near the finish line. She isn't always able to see all the poles around the track that designate distance from the finish line.

Closers have edge in feature

The highlight of Wednesday's 10-race opening-day Santa Rosa card is a $25,000 claimer at one mile for fillies and mares.

Scattering, who drew the rail, comes off a wire-to-wire win against weaker competition 31 days ago at Stockton. But Tackers Girl, who won two back, may be quicker than Scattering.

So the race could come down to Gonetothedoctor and Cozy Legend.

Gonetothedoctor had no chance on a speed-favoring track at Pleasanton in her last start. Cozy Level stretches out off several decent sprints. She won her maiden at seven furlongs at Santa Anita.

Handicapping seminars held daily

Fans going to the races at Santa Rosa often arrive more than two hours before the first post for the daily handicapping seminars, which are hosted by track announcer Vic Stauffer and local author and handicapper Danny Holmes.

Stauffer, who calls races at Gulfstream and Hollywood Park, enjoys a busman's holiday at Santa Rosa.

The seminars, co-sponsored by Daily Racing Form, are held daily at 10:30 a.m. at the stage area in front of the grandstand.

This year's guests are: Wednesday, fair manager Jim Moore; Thursday, trainer Aggie Ordonez; Friday, jockey agent Ray Harris; July 31, jockey Russell Baze; Aug. 1, trainer Jerry Hollendorfer; Aug. 2, Daily Racing Form correspondent Chuck Dybdal; Aug. 4, author Jim Quinn; Aug. 5, handicapper Gordon Jones; Aug. 6, steward Pam Berg; Aug. 7, Harris; Aug. 8, jockey Chad Schvaneveldt; Aug. 9, morning linemaker John Lies.

Yerevan Star gets some time off

Trainer Gloria Haley always had good feelings about Yerevan Star, who won the Fairfield Stakes for 3-year-old fillies in only her third career start Saturday at the Solano County Fair.

It was her third start in six weeks, and she'll get a rest now until the regular Bay Meadows meeting.

Yerevan Star didn't start until June 12, when she ran fifth at Bay Meadows. She won her second start, on July 10 at Pleasanton.

"We always thought she would be nice," said Haley. "That's why we took so long with her."

Haley said she normally wouldn't have brought back a young horse so quickly, but called the Fairfield "a perfect spot."