Updated on 09/16/2011 9:13AM

County Fair bullring isn't dead yet


POMONA, Calif. - Against all odds, the bullring is back.

The $50,000 Foothill Stakes launches the Los Angeles County Fair race meet Friday at Fairplex Park, and the 10 runners in the six-furlong stakes must negotiate a second turn to which they are unaccustomed. Unusual? Not really. Fairplex, host to the L.A. County Fair since 1933, is a five-eighths-mile oval, unique on the Southern California circuit.

On the Fairplex bullring, most sprint races are run around two turns. Most routes require three turns. It is odd only because it is different. Which makes it perfect. At the Fair, you can ride a Ferris wheel, eat a stick of cotton candy, and bet on 10 or 11 Thoroughbred races daily, first post 12:30 p.m. Pacific

The 17-day Fair meet runs consecutively, Sept. 13-29. Next season, who knows? The Southern California racing circuit is in limbo, and Los Angeles County Fair officials will revisit the idea of conducting next year's race meet somewhere else. Hollywood Park and Santa Anita are the leading contenders, again.

In negotiations to change venues for 2002, fair officials were unable to reach agreement with Hollywood Park, and were later rebuked by the California Horse Racing Board in an attempted transfer of dates to Santa Anita. The issue is far from dead, according to Michael Seder, Fair vice president-finance and chief financial officer.

"What we heard from the industry was, 'We want you on a mile track in September,'" Seder said. "We also heard of lot of passionate people saying, 'We love it at Pomona.' I think the discussion will continue."

The CHRB already has allocated 2003 L.A. County Fair dates to Fairplex, which does not preclude a change in venue.

"We want to get through this meet, and have a great meet," Seder said. "Let's not establish where the meet will be in 2003 until we get through 2002."

Racing secretary Richard Wheeler will card 10 Thoroughbred races and one mixed-breed race daily. With nearly 1,000 horses stabled at Fairplex, Wheeler foresees only one soft spot.

"Early in the meet and late in the meet are going to be our strong points," he said. "The middle of the meet is the toughest part. Horses don't run three times like they used to."

Foothill entrant Line Rider will race Friday, then return against older closing day, Sept. 29, when the 6 1/2-furlong Governor's Cup shares the spotlight with the $100,000 Ralph M. Hinds Pomona Invitational Handicap. Other highlights include the $100,000 Pomona Derby on Sept. 28, and the $100,000 Las Madrinas Handicap for fillies and mares Sept. 27.

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