08/30/2010 1:06PM

El Camino Real gets added allure


Golden Gate Fields has yet to finalize its 2010 fall meet stakes schedule or its 2011 schedule, but has already set Feb. 12, 2011, as the date for the Grade 3 El Camino Real Derby.

The winner of that race could eventually earn a $5.5 million bonus with a victory in the Preakness through MI Developments’ recently announced Preakness bonus program.

Golden Gate is hopeful the bonus program could pay dividends for the 2011 running the El Camino Real Derby, which, with apologies to the Grade 2 San Francisco Mile, is arguably Northern California’s most important race.

“We’re very excited the El Camino Real Derby is part of the Preakness 5.5,” said Golden Gate’s general manager, Robert Hartman. “This bonus opportunity will mean a great deal to our horsemen in Northern California.

“The incentive to run in the El Camino Real Derby will be bigger than ever, and that should translate to a large and talented field and, ultimately, an outstanding race.”

The fine print in the bonus program is that the El Camino winner must win the Santa Anita Derby and Preakness to collect $5 million for his owner and $500,000 for his trainer. There is also a $550,000 consolation bonus possible if an El Camino participant also places in the Santa Anita Derby.

El Camino entrants have run in Triple Crown races the past four years. Winners Chocolate Candy (2009), Bwana Bull (2007), and Cause to Believe (2006) ran fifth, 15th and 13th in the Kentucky Derby. Tres Borrachos, third in 2008, was later ninth in the Preakness.

Three El Camino winners have won the Preakness, Tank’s Prospect (1985), Snow Chief (1986), and Tabasco Cat (1994), who also won the Belmont. Gate Dancer, the 1984 El Camino runner-up, and Charismatic, the 1999 El Camino runner-up, were also Preakness winners. Charismatic also won the Kentucky Derby.

Ferndale has record meet

The Humboldt County Fair set single-day and meet records on its mutuel handle during its eight-day meet, which included one week of being the only track racing in Northern California. The meet ran Aug. 13-22.

The records came in part because the Ferndale, Calif., fair was credited with all wagering from Northern California satellites as well as out-of-state and account-wagering handle, which went to the other Northern California fair site in the past.

Ferndale had a record $1,281,252 all-sources handle on Saturday, Aug. 21, and topped that with $1,362,274 on that Sunday, its closing day. The Sunday total included a record $144,723 in ontrack handle.

The meet’s all-source handle of $5,497,685 was a 25 percent increase over the previous best $4,398,519 in 2009. The ontrack total of $792,946 showed a 4 percent gain over the 2009 total of $765,661.

The new fair schedule might also have helped Golden Gate during the first week of its meet, which began last Wednesday. Last year, Golden Gate ran a fair meet at the same time as Ferndale. This year, without any Northern California competition, Golden Gate was up 34 percent in attendance for its first week, highlighted by a turnout of 5,517 on the Dollar Day Sunday. Ontrack handle was up 2 percent ,with all-source handle was up 17 percent.

Wooten tops riders

Despite Chris Russell’s four wins on closing day, James Wooten Jr. won the Humboldt County Fair jockey title with 14 wins and 109 points (based on wins, seconds and thirds). Russell had 11 wins and 95 points.

Trainer Ramon Pulido celebrated his 30th birthday by winning the training title by a single win, 44-43, over Billy Morey and Ruby Thomas when his Funny Thor ran second in the next-to-lastrace on closing day.

Stakes in jeopardy

Golden Gate Fields will run six days this week, Wednesday through Monday, Labor Day.

The first of the meet’s two stakes, the Rosie the Riveter, a $50,000 1 1/16-mile race for 2-year-old fillies, is scheduled for Monday, but is in danger of not attracting enough horses to run. Only nine fillies were nominated for the race, and the Cliff Delima-trained duo of Perfect Curls and Tiz Blushing are both entered in Wednesday’s $100,000 Generous Portion at six furlongs at Del Mar.

Early in the week, trainer Jerry Hollendorfer’s two nominees, the maiden winner Alec’s Moon and the maiden Indian Gracey, were the only definites for the race. Ed Moger Jr. listed Mark in Monterey as possible.

The Labor Day card will have a variety of free events for youngsters, live music by Busta Groove, and a picnic blanket giveaway.

Baze leaps to lead

Russell Baze wasted no time claiming the lead in the Golden Gate jockey race, with triples on opening day, Thursday and Sunday. His 13 first-week wins have him easily in front of Leslie Mawing and Michael Martinez, who are tied for second with six.

Baze will miss Friday’s card when he goes to Del Mar to ride undefeated Goggles McCoy in the $100,000 El Cajon Stakes for 3-year-olds at one mile.

Goggles McCoy is trained by Steve Sherman, who had five wins the first week here, putting him second to Bill Morey, who saddled two winners Sunday and had six for the first week.