Updated on 09/16/2011 9:21AM

Fair circuit ends with 10-day meeting

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FRESNO, Calif. - California's fair circuit winds up its racing season as the Big Fresno Fair opens a 10-day meeting Wednesday.

The highlight of the meet is the $102,000 Ron and Jess Cloud Memorial, a six-furlong race for 2-year-olds scheduled for Saturday.

The Memorial, which has been run since 1998, is the richest race on the California Authority of Racing Fairs schedule. It has offered a six-figure purse for the past three years with the fair putting up $50,000 and the Cloud family putting up the rest.

"My mother and father loved racing, although they never owned any horses," son Steve said. "All through their lives and my life, they had reserved box seats."

Ron Cloud, who died in 1993, ran a wholesale plumbing company, Fresno Distributing, and founded another distributing company in the San Jose area in 1962. His son said the family would also attend races at Bay Meadows and Golden Gate Fields.

"My parents always respected the sport and had a lot of friends in it, so this was one way to remember their names and enjoy it," Steve Cloud said.

"One thing that intrigued my father was 2-year-olds."

Cloud said his father wanted to have a big 2-year-old race at Fresno "so that when the horse ran in the Kentucky Derby we could say he ran at the Fresno Fair."

In addition to the Ron and Jess Cloud Memorial, the fair also has the $50,000 Bulldog Stakes for 3-year-olds-and-up at six furlongs - and stakes races for mules, Arabians, and Quarter Horses.

World champion mule Black Ruby will head the field for the $40,000 Gold Cup at 440 yards on Sunday.

Racing secretary Grant Baker said he was hopeful of drawing horses from Bay Meadows and the recently concluded Fairplex meeting.

Baker said purses here are 80 percent of what they were at Bay Meadows, with $7,200 being offered at the lowest level.

The 10-day meet runs through Oct. 13 with dark days on Monday and Tuesday. Eight races will be offered Wednesdays and Thursdays with 11 scheduled for the other days.

The leading trainer at the meet wins a 2002 truck. Rene Amescua was the winning trainer last year.