06/25/2006 11:00PM

Fair has 10 stakes in 11 days

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The Alameda County Fair in Pleasanton, Calif., opens Wednesday with the most ambitious stakes schedule on the northern California fair circuit.

Four $50,000 stakes races will be offered, along with a fifth at $40,000-added. In addition to the five Thoroughbred stakes, two Quarter Horse and three Arabian stakes are being offered. The 10 stakes in the 11-day meeting, which runs through July 9, are the most offered on the fair circuit.

Last year, the fair began carding more races for lower-level claimers, and the result was bigger fields. So the track will use the same strategy this meet.

"In the past, it seems horses would go from Stockton to Vallejo [the Solano County Fair] and bypass Pleasanton because they felt races were written for better horses," said Rick Pickering, the fair's CEO and director of racing. "We tried to come up with a book that would include those horses, and we came up with bigger fields, which our fans appreciated."

Pleasanton is the only fair open to horses year-round with its training track, and Pickering said horsemen have been pleased with the condition of the surface going into the meet.

"We've had some very hot weather, but we're keeping plenty of water on it," he said.

The fair, which opened its paddock to fairgoers last year, has continued with renovations to the jockeys' quarters. The track has also made grandstand improvements, creating the Turfside Terrace, a turf club area with seating for 150-180 fans, out of a portion of the large grandstand. Admission to the terrace is $25, with advance reservations taken for $30. The advance reservations include admission to the fair.

The track has also scheduled a July 3 jockey photo day where riders will be available for pictures and autographs between races.

Seminars will again be held daily at 11 a.m. in front of main grandstand entrance.

Jockey Martin Garcia, who shared the Bay Meadows title with Russell Baze during the winter meet and won the Golden Gate Fields spring jockey title, is scheduled to ride at the fair July 6. He began his career at the fair as an exercise rider.