Updated on 09/15/2011 1:02PM

Fairplex: Bettors pound the only game in town


POMONA, Calif. - Rarely has the color of money been linked so firmly to the patriotic fervor of red, white, and blue. Stymied by a weekend of canceled sports events, gamblers were drawn instead to horse racing at Fairplex Park, where weekend handle soared to near-record levels.

Even while Los Angeles County Fair attendance Saturday plummeted 16 percent (to 109,000) from the corresponding Saturday last year, Fairplex Park handled $8,826,440 on the 12-race card, fifth-highest handle in the 63-year history of the track. Bettors poured it back in on Sunday, wagering more than $8 million, the track's 10th-highest handle.

"Without football, there is an effect across the country," said George Bradvica, L.A. County Fair racing manager. "Football is a popular sport. It takes a lot of wagering dollars. When it's not there, racetracks are the beneficiary of it, even though we all all hate for it to be like this."

Escalating handle indicated that many people were simply seeking an escape from the 24-hour news coverage of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington D.C. Racing at Fairplex resumed last Wednesday after a one-day respite. Reminders of the attacks are everywhere. The infield flag continues to fly at half-staff, and bugler Jay Cohen has regularly interspersed the call to the post with "God Bless America" and "America the Beautiful."

Meanwhile, the horses race on. Danceoftheflags won her maiden Saturday in the $100,000 Barretts Juvenile Fillies under all-time leading Fairplex jockey Martin Pedroza. Danceoftheflags is trained by Mel Stute, all-time Fairplex training leader. On Sunday, a $45,500 show bet from Santa Anita was dashed when odds-on favorite Expected Program blew the first turn of the five-eighths-mile Fairplex oval and finished last in the Barretts Juvenile. The race was won by $33.40 upsetter Sweet Stepper, who paid $20.20 to show.

Expected Program's defeat extended to nine races the string of beaten stakes favorites this meet.

In the $50,000 Black Swan Stakes on Wednesday, it is hard just to identify the chalk. A field of 11 entered the 1 1/16-mile stakes for 2-year-old fillies, including Del Mar maiden winner Happy Michelle, whose 71 Beyer Speed Figure makes her the high-figure filly in the race.

Although Mamacafe earned a low 56 Beyer in her maiden sprint win Sept. 7, trainer Don Warren, citing Mamacafe's pedigree, expects her to improve over a route of ground. "There's no doubt about it, everything the mare has thrown has done better going long," he said of Mamacafe's dam. Mamacafe is a half-sister to Mr. Joe C., who won the Gateway to Glory here last year as a 2-year-old and is being pointed for the $100,000 Pomona Derby on Saturday.

Other starters in the Black Swan include Frankie Eyelashes, Past You, Moossa's Girl, and Roaring Blaze.