09/12/2001 11:00PM

Fairplex looks to rebound after tough day


POMONA, Calif. - Horse racing in Southern California has not picked up right where it left off. The Los Angeles County Fair re-opened Wednesday after a one-day shutdown due to the terrorist attracks on the East Coast, and racing officials at Fairplex Park face the challenge of regaining momentum and recovering lost revenue.

Wagering plummeted 60 percent Wednesday at Fairplex, which handled only $2.2 million compared with $5.5 million the corresponding day of the 2000 meet. Because most of the country's racetracks and simulcast venues were closed Wednesday, Fairplex racing was met with widespread indifference.

"Under the circumstances, we couldn't have expected any better," said Fairplex racing consultant Neil O'Dwyer. "It's a huge hit, but under the circumstances, it was expected. What killed us was the bomb scare."

A threat phoned in to the main switchboard caused a one-hour delay and cancellation of the third race.

The incident led to disinterest from simulcast patrons throughout Southern California.

"There was nothing to hold them there, like another signal," O'Dwyer said. Instead, many simply left. During a search of the grandstand, Fairplex jockeys met and discussed whether to ride the remainder of the card. Danny Sorenson was the only rider who elected to leave. Most others shared the sentiments of the Fair's second-leading jockey, Matt Garcia.

"I've worked all my life to do this and I'm not going to let anyone scare me out of it," Garcia said. "Most of us are putting on our boots to go do what we love to do - 'cowboy-up.'"

Officials are hopeful handle and attendance figures progress toward relative normalcy Saturday at Fairplex, where a 12-race card and a full slate of simulcast races will be available. Post time has been changed to 12:30 p.m. for the remainder of the meet, and the feature race Saturday is the $100,000 Barretts Juvenile Fillies.

The six and a half-furlong stake is restricted to 2-year-old fillies who were offered for sale at a Barretts auction. Unfortunately for Happy Michelle, who would have been heavily favored, a June 15 deadline slipped by without payment of a $250 sustaining fee. Happy Michelle, a Meadowlake filly purchased for $250,000 in March, won her only start Aug. 5 at Del Mar with a 71 Beyer Speed Figure.

The absence of a legitimate favorite has left the Barretts Juvenile Fillies with seven maidens, one Arapahoe Park maiden winner, and Western Love, winner of a slow $32,00 maiden-claiming race Aug. 23 at Del Mar. Trained by Bob Baffert, she earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 62 in that win. Smokes Top Gun won a maiden race June 15 at Arapahoe Park. Other starters include recent runners-up in maiden races: Aglow, Danceoftheflags, and Lunatic Fringe. Ruidoso Downs invader French Flare is also worth a look.