09/27/2009 11:00PM

Fairplex meet comes to a quiet end


POMONA, Calif. - The 71st racing season at the Los Angeles County Fair was not the best in Fairplex Park's history, and it comes to a quiet end on Monday.

Battling an economic slog and soft product, Fairplex will end the 15-day meet down in handle and significance. Other tracks might envy the $5.3 million daily handle (through Friday), but at Fairplex it represents a 7.6 percent decline from 2008.

Fairplex and its bettors were challenged by a shortage of good horses.

"Our inventory is down across the board," said equine manager Kim Lloyd. "But I think we had a good meet as far as entries."

Fairplex entered closing weekend averaging 7.9 starters, and favorites had won 40 percent. Meanwhile, stakes took a hit. The $50,000 Phil D. Shepherd was killed by insufficient entries; the Pomona Derby and Las Madrinas Handicap, both $100,000 races one year ago, had their purse sliced to $50,000.

The purse cuts stripped relevance from two former key stakes, yet partly rescued lower-caliber horses.

"We didn't cut our overnight purses," Lloyd said. "And I think with a break in the economy we'll see an upturn."

Out on the five-eighths mile Fairplex racetrack, jockey Martin Pedroza clinched his 11th consecutive riding title; he entered closing weekend with 37 wins through 12 days; Alonso Quinonez ranked second with 15.

Pedroza is named on eight horses closing day. Surprisingly, only one is favored - Lion Princess is 4-5 to win race 8. The card Monday reflects the Fairplex season; nine of the 10 races are claimers.

Interestingly, the card attracted Willow O Wisp, the Grade 2 Del Mar Derby winner of 2005. He is entered in the race-9 nominal feature, a $12,500 starter allowance. Willow O Wisp is eligible for the race because he won a $12,500 claiming sprint last out at Del Mar. He and Pedroza will try to lead gate to wire at 1 3/8 miles.

Joshua's Dream is the horse to beat. Souvenir Slew also has a shot. Monday is mandatory payout day in the $2 pick six and $1 win pick nine.