Updated on 09/16/2011 8:57AM

Farewell fair atmosphere; hello warm-up for fall


SAN MATEO, Calif. - Racing in northern California returns to a major-track venue Wednesday when Bay Meadows opens for 12 days as host of the San Mateo County Fair, better known as the Bay Meadows Fair.

Wednesday's opening day card is highlighted by an interesting starter allowance race at one mile. Four of the seven entrants will be stretching out to try a mile for the first time as they try to beat Mr. Ararat and Runaway Dancer, both of whom won maiden races at a mile earlier this summer.

There is little of the typical fair atmosphere at Bay Meadows, where the excitement is muted compared with the packed stands of the fair circuit's previous stop at Santa Rosa.

And, you can't walk outside the racetrack to buy a soft taco or cotton candy, or sneak a quick ride at the midway between races.

While fairs try to sell themselves as places where new fans are introduced to the game, the Bay Meadows Fair is more of a dress rehearsal for the upcoming fall meet that begins on Aug. 30.

The premier attraction on the fair circuit, the champion mule Black Ruby, will not appear at Bay Meadows. Mules have not run at Bay Meadows since the track's first year of racing, when not enough jockeys could be found who were willing to ride them. The so-called emerging breeds - Quarter Horses, Appaloosas, and Arabians - are not present in great numbers at Bay Meadows, either.

The return to Bay Meadows allows northern California trainers to end the gypsy lives they live each summer, sending horses to a new location every two weeks.

For many, this signals the start of 10 months of racing at major tracks and the return to turf racing - although the turf race scheduled for Wednesday in the condition book did not fill.

Three of the four stakes races scheduled for the Bay Meadows Fair are carded on the turf - Saturday's $40,000-added Floral Fiesta Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at one mile, the Aug. 17, $40,000-added Lady Morvich at 1 1/16 miles for older fillies and mares and the Aug. 18, $40,000-added San Matean Handicap for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/16 miles.

The other stakes event is the $50,000-added Mid-Peninsula Stakes on Sunday at 5 1/2 furlongs for 2-year-old-fillies.

Two stakes are scheduled on Aug. 17 for emerging breeds, the $7,500 Papa John Handicap at 4 1/2 furlongs for 3-year-old and up Appaloosas and the $7,500-added San Mateo Arabian Championship at six furlongs for Arabians 3-years-old and up.

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