08/22/2012 12:40PM

Ferndale: Harvey targets three-preat in C.J. Hindley Humboldt County Marathon

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The most unusual race of the Northern California fair circuit will conclude the Humboldt County Fair at Ferndale on Sunday.

The C.J. Hindley Humboldt County Marathon is a 1 5/8-mile race that is always the fair’s final race on closing day. Horses pass the finish line four times during the race on the half-mile track.

Gunnar Froines, the longtime announcer at Ferndale, explained that jockeys supposedly would start the race with four marbles in their mouths and spit one out each time they passed the finish line in an effort to keep track of how many laps they had ridden.

“When the jockey lost all his marbles, he knew the race was over,” Froines jokingly said.

Jockey Barrington Harvey doesn’t put marbles in his mouth, but he certainly knows where the finish line is for the Marathon.

He has won the past two, aboard Come Back Native in 2010 and Steel Blue last year. He will be looking for a three-peat Sunday aboard defending champion Steel Blue,

Sixteen runners were nominated to the Marathon, whose purse was doubled to $30,000 this year. The race was a $12,500 starter handicap in the past but is an open event this year.

Harvey, a 49-year-old native of Jamaica, could probably run 1 5/8 miles easier than some of the horses that will run in Sunday’s race. His training regimen is running five miles five days a week and jumping rope – sometimes in the steam room in the jockey quarters.

Harvey says there’s no special strategy that he employs in the Marathon.

“You just have to ride with your head,” he said. “And you have to have a good horse.”

Steel Blue defeated Baron’s Gold by 1 1/4 lengths last year. Harvey worked Steel Blue on Sunday and said the 6-year-old gelding “seems fine.”

The far turn on the Ferndale track was banked before the start of the meet, and that could give late runners a better chance in the Marathon.

“It makes a big difference,” Harvey said. “More horses can make moves on the turn now.”

Harvey and Matt Garcia were dueling for the jockey crown at Ferndale entering the final four days of the two-week meeting – Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The riding title is determined by a point system that awards 5 points for a win, 3 for second, and 1 for third.

Garcia had seven wins going into the Wednesday card, including three Sunday, and 44 points. Harvey has 38 point, with Shyann Garcia third with 30 points.

Steel Blue’s trainer Phil Oviedo is running away with the training title. He had five wins in the meet’s first four days to match his total for the 2011 meet when he shared training honors with Santiago Rodriguez. Twelve other trainers had picked up one victory at Ferndale entering Wednesday.

Business down slightly at Santa Rosa

The three-week Sonoma County Fair meet at Santa Rosa showed a slight decline in both ontrack and all-sources handle for its 15-day meeting, which ended Aug. 12.

The total all-sources handle for this year’s 15-day meeting, including satellite, out-of-state and account wagering, was down 7 percent from last year. All-sources handle averaged $1,277,086 per day this year, compared to $1,377,714 last year.

The ontrack handle on Ferndale’s races dipped 4 percent. The daily average this year was $258, 167, compared to $268,019 last year.

Baze has catching up to do at Golden Gate

Alejandro Gomez, who won three races Sunday, and Julien Couton, who won twice Saturday and twice more Sunday, share the early lead in the jockey standings at Golden Gate Fields, which runs mostly three-day weeks, Friday-Sunday. Both have five victories through the first three days of the 17-day meet, which began last Friday and runs through Sept. 16.

Frank Alvarado has four winners. Perennial leader Russell Baze has two wins.

Baze will not ride Friday as he was returning from Toronto after being inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame on Thursday. Baze, inducted into the U.S. Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 1999, was born in Vancouver.

Genaro Vallejo, Rene Amescua, Jerry Hollendorfer, and Lloyd Mason have two wins each to share the lead in the trainer standings.