08/17/2016 9:46AM

Ferndale opens two-week meet with more horses on grounds


There’s nothing like the two weeks of vintage racing at the Humboldt County Fair, which opens its six-day, two-weekend meet Friday, to put a smile on racing secretary Tom Doutrich’s face.

“People are happy to compete and race against each other,” he said of racing at California’s smallest racing venue, with its half-mile bullring track in the charming Victorian village of Ferndale.

Doutrich’s smile is even bigger this year since more than 325 runners are on the grounds, an increase of nearly 20 percent over recent years. There is an influx of new trainers and an expanded jockey colony that should ensure a healthy, competitive racing atmosphere.

Fans love the deeper fields and more-competitive racing, even if the runners aren’t named Beholder or California Chrome.

There have been racing seasons that have seen one trainer dominate the standings, but Doutrich thinks the “good balance” of trainers and jockeys will lead to wide-open racing this year.

“The [Oregon-based trainers] are increasing,” Doutrich said. “They enjoy it, and the Oregon people made money here last year.”

Hugo Herrera, a two-time leading rider here, will be back to defend his title. He had seven Thoroughbred wins last year, including the Humboldt County Marathon with Blues Blaster, and 11 victories overall.

Two-time riding champ Matt Garcia and Inoel Beato return for the first time in three years. Veteran Jake Samuels, second and third here the past two years, and Barrington Harvey, known for his success in the Marathon, also return.

Post time is 3:07 p.m. Pacific on Fridays and 2:07 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Fair admission is $8 for adults and $6 for seniors, with $3 admission to the track. There is free racetrack admission for Friday’s opening day.