08/12/2013 1:46PM

Ferndale: Russell Baze brings excitement to opening day

Vassar Photography
Russell Baze, here earlier this year after winning his 12,000th race, will greet fans and sign autographs on Wednesday.

There will be big doings at California’s smallest racing fair, the Humboldt County Fair, which opens its eight-day run Wednesday in the Victorian village of Ferndale.

On hand for opening day will be Russell Baze, the all-time leading rider in the North America. Baze, who will be at Ferndale for the first time, will not ride but will take part in a prerace meet-and-greet with fans hosted by track announcer Frank Mirahmadi.

Golden Gate Fields announcer Michael Wrona will join Baze and Mirahmadi. Baze and Wrona will be available for photos and autographs.

Black Ruby, known as the queen of racing mules, will be paraded before Saturday’s races.

At a glance:

RACING SCHEDULE: 8 days (Aug. 14-25), racing Wednesdays and Fridays-Sundays
POST TIME: 2:07 p.m., except 3:07 p.m. Fridays
HIGHLIGHTS: Aug. 25, $30,000 C.J. Hindley Humboldt County Marathon
ADMISSION: $8 to fair (seniors $6, children $4), plus $3 admission to track
LOCATION: 1250 Fifth St., Ferndale, Calif.
PHONE:  (707) 786-9511
INTERNET: www.humboldtcountyfair.org

The meet runs for two weeks, with racing on Wednesdays and then Fridays through Sundays. Five Thoroughbred races are carded for opening day.

The 60th running of the $30,000 C.J. Hindley Humboldt County Marathon at 1 5/8 miles is the meet’s signature event. Horses must pass the finish line of the four-furlong track four times during the Marathon. The Marathon is the final race on the closing day of the meeting, Aug. 25.

“The Marathon is a very big race on the summer fair circuit, and certainly one that a lot of well-known Northern California trainers would love to win,” said Tom Doutrich, the fair’s racing secretary.

Both 2012 winner Falling Knife and 2011 winner Steel Blue were claimed with the Marathon in mind.

The past two Ferndale riding champions, Chris Russell and Matt Garcia, will square off in this year’s jockey race. Russell had 15 winners, 15 seconds, and 5 thirds in 45 mounts to capture the 2011 title, while Garcia won 14 races from 46 mounts, while adding 7 seconds and 9 thirds last year.

“I think I ride well on a bullring,” Russell said. “I change my riding style and get more aggressive. I’m normally known as a patient rider.”

Russell said that since Ferndale banked its turns two years ago riders are not as cautious going into them. He will ride some of the races for alternate breeds – Quarter Horses, Appaloosas, Arabians – as well as Thoroughbreds.

“I love it up there because the fans love racing and treat you so well,” Russell said.

Said Garcia, “I thoroughly enjoy riding at Ferndale. The track is great and much safer since the first turn has a lot more banking. And the fans are the greatest.”