Updated on 09/15/2011 12:21PM

Fewer races at north California fairs


SAN MATEO, Calif. - In response to the region's horse shortage, four of this summer's northern California fair meets will run a total of 34 fewer races than last year.

Dates for four of the fair meets were approved by the California Horse Racing Board here last Friday.

The board meeting also included a general discussion of the horse shortage. Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, one of a number of northern California horsemen who are sending horses outside the state this summer, urged the board to consider a complete overhaul of the summer racing schedule, which currently includes six weeks of fair racing without turf racing.

Hollendorfer told the board he is sending 43 horses to Chicago because of the lack of races for them during the summer, especially turf races and races for young horses. Also, he said, his owners, who are spending an average of $100,000 for Keeneland yearlings, do not want to run them at the fairs, nor do they want to run them against much more expensive horses at Del Mar. Hollendorfer has in the past cited several reasons for not wanting to run his 2- and 3-year-olds at the fairs, including the stress of shipping them from track to track and the lower purses.

Board chairman Robert Tourtelot, however, seemed to sum up the feeling of the board majority when he said: "We are not going to be able to eliminate the fairs." He later added, "The problems are very complex, and even if you take away the fairs you are still going to have problems."

John Van de Kamp, president and general counsel of the Thoroughbred Owners of California, also asked the board to consider major changes.

"The major tracks in northern California are giving up the most successful racing [dates] in order to give the fairs the right to carry on without [competition]," he said.

Van de Kamp, noting that there is much support for the fairs among legislators, bemoaned the lack of turf racing and races for high-quality young horses at the fair tracks.

The CHRB assigned dates for the following fair tracks:

* Alameda County Fair at Pleasanton, June 27-July 8, 11 days,

120 races, nine less than last year.

* Solano County Fair at Vallejo, July 11-23, 12 days, 128 races, eight less than last year.

* Sonoma County Fair at Santa Rosa, July 25-Aug. 6, 12 days,

132 races, 12 less than last year.

* San Mateo County Fair at Bay Meadows, Aug. 8-20, 12 days, 103 Thoroughbred races (plus an estimated 11 non-Thoroughbred races), five less than last year.

The board also approved Del Mar's meeting at 43 days and 370 races, the same as last year.