10/01/2013 12:36PM

Fresno: Field size a concern as meet opens

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Racing secretary Tom Doutrich admits he had a sleepless night Sunday after taking entries for Friday’s card at the Big Fresno Fair, which opens a nine-day meet Thursday.

The opening-day card saw an average field size of 7.8 horses for the five Thoroughbred races. But Fridays are traditionally big attendance days at the fair, and the seven Thoroughbred races average less than seven runners.

Doutrich is confident that Friday’s low field size is an aberration and that field size will be good for the weekend and second week of racing. He wants field size to average at least eight runners. The meet runs through Monday, Oct. 14.

“Maybe I just didn’t have the right races,” he said of Friday’s low turnout.

Chris Korby, executive director of the California Authority of Racing Fairs, said that Fresno will have $30,000 in vanning funds available for trainers.

Doutrich noted that trainer bonuses will be in place, as they had been at the just-concluded San Joaquin meet at Stockton. Trainers who enter five runners during the meet receive a $500 bonus, and those entering 10 receive $1,000.

“We had 12 nominees for Saturday’s Charlie Palmer [a $50,000-added one-mile stakes for 2-year-olds], and we hope to get eight to go, even though we haven’t had preps for it,” Doutrich said. “Two-year-olds are coming alive now, and there’s a lot that seem to want to go longer.”

Heading the list of nominees are Skydreamin, winner of the Lost in the Fog at Golden Gate Fields and the Everett Nevin at Pleasanton before trying graded stakes company at Del Mar; and undefeated Life Is a Joy and his Jerry Hollendorfer-trained stablemate Hirschy, who captured the Cavonier at Santa Rosa.

“We’ve got more trainers here,” Doutrich said. “John Martin, Rene Amescua, and Tony Diaz have horses here, and we’ve got some coming down from Portland and some others sending horses from Southern California.”

But Doutrich knows that with most Northern California Thoroughbreds stabled at Golden Gate Fields or Pleasanton, the farther trainers must send runners, the fewer they send.

“We’re running a $12,500 maiden claimer Thursday with a $12,000 purse,” Doutrich said. “At Golden Gate, the purse is $9,000. You’d think that would interest owners and trainers.”

But he’s looking at only seven runners in the field.

“The fair here has done things right working on the track and with improvements,” Doutrich said. “I believe things are better than ever.”