10/11/2011 12:00PM

Fresno going out with a bang


This weekend’s racing at the Big Fresno Fair marks the culmination of what has been a good fairs season and includes two Thoroughbred stakes and special races for mules, Arabians and Quarter Horses. In addition, three starter allowance races will be offered, each with a $25,000 purse and for runners who have competed for a tag of $8,000 or less during the fair circuit.

“If the races in the condition book go Sunday, we’ll give out the most money in the history of the Big Fresno Fair,” said the fair circuit’s racing secretary Tom Doutrich.

The total purse money on Sunday would be $222,800, the first time the $200,000 figure has been reached at Fresno.

The $50,000-added Bull Dog Stakes at 1 1/8 miles and the $75,000 Charlie Palmer at 1 1/16 miles for 2-year-olds top the Sunday card, which also includes a 11/4-mile starter allowance, the $7,000 American Mule Racing Association Gold Cup, and the $8,000 Fresno Futurity for Quarter Horses.

Part of the reason for the record purses is the overall success of the fairs. Doutrich hopes that the fairs can maintain their strong stakes schedule again next year while also bringing up purses on the bottom level a little more.

The fair schedule will change next summer, with Pleasanton opening the circuit and Stockton moving to a two-week meet in September leading into the Big Fresno Fair. One thing that might do is allow Doutrich the opportunity to card some 2-year-old races at Stockton, which might strengthen the two 1 1/16-mile 2-year-old stakes at Fresno, the Soviet Problem and the Charlie Palmer.

Bold Chieftain eyes Bull Dog

The Bull Dog could be the last race in the career of one of California’s best runners, Bold Chieftain.

The 8-year-old millionaire, who has five seconds from six starts this year, would be making his Fresno debut and will have run at every California track except Stockton, Los Alamitos and Ferndale.

Thirty-five of his 44 career starts have come in stakes. He has 13 stakes victories, including two Cal Cup Classics, the Grade 2 San Francisco Mile and the $500,000 Sunshine Millions Classic.

The Bull Dog, which had 10 nominations, could pit Bold Chieftain against Uh Oh Bango, who edged him by a head at Golden Gate Fields in the Grade 3 Berkeley on Memorial Day. The Berkeley outcome was the third straight year that Bold Chieftain had lost the race by a head.

Thirteen 2-year-olds were nominated to the Charlie Palmer, including Longview Drive, who won the Cavonnier at Santa Rosa, and Runstevierun, winner of the Afflerbaugh at Fairplex.

Plans for Coup de Coeur

Things couldn’t have gone any better for the Jeff Bonde-trained Coup de Coeur in Sunday’s $75,000 Soviet Problem. The 2-year-old filly took advantage of her early speed in the 1 1/16-mile race to score a wire-to-wire victory, holding off the two-time stakes winner Killer Graces.

Trainer Jeff Bonde said he would prefer not to cut her back in distance for her next start, although he said the three-race series at Golden Gate Fields that begins with the six-furlong Golden Gate Debutante on Nov. 5 would be a consideration since she would get to stay at home.

Bonde paid $60,000 for the Exchange Rate filly at last September’s Keeneland sale for an eight-owner consortium.

“She’s got real pretty movement,” Bonde said. “We really liked the length of her stride. She’s smooth over the ground. And she’s by a horse who is a good sire.”

She is the first stakes winner for her unraced Woodman dam Bois D’Amour, who now has seen six of her seven foals to race win, with five notching multiple victories.

Bar JF Hot Ticket set to return

Trainer Ray Thomas said that the mule Bar JF Hot Ticket, who may be the most popular attraction on the fair circuit, is being pointed to Sunday’s AMRA Gold Cup.

“I think she’s going to run,” said Thomas. “She worked fantastic Sunday and came back good after the work.

“I’ll make the right decision for her. If I see one thing I don’t like before Sunday, she won’t run.”

Bar JF Hot Ticket has not run since being stepped on by a pony at Santa Rosa. Thomas had to scratch her from a race there on the day the track honored Black Ruby, considered among the top mules of all time.

She suffered a stifle injury, and minor surgery is still being considered, but Thomas says the injury is not career-threatening.

Owned by Dave Wood from nearby Harris Farm, Hot Ticket would likely be favored in the 440-yard Gold Cup despite the layoff.