10/04/2009 11:00PM

Fresno meet has the spotlight all to itself


The Big Fresno Fair begins a 10-day meet on Wednesday, and for the first time it will be the only game in town. In past years, Fresno ran concurrently with either Golden Gate Fields or Bay Meadows. But with Bay Meadows closed and Golden Gate having just completed the second of its fair meets, Fresno will be the only track running in Northern California for the next two weeks.

Tom Doutrich, racing secretary for the California Authority of Racing Fairs, said the Big Fresno Fair will benefit by not having to compete with another track for horses or the simulcast dollar.

"This will be very beneficial," he said. "When you're not overlapped, you have a chance to be more successful."

As the sole host for the Northern California simulcast signal, the fair will receive all money generated from simulcast and out-of-state wagering.

The meet features two sprint stakes on the closing weekend, each worth $50,000, with the Harvest Stakes on Oct. 16 and the Bull Dog on closing day, Sunday, Oct. 18. The Harvest had been a race for 2-year-olds but will be run as a six-furlong sprint for fillies and mares this year. The Bull Dog is a six-furlong sprint for 3-year-olds and up.

Doutrich said there are more than 600 runners on the grounds, and entries for the first two days of the meet are strong. Eight Thoroughbred races attracted 83 entries on Wednesday's 10-race opening-day card. Fifty-five were entered for Thursday's six Thoroughbred races.

Mule, Quarter Horse, and Arabian races also filled well.

With no overlap, the jockey colony will be the strongest in Fresno history. Among those to ride at the meet are Ricky Frazier, the leading rider at Emerald Downs this year; Frank Alvarado, who guided Lady Railrider to a Cal Cup Matron win Saturday and finished third at the recently completed Golden Gate fair meet with 15 wins; and fellow Golden Gate riders Alex Bisono, Michael Martinez, Francisco Duran, Hector Romero, Catalino Martinez, and Chris Russell.

Russell Baze, who won the riding title at the 17-day Golden Gate fair meet with 33 winners and guided Bold Chieftain to victory in the Cal Cup Classic, and Golden Gate runner-up William Antongeorgi (19 wins) plan to ride stakes at Fresno.

The two leading trainers at the Golden Gate fair, Jerry Hollendorfer and Steve Sherman, are running horses at Fresno on opening day. Hollendorfer, who saddled Blind Luck to victory in Sunday's Grade 1 Oak Leaf Stakes at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting, had 18 victories, while Sherman had 14.