10/02/2012 1:02PM

Fresno: Season's final fair hopes to attract horses from all over


The Big Fresno Fair opens a nine-day run Thursday to mark the end of the Northern California fair racing season.

For years, Fresno was a stand-alone meet, running a couple of months after the other fair meets and giving a brief respite to racing at Golden Gate Fields. But this year, the San Joaquin Fair in Stockton ran for two weeks heading into the Fresno meeting, and some horses that in the past would have raced at Fresno may have run at Stockton instead.

California Authority of Racing Fairs racing secretary Tom Doutrich is unsure how the new fair schedule will affect Fresno.

“It’s really been hit or miss at certain [fair] meets this summer, and I’m not sure if it will be hit or miss here,” he said.

“We have some trainers based at Golden Gate Fields who don’t plan to come down, and we’re losing some trainers who have gone back to Idaho and Arizona. But Vann Belvoir is sending up a string from Fairplex, and Jerry Hollendorfer will have 15 here.”

Attracting shippers is one of the problems faced by most fairs, which have limited stabling space. The farther from the San Francisco Bay Area the tougher it becomes to convince trainers to send horses, and Fresno is located about 180 miles from Golden Gate Fields.

Doutrich was able to card eight races on opening day, including seven for Thoroughbreds, and nine races, including eight Thoroughbred races, on Friday. The fair also runs races for Quarter Horses, Arabians, and mules.

Doutrich said he is counting on Washington-based horses shipping down and some that ran at Fairplex to help fill the races.

Fresno offers two stakes: the $75,000 Charlie Palmer Futurity, a one-mile race for 2-year-olds on Saturday, and the Bulldog for older runners at 1 1/8 miles on Oct. 14.

“We hustled the Charlie Palmer really hard,” said Doutrich.

Eighteen were nominated to the Charlie Palmer, including Anytime Magic, winner of the Lost in the Fog and Everett Nevin Alameda County Futurity, and Zeewat, winner of the Cavonnier. Also nominated were Condiment and My Best Bet, second and third to Zeewat in the Cavonnier, and Tenango, third in the Barretts Juvenile.

Doutrich said he is not sure how many of the nominees will actually run in the stakes. He is expecting a good-sized field for the Bulldog, however.

Although nominations for the Bulldog have not closed, Doutrich believes the early nominations indicate the race should have a good-sized field.

Fresno also will run three $30,000 starter allowance races, one each on the final three days of the meet.