08/17/2011 11:02AM

Golden Gate opens short-week, turf-filled meet

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Golden Gate Fields begins a seven-week racing experiment at its Albany, Calif., track Friday, when it begins a short summer meet that runs through Oct. 2.

The meet will run 22 days with three-day weeks, Fridays through Sundays, as well as racing on Labor Day Monday. At its last meet, which ran from last December to June, Golden Gate ran four days a week, Thursday-Sunday.

Golden Gate Fields general manager Robert Hartman said the shortened weeks would hopefully attract bigger fields and more out-of-state wagering.

“This summer meet is something we’ve always struggled with,” said Hartman.

“Out-of-state bettors are looking for a good product. We believe this will help increase field size, which everyone likes. The better product you put on, the more fans will wager and will begin to follow racing closer.”

The track hopes to run nine races on Fridays with 10 carded Saturdays and Sunday. Only eight races were filled for Friday’s opening-day card.

Hartman said that the racing office would offer attractive extra races, including some special allowance races for the top horses on the grounds. There will, however, be no stakes races scheduled during the meet.

Golden Gate will run an abundance of turf races, which were limited to the recently closed Santa Rosa meet during the Northern California fair season. With no turf racing in Southern California during the September Fairplex meet, Hartman hopes Southern California trainers will take advantage of the opportunities to run on the grass at Golden Gate Fields.

“This meet will be like a turf festival,” he said. “We’ll have more turf races than any other seven-week period in Northern California.”

Golden Gate Fields will offer daily promotions, which have proven popular with its customers.

The lone giveaway is a fleece blanket with racing scene given to patrons with each paid admission on Labor Day.

Returning is the popular $1 Sundays, with $1 admission, parking, program, hot dogs, beer and sodas. With the start of the NFL season, televisions around the track will be airing every game played.

Free senior (62 and older) admission will be offered on Fridays. The “Weiner Nationals” races for small dogs will be run this Saturday. The track will then host a Food Truck Festival the next four Saturdays, with 30 to 40 food trucks, changing weekly, offering a variety of foods. Bands will also be featured on those Saturdays as well as every Sunday during the meet.