10/02/2017 10:46AM

Harris Farms Stakes the highlight of Fresno meet

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The 2017 Northern California Fair racing season opens its concluding meet Thursday when the Big Fresno Fair begins a nine-day run. Fresno races Thursday-Monday (Columbus Day), then the following Thursday-Sunday. Post time is 1:45 p.m. Pacific on weekdays, and 12:45 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

The meet highlight is the lone $100,000 stakes of the fair season, the Harris Farms Stakes, a six-furlong sprint for California-bred 3-year-olds and up Saturday. The race is part of the 39-race Golden State Series for California-bred or -sired runners.

“We’re pleased with the early nominations for the Harris Farms and think it will be a good race,” racing secretary Tom Doutrich said.

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Included among the nominees is defending champion Jimmy Bouncer and Longacres Mile winner Gold Rush Dancer.

The other stakes during the Fresno meet is the $50,000 Bulldog Handicap for 3-year-olds and up going 1 1/8 miles, to be run on closing day, Oct. 15.

Fresno is offering incentives to trainers in an effort to attract more horses.

Trainers who run two to four horses during the meet receive a $500 bonus; trainers with five to nine runners will receive a $1,000 bonus; and those with 10 or more runners receive a $2,000 bonus.

In addition, the fair is offering a $10,000 bonus to the meet’s top trainer, based on a points system.

Doutrich said the bonuses aren’t the only thing that attract horsemen to Fresno.

“I think Fresno has several things going for it that has caught the attention of horsemen,” Doutrich said. “I think it’s the way they treat horsemen here – including a barbecue sponsored by Harris Farms – the way they put money into the facility, and the way they support horsemen with bonuses.”

Doutrich is hoping to get more Southern California trainers to run horses at the meet.

“We’ve been talking to a number of Southern California trainers who have expressed interest in running and have asked about running certain races,” said Doutrich, adding that nine of the 15 Harris Farms nominees are based in Southern California.

As he has done throughout the fair season, Doutrich will concentrate on presenting strong weekend cards.

Fresno will host the Craft Brew Fest in the infield Saturday. The event includes beer from 30 craft breweries, food trucks, music, and lawn games. Admission to the brew fest is $45 in advance, $50 at the gate.

Fair admission is $12 ($8 for children 6-12, seniors and military) and includes admission to the track. Box seats are $3 and reserved seats are $5. Parking charges range from $5 to $15.