08/09/2009 11:00PM

Higher-quality runners get spot at fair meet


There will be no Ferris wheels, midways, or crafts and animal exhibits, but the fair is coming to Golden Gate Fields.

Golden Gate in Albany hosts its first of two California Authority of Racing Fairs meetings for a two-week run beginning Wednesday. The meeting will be an all-Thoroughbred affair geared to maidens, turf runners, and higher-quality claiming and allowance runners. Eight races are scheduled for weekdays, and nine on weekends.

The Humboldt County Fair in Ferndale, which runs for most of the same two-week period, will offer lower-level claiming types plenty of racing opportunities.

Fairs racing secretary Tom Doutrich, in cooperation with Golden Gate racing secretary Sean Greely, created the complementary schedule for horsemen.

"We will try to add a little higher level of racing for this two weeks and offer higher-quality horses a place to run," Golden Gate general manager Robert Hartman said.

The Golden Gate meeting takes the place of the fair meet at the now-shuttered Bay Meadows.

The meeting includes one stakes race, the CARF Debutante, a six-furlong sprint for 2-year-old fillies scheduled for Saturday.

Even though it's a fair meet, it will be business as usual at Golden Gate, with the regular jockey colony and familiar equine faces. As Northern California's lone major racetrack, Golden Gate has the largest barn area, with 1,400 stalls. Golden Gate also has the only synthetic track in Northern California, a Tapeta surface. Just as the fairs tracks benefited from some horsemen wanting to run horses on dirt, Golden Gate will benefit from those who have horses who run best on a synthetic surface.

Hartman said Golden Gate would "use the turf as needed." Two turf races are scheduled for Wednesday's opening day.

"There was a small concern with our regular meet running until mid-June whether the course would be ready for full use in two months, but the turf has grown in nicely," Hartman said.

Golden Gate has a second fair meet slated to begin Sept. 9, and four turf stakes are scheduled for that meet.

"We will not shy away from using it" during either of the two fair meetings, Hartman said.

Hartman said the popular Dollar Day Sunday promotion would continue during the fair, with parking, general admission, programs, and various concessions offered for $1.