06/27/2003 11:00PM

'Ichiban' favored in fair's feature

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PLEASANTON, Calif. - Seven 3-year-olds will compete in Monday's six-furlong feature at the Alameda County Fair.

Ichiban Duc looms as the likely favorite in the $40,000 optional claimer on a day when the track will offer the only racing in California.

Ichiban Duc has won 2 of 3 lifetime starts, including a race at this level in his last start on May 26. He has a pair of five-furlong works since that victory, including a bullet 1:01.40 drill on June 10.

His primary rival could be Operatic, who closed nicely to win his debut in a straight maiden race May 17 at Bay Meadows.

Alphabetic, a maiden winner at Turf Paradise who was second as the favorite in a May 23 allowance race at Bay Meadows, also figures to be a factor, with a pair of bullet works over the track here since his last start.

Handle up slightly

Through the first three days, Pleasanton meet has shown a minimal 0.3 percent increase in wagering. Through Friday, the handle was $6,715,297.10. For 2002, the total through three days was $6,693,748.10.

The ontrack handle was up 26 percent on opening day, buoyed by a Seabiscuit bobblehead giveaway. Overall, the handle was up 21 percent.

However, hot weather led to much smaller crowds on Thursday and Friday, with temperatures peaking at 107 and 105 degrees. The heat also prompted racing officials to shorten post parades to help the horses, but that decision had some effect on handle, too.

Despite the high temperatures, which were supposed to begin dropping Sunday, field size has been good, leading to a 4 percent increase on out-of-state handle Friday.

Baze unhurt in spill

Russell Baze was dumped by Ocean Quest, who bolted early in the stretch Wednesday while leading a race by four lengths. Baze promptly returned to ride the winner in the next race.

Asked about the spill in the winner's circle, Baze said, "The only thing that got bruised was my ego."

'Seabiscuit' benefit

The Winners Foundation and Race for Education will be the beneficiaries at a special screening of the new "Seabiscuit" movie on July 22 at Auctions by the Bay Theatre on the old Alameda Naval Station grounds.

A champagne reception will be held at 6 p.m., with the movie at 8. Tickets are $250. For information, call (510) 559-7300.