08/20/2014 1:51PM

Lewis follows father's lead as track steward


Horse racing is a family business, with sons often following fathers.

Richard Lewis took that big step Friday at the Humboldt County Fair in Ferndale, where he took his place in the stewards’ stand. His father, Leon Lewis, was a longtime steward.

Richard Lewis recently was accredited as a safety steward but took his place in the stand for one day when Grant Baker had to conduct an informational event for state workers at Golden Gate Fields.

“It was a breeze,” said Lewis. “It was pretty quiet. I was pretty much used to it from spending time with my father in the stand, and I was beside the stewards when I worked as a placing judge.”

Lewis also is the director of racing for the Sonoma County Fair, although he also shadowed safety steward Vic Stauffer at Santa Rosa to prepare for his duties at Ferndale.

“As director of racing, I make sure we’re compliant with regulations,” said Lewis. “As a safety steward, I enforce the regulations.”

Lewis was disappointed with the results at Santa Rosa, where handle dipped and there was an overpayment to horsemen.

“All we can do is offer the best program we can offer and hope people bet,” he said. “I thought we were able to put out betable cards.”

There were bumps along the way, and the bumps added up to big obstacles. On opening day, a race lost two runners and had to run with only three entrants because of a traffic backup due to auto racing at a nearby speedway. Traffic backups were used as an excuse for some people not to drive to the meet from the San Francisco Bay Area.

The addition of a seventh stakes race may have affected the overpayment.

The meet’s best betting stakes race, the Jess Jackson Owners’ Handicap, somehow went off one minute early, possibly costing the track money with a number of patrons at the track being shut out.

** There was a 6 percent decrease in ontrack handle at the Sonoma County Fair’s 13-day meet. The meet handled $3,480,914, compared with $3,703,664 for the 2013 meet. The all-sources handle dipped 15 percent from $16,581,795 in 2013 to $14,096,155 this year. Out-of-state wagering, which dipped 21 percent, from $7,359,025 to $5,788,470, was the primary cause for the decrease.

** Seventeen runners, including the 2012 winner, Falling Knife, were nominated to Sunday’s 1 5/8-mile Humboldt County Marathon, in which runners pass the finish line four times. Tiger Cat, who lost a photo to A Thousand Aces last year, also is nominated.

** Sam Spear’s popular Sunday radio show “At the Track” now will be heard from 6-7 a.m. on KNBR (680).