08/07/2005 11:00PM

New schedule likely to boost field size

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There will be a new look at the Bay Meadows Fair, which opens Wednesday in San Mateo, Calif., with an eight-race card.

With the decision by Sacramento to run harness races instead of Thoroughbreds during its state fair dates, the Bay Meadows Fair has shifted its schedule. Instead of running 12 days in a 13-day span as in past years, the track will have two five-day race weeks, Wednesdays through Sundays, then will run on Aug. 24 and 25, days which in the past had gone to Sacramento.

The Bay Meadows fall meeting will start on Aug. 26.

Racing secretary Tom Doutrich said the new schedule should pay dividends. Sacramento had offered trainer incentive bonuses, which had prompted some trainers to race there rather than at the Bay Meadows Fair. With no Sacramento, Doutrich expects bigger fields.

"We have more horses than last year, and guys won't be skipping races here and pointing for Sacramento," he said.

Another consequence of the Sacramento decision is that mules will race at Bay Meadows Fair for the first time since 1997, and two $9,000 mule stakes - the Straight from the Gate for 3-year-olds at 350 yards and the Open Mule Challenge at 440 yards - will be offered the final two days of the meet.

The two mule stakes would have been run at Sacramento in the past, along with a pair of $16,000 Arabian stakes, which will go at Bay Meadows Fair on Aug. 13 and 14, and the $12,500 Jack Clifford for Quarter Horses, which will be run at Bay Meadows Fair on Aug. 20.

In past years, the Bay Meadows Fair offered horsemen their first opportunity in two months to run on turf in northern California. This year, Santa Rosa's first meet with a turf course changed that - but Doutrich doesn't consider that a negative.

"Santa Rosa and all the fairs built momentum for us," he said.

While no Thoroughbred stakes are run during the Bay Meadows Fair meet, purses have been increased from $110,000 to $120,000 a day.

Seven 3-year-old fillies signed up for Wednesday's opening day feature, a $40,000 optional claimer at 7 1/2 furlongs on the turf.

At a glance: San Mateo County Fair

RACING SCHEDULE: 2 days; Aug. 10-25. dark Mondays and Tuesdays

POST TIME: 1:15 p.m.; 12:45 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 21

ADMISSIONS: $3 general, $6 clubhouse, $15 turf club (open weekends only)

PARKING: $7 general; $8 valet

LOCATION: 2600 S. Delaware St., San Mateo, Calif.

PHONE: (650) 574-7223

INTERNET: www.baymeadows.com