08/05/2002 11:00PM

Optic Diversion gets back on turf

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SAN MATEO, Calif. - Trainer Chuck Peery has no complaints about the northern California fair circuit. That's what 13 victories and a better than 30 percent win ratio will do.

Nonetheless, he's glad for the sake of Optic Diversion to be back at Bay Meadows.

Optic Diversion is a 3-year-old gelding with two wins and two seconds in eight starts. One win and two seconds have come in his three races on the Bay Meadows turf, where he will run in Thursday's co-feature at the Bay Meadows Fair.

"I enjoy the fairs," Peery said after having his picture taken in the Sonoma County Fair winner's circle with Bettor Cote on Monday.

"I wish the schedule was a bit different and they spent a little longer in Pleasanton and Santa Rosa. I wouldn't mind spending a month here [Santa Rosa] if they had a turf course."

That, of course, is the rub. There are no turf courses at any fair sites so horses such as Optic Diversion who run better on turf have nowhere to run during the optimal season for turf racing.

That could change soon, depending upon a decision by the Solano County Fair Board about the racetrack in Vallejo. The track could be eliminated as soon as next year, leaving two weeks open on the racing calendar in mid-July.

The Sonoma County Fair would be interested in acquiring those dates. The Bay Area's two major tracks, Golden Gate Fields and Bay Meadows, would, too, as would Sacramento and even Pleasanton, whose dates precede the two weeks in Vallejo.

The strong community support in Santa Rosa and the fact the fair already has plans to build a turf course that would be 1 1/16 miles, including a chute, may earn it the backing of horsemen.

But that's in the future, and this is now for Optic Diversion, who will meet four rivals in a $25,000 claimer at one mile on the Longden Turf Course.

"You can tell how far he moved up on the turf," Peery said.

Peery ran Optic Diversion at Pleasanton on July 3 in a $12,500 starter allowance race, coming off a June 13 turf victory at Bay Meadows at the same level.

Optic Diversion had excuses, breaking slowly and then racing wide, and he flattened out through the stretch.

"I was anxious to get him on the turf again," said Peery, who has freshened the gelding since the Pleasanton race.

"It's frustrating to go six weeks without having turf races."

The frustration finally ends Thursday.

o Veteran trainer Jerry Jackson, 75, perhaps best known for developing five-time world champion mule Black Ruby, died Monday. Jackson, a trainer for 31 years, also trained the champion Appaloosa Always Homer. Daytime Bargain was his best Thoroughbred. His wife, Kathy, two daughters and two grandchildren survive him. Private family services are planned.