06/29/2008 11:00PM

Plan for improvements put on hold


During the first week of the fair racing season, the Alameda County Fair in Pleasanton, Calif., had a case of buzzard's luck.

A proposal that would have allowed an additional 1 percent takeout to finance major improvements at Pleasanton was deferred by the California Horse Racing Board at its Friday meeting at the Alameda County Fair satellite facility.

The decision will deprive Pleasanton of an estimated $1.2 million that would have been used to widen the bridle path from the barn area to the main track, as requested by the Thoroughbred Owners of California and California Thoroughbred Trainers. Also put on hold because of the decision was additional backstretch housing as well as a recreation room for backstretch workers and office space for the racing board, the TOC, and the CTT.

The assembly passed a bill last year that allowed for the additional takeout specifically for capital improvement at the fairs, but it needs racing board approval. Northern California's fairs and the California Authority of Racing Fairs had agreed to use any money generated from the proposed takeout at Pleasanton, which will become Northern California's only year-round training facility other than Golden Gate Fields when Bay Meadows closes.

Crowds, betting off to slow start

Fair attendance declined 18 percent through the first week. The cost of gasoline didn't help, but the primary reason was wildfires that filled the air with smoke.

"It didn't help on Friday when we had our Kids' Day that a radio station went on the air and said it was Kids' Day and then advised people not to bring their kids to the fair because of the air quality," Pickering said.

The decline in attendance has led to a 20 percent decrease in local handle, and out-of-state wagering has decreased as well with smaller than normal fields early in the week. Field size did pick up a bit over the weekend.

This is the first year that Pleasanton has run immediately after Golden Gate Fields concluded its meet, and racing secretary Tom Doutrich is hopeful that some of the horses that ran the final two weeks at Golden Gate may resurface the second week at Pleasanton.

It also didn't help when the Monterey simulcast facility had to shut down for the annual Monterey Jazz Festival and when the San Jose satellite suffered a Saturday power shortage that prevented it from opening for several hours.

Saratoga's Magic may switch to turf

If things were going bad for the fair, they were going quite well for the winners of the meet's first two Thoroughbred stakes.

Saturday, top speed rider Roberto Gonzalez stole the Alamedan Handicap when he got away with harness-like fractions aboard Saratoga's Magic, who held off stablemate Putmeinyourwill. The 5-year-old Saratoga's Magic, trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, can handle turf and could make his next start on that surface in the Joseph Grace at Santa Rosa.

Trainer Steve Miyadi was too busy thanking the racing gods Sunday to look ahead for Squallcreek, who won the Everett Nevin for 3-year-olds when Thiscatsgotcharm, the clear leader in the stretch, ducked in at the sixteenth pole and lost his rider when he tried to jump the rail.

In addition to the mishap, Miyadi also pointed out that favored Grand Atlantic, a filly who had won two straight in wire-to-wire style, did not break sharply and didn't get to run her normal race.

Frank Alvarado, who shares the jockey lead with Russell Baze with seven first-week winners, was able to walk away from the incident with Thiscatsgotcharm, and the horse seemed all right as well.

Hollendorfer led Miyadi, 5-4, through Sunday, with Billy Morey, who won the Golden Gate Fields training title, third with 3 wins from 6 starters.

* The presence of Vicarino, assigned a 123-pound impost, seems likely to limit the entries in Friday's Sam Whiting, a six-furlong sprint. Magic Texan was the second highweight at 120.

* Twelve fillies and mares, headed by She's Sensational and Unspoken Word, were nominated for Saturday's Alameda County Fillies and Mares Handicap.