07/08/2007 11:00PM

Pleasanton eyes improvements


Rick Pickering, the Alameda County Fair CEO and director of racing, revealed his vision of the fair's racing future Sunday.

Speaking to fans attending a Daily Racing Form handicapping seminar, Pickering showed an artist's rendition of a reconfigured synthetic racetrack and turf course for the Pleasanton facility.

These changes are being considered in anticipation of the Alameda County Fair picking up more dates in the future. Bay Meadows will be closed soon, perhaps as early as 2009, so the land can be developed, and that will leave a hole in the Northern California racing calendar. Bay Meadows will race next year after the California Horse Racing Board granted it an exemption from having to install a synthetic track.

Fair officials have spoken to an architect not only about the main track and turf course but also about remodeling the grandstand. Some additions would have to be made to the barn area, which is "green" and uses solar energy and ships waste to mushroom farmers rather than dumping it at a landfill.

Pickering said the fair also has begun meeting with city of Pleasanton officials and citizens to discuss the project and answer any questions. He said noise and traffic congestion are the two biggest concerns. He added that the nine-hole infield golf course could be retained even with the installation of a turf course.

"This is very expensive and only makes sense if we can run 10 to 12 weeks of racing," he said.

Golden Gate Fields is installing a Tapeta synthetic surface this summer, and Pickering said the fair has talked with Michael Dickinson, owner of the company that makes the Tapeta surface, about the possibility of a two-track discount.

Pickering said several groups have spoken with fair officials about partnering in the future should the track get more dates, including the Bay Meadows Racing Association, which will lose its racing site when Bay Meadows is closed; Magna Entertainment, which owns Golden Gate Fields; and a group of owners. He said a not-for-profit operation similar to the one at Del Mar, which is located on public land, might work well for the fair, which also is on public land.

Jockeys put knowledge to work

A little knowledge is often described as a dangerous thing, but it certainly wasn't for jockeys Roberto Gonzalez and Russell Baze in Alameda County Fair stakes races last week.

Gonzalez stole the 1 1/16-mile Alameda County Fillies and Mares Handicap last Wednesday aboard Snowdrop, defeating Bai and Bai, a filly he had ridden in the past.

When the heavily favored Bai and Bai began to move to Snowdrop on the second turn, Gonzalez asked his filly to move earlier than he normally would.

"I didn't want to let Bai and Bai pull even with me," Gonzalez said. "I know how tough she is. If we went head-and-head, I'm not sure I could have beaten her."

Snowdrop opened ground on her rival and was unchallenged in the lane as Bai and Bai finished an easy second with Baze aboard.

Baze used his knowledge to win weekend stakes with Trickey Trevor in the six-furlong Sam Whiting on Saturday and Bold Chieftain in the 1 1/16-mile Alamedan Handicap on Sunday.

Baze tried to get the lead in the Whiting with Trickey Trevor but couldn't. And when favored Barber squeezed over to the rail making things tight on Trickey Trevor, Baze eased his mount back.

"We wanted to take the lead, but he's getting older and isn't quite as quick as he was a couple years ago," Baze said of 8-year-old Trickey Trevor. "He doesn't like being in tight on the inside with a lot of dirt in his face."

Baze and Trickey Trevor sat in a stalking position and rallied three wide outside Barber and The Pharaoh to win.

Baze's wire-to-wire score aboard Bold Chieftain was spiced up when the 4-year-old colt ducked in during the stretch run.

"It probably helps that I've ridden him before so I wasn't caught completely off guard when he did that," Baze said. "Sometimes when that happens, you can lose momentum, but I hit him with my stick, and he kept going."

Trainer Bill Morey Jr. said Bold Chieftain would be pointed to the $125,000 California Dreamin' at 1 1/16 miles on the turf at Del Mar on Aug. 3.

Baze won four consecutive races Sunday, closing day, and five overall as he overtook Gonzalez to win the Pleasanton riding title 15-12.

Campos nabs first win

Jose Martinez Campos's first riding victory last Thursday was an impressive one. He won a four-way photo aboard Smokeretto, who returned $102.80.

A 19-year-old from Michoacan, Mexico, Campos had ridden only for pleasure in his native country, he said. He arrived in the United States three years ago and began working at a ranch. Trainer and former rider Tony Diaz helped him as he became an exercise rider and earned his jockey's license.

Smokeretto overcame a speed bias and closed well, splitting rivals to get up at the wire in a $16,000 claimer.

"I had a lot of horse, but I didn't have time to go around horses," Campos said. "She went right through the hole, and we got up."

Sarah Nelson keeps streak alive

Sarah Nelson remained unbeaten in 2007, winning the Pleasanton Mule Championship by 1 1/4 lengths over Bar JF Geneo, who again made a left turn midway through the race. The performance was so impressive that the chart caller could only comment, "Can anyone beat her" for her running line.

The answer may be Bar JF Geneo, if he ever gets his act together and runs straight.

On Wednesday, the 5-year-old Arabian mare Dunoire won the Pleasanton Arabian Distaff to improve her record to 5 for 5. She won her debut as a 3-year-old in 2005 and now has won four straight this year. She went wire to wire, shrugging off pressure to win with ease.

Pleasanton's two planned mixed-breed stakes were canceled when they didn't draw enough Quarter Horses.