06/17/2014 1:21PM

Pleasanton meet begins new era for Oak Tree

Courtesy of Oak Tree
Sherwood Chillingworth is Oak Tree Racing Association’s director and executive vice president.

Thursday marks the start of a new era in Northern California racing, as Oak Tree at Pleasanton becomes a reality with the first day of racing at the Alameda County Fair.

The Oak Tree Racing Association, the not-for-profit group that has provided high-quality racing and millions of dollars of support to the industry – “horsemen helping horsemen” is its motto – as well as the local community, arrives at the oldest one-mile racetrack in America. The group has been looking for a home since Santa Anita ended ties with Oak Tree following the 2009 meet.

Chris Korby, the executive director of the California Authority of Racing Fairs, approached Sherwood Chillingworth, Oak Tree’s director and executive vice president, following a California Horse Racing Board meeting one year ago.

“Chris grabbed me by the shoulder and asked, ‘Have you ever thought of coming to Northern California?’ ” Chillingworth said.

Oak Tree, CARF, and the Alameda County Fair began meeting, and California Horse Racing Board chairman Chuck Winner offered support as well.

“This brings together partners with so many strengths,” Korby said. “Both the Alameda County Fair and Oak Tree have long traditions.”

[Oak Tree at Pleasanton opening day: Get PPs, watch Thursday's card live]

“It’s been a great pleasure working with the Alameda County Fair board and staff,” said Oak Tree president John Barr. “There have been no real disagreements. They’ve jumped in and contributed more than we expected.”

Oak Tree’s arrival at Pleasanton has led to the first two $100,000 stakes in the track’s history, the Oak Tree Handicap at 1 1/8 miles for 3-year-olds and up Saturday and the Oak Tree Distaff, a six-furlong race for California-bred fillies and mares June 28. In addition, the $75,000 Oak Tree Sprint will be held July 4.

Oak Tree has helped to double the meet’s marketing budget and contributed to racetrack improvements as the fair board increased its contributions to the effort.

The track’s popular Turf Terrace was doubled in size, as was the winner’s circle, which was turned around to face the grandstand. The cozy directors’ room also was doubled in size to provide added room for directors, guests, and sponsors. The grandstand apron has been repaved and smoothed.

The work was done in-house using materials already at the fairgrounds, according to Alameda County Fair chief executive Jerome Hoban.

The Oak Tree brand has attracted interest from horsemen in Southern California and other states who have ignored Pleasanton in the past.

Overnight purses have been raised and are higher than those at Golden Gate Fields, including $37,000 for the first allowance condition and $27,000 for maiden special weight races. Even bottom-level types will run for $9,000 purses.

“We have a strong bottom and have helped the middle and top in our overnight purses in addition to the stakes program,” said Tom Doutrich, racing secretary for the CARF fairs.

Larry Swartzlander, CARF’s chief operating officer, noted that TVG and HRTV have promised to show all Oak Tree at Pleasanton Thoroughbred races.

The meet also will debut the Gold Rush Pick Six, a 20-cent pick six wager based on the Gulfstream Rainbow Six model that could lead to big carryovers. A 20-cent Super High 5 also could be a boon to handle.

Oak Tree at Pleasanton will continue popular events such as the win-place-show contest and putting contest. It is even adding a junior putting contest this year. It also will implement an “Owner for a Race” program, with a lucky fan getting a paddock visit, a trip to the winner’s circle, and a photo.

Oak Tree at Pleasanton T-shirts, caps, and binoculars and vintage Oak Tree beer steins will be giveaways.

Dave Rodman, the track announcer at Pimlico, will call races early in the meet as regular announcer Frank Mirahmadi completes his assignment calling races at Santa Anita.

Ken Johnson More than 1 year ago
Pat More than 1 year ago
Since my last post was deleted by the "anti first amendment" censors at the DRF, all I can say is this Oak Tree at Pleasanton is an example of just how far California racing (and Oak Tree) have fallen. Really a shame and also a sham to put on these cards. Does nothing for the reputation of California racing, except prove the point of how far it has fallen over the course of the last decade.
ken n More than 1 year ago
Broken down horses and leaky roof trainers.
Carl Wilson More than 1 year ago
You know Moises, with your attitude if you have so little interest in reading the articles and news that portray the personalities, the horses, the back stories, the comment and viewpoints on this great game, why don't you just go bet on slot machines? You'd probably be more successful. News and articles (print) never used to be free. All this free stuff is/was an aberration of an immature internet, and it is rightfully changing. Why should writers and journalists work for you for free?
Hail No More than 1 year ago
Sorry, Carl, we overpay on PPs, which are THE product, the writing is not. Did you ever buy a form?? If the writing is good, we can buy their BOOKS or purchase PICTURES. Enough of getting raped by the dollar.
Moises More than 1 year ago
DRF seems to be under the impression that people who subscribe to DRF+ do so for the articles. You know, kind of like how men buy playboy for the articles. Get real DRF, if someone has DRF+ all they want are the PP's. You guys should take a lesson from ESPN.com on how to run your website. Maybe you'll learn what you should and shouldn't charge for. Horseracingnation.com, Brisnet.com, and ESPN.com all offer free news.
Hail No More than 1 year ago
Unfortunately, Moises, our beloved drf has adopted a failed business plan.
Saw Mill Worker More than 1 year ago
The Fair Circuit. Bottom of the barrel of horse racing
Quite A Dude More than 1 year ago
What a stupid comment. Their purse structure is better than Golden Gate Fields.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
DRF doesn't like to print the truth that's why they won't post my comments :-)
FESTUS ELROY More than 1 year ago
Great card saturday .Out of 10 races ,there are 3 non-maiden thoroughbred races.1 statebred maiden allowance and 3 maiden claimers.Yeh!
racetrackandy More than 1 year ago
Apparently some in California Racing and at the CHRB object to the term “effective” takeout and are saying that I (We) are being “terribly misleading”. Really? We are being terribly misleading? The term “effective” takeout has been used by Gamblers for years and is a valid term (see articles below). When Del Mar seeds the P6 on Sundays with 50K the “effective” takeout is much lower than 23.68%. When there is a P6 carryover the “effective” takeout is much lower the next day depending on the carryover amount and how much new money is wagered into the pool (see articles below). Since these tracks are now also doing this 60/40 jackpot stuff on the Super Hi 5 I will be able to send out an email comparing the 20 cent super hi 5 payout with 70% “effective” takeout to the 10 cent superfecta payout with 25.02% takeout in the same race. In most cases the 10 cent superfecta will pay more than the Super Hi 5 in the same race. Why? Because the superfecta has a takeout of 25.02% while the Super Hi 5 has a 25.02% takeout plus a 60% carryover/jackpot provision. Please don’t dig in on this because it’s an argument you can’t win and an argument that makes you look like the Keystone Cops (incompetent). When someone who doesn’t follow takeout rates or wager provisions goes to the fair and bets a super hi 5 and wins (and is not the only ticket) and then goes to the window with his buddy who hit a 10 cent super and his buddy gets paid more what do you think is going to happen? How are you going to disclose the wagering provisions to people who don’t know better? The answer is you’re not. Maybe there should be separate windows/machines for these rip-off bets that are half of the height of regular windows so the people betting have to “bend over” when they make these particular bets. This is misguided and disgraceful and I am embarrassed that it’s allowed in California. At the very least these tracks should reverse the percentages going to the jackpot and payout. Even with that the “effective” takeout will be worse than the Rainbow Six at Gulfstream because the takeout of 25.02% is higher than Gulfstream. How low can you go? We never quit, A
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hello Racetrackrandy. The takeout on the Rainbow Six at GP is 50%.
Brian Rich More than 1 year ago
Except for those stupid wagers all of this sounds like good news to me!