06/20/2010 11:00PM

Pleasanton opening brings notion of expansion


The CEO of the Alameda County Fair, Rick Pickering, has a simple goal for the 16 days of racing that start Wednesday in Pleasanton.

"We're going to try to deliver top-of-the-line fair racing," said Pickering of the Pleasanton meet, which ends July 11. "We are going to have real dirt and real racing."

There's more to Pickering's wish than simply having a good meet this summer.

With the Magna Entertainment bankruptcy still shaking out and the closing of Bay Meadows two years ago, Pleasanton could pick up some race dates and join Golden Gate Fields as one of the major tracks on a Northern California circuit. It's possible such an expanded role would require the installation of a synthetic racing surface.

Pickering said that a strong meet could help convince the county board of supervisors and Pleasanton city council to consider allowing expanded racing at the fair site.

"I think the racing industry, as a whole, is very pleased with Pleasanton," he said. "We've absorbed the horses from Bay Meadows. We feel we have an outstanding facility, and horses stabled here do well at Golden Gate Fields, accounting for a significant number of starters and winners.

"There is an opportunity for us to expand, but it's a constantly moving target. This year, we didn't get our calendar of dates until January. We need time to make it happen, and we can't get investors by saying someday something might happen."

Despite several five- and six-horse fields over the first three days of the meet, Pleasanton averaged about eight entries per race. With Hollywood Park racing at night on July 1 and 2, Pleasanton will lose a lucrative simulcast signal those days. But Pickering is hopeful that Pleasanton can draw more ontrack business this year. Last year, fair attendance increased 22 percent from 2008.

The fair is planning a number of giveaways. On opening day, T-shirts will be given the first 1,000 people entering the track's Win, Place, and Show contest. Auto sun shades will be given away on July 2, and 1,000 beach towels will be handed out on July 9.

The track will host daily handicapping seminars at 11:15 a.m. with track announcer Frank Mirahmadi, handicapper Dennis Miller, and a guest from the racing industry.

Stockton: Fife's Fantasy wins

Fife's Fantasy won the $40,000 allowance feature at Stockton Saturday, defeating Dizzy Rules by three-quarters of a length. Favored Softly Singing was third, another three-quarter of a length back in the field of four 3-year-old fillies running six furlongs.

On Sunday, standout mules Bar JF Hot Ticket and Bar JF Red Ticket, trained respectively by Ray and Ruby Thomas, ran one-two. Hot Ticket was clocked in a track-record 19.970 seconds winning the 350-yard race by a length.

Hot Ticket won her first eight starts last year before losing to Red Ticket in the final race of the year. Red Ticket repeated that win in the first 2010 race for each at the Humboldt County Fair in Nevada two weeks ago before losing to Hot Ticket in their second start the next day.