08/06/2006 11:00PM

Plenty of runners set to go

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The San Mateo County Fair at Bay Meadows, which begins a 12-day run on Wednesday, is sometimes the victim of attrition in the horse ranks. Horses have been shipping to California's various fair meets to race, and by the end of the summer the number of available runners can run thin. But that's not a problem this year.

"We have a pretty healthy horse population," said racing secretary Tom Doutrich. "Even though we didn't get as many horses as we hoped from Arizona, the horse population is holding. We're around 2,000. We're full at Bay Meadows. There's over 1,000 at Golden Gate Fields and another 200 at Pleasanton.

"When you reach the end of the fairs, it gets tiring with all the shipping, so it's nice to see the numbers staying up. We had some big problems with injuries early in the year, but I think some of those horses are coming back, and guys are holding their numbers well."

In the past, this meet has been geared to bring horses up to speed for the Bay Meadows fall meeting, which used to follow the San Mateo County Fair. But the state's new racing schedule, with late summer and early fall dates at Golden Gate Fields, will alter that game plan.

"Last year, we could crank up more pointing to our meet," Doutrich said. "This year, we'll try to use the turf course as much as we can and try to break a lot of maidens."

Two-year-olds will be a focus of the meet, Doutrich said.

"The 2-year-olds were a little late this year," he said. "We'll try to offer some races to stretch them out and give them more options."

Quarter Horses, Arabians, and mules will run during the meet, and a stakes for mules will be offered. Once again, no Thoroughbred stakes will be run.

Wednesday's opening day features nine races, including two optional claiming races and an Arabian maiden race.

Six 3-year-olds will go one mile on the turf in a $40,000 optional claimer. Faulkwood Shores, an impressive winner at Santa Rosa, and stakes-placed Wilmore head the field.

Seven fillies and mares run in a six-furlong $25,000 optional claimer, which appears to be a wide-open race.

At a glance

RACING SCHEDULE: 12 days; Wednesday through Aug. 23; dark Aug. 14, 15, and 22

POST TIME: 1:45 p.m. Pacific, 12:45 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 20

ADMISSIONS: grandstand, $6 clubhouse, $6

PARKING: general, $7; valet, $8

LOCATION: 2495 S. Delaware St., San Mateo, Calif.

PHONE: (650) 574-7223

INTERNET: www.baymeadows.com