Updated on 09/17/2011 10:02PM

Quaint 10-day meet opens


Racing returns to the smallest venue in California on Thursday for a 10-day meeting at Ferndale that runs through Aug. 21.

The C.J. Hindley Humboldt County Marathon will be run for the 50th time this year and headlines a schedule of nine stakes races for several breeds. A 1 5/8-mile race run over Ferndale's half-mile track, the Marathon sees runners cross the finish line four times.

The meet, with its folksy atmosphere, is a pleasant stop on the northern California fair circuit, reminding fans of racing in its early days. Racing secretary Ella Robinson said she hopes the positive trends seen at other fair stops this summer will also be evident at Ferndale. With no Thoroughbred racing this year at the State Fair in Sacramento, Ferndale gives many smaller barns their last legitimate chance to compete until Fresno in October. The result, Robinson hopes, will be full fields.

"It's reflected in the application for stalls," Robinson said. "We're already full on paper."

Also, the decision by the Bay Meadows Fair not to run next Monday means Ferndale and Del Mar will offer the only racing in California that day.

Ferndale's tight, unbanked half-mile track requires a special knowledge for riders. Victor Miranda will be back to defend last year's riding title, but he'll have an old face to contend with in Danny Boag.

For Boag, going to Ferndale is like going home. A three-time champion here, Boag didn't compete last year after being suspended in Oregon for betting on a race at Portland Meadows in which he was scheduled to ride.

"You do something stupid, and then you look back on it and know you shouldn't have done it," he said.

Boag said he is grateful to the trainers who have used him on the fair circuit.

"I've been riding here for 15 years, and the same people who rode me are still riding me," he said. "I didn't lose a lot of stock."

Boag, who is one of the busiest jockeys, working horses every morning, stayed in riding condition working young 2-year-olds for the Barretts sale in Pomona.

"It helps the breeders, and it's fun getting on some great young horses," he said.

When he wasn't working with young horses, he worked at his custom meat-cutting plant at his home in Albany, Ore.

Boag said he loves the half-mile bullring at Ferndale, but is not sure if he can be the leading rider again there.

"I can't do it any more because I don't ride mules," said Boag. "I'm getting too old for that."

At a glance: Humboldt County Fair

RACING SCHEDULE: 10 days - Aug. 11-21. Dark Tuesday, Aug. 16

POST TIME: 2:25 p.m.; 2:55 p.m. Friday; 1:55 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays

HIGHLIGHTS: $10,000 Les Mademoiselle Aug. 20, $12,500 Humboldt County Marathon Aug. 21

ADMISSIONS: $6 general, $3 seniors

PARKING: $2 general

LOCATION: 1250 Fifth St., Ferndale, CA

PHONE: (707) 786-9511

INTERNET: www.humboldtcountyfair.org, www.calfairs.com