06/30/2003 11:00PM

Rollins brings an Arizona connection

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PLEASANTON, Calif. - Chance Rollins has long enjoyed success on the northern California fair circuit.

He rode Casual Lies, runner-up in the 1992 Kentucky Derby, to victory in his 2-year-old debut at Santa Rosa and has ridden his share of stakes winners on the circuit.

On Saturday, Rollins won the Alameda County Fair's first stakes, the six-furlong Sam Jr. Whiting, aboard Texas Chili. He was third the next day aboard A Real Lady for a longtime Arizona-based friend, trainer Donald Mills, in the Juan Gonzalez Memorial.

Rollins is second in the Pleasanton rider standings behind Russell Baze with seven wins in 33 mounts. Baze has eight wins from 35 mounts.

Rollins said he stays calm while riding, and that is one reason horses often run well for him.

"If you're nervous," he said, "the horse can sense that and gets nervous, too."

Rollins has been a leading rider at Turf Paradise in Phoenix for many years and last year moved to the Southern California circuit. He moved north this spring and plans to stay here.

With his ties to Arizona, Rollins does well on the fairs because many Arizona-based horses run here during the summer. That makes for a busy time for Rollins, but he likes that.

"I'm trying to keep my friends from Arizona happy as well as the people here," he said.

Dale wins first career race

Apprentice rider Ashton Dale, 18, scored his first victory at a recognized track Monday at the Alameda County Fair, winning a five-furlong Arabian allowance by two lengths aboard Merzedes.

He was greeted with the usual jockeys' room paint job upon his return.

The victory was not Dale's first as a rider. He has been riding at bush tracks in his native Utah since he was 14.

"I won quite a few on the bush tracks," he said. "I've been on horses since I was 2 weeks old. I spent a lot of time with my grandmother, and she's into horses. She has barrel horses and still rides."

Dale rides all breeds and says he really likes riding mules.

"Everyone says they're crazy and will buck you off, but I like them," he said. "If you know the mule and know how to ride, there's no problem."

Handle flat; weather didn't help

The heat wave that hit northern California during the first week of the Alameda County Fair affected the handle severely. While the San Joaquin County Fair in Stockton benefited from cool temperatures, the temperature at Pleasanton was in the low 100's the first four days of racing before things began to cool down a bit Sunday.

Through the first week of the meeting, the handle was down less than 1 percent, with $14,996,694 wagered compared with $15,019,789 in 2002. Ontrack wagering was down 9 percent, but with continued good field size, the out-of-state handle was up 18 percent.

Total handle on Monday's card, $1,412,646, was up 33 percent from the corresponding Monday last meet. Ontrack handle was up 10 percent.