07/12/2011 2:20PM

Sacramento: Nine-day meet to offer reduced pick-four takeout and higher purses

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Placed on the calendar between the popular Pleasanton and Santa Rosa fair meets, the California State Fair in Sacramento may not be optimally placed to attract the best horses. But that doesn’t mean it won’t pull out all stops for fans and horsemen.

The nine-day meeting begins Thursday and runs through July 24 with two dark days, next Monday and Tuesday. It will conduct racing on Wednesday, July 20, in conjunction with the opening of Del Mar.

“We’re stuck between Pleasanton and Santa Rosa, which means we don’t get the horses we used to,” said director of racing Dave Elliott.

For bettors, the meeting at Cal Expo will offer a reduced pick-four takeout of 15 percent on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Normally, the takeout would be 23.8 percent. The track is partnering with the Thoroughbred Owners of California to lower the takeout.

“It worked well at our harness meet,” Elliott said of the reduced takeout. “Promotions tied to wagering are really important. These are really our most successful promotions.”

The track has installed a new video board and Jumbotron.

The track is increasing purses by up to 20 percent on claiming levels up to $16,000 in hopes of attracting fuller fields that will promote maximum wagering interest. The purse for a conditioned $4,000 claimer will be $10,000 compared to $8,500 at Pleasanton. Maiden $8,000 claimers will run for $8,500 at Sacramento instead of $8,000 at Pleasanton.

“People are going to bet fuller fields,” said Elliott. “We know that.”

There will be some races for better horses. Thursday’s opening day card includes a $40,000 claimer.

“We don’t historically get allowance horses here,” Elliott said. “A lot are waiting for turf races at Santa Rosa, but we do the best we can.”

Sacramento has a dirt main track.

“The track is good, and the horsemen that are here are happy with it,” Elliott said.

Elliott hopes the meet’s marquee event – and only stakes – will pay off for both horsemen and fans. Saturday’s California State Fair Fillies and Mares Sprint has a $75,000 purse, the largest on the summer fair circuit.

“Hopefully, we’ll get a good field,” he said. “Last year, we had nice participation from Southern California, and we think this purse will make it a marquee stakes.”