07/12/2017 8:46AM

Sacramento tries to keep the ball rolling

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The 2017 Northern California fair racing season got off to a good start at Pleasanton, and California Authority of Racing Fairs racing secretary Tom Doutrich is hopeful that the momentum will continue as the 11-day California State Fair meeting begins Friday at Cal Expo in Sacramento.

“Sacramento is in the middle of our two most popular fairs at Pleasanton and Santa Rosa, and we also have horses going to Del Mar,” said Doutrich.

Because of its distance from Golden Gate Fields, where many horses are stabled, and the typically hot weather, Sacramento has had problems with field size. It is also the lone fair that does not have to rely heavily on horse racing to attract crowds.

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Doutrich will have 100 more horses on the grounds than in the past because the Pleasanton barn area closed down Sunday with the end of the Oak Tree at Pleasanton meeting, and he believes that will translate into more entries. Several barns that were new to Pleasanton will also stable at Sacramento.

“Our first day has good numbers,” he said of the eight-race card, which averages 7.5 runners for the six Thoroughbred races, including three races with eight or more runners.

In an attempt to get trainers to start more horses at the meet, Doutrich and CARF have bumped up trainer incentives for Sacramento. Trainers starting 10 or more runners will receive a $2,000 bonus. Trainers starting 5 to 9 runners receive a $750 bonus, and trainers starting 2 to 4 runners receive a $300 bonus.

Seven Thoroughbred trainers qualified for the bottom-level bonus on the first day of racing.

The State Fair meet offers one stakes race, the $50,000 Governor’s Handicap at six furlongs for fillies and mares on July 22. Doutrich said he’s already received some nominations for the race, which he considers a good sign.

Even though the first day of racing at the Oak Tree at Pleasanton meet was canceled because of the heat, the meet showed a 6 percent increase in ontrack handle over the 2016 meet, from $4,350,162 to $4,615,883.

“We’re off to a really good start,” said Doutrich. “We only had one horse vanned off the track at Pleasanton and had no catastrophic injuries. It couldn’t have gone any better, even with some hot weather.”