08/21/2013 12:55PM

Santa Rosa business strong in first independent meet

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In its first meet independent from the California Authority of Racing Fairs, average daily all-sources handle and total and average ontrack handle at the Sonoma County Fair in Santa Rosa, Calif., increased over last year.

Ontrack betting increased despite two fewer days of racing. Ontrack wagering for the 13-day 2013 meet totaled $3,703,664, a 3 percent increase over the $3,580,241 bet ontrack at the 15-day 2012 meet. The daily average ontrack handle was $284,897 this year compared with $238,682 in 2012, a 19 percent increase.

The daily average all-sources handle, including simulcast and account wagering, showed an 11 percent increase from 2012, while the total all-sources handle was down 4 percent with the two fewer days.

The meet ran from July 26 through Aug. 11.

“Everything went really well,” said Richard Lewis, the fair’s director of racing.

The fairs pay CARF to organize racing, perform administrative work, help with track maintenance, and distribute purses. Officials at the Sonoma County Fair said they decided to do these things themselves in order to save money.

Lewis said there was about a $10,000 underpayment in purses to the horsemen, which would be made up. He noted that purses were up almost 14 percent this year over last year.

Although there was a minimal drop in field size this meet, Lewis praised racing secretary Bob Moreno for putting together solid cards that led to the betting increase.

One-third of the Thoroughbred races were run on the turf – the only grass course on the fair circuit. The turf course was soft early, and there was a cutback on watering during the meet. As the course firmed up, course records were set at five furlongs and 1 1/16 miles.

“There were brown spots near the end that weren’t too pleasing to the eye, but the trainers and jockeys were happy with the course,” said Lewis.

The fair had to provide its own equipment but worked out a deal with a local company to provided the tractors to maintain the track.

Other fairs watched Santa Rosa closely, and Jerome Hoban, CEO of the Alameda County Fair in Pleasanton, said he was “very proud of Santa Rosa” and said the fair’s success was “good for horse racing.”

Hoban would not comment on whether Pleasanton would consider venturing on its own as Santa Rosa did.

Lewis said Santa Rosa was already studying ways to improve next year’s meet and would begin formal meetings next month.

“We put a lot of work into the meet, and it paid off,” said Lewis. “Everybody seemed happy.”

Monroe strikes twice

Sherrie Monroe scored only three victories during the winter-spring Golden Gate Fields meet but won two in the span of one hour on opening day Friday.

Poncho’s Big Star won the second race, paying $20.60. In the fourth race, Casual Attire won his debut while returning $61 as the longest shot on the board in a $25,000 maiden claimer for 2-year-olds.

Monroe said that Casual Attire surprised her because she thought the five-furlong distance of the race was too short for him.

“I didn’t think he’d flash that kind of speed,” she said.

Monroe said she bought Casual Attire sight unseen.

“Mike Lenzini saw him and called me,” said Monroe regarding Casual Attire, a California-bred Comic Strip gelding out of the unraced Cahill Road mare Nanaslittlepearl. “He knows I liked Comic Strip, and I trust his opinion.”

Monroe said Casual Attire “did everything right” after arriving in her barn.

“He made no mistakes, really,” she said. “I liked him a lot and wasn’t going to run him for $12,500. You don’t know what a first-timer will do. They could jump out and do anything, but I thought he’d run decent.”

Monroe never bets on her horses but said her grooms liked Casual Attire and collected nicely with his victory.

“We had a pretty big party at the barn,” she said.

Monroe said she isn’t sure what is next for Casual Attire. “There are lots of spots because he’s a Cal-bred and we’re eligible for starter allowance races,” she said.

Hunch play winner

Golden Gate Fields held Fiesta Hispana Day on Sunday and had an excellent turnout of 11,291.

Those looking for a hunch play cashed to the tune of $10.20 when El Gran Matador won his third straight race by scoring a 2 1/4-length victory in the third race.

The 6-year-old gelding began the streak with a 4 1/2-length victory in a $4,000 claimer at Pleasanton on July 7. He then won a $5,000 claimer at Sacramento and his victory Sunday came in an $8,000 claimer.

El Gran Matador is trained by Victor Trujillo and owned by Landeros Racing LLC.

Strong feature on Friday

Seven 3-year-old fillies meet in a first-level allowance on Friday, perhaps the best race of the week at Golden Gate Fields.

Papercoversrock, who won her one-mile debut last December, will make her 3-year-old debut in the six-furlong race. The field also includes Special Summer, who is a perfect 3 for 3 at Golden Gate.

Other contenders include Red Rachel, who won a five-furlong starter allowance on the turf at Santa Rosa, and Zipping My Way, third in a three-way photo in a sizzling five-furlong turf race there.

Adriatic Style and recent maiden winners Rathbaun and Pretzel Logic round out the field.

◗ The Northern California Equine Association will offer a seminar on genetic markers and profiling in Thoroughbred breeding at 9:30 a.m. Sept. 14 in the Bay View Lounge at Golden Gate Fields. There is a $10 fee for the seminar. For more information or to sign up, email info@norcalequine.org.