07/31/2012 2:00PM

Santa Rosa: Cardiffbythesea stays unbeaten by winning strong optional claimer

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The undefeated Cardiffbythesea, a 4-year-old Five Star Day gelding, scored an impressive victory in a second-level optional-claiming sprint at the Sonoma County Fair in Santa Rosa, Calif., on Sunday to run his record to three wins. His Beyer Speed Figure from Sunday’s race, an 88, comes on the heels of an 89 in his debut and a 93 in a Golden Gate allowance sprint in June.

Besides being fast, Cardiffbythesea has shown versatility. He won his debut on May 17 at Golden Gate Fields coming from sixth place. The second- and third-place finishers from that race won their next start. In his second start and on Sunday, Cardiffbythesea was right up on the pace under Russell Baze.

Despite getting off a bit slowly on Sunday, he was able to hold off the stakes-placed Live Sundays by 1  1/2 lengths, with the stakes winner Cost of Freedom four lengths farther back in third. The field also included stakes winner Indian Winter and stakes-placed Reagan Republican.

“Every time he’s run, he’s been impressive,” said trainer Lloyd Mason, who also owns Cardiffbythesea.

Mason had to nurse Cardiffbythesea through shoulder problems that kept him from running as a 3-year-old.

“We started him very easy and built up,” he said.

Mason ended up owning Cardiffbythesea when the gelding’s breeder, Noreen O’Neill’s Ann Marie Farm, decided to reduce its number of runners.

“Mrs. O’Neill was cutting back on her horses, and I’d found a home for some of them,” Mason said. “She asked me, ‘Why don’t you take Cardiffbythesea?’”

Sprint opportunities

Cardiffbythesea was perhaps a bit lucky that allowance race was even carded on Sunday. Santa Rosa racing secretary Tom Doutrich decided to offer the race, even though it might have taken starters from this coming Sunday’s $50,000-added Jess Jackson Owners’ Handicap, a five-furlong turf sprint.

Doutrich said he feels it is incumbent upon him as a racing secretary to provide opportunities for all categories of horses, particularly allowance runners.

“I’m concerned about field size,” said Doutrich. “We all are. But I’m also concerned about keeping categories alive and giving horses a chance to run.

“I think we could have gotten a couple in the Jess Jackson had we not run this one, but this was a good spot that gave seven horses an opportunity to run. It turned out to be a great race, and it handled $200,000.”

Mason said that had the race not gone, he would likely have run Cardiffbythesea in the Jess Jackson.

Three-stakes weekend

The Jess Jackson Owners’ Handicap is one of three stakes being offered this weekend. It will be joined on the Sunday card by the $50,000 1  1/16-mile Joseph T. Grace, also on the grass. On Saturday, 3-year-olds will go 1 1/16 miles on the turf in the $50,000 Robert Dupret.

Doutrich is pleased that there are 13 nominations for the Jess Jackson and 15 for the Joseph T. Grace. But he is concerned that only eight were nominated to the Robert Dupret, including multiple stakes winner Longview Drive, who is also nominated to the Jess Jackson. Longview Drive, who scored his initial stakes win in the Cavonnier here last year, is the only Dupret nominee not eligible to the first allowance condition.

Among those expected for the Jess Jackson is the Mason-trained Shudacudawudya. Mason also will run Dunmore East in the Grace.

Ontrack handle rises at Sacramento

The California State Fair in Sacramento, which was coming off a banner year, showed a 3.4 percent increase in daily ontrack handle on its races this year. An average of $198,676 was bet ontrack for the meet, compared with $192,135 in 2011. The meet ran eight days – one fewer than last year – from July 12-22.

The daily all-sources handle, including satellite, out-of-state, and account wagering, dropped 3.5  percent from $1,007,250 in 2011 to $972,399 this year.

The State Fair offered a guaranteed $30,000 late pick four payoff tied to daily live coverage on TVG, and daily handle on the bet increased 74 percent, from $26,632 in 2011 to $46,513 this year.