08/01/2011 1:54PM

Santa Rosa: Owners' Handicap a different animal


Get ready for what might be the most interesting stakes race of the year in Northern California.

Saturday’s Jess Jackson Owners’ Handicap at the Sonoma County Fair in Santa Rosa is not the richest or most important race on the Northern California race schedule. In fact, it’s not even the only stakes on the card, sharing the spotlight with the Wine Country Debutante for 2-year-old fillies, which may include the unbeaten stakes winner City Route.

What makes the race so interesting is that the owner assigns the horse’s weight. Presumably, each owner will assign his or her horse the minimum weight the jockey can make.

The five-furlong turf sprint has 17 nominees, including some real rocket ships like Ain’t No Other and Excessive Passion, respective winners of the Livermore Valley Wines Stakes and Sam Whiting Handicap at Pleasanton; Restless Youth, the 2010 Sam Whiting winner; and Steve Sherman-trained stablemates Goggles McCoy and Jim’s No Preacher.

Ain’t No Other would have gotten a weight break anyway, being a 3-year-old facing older horses, and you can rest assured he be dropping weight from the 123 pounds he carried in his Livermore Valley Wines victory. Ain’t No Other won the Harry Henson on the turf earlier this year at Hollywood Park, and the 4-year-old Excessive Passion won the 2010 edition.

There’s so much speed in the race that Michael Wrona may want to study a classic call from the 1970’s when a sprint field broke from the gate and stayed spread across the track. Harry Henson, the track announcer that day, said nothing because there was seemingly no separation between any of the runners. Finally, at the half-mile pole, he spoke for the first time since announcing the break.

“They’re still together,” he said.

That may be the case here unless someone pushes to warp speed early and sticks a head in front.

Apprentice back home

Apprentice Kyle Frey could find himself much in demand for the Jess Jackson Owners’ Handicap because he can get in light. Now a regular at Parx Racing near Philadelphia, Frey has returned home to California for a family visit and busman’s holiday.

Frey, who began his career at Golden Gate Fields last fall, went east with agent Mark North, who has campaigned a number of apprentice riders with great success. Frey is eighth in the Parx Racing standings with 46 wins in 310 mounts.

“Kyle wanted to come home to visit his family, and Parx is going to be closing for three weeks,” North said. “Your time as an apprentice is so short that you have to take advantage of it, and we agreed Kyle would be riding out here.”

Frey has 62 winners from 464 mounts during his career.

Fair business continues to rise

The California State Fair in Sacramento became the third fair meeting to show an increase in both ontrack and all-sources handle this summer.

The San Joaquin Fair in Stockton got the ball rolling, handling more in four days this year than it had in five days in 2010. The Alameda County Fair in Pleasanton cut two days from its schedule and also did better than it had in 2010.

Sacramento ran nine days this year and outhandled its 10-day meet last year.

The daily average for 2011 was up 19.2 percent ontrack, $209,678 this year compared with $175,839 in 2010.

The all-sources handle, including ontrack, satellites, out-of-state and account wagering, showed a 17.9 percent daily increase. It averaged $1,100,321 compared with $933,582 in 2010.

The total ontrack handle for the Sacramento meet was 7 percent higher than in 2010, and all-sources handle totaled 6 percent more.

Statebreds score on grass

California-breds Halo Dolly and Victoryasecret scored turf stakes wins at Santa Rosa over the weekend.

Halo Dolly, a 3-year-old Popular filly, won her fourth straight in the Diamond Jubilee. It was the first stakes victory for Halo Dolly, who is trained by Jerry Hollendorfer.

Victoryasecret, a 6-year-old Victory Gallop mare trained by Chuck Jenda, won her third straight and second straight stakes in the Luther Burbank.

There are no more Northern California options for either horse for a while. Logical spots at Del Mar include the $85,000 Sandy Blue Aug. 19 for Halo Dolly and the $100,000 Solana Beach Aug. 21 for Victoryasecret.