07/23/2012 1:59PM

Santa Rosa: Sonoma County Fair meet opens Wednesday


The Sonoma County Fair in Santa Rosa is going old school during its three-week meeting with five-day race weeks, and track officials hope having the only turf course on the California fair circuit will allow them to fill races. Santa Rosa opens its 15-day meet on Wednesday and races Wednesdays through Sundays until the meet ends Aug. 12.

No other Northern California track races as many as five days a week because of the difficulty of filling so many races. But racing secretary Tom Doutrich is hopeful the turf course and an influx of shippers from Golden Gate Fields to supplement locally stabled horses will keep field sizes high.

“Santa Rosa is always one of the most popular fairs and having a turf course helps as well,” said Doutrich. “I think we’ll have more participation from a number of barns here.”

With the State Fair meeting at Sacramento running through Sunday, few horses were in Santa Rosa’s barn area over the weekend, but director of racing Richard Lewis expected the stable area to fill up in the days before the opener.

“This happened last year, too,” he said. “This year we have 800 stalls assigned.”

For the first three days of the meet, Santa Rosa has attracted an average of 7.7 horses per Thoroughbred race. That compares favorably to field size at the two-week Sacramento meet, which averaged 6.3 starters per Thoroughbred race for the first week and 7 during the second week.

There is a stakes every weekend racing day at Santa Rosa, including two $50,000 turf stakes on Aug. 5, the five-furlong Jess Jackson Owners Handicap and the 1 1/16-mile Joseph T. Grace Handicap.

The opening weekend stakes, the Jack Demeo Horseman of the Year for 3-year-old fillies on Saturday and the Luther Burbank for older females Sunday, attracted 10 nominations each, including eight Southern California-based runners and one from Hastings in British Columbia.

Trackside reporter Frank Mirahmadi and morning-line maker Michael Patricks will host daily handicapping seminars at 11:45 a.m. Daily Racing Form national correspondent Jay Privman is Wednesday’s opening-day guest.

Michael Wrona will call the races, and Mirahmadi will do live reports from the paddock between races.

The fair will be giving away cruises daily during the meeting.