07/25/2011 1:54PM

Santa Rosa: Sonoma County Fair opens 15-day meeting


Wednesday’s opening of the Sonoma County Fair at Santa Rosa will offer three weeks of the “good old days” for racing fans in Northern California.

Santa Rosa is the only Northern California meet racing five-day weeks, and it will offer seven stakes during its 15-day run.

“We think it’s important to run the same schedule as Del Mar,” director of racing Richard Lewis said.

While the horse population leads to concerns about the five-day race weeks for Lewis and racing secretary Tom Doutrich, Lewis said that based on stall applications, the barn area should have a “full house.”

Doutrich and the California Authority of Racing Fairs have recruited several new barns from Minnesota, Washington, and Idaho. Those new outfits have already helped fill races on the first three cards of the meet.

With the only turf course on the fair circuit, Santa Rosa also provides turf specialists with their first opportunity to run in six weeks. With the Golden Gate Fields summer meet running only three days a week, Doutrich hopes to attract a number of turf specialists looking for a chance to run.

“We’re coming off a very good year,” Lewis said. “Last year, we wound up averaging over eight runners per race. We’d like to see that again.”

The stakes schedule includes a pair of turf races for 3-year-olds as well as a pair of turf races for older runners. It also includes two 2-year-old stakes.

And it also has the most interesting stakes race of the fair season, the $50,000-added Jess Jackson Owners Handicap on Aug. 6. The five-furlong turf sprint will be Northern California’s first turf sprint stakes of the year. It also allows owners and trainers to choose their own weight.

“Years ago, it might have been more interesting because there were some lighter riders,” Lewis said. “Most jockeys do 115 or 116 now, but trainers won’t be asked to carry 120-plus pounds here.”

Eleven 3-year-old fillies signed up for Saturday’s $50,000 Diamond Jubilee, and Doutrich said nominations were in double digits for Sunday’s $50,000 Luther Burbank for fillies and mares. Both turf races are carded at 1 1/16 miles.

Lewis said that Santa Rosa will unveil a new paddock that is 2 1/2 times larger than the old one.

The fair will offer handicapping seminars with morning-line oddsmaker Michael Patricks, announcer Michael Wrona, and veteran handicapper Professor Gordon Jones at noon daily at the stage near the track entrance.