08/23/2009 11:00PM

Sister mules trigger million-dollar handle


Thanks to a pair of sister mules, the Humboldt County Fair had its first-ever million-dollar day Sunday, the final day of the meet.

Sunday's handle was $1,025,953, bringing the meet total to $4,965,143, well ahead of the figure of $3,399,656 bet on the corresponding eight days from last year's meet, which ran for 10 days.

"We had a super, super meet," said Humboldt County Fair manager Stuart Titus. "The added purse money for the horsemen proved a big catalyst bringing in many more horses, especially Thoroughbreds, here to race and that spelled full fields and competitive racing.

"We gambled racing eight days this year instead of 10 days as in recent years, and everything worked out great with our best meet ever."

The million-dollar day can be attributed in large part to the sisters Bar JF Red Ticket and Bar JF Hot Ticket, who ran in consecutive races. More than $400,000 was wagered on those two races.

Red Ticket improved her record to 13-1-0 in 14 starts with an easy victory Sunday. Red Ticket also ran Thursday, when $140,000 of $142,000 bet to show in the race was wagered on her.

One race later on Sunday, her full sister Hot Ticket won for the 31st time in 37 starts and 19th consecutive time in the Cream City Mule Championship. Her 38.18-second clocking broke Sarah Nelson's track and stakes record of 38.34 set in 2007.

Wagering on the two races came to $423,729 or 41 percent of the record handle.

The day's Thoroughbred feature, the Humboldt County Marathon won by odds-on Parko, handled $126,789.

Parko adapts well to dirt

Parko won the $25,000 Humboldt County Marathon by a nose over the front-running Power Star. Trainer John Martin said he ran Parko, normally a turf horse, in the Marathon on dirt because of the 1 5/8-mile distance. Parko had won a pair of 1 3/8-mile turf races this year.

Martin may have secured the victory with his decision to work Parko over the half-mile Ferndale track.

"I did that on purpose," Martin said, "so he could see the bullring and see the surroundings at the track. I actually trained him four times around the finish line."

Power Star ran the race of his life in the Marathon and nearly pulled off a wire-to-wire victory. He was passed in the lane and dug in, nearly coming back on Parko.

Martin said that jockey Nikeela Black rode Parko perfectly.

"I told her just to try to get him to relax early," he said. "She saved ground, and she moved at just the right time."

Black, who lives in Ferndale but had ridden previously only in Oregon, said: "I thought we had put that other horse away when we got the lead. Power Star was sure game fighting back the way he did, and my horse really had to dig in late to hold on. Boy, that's a long race."

James Wooten Jr. gave Power Star a tremendous ride and would have won the jockey title had he held on. He and Matt Garcia tied with 13 wins, but Garcia won the title with 112 points based on points for first-, second- and third-place finishes, 4 points ahead of Wooten.

Dennis Ward won the training title with six winners, one more than 83-year-old Elmer January and four-time defending champ Jim Haverty.

Baze dominates at Golden Gate

Russell Baze won the Golden Gate Fields fair meeting riding title with 22 victories during the 10-day session, including four on closing day Sunday. William Antongeorgi III, who won the meet's only stakes, was second with eight wins.

Lloyd Mason edged Jerry Hollendorfer and Billy Morey for the training title, 8 to 7. Mason runners hit the board in 19 of 24 starts during the meet.

* Santa Rosa, which ran from July 29-Aug. 9, showed a 3 percent drop in average daily ontrack handle and a 1.5 percent drop in daily all-sources handle for its meeting. Ontrack handle in 2009 was $3,761,855 for the 10-day meet, compared with $4,284,026 for the 11-day meet in 2008.