07/19/2009 11:00PM

Solano begins one-week meet


For the second time in three years, there will be only one week of racing at the Solano County Fair in Vallejo, Calif. The meet runs from Wednesday-Sunday.

What would have been the first of two weeks of racing at Solano was conducted last week at Pleasanton after the two tracks and the California Authority of Racing Fairs reached an agreement to run races for a third week there. Two years ago, Solano and the Sonoma County Fair in Santa Rosa reached an agreement to conduct three weeks of racing at Santa Rosa and only one at Solano.

The future of racing here, and even the fair itself, remains on the cloudy side.

New fair manager/CEO Mike Paluszak said the cutback in racing "makes sense," since Solano, once known on the circuit as the "biggest little fair," will have only a one-week fair run anyway.

Entries are solid for the first three days of the meet, which runs Thoroughbreds, Quarter Horses, and Arabians. Thoroughbred fields are averaging more than eight runners per race, a figure that fairs racing secretary Tom Doutrich has been able to maintain throughout the first two racing meets, at Stockton and Pleasanton.

Although it is a small fair, Solano's barn area is brimming with runners.

"We have more than 500 in the barns, with more coming in over the weekend," Paluszak said last Friday. "We feel very good about the horse population we have."

Promotions will be in full swing as the fair celebrates its 60th year. The age for senior admission, $4 instead of the $8 for adults, has been dropped to 60 from 62.

"We're going to make it a five-day birthday party," said Paluszak, who is hopeful new promotions, giveaways, and entertainment will attract increased crowds.

The fair and racing kicks off with a hat contest and key chain and bookmark giveaways on Wednesday.

The fair has expanded its promotional efforts with local businesses and groups, offering special attendance packages.

"We've created a buzz and some excitement for racing," Paluszak said.

The grandstand underwent a facelift last year, with some additional cosmetic changes this year. Backstretch accommodations were improved for horsemen, and the dirt track has been worked over to bring it to peak racing shape.