07/16/2007 12:00AM

Solano looks to expand via harness racing


The Solano County Fair's general manager, Joe Barkett, was generally pleased with the fair's five-day run, shortened from the 10 in past years. The fair's meet in Vallejo ran from last Wednesday through Sunday.

Solano and Sonoma counties combined race meets this year, with the final three weeks of the combined four-week meeting to be run at Santa Rosa, in Sonoma County, beginning Wednesday. One of those weeks is technically a second week of the Solano meet.

"It will take a couple years to get the attendance in five days to what we had in 10, but each day was building progressively this year," he said. "Saturday was a better day than any day we had in 2006."

Barkett said Solano is holding serious talks with the harness racing operators at Cal Expo in Sacramento about transferring its operations to Solano.

Barkett said there had been "a lot of stops and starts" in negotiations, but he hoped the decision could be resolved "in the next couple months."

Cal Expo has run harness racing exclusively the past two years but may want to return to Thoroughbred racing next year or in 2009 when Bay Meadows may cease operations.

Barkett said that Solano would have to do various upgrades to make its facility ready for year-round harness racing.

"We know we need to make improvements, but we need to race more than two weeks a year," he said.

"We'd look at racing year-round, but only if we have the support of horsemen and Cal Expo."

Barkett said that if Solano did run a year-round harness meet, it would open two more weeks of Thoroughbred racing for other fairs.

Plan works out in stakes

Russell Baze told trainer Greg Gilchrist what he planned to do with Victorina before running in the Vacaville Handicap on Saturday at Solano - and then did it.

"Russell mentioned Denaesalildevil might try to go a little wide so he might make a move along the rail," Gilchrist said after the race.

That's exactly what happened, as Denaesalildevil drifted out a bit into the lane, and Baze and Victorina cut inside her and the eventual runner-up, Vaca City Flyer, to win the six-furlong race with ease.

"I didn't want to lay too far back, but they were going pretty fast up front," he said. "Most horses here seem to drift off the fence, but it didn't look like she was going to.

"I had plenty of horse and was about to go outside them when she finally began to drift, so I cut to the rail. I had a lot of momentum, and there was never a doubt in my mind she could get up even if I went outside them."

When he weighed in after posing for pictures in the winner's circle, Baze quipped, "I guess that makes me the leading stakes rider here."

The Vacaville was the lone stakes race for Thoroughbreds during the five-day meet.

Final time for the six-furlong race was 1:08.30, more than one second faster than Vaca City Flyer's winning time of 1:09.67 in 2006.

Vaca City Flyer couldn't defend her title, but still ran a strong race.

"That was her best race of the year," said Steve Sherman, who saddled her for his father, Art Sherman.

"She didn't do anything wrong and kept trying," said Chad Schvaneveldt.

Two wins on day for Campos

Jose Martinez Campos had the first riding double of his career Saturday at Solano, giving him the second and third victories of his young career.

The 19-year-old from Michoacan, Mexico, went wire to wire aboard Yudaman Man in a 5 1/2-furlong maiden claimer. He then rode Cinnamon Teal to an upset over favored Belle of the Bay in another 5o1/2-furlong maiden claimer.

He was pinned on the rail aboard Cinnamon Teal, who had raced head and head with Belle of the Bay all the way, when he lost his whip at the top of the lane. He kept Cinnamon Teal's momentum going without panicking and asking too much, edging clear late.

* One week after chart-callers wrote "Can anyone beat her?" following a win at Pleasanton, Sarah Nelson was defeated by Bar JF Geneo on Sunday at Solano.

* Stewards at Hollywood Park have scheduled a hearing for trainer Gary Stute after Theory was disqualified from third in the sixth race at Bay Meadows on Feb. 28, 2007 for testing in excess of the allowable total carbon dioxide limit.