09/29/2008 12:00AM

Solid fields for first two cards


With 66 horses for seven Thoroughbred races on Wednesday, opening day, and 56 for seven Thoroughbred races on Thursday, the Big Fresno Fair in Fresno, Calif., is off to an encouraging start, track officials say.

"I think we're going to have a great race meet," said Dan White, the fair's chief of racing. "Our first two cards are good, and if we stay true to form, we'll have a great meet."

The meet, the final fair meet of the season, runs for 11 days through Oct. 13.

Filling races has turned out to be much tougher than usual this year on the fair circuit because of a decline in the horse population in Northern California.

But Tom Doutrich, the California Authority of Racing Fairs racing secretary, said, "We're doing well with entries."

Fresno has a full barn area of 600 runners, compared with fewer than 400 at other fair stops.

Every Thoroughbred race on opening day has at least eight entrants and will offer a superfecta. Five of Thursday's seven Thoroughbred races will offer superfecta wagering as well.

One thing helping with the horse population at the fair is that Golden Gate Fields will not run on Wednesday or Thursday during the two-week Fresno meeting. Both tracks will run Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays and the Oct. 13 Columbus Day holiday.

White noted that his staff has met with each trainer on the grounds to provide help. He expects 500 owners, trainers, and backstretch personnel will attend the track's annual barbecue.

One thousand trees were planted around the track and backstretch area last year and they are fully blossoming now.

"We're going to continue to improve the backside and increase purses," White said.