08/18/2002 11:00PM

State fair the last stop on summer circuit

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. - The 2002 state fair meeting at Sacramento, the final fair of the Northern California summer race season, begins Wednesday and quickly shifts into high gear.

The fair will overlap with Bay Meadows over the four-day Labor Day weekend, so its two Thoroughbred stakes will be held the first weekend. The $75,000 Governor's Handicap at 1 1/8 miles will be run Saturday, Aug. 24, with a possible rematch between Hoovergetthekeys and Takin It Deep, who alternated the one-two spots in the Alamedan Handicap at Pleasanton and Joseph Grace at Santa Rosa.

"That division has been strong from Pleasanton to Santa Rosa," said Grant Baker, the fair's racing secretary. "Last year, we had nine starters, and I anticipate matching that number."

The $50,000-added Earlene McCabe Derby, a six-furlong race for Cal-bred 3-year-olds, runs Sunday, Aug. 25.

Five stakes for other breeds, including the $10,000-added California State Fair Open Mule Challenge on Saturday, Aug. 24, will be run. The supermule Black Ruby is expected to go in that 440-yard race.

Baker, in his second year as racing secretary, says he expects a strong 2002 fair meeting.

"I'm optimistic we'll have a good meet," he said. "We'll have a full stable area, and there's a lot of good response from horsemen who run here.

"The track's in good shape. They dig it up and start working it immediately after the harness meet," which ends in June.

"We had a lot of 48 works on Friday, and the track has been getting faster."

The fair is offering a $40,000 bonus pool for Thoroughbred trainers and a $5,000 pool for trainers of other breeds. Points are based on the number of starters and placings, with the top Thoroughbred trainer getting $15,000 and top other-breed trainer getting $2,000. The contest pays through 15 places for Thoroughbred trainers.

There is also a beautiful barn contest, with $250 to the winning barn.

The paddock has been redesigned with a top that will keep the area cooler, although it was primarily designed to protect harness horses during the winter months.

"We try to do little things to make horsemen feel welcome and for the fans to have more fun," Baker said.

* Unlike all the other fairs, the state fair offers a pick six.

* A memorial service for trainer Jerry Jackson, who died earlier this month, will be held Saturday, Aug. 24, in front of the racing office at 10:45 a.m. Jackson was best known as the trainer of champion mule Black Ruby.