06/27/2004 11:00PM

Ten sprinters turn up the heat on Alameda fair's opening day


PLEASANTON, Calif. - Opening day at the Alameda County Fair is always a sure sign that summer has started in northern California.

And Wednesday's opening-day feature should be a hot one, with a full field of 10 3-year-olds entered in a six-furlong allowance race.

The Alameda County Fair, along with the Sonoma County Fair in Santa Rosa, offers the best of fair circuit racing. They are the two main stops on the yearly summer fair circuit.

The fair has remodeled the old cafeteria over the off-season. The new Palm Pavilion is a sports bar - including mutuel machines, big-screen televisions, and a great patio view of the track heading into the clubhouse turn - during the day and a blues club at night, with food from the nationally acclaimed Gingerbread House in Oakland.

Fans walking through the fairgrounds will have an unobstructed view of the races through the patio area.

Track officials are pleased with a full barn area, and they are hoping to have full fields throughout the 11-day meet, which includes five Thoroughbred stakes and two stakes each for Quarter Horses, Appaloosas, and Arabians.

Two Thoroughbred stakes for 3-year-olds were not carded this year to offset purse overpayments from last year, and because of the lack of 3-year-old distance horses in northern California. Fair officials plan to resume both stakes next summer.

The track will continue its popular win-place-show promotion, where patrons choose a horse for a designated race each day. Those who pick the winner are entered into a drawing for $300, with a place drawing worth $200, and a show drawing for $100. The fair is funding the promotion without support from the California Marketing Commission.

The fair will hold daily handicapping seminars beginning at 11:15 a.m. in the food court area in front of the grandstand entrance. John Harris, chairman of the California Horse Racing Board, is scheduled to be Thursday's guest.

The field for Wednesday's feature includes several 3-year-olds who might turn up to face older horses in the Sam J. Whiting Handicap on July 10, or in the Ernest Finley at Santa Rosa.

Jeffries Bay won his debut in spectacular style and was a troubled second behind the talented Jet West as an odds-on choice in his second start.

Greenie is 2 for 2 in northern California, while Ceez the Minute has won two straight since running in what was the strongest maiden claimer of the spring at Bay Meadows.

Adding depth to the field are Don'tcallmefrisco, who was nominated to the Triple Crown; Xtra Ace, who was claimed for $25,000 from a fast win in his last start; and Kid Ralston.

But the real value in the speed-filled race - the highlight of a 10-race card that includes two mule races and an Arabian race - could be Nose to It.

An impressive winner in his debut last September at Bay Meadows, Nose to It makes his second career start after nearly a 10-month layoff.

Nose to It, a $150,000 Ocala purchase last March, dueled for the opening half-mile before pulling away to win his debut by 4 1/2 lengths. Trainer Brian Koriner has put a strong series of drills in him, including two bullets.

At a glance:
Alameda County Fair

RACING SCHEDULE: 11 days, June 30-July 11; Dark on July 6

POST TIME: 12:15 p.m. daily

HIGHLIGHTS: $40,000-added Juan Gonzalez Memorial Stakes, July 3; $50,000-added Everett Nevin Alameda County Futurity, July 4; $50,000 Alameda County Fillies and Mares Handicap, July 5; $50,000 Sam J. Whiting Memorial Handicap, July 10; $50,000 Alamedan Handicap, July 11

ADMISSIONS: Free with fair admission ($9 adults, $6 children, $7 seniors); reserved seating $3, box seat $3.50

PARKING: General, $8; Western Pacific lot, $13

LOCATION: 4601 Pleasanton Ave., Pleasanton, Calif.

PHONE: (925) 426-7600

INTERNET: www.alamedacountyfair.com