08/17/2008 11:00PM

Thoroughbreds back at State Fair


Thoroughbreds return to the California State Fair in Sacramento for the first time since 2004 on Wednesday. The meet runs through Sept. 1.

For the past three years, Cal Expo has run harness horses at the State Fair meeting in hopes of creating a larger fan base for the harness meet that runs 11 months a year there. Harness racing will return again on Sept. 12, but director of racing Dave Elliott said Cal Expo officials wanted to make the State Fair a part of the Northern California fair circuit again.

"We're excited," Elliott said.

Elliott said the track has been resurfaced under the supervision of track superintendent Steve Wood. Road graders were used to tear up 6 to 8 inches of the track surface. One thousand tons of sand was added, along with 100 yards of organic material. After that process, the road graders were used to mix the elements together.

"The material has made the track a deep black color," Elliott said. "When horses go by in the morning during their workouts, you can't even hear them. Our crew and Steve Wood have done a good job. All the trainers seem happy."

The State Fair will offer two stakes, each with a $75,000 purse: the Governor's Handicap for 3-year-olds and up going 1 1/8 miles on Saturday, and the California State Fair Sprint for statebreds at six furlongs on the following Saturday.

The track will also offer a doubleheader on Friday with two eight-race cards, one starting at the normal 1:15 p.m. Pacific post time and the second starting at 5:45.

Black Ruby, 16, runs her last race

The 16-year-old Black Ruby, the Secretariat of mules, made her final start Saturday at Ferndale, running third in a 220-yard race.

"The crowd was very enthusiastic," track announcer Frank Miramahdi said. "They gave her a nice ovation during the post parade and at a winner's circle reception after the race."

Such is the respect for Black Ruby that TVG showed her race, and ESPN did a segment on her.

Black Ruby, who has competed every year since she was 3, won 70 races and nearly a quarter-million dollars.

"She really did well," owner Mary McPherson said. "She hadn't raced since Ferndale last year, and there's a difference between racing and workouts."

McPherson said that she would be willing to let Black Ruby be paraded at any fair, but that her racing career was definitely over.

Earlier on the card, Bar JF Hot Ticket, who is dominating her rivals much as Black Ruby once did hers, broke the 220-yard track record with a 14.87-second clocking.

Lage takes two weekend stakes

Veteran trainer Armando Lage sent horses to Ferndale for the first time and went there on a working vacation during the final weekend of the meet, which ended Sunday.

It may not be his last trip there.

The Lage-trained Trick Soso scored an eight-length victory in Saturday's $10,000 Les Mademoiselle as the 11-10 favorite. On Sunday, Lage-trained Trato pulled away from odds-on Candlestick Park to win the 1 5/8-mile Humboldt County Marathon by 3 3/4 lengths.

Jorge Ayarza, who came north with Lage, rode both winners.

"I'm already planning on next year's trip to the Humboldt County Fair," said a laughing Lage. "I came with five horses this year, but you can bet I am bringing more stock next year. What a great place Ferndale is, and the fans are the best."

In addition to the two stakes, Lage also scored a $15.60 upset with Flaming Mandate on Sunday.

* Jockey Danny Boag won his record eighth riding title at Ferndale in 14 seasons. Trainer Karen Haverty, who won eight races, won her fourth straight training title, and Red Seattle, a Haverty-trained 12-year-old who won three starts at the meet, was named horse of the meeting.