07/23/2003 11:00PM

Too few horses for sprint stakes


SANTA ROSA, Calif. - The Ernest Finley Handicap, the sprint championship and a longtime staple of the Sonoma County Fair, will not be run Saturday.

Only six were nominated to the six-furlong race and only four entered. Racing secretary Greg Brent said he talked with fair manager Jim Moore about rescheduling the race, which is listed as an overnight stakes. It will be rescheduled for Thursday.

El Dorado Shooter, arguably the best sprinter in northern California, is on the sidelines after undergoing minor ankle surgery. The speedy Presidio Heights is being given a freshener. Radar Contact, who often seems to get a part in sprint stakes, has been returned to Washington by trainer Larry Ross.

Texas Chili, winner of the six-furlong Sam Whiting at Pleasanton, and Trickey Trevor, the runner-up in that race, were entered, as were My Captain and Halo Cat.

Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, a long-time critic of the fair circuit, was unhappy the race didn't go. He had also nominated Cappuchino but said he preferred running him longer.

"That goes to show how bad the fairs are," Hollendorfer said. "When you call off a race like that, it's bad. They just make them overnight stakes so they don't have to run them."

Another trainer complained that it was an example of why better horses in northern California often have to go elsewhere to find races.

Greg Gilchrist nominated the 3-year-old Taraval because "that horse is just wasting away up here" because no races are filling in his category. He ultimately didn't enter because he didn't want to run against older.

Brent was disappointed the race didn't fill, but said he thought Saturday's 13-race program would be "a good betting card."

Brent noted that Black Ruby, still the queen of the fairs despite losses in her past two starts, Smoking Joe, Sarah Nelson, and Taz would be running in a mule race.

He also pointed out that Boeagle, the top Arabian on the fair circuit, would also run Saturday in the one-mile Sabre Chant Handicap.

"We will have a Quarter Horse stakes and a good allowance feature," Brent said.

In the Quarter Horse race, Chicks Regard and Caliente Plente, second in the Pacific Quarter Horse Racing Association Handicap at Pleasanton, should be the ones to beat in the 350-yard Head Pin Handicap.

Blue Slew's Shoes, who snapped a long losing streak with an off-the-pace victory at the Solano County Fair in his last start, and California Lite, who took the lead in the lane only to be nipped at the wire in Pleasanton, are the top contenders in a one-mile allowance race that will end up as Saturday's Thoroughbred feature.