08/08/2002 12:00AM

Track rewards entrants

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SAN MATEO, Calif. - There will be a trainers' race at the Bay Meadows Fair this year.

The reason is, the track announced Thursday that it would put up $15,000 for the Bay Meadows Trainer Challenge, beginning Saturday.

With that incentive, races filled better for Saturday's card after the scheduled $40,000 Floral Fiesta Handicap at a mile on turf was cancelled because only four 3-year-old fillies were nominated.

The Trainer Challenge gives each trainer 10 points for entering a horse. A top-five finish will provide bonus points: five for a win, four for second, three for third, two for fourth, and one for fifth.

After the fair ends, points will be totaled and the top five trainers in total points entered in a drawing.

First prize in the drawing is worth $5,000 with $4,000 for second, $3,000 for third, $2,000 for fourth, and $1,000 for fifth.

Trainers Jerry Hollendorfer and Armando Lage, who have the biggest barns, said they would not participate in the contest in order to encourage other trainers to enter their horses.

"Both of them want to see races go," racing secretary Greg Brent said. "It's to their benefit to see races fill because they have a lot of horses to run."

The upcoming State Fair meeting in Sacramento offers $40,000 to be split between the top 15 trainers at its meet with $15,000 going to the winner. In addition, it has a $5,000 contest for trainers of emerging breeds.

The decision to offer the Trainer Challenge at the Bay Meadows Fair was prompted by a discussion with Hollendorfer, who suggested some trainers were saving horses to run at Sacramento.

The Bay Meadows Fair traditionally has a tough time attracting full fields because many of the cheaper horses go either to Ferndale, which runs at the same time, or ship straight to Sacramento to await the start of the State Fair meet.

Saturday's 12-race card is topped by a one-mile turf allowance race for fillies and mares that drew six entrants.

Brent isn't surprised at how difficult it was to get the Floral Fiesta to go.

"We didn't fill the Senorita at Pleasanton, either," he said of a stakes for 3-year-old fillies. "It's tough to fill races like this because trainers don't ship as readily from Del Mar as they do from Santa Anita and Hollywood Park because of the additional distance."

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