07/31/2017 1:26PM

Turf course ready for action at Santa Rosa

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With a renovated main track, a turf course that benefitted from Northern California’s rainy winter, and a variety of new and popular old promotions, Sonoma County Fair officials are looking forward to the start of racing Thursday at the Santa Rosa racetrack.

“We’re anticipating a good meet,” said Stacey Lapham, the fair’s director of racing. “We’ve added a lot of organics to the main track, and track superintendent Juan Meza says it’s the best it has been in years. We’re trying to attract new bettors by doing new promotional things.”

The barn area opened Saturday, and horses took to the track for the first time Monday. Lapham said barn requests were surprisingly high.

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There will be eight days of racing on a Thursday-through-Sunday schedule for the two weeks, with three days of racing the final week of the meet, Aug. 18-20. There is free admission and parking on the final three days. Post time is 1:15 p.m. Pacific on Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays and 2:15 on Fridays.

Two stakes were eliminated – the Wine Country Stakes, a 1 1/16-mile turf race for 3-year-old fillies, and the Jess Jackson, a five-furlong turf sprint where owners could set their horses’ weights.

The meet’s open 2-year-old stakes, formerly known as the Cavonnier, has been renamed the Jess Jackson.

Racing secretary Bob Moreno said he plans to use the turf course extensively after six weeks of no turf racing in Northern California. Moreno said a five-furlong turf allowance has been added to the condition book to make up for the canceled sprint stakes. He expects several Southern California runners for Saturday’s Luther Burbank Stakes.

Among the new promotions is a free $2 voucher to be used at automated machines. The track will also offer a second-chance drawing for losing tickets after the sixth race, with the winner receiving a voucher. The first 25 fans daily sharing the track’s “Facebook quote of the day” will receive prizes at the information booth.

Paddock tours will be offered daily, and those who participate can watch a race from the winner’s circle. Thursday’s opening day will include a hat contest for fans.

The non-fair weekend will include free “wine country” T-shirts on Friday, $5 beers for those with college and military IDs on Saturday, and $1 hot dogs and beers until the third race on Sunday.