08/31/2008 11:00PM

Unlike other fairs, there's only racing


Officials are unsure what to expect when the San Joaquin County Fair meet begins a nine-day run on Wednesday in Stockton, Calif. It's only the second time a fair meet in Northern California has been conducted without the accompanying fair.

Stockton is running almost two months later than it has in recent years, when it opened the fair circuit in mid-June. The San Joaquin County Fair was conducted at that time this summer.

Last year, Santa Rosa became the first track to race without a fair to accompany the racing, when the final week of the three-week meet came after the closing of the Sonoma County Fair.

"We're taking a little different approach," said Forrest White, the San Joaquin County Fair's CEO and director of racing. "We talked a little bit with the people at Santa Rosa, but this is a little different. Their racing continued after the fair. For us, this is a totally different time."

When it raced in June, Stockton faced an overlap with either Bay Meadows or Golden Gate Fields. Stockton will have no overlap this year, but it will be running at a time when the horse population in the region is low. A number of horsemen based at Golden Gate Fields passed on running at the recently completed Sacramento meet and many will probably skip Stockton, too, to prepare their horses for the Golden Gate Fields meet that begins Sept. 17.

"We have to promote this as a race meet," said White. "This isn't a fair. We've tried to target sports fans more. We've run all our ads in the sports sections of papers, and we ran ads in the programs at Cal Expo and San Mateo."

The track is offering free parking during the meet and free admission on opening day. The food menu has been upgraded, with Mexican food, a barbecue stand, and the traditional burger-hot dog-corn dog stand. Six big-screen televisions will be installed so that fans can follow football games on weekends.

Replay show thriving after 30 years

Sam Spear's Labor Day racing results show from the California State Fair marked the 30th anniversary of his popular television show.

Spear is the host and producer of the longest continually running replay show in America.

Spear, who has a background in sports, was doing a radio show when he was hired by Golden Gate Fields in 1977 to promote racing on radio and television.

"I said to myself, 'This sport belongs on TV,' '" said Spear, who convinced a new station, KTSF in San Francisco, to begin running race replays on Labor Day 1978.

Spear had to buy the time slot for seven days a week for an entire year. On race days, he would get tapes from the track, drive to the station's studio, and do his show. Spear's show has always carried the fair circuit, too. He would rack up 12,000 miles on his car each summer traveling from Santa Rosa, Stockton, Sacramento, Vallejo, and Pleasanton back to the studio in San Francisco.

On non-racing days, Spear would air features on horse racing ranging from shoeing horses to going through the process of claiming a horse.

"Most people were doubting Thomases about the deal, but it was well received by fans," Spear said. "It didn't matter how inexperienced I was. At least we were showing races."

Spear's show aired on a Public Broadcasting System station, KCSM, from 1982-86, but in 1987, he began to broadcast his show from the track and returned to KTSF, which is seen in 2.8 million Northern California homes.

"We've done our best to give horse racing quality coverage," said Spear, who also hosts a popular Saturday morning radio show on racing. "And we've been blessed with great stories and the accomplishments of Jerry Hollendorfer, Russell Baze, and Greg Gilchrist and Harry Aleo."

Tribesman barely misses track record

Tribesman was sensational in his comeback in the California State Fair Sprint, setting blazing fractions en route to a 4 1/2-length victory over Jack Hes Tops in a six-furlong stakes for Cal-breds on Saturday. His 1:07.61 clocking was just 0.01 of a second off the track record of 1:07.60 set by Passing Game in 1993, when times were recorded in fifths of a second. Since Passing Game's time could have been anywhere between 1:07.60 and 1:07.79, Tribesman actually may have run the fastest six furlongs in track history.

Tribesman's fractions were 21.28, 43.01, and 55.18 seconds as he finally shook off closest pursuer Vaderator in the stretch.

Trainer Roger Hansen was a bit concerned about Tribesman's condition going into the race. He hadn't raced since May 16 and Hansen thought he might need a race.

The California Cup Sprint at Santa Anita on Oct. 5 is Tribesman's next likely start, said Hansen.

'Hot Ticket' unstoppable for now

Bar JF Hot Ticket continued her domination of mule racing with a 1 3/4-length victory over Ghengis Kahn in Saturday's 440-yard stakes race at Cal Expo, despite carrying 135 pounds and giving her closest rival eight pounds.

Her biggest challenge may come next year when her full sister, Bar JF Red Ticket, turns 4 and begins to race against her.

Hot Ticket is trained by Ray Thomas; Red Ticket by Thomas's wife, Ruby.