Newsletter: Racing! People still love the fairs


Hello, my name is John Cherwa, and welcome back to our horse racing newsletter, as we look forward to today’s California Horse Racing Board meeting.

Judging by the amount of email I got, there is a lot of passion out there about the California fair circuit. It recently became an issue when Tim Ritvo floated the idea that he may close Golden Gate if he doesn’t get some simulcast concessions, and that he also would like to race year-around at Golden Gate.

The year-around racing would affect the fairs because if Golden Gate were to get more dates, it would have to come from the dates currently allocated to the fairs. Ritvo has said he has no problem with the fairs continuing to run during those dates, but it’s clear where the betting dollars will go — and quaint doesn’t win out in that decision.


The CHRB has its regularly scheduled meeting today at the Alameda County Fair. Will this meeting bring clarity to the situation? Who knows? We’ll have to see who blinks first in this giant game of chicken.

Now before we go any further, I got it dead wrong when I said there was no turf racing at the fairs. Santa Rosa has a turf course and uses it during its nine summer racing days. But none of the other fair tracks have turf courses.

Now, not everyone is in favor of saving the fairs. Some, the betting interests, say the fairs have too high a takeout compared with Golden Gate. That is true. The fairs also have small fields, something Golden Gate is not immune to. On Thursday, Pleasanton has three races with five horses, three with six and one with eight. Friday’s card has one race with five, four races with six and two with eight.

What the CHRB will ultimately have to decide is if it’s better to side with a piece of California’s racing legacy whose best days are behind it and make less money, or to close the book on it and likely make more money.

Don’t expect this to play out in a day, or really any time soon. This is a long play.

Santa Anita preview

We’re in deep stretch in this Santa Anita meeting, with closing day coming on Sunday. Thursday’s card is eight races starting at 12:30 p.m. Six of the races are for fillies or mares. There are three turf races with pretty good field sizes throughout.


The feature, and the only allowance on the card, is the seventh going one mile on the turf for fillies and mares 3 and up.

Here’s a look at the field sizes, in order: 8, 6, 9, 8, 10 (2 also eligible), 8, 8, 12 (1 AE).

Bob Ike SA pick of the day

FIFTH RACE: No. 3 Jet Set Ruler (6-1)

Sophomore colt from the Richard Baltas stable turned in an even effort sprinting in his debut but now stretches out around two turns and switches to leading rider Flavien Prat. Drawn well inside with apparent tactical speed, look for this Cal-bred son of Tribal Rule to show good improvement in his second start.

Sunday’s result: Gone to Bali got her anticipated clear lead while going soft fractions but put up no fight late and finished third in the first race.

Bob Ike is a Partner/VP of (here’s a video) and the proprietor of (full-card picks, 3 Best Plays and betting strategy).


Final thought

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And now the star of the show, Thursday’s entries.