Ferndale will be center stage for a week
*** Editor's note: if anyone has ever been to Ferndale, they'll agree 117% - tracks don't get no better.
By Chuck Dybdal
The California Horse Racing Board has approved Northern California's 2010 racing calendar, which includes several major changes to the summer fair circuit.
As usual, the San Joaquin County Fair at Stockton will open the fair season but will cut back from two weeks to one week. The Solano County Fair in Vallejo, whose existence has been tenuous the past few years, will not race in 2010. The Alameda County Fair in Pleasanton will run 15 days, as will the Sonoma County Fair in Santa Rosa. Cal Expo in Sacramento will run 10 days from July 14-25, dates traditionally run at Solano, instead of late August through Labor Day weekend.
The tiny Humboldt County Fair in Ferndale's meet will have much less of an overlap this year. The first three days of its nine-day meet will coincide with the closing weekend at Santa Rosa, but Ferndale will be the only live track racing in Northern California the following week.
The fair season concludes with Fresno, which will run its usual 10-day meet from Oct. 6-17.
The dates are different than the proposed agreement brought to the CHRB by the California Authority of Racing Fairs, Thoroughbred Owners of California, California Thoroughbred Trainers, and Golden Gate Fields. Those dates had Ferndale overlapping with Golden Gate.
The approval of the calendar was decided on a 4-3 vote by the California Horse Racing Board. Retiring chairman John Harris was joined in the majority by incoming chairman Keith Brackpool and commissioners Jerome Moss and Richard Rosenberg. Vice chairman David Israel and commissioners Jesse Chopper and Bo bimbo voted against the proposed calendar.
Harris has been a strong proponent of the fairs and spoke fervently for granting Ferndale solo dates. Harris cited the track's passionate fan base and unique opportunities for cheaper horses. He said less competition would provide Ferndale with needed revenues to help keep an "historic, colorful racing site" alive.
Harris said the dates might help Golden Gate Fields build the size of its fields as there will be an additional five-day break before its opening.
Chris Korby, executive director of the California Authority of Racing Fairs, said that financial help would be provided to Solano, which will still operate as a simulcast outlet, to make up for the loss of its live dates. Korby said the San Joaquin Fair in Stockton was assigned only one week because of the weak economy and because the fair is beginning a project to modernize its fairgrounds.