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Everything's Fair Game at This Meet

Jockey Pedroza and trainer O'Neill will take center stage today as 17 days of racing begin at Fairplex Park.

September 10, 2004|Bill Christine | Times Staff Writer

The heavy hitters at Fairplex Park are going to come out swinging when the Los Angeles County Fair's 17-day mixed-breed meet opens today in Pomona.

Jockey Martin Pedroza, who has won 380 races, more than anybody else, at the fair, takes aim at his sixth consecutive riding title with 10 mounts. Pedroza, who won a stake Wednesday on closing day at Del Mar, will ride in every thoroughbred race but one today.

Doug O'Neill, who shared the training title last year with Wesley Ward after winning an outright championship the year before, has four horses entered. O'Neill's barn won 24 races at Del Mar, leading that meet for the first time and breaking Bob Baffert's seven-year hold on the title.

And trainer Ray Thomas, who won 10 races last year with an assortment of thoroughbreds, quarter horses, Appaloosas and mules, is running a pair of mules -- Sis-Q Lena and Sis-Q Skipa Libby -- in the meet's kickoff race.

Fairplex has a tough act to follow. There was an early three-day pick-six carry-over in 2003, and the momentum never stopped. Fairplex's final handle of $109 million was an increase of 9% over the record total of 2002.

Pedroza, who finished sixth at Del Mar with 18 wins, is riding Pt's Grey Eagle in today's $60,000 Foothill Stakes for 3-year-olds. Pt's Grey Eagle has a victory and two seconds in four starts for trainer Craig Dollase.

Five of the eight Foothill probables are winless this year, but one of them, Don'tsellmeshort, has some stakes placings that have boosted his 2004 purse total to almost $100,000.

There will be at least one stakes race a day throughout the meet, which ends Sept. 26.


From time to time, California trainers have been known to drop in at Gulfstream Park and run in the Florida Derby. For $1 million, why wouldn't they? As recently as 2003, trainer Bobby Frankel shipped in Empire Maker from Hollywood Park and won the Grade I race.

But this week, Gulfstream, one of the jewels in Frank Stronach's racetrack empire, announced that the 2005 Florida Derby, traditionally run in early March, would be run April 2. That means the Gulfstream race will fall five weeks before the Kentucky Derby, and just ahead of other important Kentucky Derby preps: the Santa Anita Derby on April 9 and the Wood Memorial, Blue Grass and Arkansas Derby, all on April 16.

It's now impossible for a trainer to run a Kentucky Derby prospect in two of those races.

Gulfstream officials said the shift in dates complements the rest of their meet-long program for 3-year-olds.

But because Gulfstream has been razed and its new racing strip is being reconfigured, the distances of the preps for the Florida Derby are also being jiggered. The Holy Bull Stakes, which used to be 1 1/16 miles, is now 1 1/8 miles, as is the Fountain of Youth Stakes, which will be run in early March, around the time of the old Florida Derby. There are two 3-year-old stakes at 7 1/2 furlongs on the Gulfstream schedule, but if a horseman is looking for two-turn experience, it's 1 1/8 miles or else in Florida.


Fairplex Meet

* Where: Los Angeles County Fair, 1101 W. McKinley Ave., Pomona.

* Dates of meet: Today through Sept. 26 (17 days).

* First post: Weekdays, 12:30 p.m.; weekends, noon.

* Breeds: Thoroughbreds, quarter horses, Appaloosas, mules.

* Richest thoroughbred stakes: $120,000 Barretts Debutante, Sept. 18; $120,000 Barretts Juvenile, Sept. 19; $100,000 Las Madrinas Handicap, Sept. 24; $100,000 Pomona Derby, Sept. 25; $100,000 Ralph M. Hinds Pomona Handicap, Sept. 26.

* Last year's thoroughbred leaders: Trainers Doug O'Neill and Wesley Ward, 10 wins each; jockey Martin Pedroza, 31 wins.

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