This morning, there willl be a steady stream of vans rolling up Highway 101 to Santa Rosa as the stable area at the Sonoma County Fair begins welcoming horses in advance of the Friday, July 26 opening-day program.
“We've got 500 stalls on the backside and every one of them has been assigned,” director of racing Richard Lewis said.
“Besides the horses on the grounds, we'll also draw from the 1,000 stabled at Golden Gate Fields and 300 from Pleasanton. We're anticipating good racing.”
While the fair is steeped in tradition, patrons will notice some changes this year on the racing end:
Two racing days have been dropped from the three-week schedule and instead of beginning on a Wednesday, the opener is Friday. In this, its 77th year, the fair will offer 13 days of racing.
On Fridays, the races will begin at 3:15 p.m. instead of the usual 1:15 p.m. The earlier post time will remain in effect of Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays.
In late March, the fair board severed ties with the California Authority of Racing Fairs (CARF) and is now autonomous.
“This wasn't a decision we made quickly because we were one of the founding members of CARF,” Lewis explained. “It came down to our board of directors deciding we could go in a more positive direction on our own.
“CARF would furnish a lot of the personnel and departments for us and when we put the figures on paper, we could do the same things for less money than what CARF was taking.
“We'll use that money to improve our grounds and hopefully, if the mutual handle is strong, pass on the increase to horsemen in purse money.”
Among the changes this summer are a new racing secretary (Robert Moreno) and new paymaster of purses (Linda Anderson).
“We've gotten a lot of help from the California racing industry preparing for the meet and we're confident there will be no problems.”