Jack Jack Jack, the horse born and raised in Santa Rosa, was the most popular winner Friday at the Sonoma County Fair, but the victory didn't come easy.
After surrendering the lead on the final turn, the 3-year-old rallied under jockey Frank Alvarado and at the finish line was a half-length in front of Red Charger and Hall of Fame jockey Russell Baze.
Jack Jack Jack is a Santa Rosa product through and through. He was born on Mr. and Mrs. Jack DeMeo's farm on Occidental Road and races in their maroon-and-gold silks. He's trained by Steve Specht, who lives in Santa Rosa.
The biggest crowd of the afternoon accompanied the DeMeos to the winner's circle.
"It's a great feeling to win a race at the fair," Jack DeMeo said. "I've been coming here all my life and raced my first horse here 60 years ago."
During the race, Judy DeMeo's emotions went from disappointment to elation in a matter of seconds.
"From where we were sitting I couldn't see the race very well," she said. "My granddaughter, Tiana, had a better view and she was telling me what was happening.
"When she said the horse got passed turning into the stretch, I put my head down and thought we'd lost. Then she started screaming that he was back in front and I started watching again. It's such a thrill to win here."
Jack Jack Jack won for the first time after disappointing in his first four starts.
The gelding added blinkers for Friday's race.
"The blinkers helped keep his mind on business," Jack said. "The way he finished going six furlongs, I think he'll like the longer distances."
He completed the six furlongs in 1:10.76, an excellent time for maiden claimers. He paid $7.80 to win. If he comes out of his race in good order, Jack Jack Jack might run once more before closing day on Aug. 11.
- The DeMeos almost had a second winner on Friday. However, Candy Can Do settled for second-place money in a race at Canterbury Park in Minnesota.
- Friday's experiment with a later post time was a success, according to director of racing Richard Lewis. "We had a decent-sized crowd and people seemed in a festive mood."
- Abel Cedillo was the riding star on the opening day card with three winners. He scored with Torre Italiana ($5.40) in the third, Stupendus Princess ($28.60) in the fifth and Shimmering Wildcat ($10.20) in the eighth.
- Baze made one trip to the winner's circle. That was with Tahoe Flash ($4.20) in the second. The world's winningest rider and his agent Ray Harris will be the guests at today's racing seminar. The start time is 11:30 a.m. in Shade Park.
- Ten races, highlighted by the $50,000 Wine Country Stakes, are on tap today. Six 3-year-old fillies entered the mile-and-one-sixteenth turf test. Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer is sending out two — Texit and Life Is a Stone.
- Helen Negri, the Occidental restaurateur, will be represented by Global Olympics in today's fifth race. The 3-year-old won his last race in front-running fashion.