Last summer at the Sonoma County Fair, Russell Baze and Juan Hernandez dueled for leading rider honors, with the latter eking out a one-win victory.
A year later, the two are at it again.
On Friday’s opening-day program, Baze got the jump as he rode three winners, while Hernandez finished with a double.
Baze, the world’s winningest rider with close to 12,350 victories, scored with Lutine Belle in the second race, Enviromaniac in the fourth and Fordham Road in the seventh.
Hernandez responded by guiding Already Rockin to the winner’s circle in the fifth race and then scored with Song of the Times in the next race.
Baze is riding five horses on today’s card, one more than Hernandez.
It didn’t take Santa Rosa trainer Steve Specht long to find the winner’s circle. His Adriactic Son prevailed in a photo finish in Friday’s third race. This is the 28th year Specht has been coming to the fair and only once has he failed to win at least one race.
There were only three horses in the third race because the van carrying two horses from Golden Gate Fields in Albany got stuck in traffic. The pair needed to be on the grounds four hours before competing.
The short field affected the track’s final wagering numbers. “That hurt,” director of racing Richard Lewis said. “The heat was also a factor in keeping attendance down.”
Today’s main event is the $50,000 added Wine Country Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. Hall of Famer Jerry Hollendorfer conditions three of the eight starters. He’ll be represented by Stop Smiling, Free Money and Global Rule.
Trainer Neil Drysdale, another member of the Hall of Fame, vanned Amensia up from Del Mar for the mile-and-one-sixteenth grass event.
Local attorney Jack DeMeo and his wife, Judy, will be on hand today to see Jack Jack Jack carry their maroon-and-gold silks in the sixth race. Specht trains; Frank Alvarado will ride.
Ray Harris, Baze’s agent, will be the guest at today’s handicapping seminar. The program begins at 11:30 a.m. in back of the grandstand.