About the California Authority of Racing Fairs


The California fair circuit strives to offer horse racing to communities throughout the state and to serve as a champion for its contributions to the state's agribusiness economy. The desire to present the industry to today's customers and the customers of tomorrow, and to provide for the maximum expansion of horse-racing opportunities on behalf of the state, continues foremost in the fairs' efforts.

In 2002, besides the customary purse, every thoroughbred owner was paid a "performance purse" of $110, while the owners of mixed breeds received $85 through the paymaster account for each start. This popular and innovative idea to pay a purse to all horses that enter and start in a race at each fair continues to be successful. The fairs also continue to award horse owners by paying a purse through the eighth-place finisher in each race.

STOCKTON - Wagering on races at the Stockton meet ended with a total handle of $14,945,022. Although the $1,494,502 daily average handle was down 3% from the $1,542,473 figure the previous year, all aspects went well according to Forrest White, CEO and Director of Racing for the San Joaquin Fair. He said the off-track wagering handle decrease of 2% was offset by the addition of Advance Deposit Wagering, which was not computed in the total handle reports. The total on-track attendance of 44,849 paralleled the previous year's significant increase.

PLEASANTON - The Alameda County Fair in Pleasanton, home of the "Oldest One-Mile Race Track in America" experienced another successful eleven-day meet in 2002 despite adverse circumstances. Total handle of $32,661,026 (not including Advance Deposit Wagering) was the third highest in history for the fair, but down 5% from the prior year. This was partly because of 7% fewer horses ran during the meet from the previous year, many due to the workers' compensation insurance crisis. Pleasanton increased its starter fee temporarily to help horsemen with rising insurance costs. Also, given the severe economic downturn in the Pleasanton community (Pleasanton is located at the north end of Silicon Valley), fair officials were pleased that the slight decrease in handle was not greater.

VALLEJO - The Solano County Fair race meet continued to feature competitive racing with average fields of nearly eight horses. Despite losing a day of racing and operating on a Monday without the support of Southern California simulcast racing and wagering, the average daily handle of $2,673,365 was down only slightly (about 2%) from the previous year and followed the trend of other race meets in 2002. Out-of-state wagering on racing from the fair and wagering on imported races inched upward on a day-to-day basis when compared with the previous year, while in-state numbers trended downward, off the record pace of 2001. After three consecutive years of growth, a downturn was to be expected, and fair officials are looking forward to the 54th Solano County Fair race meeting in 2003.

SANTA ROSA - The Sonoma County Fair race meet generated total all-source handle of $36,751,333 for an average daily handle of $3,062,611 during its twelve-day meet compared with 2001 figures of $37,412,511 and $3,117,709, marking a decrease of less than 2%. The fair in Santa Rosa is the home of "Wine Country Racing" and horse racing is always popular. Total attendance at the races was 63,961, reflecting a strong base of racing fans. The fair itself featured one of the largest and most spectacular themed flower shows in the country.

SAN MATEO - The San Mateo County Fair race meet, which operates each year at Bay Meadows course, closed its twelve-day 2002 meet with a 3.5% drop in average all-source handle from 2001, following the slightly downward trend of other fair race meets. The decrease in handle was due in part to a shortage of ready-to-run horses that was attributable to the spread of an equine virus, as well as concerns relating to cost increases in workers' compensation insurance. On a positive note, the fair experiences a .6% increase in daily average handle generated in Northern California (including wagers placed via account wagering systems). On-track wagering was down 7.8%, while handle generated at out-of-state sites fell by 13.2%. Average daily all-source handle (excluding wagers placed in Southern California) was $2,662,070.

The meet featured an exciting jockey's race with apprentice Francisco Duran (sixteen wins) edging Russell Baze and Jason Lumpkins by one win for the riding championship. Fans also saw some top horses compete at the fair, including Ninebanks, who won the San Matean Handicap, and A B Noodle, who took the Lady Morvich Handicap.

FERNDALE - The Humboldt County Fair, located in the timber and dairy country of California's far north coast, annually takes visitors a step back in time. One of the most popular attractions at the quaint fair is horse racing. The 106th race meet in Ferndale ended with a 1.8% increase in all-source live handle. Wagering was down 3% at off-track facilities throughout Northern California, while on-track handle was down less than 1% from 2001. Average field size increased by 5% from 2001, continuing a trend from the previous year.

SACRAMENTO - The California Exposition & State Fair, located just minutes from the State Capitol, enjoyed a successful run from August 16 through September 2 as more than one million guests were entertained. The 2002 racing season, coming off record totals in attendance and handle in 2001, experienced a decrease in handle. A total of $17,093,787 was wagered in the Northern California network, which was a decrease of 3% from 2001. On-track handle decreased 9% for the meet. The decrease in handle was partly attributed to smaller thoroughbred fields for the live and imported programs (from 8 in 2001 down to 7.5 in 2002).

More than $1.1 million was wagered through Advance Deposit Wagering outlets on the State Fair racing product. The racing highlight on the meet was the appearance of Preakness starter Menacing Dennis, who smoked a field of fellow Cal-breds in the Earlene McCabe Derby.

FRESNO - The Big Fresno Fair again hosted one of the most entertaining and highly attended live horse racing meets at the California fairs. The fair had an opportunity to host a key legislative subcommittee meeting on fair overlap, (Fresno races overlapped with Bay Meadows). Despite a decrease in the number of racing days (down to ten days), the handle was on a par with the previous year's eleven-day meet. Total handle dropped to $6,235,789 from $6,530,750 in 2001, but average daily handle jumped 5% to $623,579. Similarly, total attendance declined by 10% with the reduced racing schedule, but average daily attendance on-track was up more than 4% at 6,714.

"In a time of challenges for live horse racing, the meet was a great success again," said CEO Scott Anderson, "The personnel responsible for fair racing did an exemplary job."