About the California Authority of Racing Fairs


The San Joaquin Fair opened on August 21, 1933 to approximately 1,500 fans attending thoroughbred and harness races. For the first time since 1909, when the anti-gambling law passed to ban bookmaking and close the old Emeryville track, it was once again legal to bet on horses. The fair was traditionally held in August, before shifting to the mid-June dates in 1988. Stockton was the first track to hold legalized wagering in California in 1933 and is typically the first stop on the Northern California Fair Circuit.

Stamped as the oldest racetrack in America, the Pleasanton oval plays host to the Alameda County Fair. The racetrack dates back to 1858, when it was constructed by the son of the Spanish Don, Augustin Bernal. The track is even older than the famous Saratoga oval in upper New York. The date was July 23, 1939, when mutuel wagering started in Pleasanton. The San Francisco Chronicle reported the occasion by saying, "the revival of East Bay racing will be on the same spot where horse racing virtually had its birth in California more than 70 years ago when the Spanish Dons built the first track here." In fact, the Chronicle referred to Pleasanton as "the birthplace of horse racing in California."

Plans for buying land and securing money for the Solano County Fair began as early as 1938, but World War II intervened. Planning resumed after V-Day; on February 22, 1948, ground-breaking ceremonies took place and on September 21, 1950, Governor Earl Warren snipped the ribbon signaling the opening of the first fair. Not until the second season, 1951, did horse racing make its debut.

The first recorded fair in Sonoma County's history was a single day display, held on the Santa Rosa Courthouse Plaza in October 1855. In 1879, a 90-acre portion of the present Sonoma County Fairgrounds was acquired by a group who accessed a levy on its members to provide funds for the construction of a one-mile track complete with stalls, grandstand, and other improvements. The Sonoma County Fair has grown in size over the years, and that growth has been accomplished without the aid of tax revenue.

It began in a downpour as the San Mateo County Products and Floral Fiesta in October of 1935 at Bay Meadows Race Course. Over the next decade, the fair was held sporadically, but in 1946, the San Mateo County Fair & Floral Festival became a permanent fixture when officials purchased 23 acres adjacent to Bay Meadows. Subsequent improvements and additions have been financed with funds contributed by the state from monies secured under the California Horse Racing Act and from local profits. The fairgrounds, renamed the San Mateo Expo Center, has become a year-round venue and is the most utilized facility of its kind in Northern California.

Ferndale has been the site of the Humboldt County Fair since 1896. By most accounts, horse racing flourished in Ferndale during those early years. Banished for a time, horse racing was legalized again and in 1935 became a mainstay of the fair. The half-mile oval demands skill from horse and rider. It is not only horse racing that takes you back to "yesteryear" in Ferndale. The entire community, with its unique atmosphere of Victorian structures, bountiful antiques shops and friendly residents brings recreates and sense of times past.

The California State Fair has over 140 years of history behind it. Created in 1854 by the State Agricultural Society, the event enjoyed a nomadic early history. In 1861 the fair's wandering days came to an end, when it found a permanent residence in Sacramento. The original purpose of the exposition, to promote California agriculture, remains intact today, but horse racing has become a significant force in its success. Now the oldest continuous race meeting in California.

Traditionally the final stop on the Northern California Fair Circuit, the Fresno Fair was established in 1882 by a group of Fresno businessman and professionals serving as members on the Farm Bureau and Chamber of Commerce. The groups collectively raised a total of $25,000 and purchased 100-acres of land. Two years later the Association incorporated horse racing into the daily activities. In 1941 Fresno offered its first pari-mutuel horse racing meeting. During the war years, racing at Fresno was interrupted, but returned to stay in 1948.