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Horse racing returning to San Joaquin Fair in Stockton

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Posted: Tuesday, March 31, 2009 10:00 pm

Horse racing will return to the San Joaquin Fair in Stockton after being held last year in September, almost three months after the fair.

The California Horse Racing Board recently decided to move the Stockton races back to June to coincide with the fair.

The horse racing board changed San Joaquin's schedule last year and moved it to September, a move that was quite unpopular with local fair officials because it doesn't draw anyone who was attending the fair.

"It hurt the horse racing, and it hurt the fair," said Mitch Slater, who serves on the fair board for the Second Agricultural Association, which oversees the San Joaquin Fair.

With horse racing in September, last year's income was about $300,000 less than it was in 2007, fair manager Debbie Cook said.

So the California Horse Racing Association moved the schedule back to June for nine days - the five-day run of the fair itself and four days prior to the fair.

The schedule was changed last year to compensate for the closure of the Bay Meadows race track in San Mateo and the desire to fill a gap in the calendar between the California State Fair in Sacramento and the Big Fresno Fair, retired fair manager Forrest White said in an interview last year.

San Joaquin Fair at a glance

Fair dates: June 24-28
Racing dates: June 18-21 (Thursday through Sunday); June 24-28 (Wednesday through Sunday)
Location: Airport Way and Martin Luther King Boulevard, Stockton
Information: 466-5041
Source: San Joaquin Fair

Attendance was down last year, most likely because participants were used to the old schedule, which was in June for 20 years. Another reason is that people couldn't combine a day at the race track with other fair attractions, such as carnival rides, agriculture, exhibits, concerts and traditional fair food, Slater said.

Additionally, when racing was in June, Slater said, vendors, farmers or exhibitors occasionally took breaks from their fair duties and went to the races.

"Having it separate from the fair eliminates the novice bettor," Slater said. "People there for other reasons can go to the races. We didn't have these people in September."

Something new this year will be a pre-meet seminar for the public on betting in general, and about handicapping the races, Slater said.

Another new attraction for the race track will be Negrette Concessions handling the food. Owned by Paz and Josie Negrette from Stockton, the specialty is Mexican food, but they will cook other items, too, Cook said. The Negrettes have concession stands at the San Joaquin Fair and the Lodi Grape Festival.

Contact reporter Ross Farrow at rossf@lodinews.com.

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