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Fair Fun

Posted by Brian Mulligan on 9/9/2010 6:54:43 PM

The best wedding toast personally ever heard was given by a friend of mine who told the new bride and groom that marriage was not like a 2-furlong sprint from the chute at Los Alamitos but was more like a mile and three eighths marathon at Fairplex when you have to go round, and round, and round.

With a 5-furlong oval, races run at Fairplex, which begins on September 10, can be confusing for the rider and the fan. Many a rider has misjudged the finish line over the years and mistakes were made by some very good journeymen. This is a meeting that can be profitable for the player if he or she is patient, keeps his nose to the ground, and tries to not get caught up in taking short prices.

Years ago this meeting was a shot for the little guy to come in and get paid but as simulcasting came into view and money came rolling in, the bigger barns could not resist the temptation to run here and steal some purses.

It is a great track to bring a beginner to for the first time because it can be so intimate. You can really get a feel for the game if you venture out to the infield, get to the rail, listen and watch the horses roll by and hear the jockeys screaming and the dirt clods flying. If you can’t become a fan after an experience like that, maybe NASCAR is your thing.

Fairplex has always been a haven for horses for courses. If a racer gets a feel of the oval, and even if the performance is less than stellar, it could be much better than a runner who never tried these tight turns.

The natural inclination is to just jump on the speed and roll but you can come from stalking positions at Pomona. It takes a specific kind of athletic horse to maneuver on the tight course and would look for long shots to come from places like Boise, Arizona or Oregon where runners are used to bullring ovals.

Horsemen shipping from Del Mar will try to drop many of their horses at this meet. If they can get a horse to graduate, or maybe qualify for a starter event later in this meet, a purse could be stolen. Droppers will be hammered at the windows but make sure you examine the pace of the race and be careful before backing cold stone closers against cheap speed. You can get value if you find a cheap runner that has a capable rider and has proven ability on the track.

As for the human element, you won’t see many runners trained by Bob Baffert or Neil Drysdale but the song will remain the same for guys like Doug O’Neill and Mike Mitchell.

Last year O’Neill led the league in winners at the meet last year with 16. Other guys to watch include Cliff Sise, who won with 9 of 18 starters and Eric Kruljac, who only sent out 7 horses and saw 3 win and 2 others run in the money.

As for the riders, Elvis may have left the building but he has been replaced at Pomona by the King, Martin Pedroza. He crushed the competition last year winning with 33% of his 136 mounts. Alonso Quinonez was a good third in the standings with 19 wins and David Flores only showed up for 52 mounts, but 11 won.

Last but not least, play chalk cautiously here. There are a lot of ways to get pushed wide, get hung out to dry or flat out get beat at this place. If you do like chalk, key that runner in the gimmicks rather than swallowing 4-5 and try to make lemonade from a sour situation.

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