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By Tim Hunt

Racing starts at the county fair

Uploaded: Jun 18, 2014

Alameda County Fair racing officials joined with state horse racing board representatives last week to introduce the Oak Tree Racing Association before the fair opened Wednesday.
The fair board has partnered with the Southern California-based Oak Tree to enhance the 12-day fair racing meet. The Oak Tree folks were introduced at a media event was held in the first-class remodeled director's lounge which sits atop the grandstands. If you receive an invitation from a director to visit that room—don't miss it—it is great. The new lounge is one of several improvements at the grandstands that included doubling the capacity of the trackside terrace along with a new winner's circle and remodeling elsewhere in the grandstand, all to make it more fan friendly.
Jerome Hoban, the fair's CEO, estimated that they had spent about $400,000 on materials alone. That doesn't include labor because virtually all of the work was done in-house by fair maintenance staff. Oak Tree contributed to the capital improvements, but its biggest impact likely will be in the purses. The non-profit association has run meets at Southern California tracks, Hollywood Park and Santa Anita (in the past). It will contribute $150,000 to add to purses.
The purse for a routine race will increase 12-15 percent this year, while the fair will stage six stakes races over its 12-day run, including two that will have $100,000 purses. Those will be the first six-figure purses on the fair circuit since 2002.
It's all designed to draw a better class of horse north to the Pleasanton meet. Better horses draw more bettors which increases the daily betting handle. Oak Tree's agreement guarantees the fair association its average racing revenue over the last five years—it gets a share of the profits once that threshold is crossed.
Looking ahead to the next three weeks, it will be interesting to see how the partnership plays out. Long-time Pleasanton trainer Jeff Bonde attended the media event and shared that the plans look good and are welcome.