Fairplex Park’s 69th season of horse racing came to an end on Monday, Sept. 24, with much to be pleased about.
The racing handle for the 16-day meeting was $109,635,696, the track’s third highest in its 69-year history. Attendance was 192,831, down 7 percent from 2006, and the crowds enjoyed full racing cards and an exciting jockey race to the finish. The handle for the 2007 meeting was a 4 percent decrease from the record-breaking handle established in 2006. Daily average handle was $6,852,231, also a 4 percent decrease from the previous year. Per capita totals showed a 3 percent increase in 2007. Fairplex Park traditionally ranks among the top 10 percent of all North American racetracks in average daily handle and purses paid.
Seventeen stakes races graced the program including the marquee Ralph M. Hinds Pomona Invitational Handicap, won by Plug Me In ridden by 23-year-old apprentice Alonso Quinonez, in a one length victory over Courtly Jazz.
Martin Pedroza finished on top with 35 wins and secured his 10th jockey title overall; Tyler Baze made it a horse race all the way finishing with 31 wins. Doug O’Neill captured his fifth title in the last six years to top the trainer standings.
Milestones were observed when Doug O’Neill racked up his 1,000th career win on Sunday, Sept. 9, in the 11th race when Meetmeinthewoods rallied to a half-length win with Tyler Baze aboard. Fairplex Park can also share in O’Neill’s conquests on his way to 1,000 with his first stakes race victory in the 1996 CTBA Marian Stakes with Tanks Forthemusic; a horse by the name of Lava Man winning his first stakes in the 2004 Derby Trials; and an early highlight in 2003s Gateway to Glory Stakes win by Skipaslew.
O’Neill’s accomplishment was celebrated in ceremonies on Sunday, Sept. 23.
Martin Pedroza recorded his 500th Fairplex Park career win on Friday, Sept. 14, guiding Johnny Smith to victory in the third race. Just to make it official he came back in the fourth and declared No. 501 with Dark Past. Number 502 came in the ninth race with Theatric. Pedroza was honored for the remarkable achievement on Sunday, Sept. 23.
The Stute family, a racing institution, was memorialized with the dedication of Stutes’ Sports Bar & Grille in the Fairplex Park clubhouse on Friday, Sept. 7. The family is a testament to horse racing, dedication, success and determination.
Finally, trainer Jerry Fanning was the latest inductee into Fairplex Park’s Hall of Fame during ceremonies on Sunday, Sept. 23. Recording 143 wins including four training titles at Pomona, victory in the Ralph M. Hinds Pomona Invitational Handicap a record six times and ranking second overall in stakes wins at Fairplex Park with 27, Fanning is a perfect fit in the elite group.
It was equine manager Paul Ryneveld’s first year at Fairplex Park and one he can be proud of. “The real success of the meet rested in the participation from our horsemen and jockey colony. With 8.5 starters per race, up from 8.3 starters in 2006, we gave the horseplayers a compelling product to wager on. This was definitely the type of meet we can build upon,” said Ryneveld.
Of course plans are underway for the 2008 racing meet, Sept. 5-22, dark Tuesdays. The L.A. County Fair is Sept. 5-28, closed Mondays and Tuesdays.