Horse racing at the Alameda County Fair has been as normal as the fair itself every summer.
But thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the two have not operated at the same time since the summer of 2019, leaving a huge void in Pleasanton summertime activities.
That ends this week, as starting Friday (June 17) things will be back to normal.
Racing is back with the fair, ready to roll with a full slate of concerts and events to go with 13 days of horse racing.
The fair runs through July 10 and is closed Mondays and Tuesdays, with the exception being Monday, July 4. Horse racing goes every Friday to Sunday through July 10. There is also a full day of races on the Fourth of July. Post time is 1:45 p.m. each day.
I have been involved in racing at the fair as a fan, bettor and employee for over 50 years now. The company my mom worked for had box seats, and at least a couple times each meet my buddies and I would get our hands on the seats and take over the box seat area.
After college, I started with the Tri-Valley Herald and covered the races for the paper for almost 30 years, until stepping away from the sinking ship that is the daily newspaper.
I started right away as the horse racing publicist for the Alameda County Fair and am still involved today as one the co-hosts of the free Daily Handicapping Seminar that goes off at noon each day of the races on the stage outside the grandstand.
We go through all the races for the day, let you know who we think is going to win the race and why we feel that way.
I am also excited for the races as for the first time in a long time, I think horse racing is making a turn in the right direction.
There are still warring factions that plague the sport, but there is movement to make the sport safer and with at least a set of uniform rules regarding the horses and how they are treated.
The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA) was signed into federal law in 2020 and goes into effect July 1. HISA will have uniformity toward integrity and safety of the horse and falling under the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), there will be one governing body.
Most of the trainers really have the best interests of their horses in mind, but all it takes is a few who want to win and do so with the safety of the horses being of no matter.
HISA will take a big step toward catching these dirtbags. Cleaning up the sport will go a long way toward growing the horse population back in California.
The other big positive of the fair being back with the horse races at the same time is the family element that gains exposure to the races.
The California Fair meets are the definitive grassroots movement to bring new fans to the sport. I see it every year — families hanging out around the track, watching the horses in the paddock and then cheering when the horses are charging toward the finish line.
It’s a family activity that takes place outside and doesn’t involve sitting inside and playing video games.
There are plenty of adults who go to the races only when the fair meet takes place. For four weekends each year, they revere the chance to see live horse racing in a clean and safe environment. They bring their kids and future racing fans are born. It happened to me when I was growing, as well as to many of my friends.
Hope to see you at the races over the next four weekends.
Museum on Main
“The Home Stretch: Horse Racing at the Fair” is a new exhibit at the Museum on Main, located right under the Pleasanton Arch in downtown.
The exhibit features video and pictures that tell the story of horse racing over the years in Pleasanton. I was honored to be asked to be a part of the exhibit and was interviewed on tape last summer.
The exhibit will open this Wednesday and run through July 30.
Editor’s note: Dennis Miller is a contributing sports writer for the Pleasanton Weekly. To contact him about his Pleasanton Preps column, email [email protected]