STOCKTON – The shouts from the floor usually tell you everything you need to know.
“Come on, No. 4,” yells one man as the horses he’s watching on a live satellite feed round the corner and make a break down the final straightaway.
“Get up, get, up,” yells another man – this time waving his daily event program in the air and enthusiastically waving the pack of thoroughbreds toward the finish line.
It’s just another Wednesday inside of Winners Gaming Center and Sports Emporium – where every single bet has the potential to be the homerun that horseplayers dream of.
“I started coming down here about 10 years ago,” said Stockton resident and regular Winners visitor Lawrence Banks – who popped in on Wednesday afternoon to pick up a copy of the Daily Racing Form for Thursday. “A friend of mine brought me down and I fell in love with it. It’s something that I think I’ll always be a fan of.”
And he’s not alone.
With the California Racing Fair circuit already ablaze with activity – the Sonoma County Fair is currently the big draw among horseplayers looking for local races – people like Larry Swartzlander only have to look as far as their list of Northern California county fairs to determine where they’ll be on a given day.
As the Chief Operating Officer for the California Authority for Racing Fairs and the Director of Racing for the San Joaquin County Fair, Swartzlander looks forward to when he’s able to sit up in the grandstand and watch locally trained horses do what it is that they do best.
Because it’s there – at the County Fair – that Swartzlander believes the future of the sport is quietly cruising under the radar. While the sport might not enjoy the same level of popularity that it once did, Swartzlander says that getting the youth of today involved in any capacity will only improve the chances that they’ll pay attention when they get older.
Plus, he said, it’s good, cheap family fun – a place where Dad can cast a $2 wager and the kids can get the chance to watch the majestic animals getting prepared for their given races.
“I love the family atmosphere and the environment that’s there when there’s a fair going on just outside of the track,” Swartzlander said. “It adds something special to the whole experience. Of course I love the races and the fact that a positive experience at the fair today is what hopefully will give us players that want to bring their kids down tomorrow.
“I grew up on a farm so that’s why I love horses as much as I do. It’s something that sticks with you.”
The San Joaquin County Fair, which includes live horse racing, will run from Thursday, Sept. 20, through Sunday, Sept. 30. Horseracing will run from Thursday, Sept. 20, through Sunday, Sept. 23 and Thursday, Sept. 27 though Sunday, Sept. 30. Admission is free.
All San Joaquin County Fair races will be televised at Winners, and admission is free during the six-day festival. Other simulcast races from famous tracks like Hollywood Park, Churchill Downs and Belmont Park are also shown. For more information visit www.winnershorseracing.com. For additional information about the fair itself visit www.sanjoaquinfair.com.
— JASON CAMPBELL
209 staff reporter