"I'm very enthusiastic about the fall meeting," said Hartman. "The barns are full and that should translate to large and competitive fields. The Tapeta racing surface and the turf course are both in great shape, and we've made many new fan-friendly and horse-friendly improvements. The Turf Club has been remodeled, the paddock has been redesigned and a new owner/trainer lounge is being built."
There is also a special treat for football fans.
Hartman said Golden Gate Fields will continue to deliver a quality racing product for handicappers. The average field size at the two most recent Golden Gate Fields meetings (the 2007-2008 season and 2008 spring session) was 8.2 runners. Although small fields have plagued the Northern California fair circuit this summer, Hartman is confident that will not be the case at Golden Gate Fields.
"We have 1,325 horses stabled here at Golden Gate Fields, and another 684 horses stabled at Pleasanton," said Hartman. "We have horses coming in from Seattle and Vancouver. I think horsemen relish racing their horses on our Tapeta surface and look forward to the return of grass racing."
Tapeta, an all-weather synthetic surface designed to make horse racing a safer sport, made a successful debut at the 2007-2008 meeting. Not only was it kind to horses, it played very fair, with speed horses and closers both getting an equal chance at victory. Favorites won at a 35 percent clip and successful handicappers were handsomely rewarded as the average win payoff was a healthy $13.27.
The Tapeta surface will be the venue for the richest race of the fall season, the $200,000 All American, a Grade 3 race for 3-year-olds and up that will be run Saturday, Sept. 27. One of nine stakes that will be presented at the meeting, the All American will serve as a prep for horses being pointed for the Breeders' Cup, which will be run four weeks later at Santa Anita Park.
Golden Gate Fields' ambitious promotion schedule for the fall meeting includes four giveaway days - free sweatshirts on Saturday Sept. 27; free baseball caps on Saturday, Oct. 11; free umbrellas on Saturday, Nov. 15, and free long sleeve shirts on Saturday, Dec. 6. The track will host a Breeders' Cup wine festival on Saturday, Oct. 25, and a snow party (families can frolic in more than 40 tons of snow and zip down a sledding hill) on Sunday, Dec. 14.
Single-day handicapping contests will be held on Friday, Dec. 12; Saturday, Dec. 13; and Sunday, Dec. 14. The winner from each day will earn an all-expense paid trip to Las Vegas for the 2009 Daily Racing Form/National Thoroughbred Racing Association National Handicapping Contest.
Hall of Fame jockey Pat Day will be at Golden Gate Fields on Sunday, Sept. 21, to help raise money for the Race Track Chaplaincy of America. In exchange for donations, Day will sign autographs and take photos with fans starting at noon. Patrons are also invited to have dinner with Day in the Turf Club Sunday night. Tickets for the buffet dinner cost $30 and the evening will include an inspirational speech by Day, a silent auction, and a raffle in which the grand prize is a trip for two to the Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita.
The fall season runs through Sunday, Dec. 21, and racing is conducted on a Wednesday-through-Sunday schedule. Post time is 12:45 p.m. with the following exceptions: 12:15 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 5 (California Cup Day) and Sunday, Oct. 26 (closing day of the Oak Tree meeting at Santa Anita); 11:40 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 24 (Breeders' Cup Day One); 10:25 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 25 (Breeders' Cup Day Two); and 11:15 a.m. on Thursday, Nov. 27 (Thanksgiving Day).
Golden Gate Fields will accommodate fans who want to take BART to the track by offering a free shuttle bus service from the North Berkeley station to Golden Gate Fields. Shuttle buses are scheduled to leave North Berkeley BART for the racetrack every half-hour beginning at 10:40 a.m. weekdays and weekends. Shuttle buses are scheduled to depart Golden Gate Fields to return to North Berkeley BART every half-hour beginning at 2:20 p.m. weekdays and 3 p.m. weekends.