So Big Is Better wins First California Wathba Cup in Pleasanton

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    Saturday, June 25, 2011~So Big Is Better won the  Wathba Stud Farm Cup race at the Pleasanton dirt track on Saturday.  The odds on favorite, the colt by Burning Sand out of WW Mirror Image took the rail after the final turn under jockey James Wooten, Jr. and steadied out to a decisive win over barn mate, Qjuick Sand (Burning Sand x Doya Juana Dance) under the hands of Chris Russell.  Hardly a bad day in the Warren and Helen Shelley household when you win one, two. Velite Star came in third and fourth, Ordination was back in the field.  NC Casey Jones never made a serious bid and Le Fromage and Otis were simply outrun.

The race is part of the HH Sheikh Mansoor Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Global Arabian Flat Racing Festival and the trophy was awarded by representatives including Festival Director, Lara Sawaya and  Abdulrahman Al Jabar, Diplomatic Attache to the UAE as well as members of the Arabian Racing Association of California. While presenting the trophy to the winner, Sawaya delivered the exciting news that next year during the 100th Anniversary of the Fair, the Festival would support a major Arabian race, the Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Arabian Cup with $20,000 prize money in addition to the Wathba Stud Farm Cup, surely a further boost for Arabian racing in California.

The Alameda County Fair opened its doors for the season on June 23 and today’s race card featured Quarter Horse, Arabian, Thoroughbred and Mule racing.  The gloriously sunny California day gave the happy crowd  a chance to show off their hats for Best Hats contest, picnic in the sun and wager on the winners.  The Wathba Stud Farm Cup had a total purse of $7,490 with $2,000 provided by HH Sheikh Mansoor bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the first in a five races series of the Global Arabian Flat Racing Festival, aimed at promoting Purebred Arabian racing at the grassroots level.

Grass Roots is where the Alameda County race track
began in 1858 as a private track for Don Refugio Bernal who built it on his 52,000 acre Mexican land grant, Rancho del Valle de San Jose, to be able to show off his fast horses in competition with his neighbors.  Several famous horses have trained for fame at Pleasanton including the 1922 Thoroughbred Morvich, who became  the first California-bred horse to win the Kentucky Derby.  The super star, Seabiscuit liked the dirt track and his owner, Charles Howard, built a special stable for him on the property.

The Alameda County Fair runs through July 10.

In the early days of California, Pleasanton was on one of the main routes to the gold fields and quickly became a mercantile stopover for miners seeking their fortune in the Mother Lode.  In the 1850s, the town was nicknamed “The Most Desperate Town in the West”.  Desperados were the rule and shootouts were not uncommon. Banditos such as Joaquin Murrieta, upon whom the legend of Zorro is based, would ambush prospectors on their way back from the gold fields and then seek refuge in Pleasanton.  Blessed with rich soil, Pleasanton became the agricultural center for the Amador Valley and home to the oldest horseracing track in the nation.    In the late 1800’s Pleasanton was one of the world’s largest hop producers, and its hops were sought by many of the largest beer producers in the United States and Europe.  In the late teens and early twenties, Pleasanton became a main back drop for movies of the era.

More photos of the race:


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