Jockey Ricardo Gonzalez had just one thought as his horse broke from the gate: Let it loose.
Unafraid of his horse tiring, Gonzalez rode 4-year-old G.G. Ryder hard from start to finish – through four turns and two long straightaways.
And by the time horse and rider crossed the finish line, they had won the $50,000 Bull Dog Handicap contested over 1 1/8 miles on the dirt Sunday as the featured race on the final day of The Big Fresno Fair meet. G.G. Ryder paid $5.60 for a $2 win ticket as the 9-5 favorite.
I knew he was good and ready. This morning, he was bucking and kicking. We both were excited.
Jockey Ricardo Gonzalez, who won the $50,000 Bull Dog Handicap
“We were going pretty fast,” Gonzalez said. “I was really confident in him. We kept going all the way around. He never really slowed down.
“I knew he was good and ready. This morning, he was bucking and kicking. We both were excited.”
Outside Nashville was second, as trainer Jerry Hollendorfer’s entries swept the top two spots, and Atomic Rule was third.
“Jerry just told me to let (G.G. Ryder) just go out there and have fun,” Gonzalez said. “His way of having fun is to go fast.”
Sunday generated plenty of emotion from fans as well, as they rowdily cheered throughout the 12-race card that concluded nine days of racing.
Some fans bounced up and down and cheered, waving tickets in their hands. Others ripped up their losing wagers in frustration.
Nonetheless, many left smiling simply from the thrill of watching and wagering.
This year’s handle (the amount of money bet) approached $13.8 million, including more than $2 million wagered Sunday, to top last year’s $13.1 million.
$13.8 million Total money bet over nine days of horse racing at this year’s Big Fresno Fair meet
Even a slight drop in average field size, from 6.6 horses per race a year ago to 6.5, didn’t faze bettors.
“We always want to be better than we were, so that was a little disappointing,” Fresno Racing Secretary Tom Doutrich said. “We can’t get much thinner than what we were. We’ll want to think outside the box how to get more horses up here next time.
“Overall, though, I feel it was a great meet. Had no incidents with horses unable to finish the races. The track was good, even with a few thunderstorms. And we’ll be better next year.”
Several upsets helped spice up Sunday’s final day, including La Pipiti Nice’s victory, with Richard Oliver aboard, in the sixth – a 5 1/2-furlong race for 3-year-old maiden fillies and mares.
La Pipiti Nice paid $25 to win, $11.20 to place and $5.60 to show, and the $1 superfecta (requiring bettors to pick the race’s top four finishers in correct order) returned $1,137.60.
Close to $1 million was awarded in purse money across nine days, including $172,300 on Sunday.