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Jockeys Wooten, Russell to renew rivalry


August 3, 2011     E-mail this page to a friend!

Defending champion James Wooten, Jr. and runner-up Chris Russell, who dueled to the wire for the 2010 Humboldt County Fair jockey's title, are expected to renew their "bullring" battle for thoroughbred riding honors at the upcoming 2011 Humboldt race meet.

Wooten, Jr. booted home 11 winners and rolled up a total of 109 points (5 points for a win, 3 for a second and 1 for a third) on the special Gunnar Froines scoring system to hold off Russell (9 wins, including 4 on the final day and 95 points) for last year's riding crown.

And both jockeys are looking forward to another stirring battle at the eight-day Humboldt meet, which opens Friday, August 12th, and runs through Sunday, August 21st.

"After coming close to winning titles here in 2008 and 2009, it was a special thrill to capture last year's Humboldt thoroughbred jockey title," said Wooten, Jr. "I always look forward to riding here and thoroughly enjoy the area and the support from the fans. And I love riding this 'bullring' (half-mile) track."

Russell certainly echoes those sentiments about this famous, tight-turned oval.

"I consider Ferndale a 'rider's' track where you can outsmart other jockeys, especially due to the tight turns," claimed Russell. "It's like NASCAR here where you try and drop down and save ground around the turns. It's special and so are the fans who come out and support the meet."

Wooten, Jr. and Russell will also be surrounded by another outstanding cast of riders for the 2011 Humboldt season.

Barrington Harvey, who deftly rated Come Back Native to a wire-to-wire victory in last year's 1-5/8-mile Humboldt County Marathon Handicap, also is expected to bring his tack north to Ferndale.

Nikeela Black, who finished third in the thoroughbred rider's race the past two Humboldt seasons, may also return after completing law school obligations. Rachel Goodgame, a multiple stakes-winning rider here, David Essman, Billy Lewis, Anthony Ayala, April Boag and Luis Godoy, who shared the mixed breed riding title with Wooten, Jr. last year, are other familiar jockeys expected to be on hand.