Emerald Downs Lifts Lid Saturday, May 4


Auburn, WA – At 1:30 p.m. Saturday, starter Mark Gibson will spring the horses from the starting gate and season No. 29 will officially be underway at Emerald Downs.

Saturday’s seven-race card shares billing with a 14-race extravaganza from Churchill Downs featuring the 150th Kentucky Derby at 3:57 p.m. (pacific) sandwiched between races 4 and 5 at Emerald Downs.

New at Emerald Downs for 2024 are penny breakage and a dynamic morning line. The former figures to add an estimated $400,000 into the pockets of bettors while the latter updates players on anticipated late odds changes.

Emerald Downs’ 55-day meet runs through Sept. 15 with first post 1:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays and 7 p.m. Fridays (beginning May 31).

On the track, Alex Cruz attempts to bag an unprecedented fifth straight riding title. The 30-year-old Puerto Rican rode 69 winners in 52 days last year and heads a strong jockey colony including the return of Emerald Downs’ all-time leading rider Juan Gutierrez. Karlo Lopez, who owns a six-win lead heading into Saturday’s closing day card at Turf Paradise, begins riding at Emerald Downs next week.

Although he doesn’t have action here Saturday, Justin Evans is favored to win a second straight training title. Currently cruising to his fifth straight title at Turf Paradise, Evans will have some 55 horses at Emerald Downs this season. Other returning former training champions are Frank Lucarelli, Blaine Wright, and Tim McCanna, along with perennial contenders Howard Belvoir and Tom Wenzel, the latter last year’s leading stakes winner with seven. Lucarelli begins the season No. 1 all-time with 1,146 wins while McCanna is 29 wins away from 1,000 at Emerald Downs.

The featured sixth race matches a field of six 3-year-olds and up vying 5 1/2 furlongs for a $20,000 claiming tag. Coastal Jazz, a triple winner here last year for Gold Coast Racing and trainer Steve Bullock, is the 9 to 5 morning line favorite with Cruz in the saddle. Rising Star Stables’ Muncey, second choice at 5 to 2, has a history of early season success for Belvoir. The 7-year-old gelding captured the opening day feature in 2021 and finished with a flourish last year, scoring at 25 to 1 in a one-mile test closing day. Javier Matias, No. 6 all-time with 647 wins at Emerald Downs, takes the call in place of Jennifer Whitaker, currently sidelined by a training mishap last month.

A 23-race stakes schedule begins with the $50,000 Seattle Stakes for 3-year-old fillies Saturday, June 15. The 89th renewal of the $150,000 Longacres Mile anchors a Championship Sunday stakes quadruple header Sunday, Aug. 11.

Two-time Washington Horse of the Year Slew’s Tiz Whiz is on track for the $50,000 Budweiser Stakes on Sunday, June 23. The 6-year-old Slew’s Tiznow gelding bulleted five furlongs in :58 3/5 Thursday for Wenzel.