OFF AND RUNNING AT EMERALD DOWNS IN 2018
AUBURN, Wash. (April 19, 2018) – Emerald Downs Racetrack & Casino opens the gates for its live Thoroughbred racing season Sunday with a 10-race card beginning at 2 p.m.
Seventy-eight horses are entered opening day—an average of 7.8 per race—on what is believed to be the first Sunday opener in state history, either at Emerald Downs or Longacres.
After an extremely wet winter, spring might be arriving just in time. The forecast is for intermittent sunshine with a high of 61 degrees.
The 67-day season concludes Sunday, September 23, and features 29 stakes including the 83rd renewal of the $200,000 Longacres Mile (G3) on Sunday, August 12. The first stakes is the $50,000 Seattle for 3-year-old fillies on Sunday, May 20.
After Sunday’s opener, live racing continues with Saturday and Sunday programs the next two weeks, with Friday night racing beginning on May 11.
Mach One Rules, winner of six Emerald Downs stakes and voted 2017 Horse of the Meeting is among the top horses returning, while Gold Rush Dancer, currently stabled at Santa Anita, is expected to return and defend his Longacres Mile title later this summer.
John Parker, owner/breeder of Gold Rush Dancer, bids for a third straight owners’ title. A resident of Lake Bay, Wash., Parker amassed 24 wins in 2017 for the fourth highest total in track history.
Rocco Bowen bids to become the first jockey to win three straight Emerald Downs’ riding titles. A 28-year-old native of Bridgetown, Barbados, Bowen had 110 wins in 2016 and 126 wins in 2017, when he averaged 1.75 wins per day and finished 61 wins clear of second place Julien Couton in the standings.
Bowen spent the winter at Golden Gate Fields, where he said his momentum was derailed by a February riding accident.
“It cost me a lot of business,” Bowen said, adding that riding on the synthetic Tapeta surface is a big adjustment for a jockey. “It’s not my favorite, it’s a different style at Golden Gate.
“I’m back at Emerald Downs, I feel great and I have a great agent (David “Marbles” Singer). We love to win races.”
Bowen, a workhorse, is named to ride all 10 races Sunday and has a lofty goal for 2018. “I want to average three wins a day,” he said.
Of Bowen’s 126 wins last year, he had only one with leading trainer Blaine Wright and none with perennial power Frank Lucarelli, third last year with 31 wins.
Wright also bids for a third straight title in 2018. The 43-year-old trainer comes off a dream 2017 season in which he saddled 53 winners and compiled a lofty 35.8 win percentage while racking up 11 stakes victories, the second highest total in track history. Wright’s Exit Sixty Slew, winner of the 2017 Washington Cup Filly and Mare Stakes, makes her first start as a 5-year-old in Sunday’s ninth race for $10,000 starter allowance fillies and mares at 5 ½ furlongs.
In the announcer’s booth, Tom Harris takes over from Matt Dinerman, who has moved onto Golden Gate Fields. Harris becomes only the third track announcer in track history, following Robert Geller (1996-2015) and Dinerman (2015-2017).
NOTES: All fans through the gates Sunday receive free 2018 Emerald Downs magnetic calendars. . .In addition to Exit Sixty Slew in Sunday’s feature at Emerald Downs, Wright has morning line favorites in both stakes Sunday at Hastings Racecourse. Alliford Bay, winner of last year’s Seattle Stakes at Emerald Downs, is 6-5 in the $50,000 Brighouse Belles for older fillies and mares and Quick and Silver is 3-1 in the $50,000 Swift Thoroughbreds Inaugural for 3-year-olds and up. A recent private purchase by Peter Redekop, Quick and Silver is 15-for-41 lifetime with earnings of $322,440. . .19 different jockeys have mounts Sunday at Emerald Downs including newcomers Alex Anaya, Lucas Gutierrez, Austin Solis, Edgar Velasco and Gary Wales. . .Austin Solis is the 25-year-old son of Hall of Fame jockey Alex Solis. . .Juan Gutierrez, No. 2 all-time with 1,320 wins, begins the season sidelined while recuperating from off-season shoulder surgery. . .Trainer Jeff Metz, who tied a state record with five wins on opening day in 2014, leads all trainers with eight horses entered Sunday including two apiece in the ninth and 10th races. . .Metz trainee Citizen Kitty, top Older Filly or Mare last year at Emerald Downs, is 12-1 in a $58,000 allowance/optional claimer Friday at Santa Anita. . .Sun Downs in Kennewick begins its six-day meet Saturday with a 10-race card at 1 p.m.