June 5, 2020

We are all getting excited for the start of the 2020 season although this wasn’t exactly the way we had it planned. We are pleased to announce that as of today spectator-less professional sports are authorized under Governor Jay Inslee’s “Safe Start Washington” plan.

The Governor’s office has specific guidance which was done in cooperation with the Washington Horse Racing Commission. We will also have safety plan protocols in place. Many of these protocols are already being followed in morning training hours. Everyone will need to be familiar with these.

Over the past few months there have been many people who have been working to develop protocols, communicate with the Governor’s staff, and get all the approvals we need to race. Two people in particular took the lead on this and we all owe a tremendous amount of gratitude to Doug Moore, the executive secretary of the Washington Horse Racing Commission and to Ron Crockett who spent many hours daily making calls and writing emails.

We also want to thank the Muckleshoot Tribe who has supported us throughout this process and to the entire Washington Horse Racing Commission including our Ex-Officio members, the HBPA and the WTBOA. The people in our stable area…the trainers, the grooms, the vets, plus all our Emerald Downs staff including Vern Baze and Jack Hodge…did a tremendous job of taking care of the horses while getting them ready for our season and most of all making sure they took every precaution to stay healthy. Thanks to Pastor Gilbert Aguilar and his chaplaincy team who served meals provided by Joe & Sally Steiner every Thursday.

As for our season we will begin running on Wednesday June 24 (2:15pm) and Thursday June 25 (5pm). All wagering will be done through the Advanced Deposit Wagering companies. With no wagering on track or at our OTBs we selected days and times we think will generate the most wagering handle. We hope to offer 10 races each day with big fields.

Eventually we are looking forward to welcoming our fans back. Running without the public is very challenging for our business. During a typical season we have over 500 employees. For many it’s a summer part time job and for others it’s been their full-time career. Many of these positions only can exist when we are open to the public.

One other thing to point out. At 2:15pm on Wednesday June 24th when the horses leave the gate for Race 1, it will mark the official return of live professional sports to the state of Washington. It will be unusually quiet without fans. When track announcer Tom Harris says “runners away” it will begin an opening day unlike any other but in many ways one of the most significant ones in the history of Washington racing.

Stay well and start handicapping!!

-Phil Ziegler