Sports

Post time at Emerald Downs set for Friday

By CASEY OLSON

The Mirror

The thoroughbreds will mount up for the first time Friday night for Opening Night at Emerald Downs. This year marks the 11th anniversary of the Auburn horse racing track.

The $83 million oval opened its gates June 20, 1996, four years after the closing of Longacres.

Emerald Downs is coming off its best financial season in the history of the track. Ron Crockett, president of Northwest Racing Associates, said Emerald Downs made money last year for the second time in 10 years — but it was less than $100,000. Since its opening, Emerald Downs has accumulated debt of $3.88 million.

But things are on the upswing.

Daily average purses for last year’s 90-day meet were up 3.16 percent over 2005 and the all sources average daily handle of $1,382,996 was flat to the previous year. But the 2005 number was an 11.2 increase from 2004.

“We’re pleased in the light of current trends to have held our own,” said Crockett. “We set a record for average daily purses in the state and by all indications seem to have another positive year in on-track attendance.”

Interest in the Emerald Downs product nationwide was also strong with a 10 percent increase in wagering on Emerald Downs from out-of-state sources.

The biggest day of racing at Emerald Downs this summer will again be the 72nd running of the $300,000 Longacres Mile on Aug. 19. The total purse for the marquee race was increased by $50,000 this year because of Breeders’ Cup Stakes funding and becomes one of the most important stops on the Road to the Breeders’ Cup World Championships’ $1 Million Dirt Mile on Oct. 26.

“The Longacres Mile has a long and storied tradition and we believe the creation of the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile will further add to the race’s prestige,” said Breeders’ Cup Limited Senior Vice President of Operations, Pam Blatz-Murff. “The Mile, and races like it, will serve as important stepping stones on the road to the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.”

Emerald Downs Director of Racing Paul Ryneveld echoes that sentiment. “The Mile has always been the pinnacle of the race meet at Emerald Downs, and now it will take its place on a national stage as well.”

The best horse to run last season at Emerald Downs will also be back. Flamethrowintexan earned both Horse of the Meeting and Top Older Horse honors.

The 5-year-old son of Way West, conditioned by state Hall of Fame trainer Jim Penney, won the 71st running of the $250,000 Longacres Mile and the $100,000 Mt. Rainier Breeders’ Cup en route to setting a new Emerald Downs’ single season earning record of $226,750.

The 91-day calendar reflects a Friday-through-Sunday schedule until Thursdays are added beginning May 31. There will be holiday racing on Memorial Day (Monday, May 28), Independence Day (Wednesday, July 4), and Labor Day (Monday, Sept. 3). First race post times are 6 p.m. on weekdays and 2 p.m. on weekends and holidays.

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, sports@fedwaymirror.com

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