Post time: Emerald Downs' celebrates a decade in Auburn


The Mirror

The thoroughbreds will mount up for the first time Friday night for Opening Night at Emerald Downs. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Auburn horse racing track.

The anniversary will be celebrated each day of the racing season with videos and winners’ circle salutes to the people associated with the history of the 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 first 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. Total monies in purses increased 25.3 percent from $8,622,063 in 2004 with 90 days of racing to $10,809,929 in 2005 through 101 racing days. The average daily purse monies distributed increased 10.5 percent per day from $96,877 in 2004 to $107,029 in 2005 and total monies wagered on Emerald Downs from all sources increased 16.5 percent from $61,037,260 in 2004 to $80,737,030 in 2005.

But the best news to track officials was the fact that the average daily handle — the amount of money wagered from a variety of sources on Emerald Downs’ races — was up 11.2 percent, from $1,228,940 to $1,380,732 in 2005.

The biggest reason for the stronger economic situation at Emerald Downs can be traced back to a $1.6 million contribution from the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe last August.

The Tribe’s money has been going toward an increase in purses as well as a vocational training program for grooms at Emerald Downs. This was not the Muckleshoot’s first involvement with Emerald Downs. The Tribe actually owns the 167 acres the track sits on. The tribe purchased the land in 2002 for $73 million. The Muckleshoots will continue to donate money to Emerald Ridge at about the same rate this season.

Horse racing at Emerald Downs will kick off at 6 p.m. Friday. The Washington Horse Racing Commission has approved a 91-day race schedule for the 2006 live-racing season, ending Oct. 1.

“We believe this will be the best year ever for racing in Washington,” Crockett said.

The meet will run three days per week (Friday through Sunday) during the months of April and May. The schedule will then shift to four days per week (Thursday through Sunday) during the months of June, July, August, September and October.

First-race post times will be 6 p.m. on weekdays and 2 p.m. on weekends.

The Longacres Mile, one of the most prestigious and oldest races on the West Coast, will be Aug. 20. The Mile is one of 36 stakes races during the 2006 Emerald Downs meeting.

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565,

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