Sports

Emerald Downs enjoys best financial year in history

By CASEY OLSON

The Mirror

After a decade of horse racing at Emerald Downs, the 2005 season proved to be the best in the history of the Auburn track as records were shattered both on and off the dirt.

And the season has officials at Emerald Downs optimistic about the future of horse racing in Western Washington. The sport has been facing several economic challenges since Emerald Downs opened its betting stalls back in 1996 because of increased competition for gambling dollars from Native American casinos.

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 higher purses resulted in a larger number of horses coming out of the stables and going to post at Emerald Downs. According to the track’s marketing director Suzie Sourwine, the horse population being housed at the track was at an all-time high with 1,368 animals, about 100 more than last year.

The larger stable has equated into fuller fields and more competitive racing, she says. The average number of starters per race was up nearly a horse from last year to 7.89.

On the racetrack, riders, trainers, owners and horses all set their own marks as well. Leading jockey Kevin Krigger set a new record for the most amount of purse earnings accumulated through a race meet with $1,384,346. He was in the money 351 times in 719 mounts.

The 2005 meeting also marked the first time three riders eclipsed the $1 million mark. Ricky Frazier produced $1,318,697 and Juan Gutierrez earned $1,075,047 in purses.

In the training ranks, Tim McCanna notched his sixth training title in 10 years, narrowly edging Frank Lucarelli, with 54 wins. Jim Penney was third in the standings with 49 victories. McCanna had his best year financially at the Auburn oval with $696,009 in earnings, as did Lucarelli with $609,514 made.

Ron Crockett, Inc. captured the Leading Owner title with 21 wins to Sue and Tim Spooner’s 19 victories and earned $354,364 in the process.

Longacres Mile winner No Giveaway was named the Horse of the Meeting, Top Washington-bred and Top Older Horse for the 2005 season at Emerald Downs.

No Giveaway’s performance in the Mile, after coming from 20 lengths back and upsetting the field at 60-1, provided one of the greatest moments at the Auburn oval this year. That effort was enough to convince voters that the 70th running of the Longacres Mile ought to be named Race of the Meeting.

“It was a dream come true, winning the Mile,” said Grant Forster, trainer of No Giveaway. “When you race horses in Washington, winning the Mile is like the Super Bowl and World Series all wrapped up in one.”

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

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