News and STORIES
Another Opening, Another Show
Two prominent tracks begin their thoroughbred meets this weekend, with Emerald Downs drawing the curtain on its 67-day meet in Auburn, Washington. Meanwhile, north of the border outside of Toronto, Woodbine opens its 133-day meet extending deep into December.
In honor of the track’s 24th season, festivities at Emerald Downs include a unique “24 Karat Giveaway” featuring drawings for a necklace, bracelet, earrings, and a specially engraved “24” ring.
The 2019 jockey colony figures to be strong with defending champion Rocco Bowen, currently awaiting medical clearance, poised to capture another title. Other prominent returning riders include Kevin Orozco, Gary Wales, Javier Matias, and Jose Zunino. Second on Emerald Downs’ all-time wins list, Juan Guiterrez returns after missing all of 2018 due to injury. Patrick Henry Jr. and Lorenzo Lopez, first and second in the standings this winter at Portland Meadows along with veteran Jorge Carreno and Franklin Ceballos, an apprentice who has spent time in Southern California are among the top newcomers.
Blaine Wright and Frank Lucarelli are top contenders for the training title. Wright, who won Emerald Downs’ titles in 2016 and 2017, has amassed 20 stakes wins the last two seasons while Lucarelli last year overtook Tim McCanna as the track’s all-time leading trainer with 944 wins.
Stakes action begins Sunday, May 12 with the $50,000 Seattle Stakes for 3-year-old fillies and concludes Sunday, September 22 with the $100,000 Gottstein Futurity for 2-year-olds. In a new twist, the $200,000 Longacres Mile (Grade 3) anchors a Championship Sunday quadruple-header Sunday, August 11 also featuring the $50,000 Emerald Distaff, $50,000 Muckleshoot Derby and $50,000 Washington Oaks. In all, 27 stakes worth $1,550,000 will be offered during the 2019 season along with three Quarter Horse races worth an additional $75,000 in purses.
Top trainers Mark Casse, Norm McKnight, and Josie Carroll all return to Woodbine this season with designs on taking home the top trainer title. Carroll, who spends her winters in south Florida was recently inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame, becoming the very first female trainer to be enshrined. On her own since 1994, Carroll has amassed $45M in lifetime earnings and has captured a pair of Queen’s Plate’s with Edenwold in 2006 and Inglorious in 2011.
“I’m very honored,” Carroll told Woodbine Entertainment. “This industry means a lot to me. I’ve really made it my life and to receive an honor like that, it’s pretty overwhelming.”
A total of 95 stakes with total combined purses of $16M in stakes purses will be offered. The 160th running of the Queens Plate on in late June highlights the meet. The $1 million first leg of the Canadian triple crown will again be the centerpiece of a three-day festival with a total of nine stakes races between June 28-30.
In addition to its main turf course, a newly-constructed inner turf course, which track operators hope will cement Woodbine as a North American leader in turf racing, is set to open in late May. Last season, riders and ownership sparred frequently over turf course conditions and the new course, built on the site of the old harness track will bolster safety and fan enjoyment.
“With the addition of this world-class inner turf track to complement our suite of turf assets including the E.P. Taylor Turf Course, we will be able to offer more turf racing opportunities and flexibility to our local horsemen and visiting competitors,” Jonathan Zammit, Woodbine’s VP of Thoroughbred Racing Operations told the Toronto Sun.
Defending jockey champion Eurico Rosa Da Silva returns along with Woodbine veterans Rafael Hernandez, Louis Contreras, Gary Boulanger, Patrick Husbands, and Emma-Jayne Wilson. Da Silva was a runaway winner of the jockey title last season, crossing the wire first 237 times, 69 times more than Hernandez.