Emerald Downs in Washington State springs into action April 15, beginning its 16th season of Thoroughbred racing at 6 p.m.
The 82-day meet continues through Sept. 25, with first post 6 p.m. Fridays and 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Thursday racing will be added July 14 to Aug. 25.
Sixty-six horses are entered opening night, an average of 8.25 per race, on the eight-race program. Emerald Downs also has nine races April 16 and 10 more April 17 for a total of 27 races opening weekend. That compares to 23 races opening weekend last year.
The 76th running of the $200,000 Longacres Mile (gr. III) Aug. 21 tops a 29-race stakes schedule worth more than $1.5 million. The $50,000 Hastings Handicap for fillies and mares leads off the stakes schedule May 15.
Defending Longacres Mile champion and 2010 Horse of the Meeting Noosa Beach heads a handicap horse division that begins with the $50,000 Governor’s Handicap May 22. Other top returning older horses include Assessment, Hollywood Harbor, Koala Beach, and Margo's Gift.
Two other fans favorites also will return in 2011. Wasserman, the track’s all-time leading earner with $514,722, is back as a 9-year-old, and West Seattle Boy, Emerald Downs’ all-time leader in wins with 18, has resumed training as a 12-year-old.
Ten-time champion Tim McCanna, the leading trainer in 2010 with 63 wins, is expected to contend for his record fifth straight Emerald Downs training championship. And Doris Harwood, first all-time with 48 stakes wins, has another powerful lineup of runners led by Noosa Beach, who begins the season needing two stakes victories to tie Handy N Bold’s track record of 10 stakes wins set in 1999-2003.
Ricky Frazier, last year’s leading jockey with 114 wins, begins the season sidelined while awaiting a doctor’s clearance to resume his riding career. The leading rider at Emerald Downs five of the last seven seasons, Frazier hasn’t ridden since October, when he sustained a concussion riding at Fresno, Calif.
Gallyn Mitchell, number one all-time with 1,252 wins at Emerald Downs, and Juan Gutierrez, third with 778, head a jockey colony that includes Portland Meadows champion Joe Crispin.
Emerald Downs also has upgraded its timing system to hundredths of a second to accommodate the introduction of Quarter Horse racing. Beginning next week the track plans to card approximately two Quarter Horse races a week, leading up to the $60,000 Bank of America Emerald Downs Challenge Championship Sept. 4.