Bill Downs grabs the mic when the nine-race card begins at 2:15 p.m. The 52-day meeting runs through September 18 and features 23 pawn events including the 87th renewal of the $150,000 Longacres Mile on August 14.
A native of Chicago, Downs became only the fourth track announcer in track history, after Robert Geller (1996-2015), Matt Dennerman (2015-2017), and Tom Harris (2018-2021).
“I am excited to learn more about the horses and jockeys involved in horse racing at Emerald Downs,” said Downs. “From my previous experience here as a fan and expert, what impressed me was the experience on the right track.”
Downs, who has spent the last nine seasons calling the races at the Indiana Grand near Indianapolis, recently drove from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Auburn, Washington, on a 2,500-mile journey that included stops in his hometown of Chicago, as well as Rapid City, Billings and Spokane. The only thing missing on arrival is the warm weather, but things will heat up soon.
At Emerald Downs, the 27th season was highlighted by the 87th renovation of the $150,000 Longacres Mile on Sunday, August 14. $75,000 Muckleshoot Derby and $75,000 at Washington Oaks. The value of Distaff, Derby and Oaks each rose to $25,000 from 2021.
Meanwhile, the overnight portfolio was up 20 percent from last season and bets on the win/place/show bet were cut to 14.7 percent — the lowest in North America.
Alex Cruz, who beat Julian Cotton to 75-74 for the 2021 riding title, bid for his third straight riding title in 2022 while Juan Gutierrez – the track’s leading racer – kicked off a season that needed just three wins to reach the 1500 win over. Mark in Emerald Downs. Javier Matias, Kevin Radke and Jennifer Whitaker – among the top 10 players of all time at Emerald Downs – are back for another season while Kevin Orozco, last year’s biggest big money rider with five stakes, is back, too.
Joe Toye claimed his first coaching title at the Emerald Downs last year with 29 wins but faces a tough task trying to replicate it. Frank Lucarelli, second last season with 26 victories, is the all-time race leader with 1,093 victories and numbers to put up a solid display to claim the Emerald Downs title for the eighth time in his career. Four-time lead coach Jeff Metz, and two-time Blaine Wright, have strong stables for 2022, while Washington Hall of Famer Tim McCana, Howard Belvoir and Doris Harwood also feature prominently. Kai Cooper, last year’s leading betting coach, is another strong contender.
John Parker’s yellow and black silk led all owners 19 trips to the winner’s circle in 2021, the fourth time the Lake Bay resident has topped the owners’ standings. He and trainer Candy Kraiderman have a solid stable of horses in a bid for a fifth title in 2022.
Windribbon and Papa’s Golden Boy, second and fourth on the Longacres Mile last year, are both training forward for 2022. A 6-year-old California breed owned by Seamist Racing and trained by Blaine Wright, Windribbon missed his head last year, opening A 2-foot lead in the middle before nailed to the back on the last jump. Baba’s golden boy, a 6-year-old Washington-born Lusk family from Puyallup, has been the fastest runner in the state for the past two years. Meanwhile, the rear has been doing well since his Mile win, most recently winning a $106,000 wildcard race at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark.
Other major horses returning for 2022 will be quota winners Mrs. Lynn, Midnight Mojo, Daffodil Sweet, Coron, A View from above and 2020 Encounter horse Dutton. Top CEO, 2021 Meeting Horse After sweeping all three open bets for 3-year-olds, he moves into the senior horse division and gives Wright a fantastic two-punch with Windribbon. Owned by John and Janine Mariinsky and Jill and Gerald Schneider, Top Executive is 5 for 9 years with earnings of $125,648.
The 23-race betting schedule starts at $50,000 in the Seattle Stakes for 3-year-old fillies and $50,000 in stakes in the Auburn Stakes for 3-year-olds, both on Sunday, June 19. Children 3 years of age and older are on the trail to the Longacres Mile.
The opening week features one day of racing followed by a pair of two-day weekends (May 21-22, May 28-29) before settling into a Friday through Sunday schedule for the weekend of June 3-5.
Emerald Downs is located directly off Interstate 167 in Auburn, Washington.