(Auburn, WA) There was only one way to top off a dazzling opening night of thoroughbred racing and that was with a spectacular fireworks show. Prior to the Grand Finale it was quite a day including The Bluegrass Stakes, The Wood Memorial and the Santa Anita Derby all run prior to the Emerald Downs 2017 opener.
Additionally, Emerald Downs is now officially, Emerald Downs and Casino with the opening of the new card room casino where the former Turf Club was located along with a completely re-furbished and renovated 5th floor. There is a new sports bar and huge simulcast theater. The Rainier Restaurant still serves the top flat area and a new Cafe overlooks the Paddock on the North end of the floor. We talked with Emerald Downs President Phil Ziegler about the exciting changes and the new 2017 season, see his interview by clicking here.
Let’s get to the racing! Even though the 1st race of the year is considered a low level claiming race there is always something special about the 1st race of the year. The betting public jumped all over Illumination Road with Lorenzo Lopez going off as the odds on choice.
Lopez sent Road to the lead in the 5 and half furlong event with longshot Timber Titan on his hip and 3rd choice Regazze Cat sitting 3rd while the 2nd choice Bob is Back at 7-2 settled at the back of the 6 horse field. As they entered the turn Illumination Road pulled away to a length and half lead and it appeared he just may go on and justify the overwhelming support. But Regazze Cat began to chip away with veteran Leonel Camacho-Flores aboard and at the 1/8th pole they were on even terms.
Meantime, Eliska Kubinova on Bob is Back never trailed by more than 6 lengths and Kubinova swung Bob to the outside for the stretch run and at this time Timber Titan had had enough and backed out. As the trio hit the 16th pole Regazze Cat overtook Illumination Road to take the lead but Bob is Back was rolling and would not be denied as he and Kubinova swallowed the field from a last to first move to win by a length and a quarter. Regazze Cat was 2nd and Illumination Road ran hard holding on for 3rd. John Maloney is the owner and trainer as the winning party celebrated in the Winner’s Circle.
As the race card progressed through the 1st 5 races, 5 different riders would win races beginning with Kubinova. Javier Matias took the 2nd race on Endangered, odds on favorite Lofty Cause cruised to an easy win with Juan Gutierrez in the 3rd, Eswan Flores pulled the upset in the 4th at 8-1 with Chatty Carl and in the 5th KK’s Wonderwoman got up in time with Ronald Richard.
This took us to the 1st feature race of the season, the Muckleshoot Casino Purse which appeared to be a wide open affair. Oh Marvelous Me would take the bulk of the late money to go off as the 8-5 favorite but not before Cause I’m Bad, Wando Cat and Lord Walton all took their fair share of the action.
As the field broke from the gates in the 5 and a half furlong sprint it was Lord Walton with Matias zipping out to the lead quickly building a 3 and a half length lead. Oh Marvelous Me sat chilly in 2nd place while Commander King and Cause I’m Bad sat 3rd and 4th.
This quickly became a 2 horse race and Lord Walton maintained a 3 length lead to the quarter pole when Jose Zunino unleashed Oh Marvelous Me who made up the difference with every stride to head into the stretch nearly on equal terms. Oh Marvelous Me would edge away down the stretch for a comfortable 2 and 3/4 length win over a determined Lord Walton who held the place. Cause I’m Bad would take 3rd and Commander King completed the Superfecta. See the Feature Race by clicking here.
Zunino would be the 6th different rider to record a win and told Emerald Downs’ Joe Withee after the race that he was confident and not concerned falling behind early . Zunino knew he had a ton of horse turning for home and just made sure he had a clean shot at the top of the stretch.
Oh Marvelous Me is trained by Blaine Wright who got his 2nd win of the night for the early trainer’s lead. Wright trained the winner for owners Todd and Shawn Hansen and talked with us after the race and you can see his interview by clicking here.
In the finale there were only 2 of the riders that could have won for a 7th different rider to win for the night including Natasha Coddington aboard Meatball Paul. Another odds on choice favorite with Kubinova appeared to be the likely winner but neither of these scenarios would play out instead it was Zunino who would sweep the late Daily Double and he would do it on the longest shot of the day to win with Kalakala at 14-1.
Kalakala went to the lead and would never be headed and returned a healthy $31.60 for the $2 win. The Rosie Simkins trained gelding would also anchor a 50-cent pick 5 that returned nearly $5,800. Meatball Paul did run 2nd with Top Estate 3rd. The 50-cent Trifecta returned $172 and the 10-cent Superfecta with favorite Geldautomat taking 4th returned $104. The 20-cent pick 7 would pay 6 of 7 for $256 and a carryover into today’s races of nearly $4,000. The all Zunino $1 Daily Double was good for $64.50.
Following the races fans were treated to an hour movie on the Indian Horse Racing event from 2016 while final preparations were being made for the Fireworks show that went off at about 9:15.
This was a tremendous start to live thoroughbred racing in Washington State and sets up for a fun season at the track!
Here are all our video’s from Opening Day
Opening Day Photo Gallery