(Auburn, WA) The opening day of the 2024 Emerald Downs racing season began with a bang. The 150th Kentucky Derby was sandwiched mid-card of the 7 live race opening schedule. Our coverage of the day is below with the Kentucky Derby story first followed a re-cap of all 7 Emerald Downs races beginning with the feature race. Plus other news and notes of the day.

Kentucky Derby Coverage

The 150th running of the Kentucky Derby couldn’t have been more exciting with a blanket 3 horse photo finish. 18-1 Mystik Dan held off the hard charging 2nd favorite at 9-2 Sierra Leone and 7-1 Forver Young as all 3 were separated by 2 noses. Journeyman jockey Brian Hernandez won his 1st ever Kentucky Derby. The finish was the closest since Grindstone defeated Cavonnier in 1996 and the closest 3-way finish since 1947 when Jet Pilot won by a head.

For full coverage of the race we have linked 4 different reports and you can watch the replay all below.

Story Links:
Associated Press
The Blast
CBS Sports
The Sporting News

2024 Kentucky Derby


Emerald Downs Racing

Feature Race
6th Race the Caliber Concrete Purse

Coastal Jazz w/ Alex Cruz

The first feature race of the year was a field of 5 going 5 1/2 furlongs under drizzly skies but a fast track. The betting public jumped all over Coastal Jazz as the odds-on 4-5 favorite and they were not disappointed. Jockey Alex Cruz picked up his 2nd win of the day as he broke well sitting about 2 lengths off front runner 7-1 Code Charlie with Vladimir Jensen.

Boss of Themoss with Silvio Amador was 2nd as the 5-2 2nd choice. Overly Fast and Carlos Montalvo at 7-2 was 4th and Firewalker with David Martin at 13-1 trailed. The early fractions were a quick 21.44 and the half 43.81. Code Charlie could not maintain the pace and ended up last after fading at the top of the stretch.

The two stalkers closed together at the quarter pole with Coastal Jazz moving a bit better than Boss of Themoss and by the time they straitened out for the drive Coastal Jazz and Cruz had pulled out to a 1-length lead. Coastal Jazz kept rolling and won by nearly 2 lengths. Boss of Themoss was all-in and held 2nd over the closer Overly Fast while Firewalker got up to complete the Superfecta.

Coastal Jazz cruises

Coastal Jazz finished in a blazing 1:01.75. The 6-year-old Washington bred is by Coast Guard, out of Jasmine’s Melody by Artax was bred by Ron and Nina Hagen. The Hagen’s own Coastal Jazz with Ron Bohlman and trainer Steve Bullock. C-J earned $12,740 to push his career earnings to $146,923 and is 9-2-8 from 33 starts for a career win rate of 27% and top 3 finish of 58%.

The winning owners were thrilled with the win but it quickly turned bittersweet when their homebred was claimed for $25,000 by new owner Coastal Racing Stable and heads to the barn of Frank Lucarelli.

Coastal Jazz paid $3.92, $2.54 and $2.10, the 10-cent super just $1.05 and the $1 exacta $4.11.

Winners Circle Ceremonies


1st Race

Anniversaire d’Or w/ Carlos Montalvo

In the 2024 opener the large crowd was not fooled and dialed in Anniversaire D’Or as the odds on, 1-2 favorite. Jockey Carlos Montalvo broke well and sat just behind the early speed of Above the Rest with David Martin aboard then cruised past the leader at the 3/8’s pole and drew off to a 2 1/2 length lead at the top of the stretch. Montalvo gave the 4-year-old son of Street Life a couple of reminders and drew off to an easy 4 3/4 length win, which was the largest margin of victory for the day.

Above the Rest at 7-2 ran 2nd, Cash’s Cat with Alex Cruz was 3rd also at 7-2 while 8-1 Benny Buckets and Silvio Amador completed the superfecta. Anniversaire D’Or races for Peter Redekop and trained by Blaine Wright and ran the 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:03.01. The winner was claimed for $5,000 by Eliana Thompson and Kevin Chavarria and goes to the barn of Jorge Rosales.

ESN talks with Carlos Montalvo on winning the 1st race of the season

2nd Race

Nation’s Belle w/ Kevin Orozco

A field of 5 went 5 1/2 furlongs on the fast track and speed again was prominant. Nation’s Belle with Kevin Orozco broke 1st from the outside and led by as many as 3 lengths setting fractions of :21.92 and :44.65 headed into the stretch with a length lead. Nation’s Belle put away both Champ of Pagne and Many Memories but the  had to hold off a fast charging Ethan’s Girl with Silvio Amador. Nation’s Belle held for the nose victory as the 3rd favorite at 5-2 in the closest finish of the day.

Ethan’s Girls was the 7-5 favorite bobbled out of the gate before Silvio Amador got her settled and was last early on. Amador remained patint and closed steadily then split runners and closed with a rush to just miss by a nose and would actually be a precurser to the big race from Kentucky. Champ of Pagne with Carlos Montalvo got up for 3rd while Bulletproof Too with Alex Cruz was 4th.

Nation’s Belle covered the 5 1/2 in 1:03.45 and is trained by Kay Cooper and owned by Blue Ribbon Racing #21. The 4-year-old is by Nationhood and out of Belltown Beauty by Speightstown and bred in Washington by Mr and Mrs Frederick Pabst.

3rd Race

Autocrat w/ Alex Cruz

5 starters lined up again in the 3rd race for a 6-furlong dash and J C’s a Legend was the 1-1 favorite with Kevin Orozco looking for 2 wins in a row. J-C had plenty of vocal support in the park area where part of the ownership group was confident but leery of especially one entry in this race.

The concern was about the 2nd choice Autocrat with Alex Cruz and their concerns were more than legitimate. Autocrat broke 3rd just in front of J C’s a Legend and laid off the early speed of 7-1 Gypsy Gun with Carlos Montalvo with 7-2 Secret Saga running 2nd and Jose Zunino.

Autocrat got the first run and it would be too much for J-C to overcome as Autocrat and Cruz opened up a 1 1/2 length lead at the top of the stretch and maintained that margin while J C’s a Legend did close well to be a clear 2nd and Gypsy Gun held 3rd.

Autocrat is owned by Eliana Thompson and trained by Jorge Rosales and covered the 3/4-mile in 1:09.02. Autocrat was 2-1 and paid $6.76 on the win.

4th Race

My Sunshine w/ Neptali Ortiz

6 went 6 furlongs in the 4th and the bettors were split with 2 at 2-1 and 1 at 5-2. The favorite Lolo Paniolo didn’t get out of 6th, 5-2 Moon Time ran an even 4th but 2nd choice My Sunshine with Neptali Ortiz broke well and challenged for the lead by the 1/2 mile and edged to a 1 length advantage in the stretch and held that margin to win by 3/4’s in a final time of 1:09.99.

4-1 Summer Shandee with Silvio Amador closed well for 2nd and 14-1 Arthur Spooner and Vladimir Jensen broke 2nd and held well for the show. The top 4 combined for the highest superfecta of the day returning $273.10 for the $1 bet.

My Sunshine races for Hon Cheung Kum and Luciano Medina Gabriel and trained by Medina Gabriel. Moon Time was claimed for $3,500 by Eliana Thompson and Kevin Chavarria for trainer Jorge Rosales.

5th Race

Fast Times w/ Jose Zunino

8 horses lined up for the 1st race run after the Kentucky Derby and there was a clear divide with the top 3 at 2-1, 2-1 and 5-2 with the rest of field from 14-1 to 23-1. The two 2-1’s would complete the exacta with the slight 2nd choice Fast Times and Jose Zunino winning it by more than a length over Dynamic Secret with Carlos Montalvo. But 2nd longest shot Pakas Secret with apprentice Manuel Americano ran hard to just miss the place money by a head with 5-2 Long Gone Silver and Silvio Amador taking 4th.

Fast Times covered the 5 furlongs in 57.82 and races for the ownership group of HX3 Incorporated. Blaine Wright got his 2nd training win of  opening day. Fast Times capped the 2nd pick 4 of the day and returned the highest of the 3 50-cent pick 3’s of the day at $102.86 while Pakas Secret returned the highest $2 show of the day at $5.98.


7th Race

Rockit A Day w/ Carlos Montalvo

In the finale on opening day jockey Carlos Montalvo began the day like he started with a trip to the winner’s circle. Montalvo aboard 4-1 Rockit A Day broke with 3 others as all 4 lined up right out of the gate. Montalvo and Rockit popped her head to the lead at the 3/8’s and never looked back extending her lead to win easily by 2 1/4 lengths as the 4-1 3rd choice covering the 5 furlongs in 58.36.

3-1 Harbor Lass gave Silvio Amador his 4th 2nd place finish of the day as the 3-1 2nd choice while the 6-5 favorite Diplomatic with Alex Cruz ran 3rd. Lady Mormont with Manuel Americano was 4th at 8-1 and 13-1 My Motorhome and Kevin Orozco completed the Super Hi-5 which paid off the highest pay of the day of $656.35 on the 50-cent bet.

Rockit A Day races for The Five and trained by David Martinez. The 3-yeaer-old filly is a Washington bred by Atta Boy Roy, out of Jacobita by Forest Wildcat and was bred by Keith and Jan Swagerty.

The connections lost their winner to a claim by Club Lucky Racing for $10,000 and trainer Bonnie Jenne.

News and Notes

Longacres Mile Winner showed well at Churchill

2023 Longacres Mile Champion Five Star General represented NW racing well when he took 3rd in the Knicks Go Overnight Stakes at Churchill Downs on Derby Day. Five Star General trained by former Emerald trainer Grant Forster broke from the 10 hole in the field of 10 in the 4th race of the day.

Five Star General w/Joe Bravo

At 15-1 jockey Tyler Gaffalione took the 8-year-old son of Distorted Humor to the lead from the outside in the 1-turn mile race and held the lead out of the chute onto the backstretch when Strong Quality with Florent Geroux surged up the rail to take command. Gaffalione and the General settled in just off the lead.

The duo would hold that lead to the quarter pole setting fractions of 22.36, 44.64 and 1:09.19. Turn for home Five Star General made a move to pull nearly even with Strong Quality and at the same time from further back came Kapuna. Strong Quality had plenty left and dug in with Kapuna closing outside of Five Star General inside the 1/8th pole. This is when Five Star General began to flatten out but held on well to take 3rd.

Strong Quality held on for the front-running win by a neck over Kapuna and both were about 6 lengths in front of Five Star General. The winning time was 1:35.45. Five Star General paid $7.34 for the $2 show.

Five Star General’s run in the Knicks Go Overnight at Churchill


Emerald Jockeys

Alex Cruz

Alex Cruz began defense of his state record 4 straight riding titles by hitting the winner’s circle twice and finished with a 2-0-2-2 (yes we count 4th’s because we love superfecta’s!) from 7 rides. Carlos Montalvo matched Cruz with 2 wins and had the overall best record of the day with a 2-1-3-0 showing from 7 mounts or a 86% top 3 finish rate. 

The other winners on the card were Kevin Orozco who triumphed in the closest finish of the day and he picked up a 2nd going 1-1-0-0 from 3 rides. Neptali Ortiz was perfect winning on his lone mount of the card and the old pro that we’re now going to dub “The Carpenter” Jose Zunino found the finish line 1st in the 5th race and was 1-0-0-1 from 3 rides. 

We’re calling him the carpenter because this last off-season with all the turmoil at Turf Paradise he decided to stay home and worked as a carpenter for Emerald Downs. That with is precision in the saddle especially with crowd favorite Slew’s Tiz Whiz, Zunino is “The Carpenter”!

Silvio Amador

The “Close but No Cigar” award goes to Silvio Amador who rode all 7 races and collected 4 2nd place finishes but couldn’t get a win with the closest losing by a nose in the 2nd race. Amador went 0-4-0-2 on the day. David Martin had 3 rides and finished with a 2nd and a 4th, Vladimir Jensen got 4 tries and picked up a show and apprentice Manuel Americano, new to Emerald, had 3 rides with a 3rd and a 4th. Vet Javier Matias had 1 ride in the finale and missed the board.  

Cruz, Montalvo and Amador all rode the card with 7 rides each. They finished with a combined 4-5-5-4 record from the 21 mounts for a win percent of 19%, top 3 rate of 67% and were in the superfecta 86% of the time.

The Jockey’s Room is about to fill up

Karlo Lopez

In week 2 there will be several new faces and some old ones coming to the Emerald Jockey’s room as Turf Paradise ended their season last Saturday. Leading T-P rider Karlo Lopez is headed to the NW for the first time in his career and will look to give the top riders a ton of competition. Joining him from the desert and new to Emerald Downs will be Brayan Pena and Luis Reyes.

A couple of former Emerald riding Champs will also rejoin the colony with Leslie Mawing and Isaias Enriquez coming home. Another former champ and the all-time leading rider at Emerald Juan Gutierrez appeared to come out of retirement and was named to ride a couple of horses on opening day but later scratched off his mounts. Guti is named to ride on Saturday so we’ll see if one of the Emerald all-time favorites is officially back this weekend. Francisco Diaz-Lopez will get his 1st ride of the season on Goat Rocks in the 6th. Diaz-Lopez rode Goat Rocks 8 times last year with a 2-2-2-1 record so I’d make sure to have him in your super!

Notable Abscence

One name you won’t see on a ride this week is Carlos Montalvo. Montalvo is not injured or sick but has to serve a 3 day suspension he got from Monmouth a few years ago. We confirmed with with Emerald Publicity Director Joe Withee. Withee wasn’t sure why there was this long delay in implementing the penalty but Montalvo will be off this coming weekend and have 1 more day to complete. No doubt once it was known he would have to serve the 3 days better to get them done asap than try to delay them.


Blaine Wright

Much like the jockey’s room more trainers are on their way after Turf Paradise’s final day including last year’s leading conditioner Justin Evans. Evans is moving his large contingent of stock north and will be ready to start firing this coming weekend. Many others will be starting their 1st runners of the season as well.

Those getting off to a great start this season include former Champion Blaine Wright as the only double winner taking the 1st and 5th races. Veterans Kay Cooper, Jorge Rosales, David Martinez and Steve Bullock all got wins with Bullock also taking the first feature race of the year. Newcomer Luciano Gabriel Medina who finished 6th last year in his 1st year of training also got a win on opening day.


The Betting Window

It was a day of shorter fields and lower pay-offs and pretty typical for an opening day. The total handle was $817,627 averaging $116,804 per race. Here are the top pay-offs of the day and so far on the season:

$2 Win $10.88 (7th)
$2 Place $4.90 (4th)
$2 Show $5.98 (5th)
$1 Exacta $19.99 (7th)
50-cent Trifecta $59.97 (4th)
10-cent Superfecta $27.31 (4th)
$1 Daily Double $17.84 (2nd-3rd)
50-cent Pick 3 $32.30 (2nd-4th)
50-cent Pick 4 $102.86 (2nd-5th)
50-cent Pick 5 $231.34 (3rd-7th)
50-cent Pick 6 $150.43 (2nd-7th)
50-cent Super High Five $656.35 (7th)

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By paulb

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