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Back in the saddle: Training gets under way at Emerald Downs
The horses are back.
Some 60 horses were on the grounds Friday morning as Thoroughbreds began training for the 2013 season at Emerald Downs.
The horse total will increase daily for the 75-day meeting expected to run from mid-April to late September.
Simba's Roar, an unraced 3-year-old Cahill Road colt, was the first horse on the track at 8:35 a.m. under trainer/exercise rider Charles Essex. Essex, Chris Stenslie, Terry Gillihan and Howard Belvoir were among the early arrivals Friday, and Belvoir even sent a familiar old face onto the track for his first jog of 2013.
Wasserman, Emerald Downs all-time leading earner with $560,458, stepped onto the track at 9 a.m. under regular rider Jennifer Whitaker. Whitaker has been aboard the now 11-year-old gelding literally thousands of times the last eight years – in 59 of 74 career races including six stakes wins, and for virtually every jog, gallop and workout along the way.
Whitaker knows Wasserman as well as anyone and said the big bay was in good spirits, perhaps even feistier than normal.
"He's really happy, he loves it here," Whitaker said. "He'd rather be here than the farm. He'll be more settled tomorrow."
Director of Racing Bret Anderson said 1,195 stall applications have been processed and hopes to have between 900 to 1,000 horses on the grounds by opening night.
Tom Wenzel, whose eight stakes wins in 2012 tied the second highest total in track history, was busy arranging his stable Friday, while Doris Harwood, No. 1 all-time with 56 stakes victories, also was preparing for her horses to arrive.
Wenzel only had one horse at his stable Friday, 3-year-old gelding Luna Tick, but the trainer said things would pick up dramatically with several arrivals this weekend.
Makors Finale, a quadruple stakes winner last year, is at Pegasus Thoroughbreds in Redmond but slated to rejoin Wenzel's string at Emerald Downs. Wenzel and owner-breeder Karl Krieg have high hopes for the 4-year-old Makors Mark colt, perhaps even a run at the 78th Longacres Mile (Grade III) in August.