For the Reporter
More than 200 horses were on the grounds Monday as Thoroughbreds began training for the 2018 live racing season at Emerald Downs.
Elliott Bay, under Jennifer Whitaker, became the first horse on the track at 8:30 a.m. The track’s champion 2-year-old last year with a pair of stake wins and over $90,000 in earnings, Elliott Bay is trained by Howard Belvoir and owned by Rising Star Stable II.
Stable superintendent Vern Baze reports 201 horses on the grounds and expects the horse population to swell to nearly 1,000 head by opening day on Sunday, April 22.
Other trainers on hand Monday included Chris Stenslie, Tom Wenzel, Cliff Balcom, David Martinez, Vince Gibson, Terry Gillihan, Charles Essex, Vince Gibson, Sharon Ross and Doris Harwood.
The opening of training was streamed on Facebook Live with Emerald Downs President Phil Ziegler and Joe Withee at the controls.
Elliott Bay is 2-2-0 in five starts including wins in the Gottstein Futurity and WTBOA Lads Stakes, both with Whitaker riding. Barkley, Emerald Downs’ champion 3-year-old of 2016 and fourth in the 2017 Longacres Mile, also was back in his normal stall at Belvoir’s barn
The 67-day meeting begins with a giveaway of 20 4k TVs on April 22, while the stakes schedule begins Sunday, May 20 with the Seattle Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. The 82nd renewal of the $200,000 Longacres Mile (Grade 3) is Sunday, Aug. 12.
Training hours are 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. daily with no renovation break. Beginning Wednesday, Feb. 21, training hours are 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. with renovation from 10:30 to 11. The Quarter Chute Café opens Monday, March 5.