Jennifer Whitaker atop 2020 Horse of the Meeting Dutton at the opening of training March 5 at Emerald Downs in Auburn. COURTESY PHOTO, Emerald Downs

Jennifer Whitaker atop 2020 Horse of the Meeting Dutton at the opening of training March 5 at Emerald Downs in Auburn. COURTESY PHOTO, Emerald Downs

Training begins at Emerald Downs for 2021 season

210 horses at Auburn track

Training began Friday, March 5 for the 2021 horse racing season at Emerald Downs in Auburn.

Here’s My Copy, an unraced 4-year-old filly trained by Greg Moore, was first on the track.

A total of 210 horses have arrived since March 1, including strings trained by Blaine Wright, Rosie Simkins, Sharon Ross, Tom Wenzel, Bonnie Jenne, Candi Cryderman, David Martinez, Vince Gibson, Howard Belvoir, Jose Navarro, Steve Bullock, Satchell Stevens, Shelly Crowe, Jesse Velasquez, Doris Harwood, Cliff Balcom and two-time defending training champion Frank Lucarelli, according to director of racing Bret Anderson.

Dutton, 2020 Emerald Downs Horse of the Meeting, made an 8:30 a.m. appearance under regular rider Jennifer Whitaker. Trained by Howard Belvoir and owned by Rising Star Stable VIII, Dutton was 3 for 3 in 2020 including wins in the Washington Thoroughbred Breeders & Owners Association (WTBOA) Lads Stakes and Gottstein Futurity. A 3-year-old gelding by Noosito, Dutton was named co-champion 2-year-old with Bodenheimer at last week’s 2020 WTBOA awards ceremony.

Training continues 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. daily.

The 50-day meeting begins Wednesday, May 19 and runs through Thursday, Sept. 23.

It’s still up in the air whether fans will be allowed, said Vince Bruun, Emerald Downs media relations director in an email.

“The Seattle Mariners will probably be our model,” Bruun said about the return of fans.

The 2021 stakes scheduling featuring the 86th running of the Longacres Mile (G3) will be announced later this month.

Emerald Downs President Phil Ziegler is looking forward to running more race days in 2021.

“We were successful running Wednesdays and Thursdays last year,” Ziegler said. “Plus, we are planning to add Sunday racing this year during the summer months.”

In 2020, the track’s season was conducted with strict COVID-19 protocols and without spectators, but wagering was way up.

Daily wagering averaged $1.79 million, a 61% increase over an average of $1.1 million in 2019, according to Emerald Downs. Most of the wagering came from internet and mobile site customers throughout the United States and Canada.

Fans bet $1.65 million on opening day June 24 and kept on wagering throughout the season during the track’s two days per week it ran live racing. Mobile wagering and off-track betting generates as much as 90 percent of the handle at Emerald Downs in a typical season, so the money kept flowing at the track in 2020.

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