We Own Two Horses!


Distinguishable at Pegasus Training Center

The Emerald Racing Club officially owns two horses!

Distinguishable, a 4-year-old filly, has been sold to Emerald Racing Club by Dr. Mark Dedomenico for $10,000 and joins McDove in our stable of horses for 2017.

Originally purchased for $250,000 at the 2014 Keeneland September Sale, Distinguishable has been training steadily with Mike Puhich at the Pegasus Training Center in Redmond, including two recent half-mile workouts, and should be fit and ready to roll when Emerald Downs opens on April 8.

When I send out the email later today, I will include video of Distinguishable’s two recent works at Pegasus along with her lifetime past performances. As you watch the workouts, that’s jockey Javier Matias aboard Distinguishable.

A Kentucky-bred by Distorted Humor-Officiate, Distinguishable raced five times last year for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer in California, compiling a 1-0-0 record in five starts with earnings of $35,675. She scored her maiden victory by 2 1/2-lengths last May at Santa Anita, running six furlongs in 1:10 3/5 while earning a 77 Beyer Speed Figure. Importantly, Emerald Downs cards many claiming and allowance races for non-winners of two races lifetime, so we should have some options with Distinguishable early in the season.

While it’s usually wise to manage expectations in this business, Distinguishable has some ability and I wish to publicly thank Dr. Dedomenico for offering us a nice filly at a reasonable price! In case you’re not familiar with Dr. Dedomenico, in addition to owning Pegasus Training Center he is CEO of Pro Sports Club in Bellevue and also a renowned heart surgeon. Dr. Dedomenico campaigns a top string of horses with Hollendorfer in California, and runners that don’t quite fit their long range plans often are either sold privately or raced in claiming events.

Incidentally, we had Distinguishable examined by Elliott Simkins DVM, and he gave the filly a clean bill of health.

The Emerald Racing Club now has two horses that should be ready to compete when the season opens next month! Although Distinguishable and McDove are both 4-year-old fillies,it’s doubtful they would race against each other since McDove has two career wins and is likely to race in a non-winners of three races lifetime or against open company.

In the coming weeks we will write plenty about possible races for both Distinguishable and McDove, but ultimately it will be up to our trainers–Mike Puhich and Larry and Sharon Ross–to select the races. An educated guess would be that Distinguishable might be more of a sprinter while McDove might do best as a router.


McDove is en route via van from California and scheduled to arrive here Friday morning. I’ll take some photos and post them ASAP.

Reminder: We’re having another get together at 9 a.m. Sunday at Emerald Downs. Same as last week, we enter through the paddock gate, watch some training, and at the 10:30 break walk back to the barn and visit Sharon Ross and McDove. On Friday, I’ll post a short blog with directions and also email the itinerary.



We Own A Horse!


McDove scored her second career win February 2 at Golden Gate Fields

We are excited to announce that the Emerald Racing Club has acquired its first horse for the 2017 racing season at Emerald Downs.

McDove, a 4-year-old Kentucky-bred filly by Proud Citizen, has been sold privately to Emerald Racing Club by Steve McDonald of Surrey, B.C. The purchase price is $10,000 and the filly will remain with trainers Larry and Sharon Ross.

In February, McDove scored a four-length victory in a $12,500 claiming race for non-winner of two races lifetime at Golden Gate Fields. She most recently finished fourth in a $40,000 starter allowance race, and should arrive at Emerald Downs fit and ready to race. Since we purchased her privately, there is no 45-day “jail” time that comes with claiming a horse in California.

Even better yet, McDove won’t be changing barns! She remains with the Ross’, an important consideration since they are familiar with the ins and outs of the horse both mentally and physically. Call me biased, but experience tells me this filly should fit nicely at Emerald Downs.

McDove will van to Emerald Downs later this week and we’ll able to meet her at the barn very soon. She will need to get acclimated to new surroundings, of course, and then Sharon will let us know a daily routine for gallops, workouts, etc. For those of you familiar with the layout, the tentative plan is to stable her next to 2016 Emerald Racing Club runner Archie Graham.


McDove in her stall at Golden Gate

Prior to joining Larry Ross at Golden Gate last fall, McDove campaigned at Hastings Racecourse in Vancouver, winning one of six starts including her career debut in a maiden special weight race on August 31, 2015. Her overall record in 10 starts is two wins, one second and one third with earnings of $27,558.

McDonald paid $40,000 for McDove at the 2014 Keeneland September Sale. Her sire was runner-up in the 2002 Kentucky Derby and her dam, Dove Cry, has produced seven winning foals including stakes winner Sleeping Indian and $170,000 earner Don’t Shoot. So on behalf of Emerald Racing Club, I wish to publicly thank Mr. McDonald  for offering us McDove at a very square price.

McDove seems to be most effective in routes (races one mile or longer) including the four-length victory in the one-mile race in February, but she did break her maiden in a six-furlong race and there are far more short races than long ones in the early season at Emerald Downs. So her versatility is a big plus.


McDove is a 4-year-old bay filly

If all goes well, we could add a second horse very soon. As for McDove, we’ll take plenty more pictures when she gets here and let everyone know when they can see her on the track and at the barn.

What a great turnout this morning at Emerald Downs!

Unofficially I counted 48 Emerald Racing Club members enjoying some rare sunshine and the hustle and bustle of the racetrack, and coffee and goodies at the Quarter Chute Cafe.

We let Sharon Ross break the news about McDove which drew a big cheer, and back at the barn she went over some rules and regulations and showed us the stall that is likely to house McDove.

We’ll do it all again next Sunday (March 26) at 9 a.m. Hope you can make it!

Incidentally, we still have a few spots remaining in this year’s Club. So if you know anybody interested, tell ’em we still have room!

2017 Emerald Racing Club Registration

Instructions For Sunday, March 19

For those who can make it , we’re going to meet at 8 a.m. Sunday at Emerald Downs. Thank goodness last week was the change back to daylight savings time!

I took some photos of our meeting place–the Paddock Gate–and while they won’t win any Eclipse Awards, they should help you locate our entrance point.

Photo 1 shows the main facility with part of the big “Emerald Downs” lettering visible. The Paddock Gate is just left of the two trees, and I’ve arranged with our security department to have that gate opened a few minutes before 8.

EmD Sunday

Photo 1: Emerald Downs facade

Below is a closer shot of the Paddock Gate. If anyone arrives early and I’m not there, please hold tight. I won’t be late!

Paddock gate

Photo 2: Paddock Gate entrance

The other thing you need to know is where to park. I took a picture of parking area #3 posted below. It is located north of the Paddock Gate and about a 2-minute walk.

Parking Lot Emd

Parking Area #3, north of the Paddock Gate entrance

And believe it or not, Sunday’s weather is supposed to be SUNNY! Thank goodness because we need it. Opening night is only three weeks away, and the incredible rainfall this spring has made it difficult for trainers to get their horses into race shape. But that also means we should see plenty of action including lots of timed workouts. Current training hours are 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. but we won’t be there until closing time.

We will also head to Sharon and Larry Ross’ barn in the stable area. Sharon will brief us on barn regulations and rules. Incidentally, former Emerald Racing Club runner Archie Graham worked three furlongs Friday at Emerald Downs, and he’s still in the same stall at the Ross’ barn. It will be fun to watch Archie’s progress this year with Larry and Sharon Ross and owner Jim Engstrom (a former ERC member!)

Our other trainer, Mike Puhich, is still up at Pegasus in Redmond, but he also will have his barn up and running at Emerald Downs by the end of the month. Mike also is very busy putting the finishing touches on the big horse sale this Tuesday up at Pegasus.

Kathy Coffey of Customer Service is putting together a package of pocket calendars, wall calendars, magnetic calendars and marketing booklets for everyone, and I’ll bring lanyards for those that still need them.

Sally Steiner of the Quarter Chute Cafe has invited everyone to stop by for coffee, too.

As mentioned in my previous post, we’re very close to acquiring a horse or horses for the 2017 Emerald Racing Club!

We’re Getting Close. . .


Image result for photo of fingers crossed

I hate to jinx things by jumping the gun. . .

But we’re very close to acquiring our first horse for the 2017 season at Emerald Downs. We should have something to announce in the next day or two, and when something happens I’ll let everyone know via this blog and by email. Meanwhile my fingers are crossed!

Mercifully the weather might give us a break for our gathering this Sunday. According to The Weather Channel, the rain chance is only 10 percent with some sunshine to boot. I’ll believe that when I see it, but remember we’ll meet rain or shine!

Let’s hope it looks something like this:


A beautiful morning at Emerald Downs 

The plan Sunday is simply to watch horses train for the upcoming season at Emerald Downs, and also learn the location of the Ross and Puhich barns. With opening day just three weeks away, there’s bound to be lots of horses jogging and galloping and plenty of workers too. I’ll also pass out some 2017 Emerald Downs wall and pocket calendars and ERC lanyards to those who still need them.

No biggie if you can’t make it, we’ll have another gathering Sunday, March 26 ,and the official orientation at noon on Sunday, April 9.


Emerald Racing Club watching Archie Graham gallop in 2016

For those coming Sunday, I’ll send a group email Friday that includes parking and admittance directions to the track.

Seven Wins & Counting!


Official Emerald Racing Club Silks

In the club’s three years of existence, the green and white silks of Emerald Racing Club have already visited the winner’s circle seven times at Emerald Downs.

Well, not actually the winner’s circle, but the area on the racetrack just outside the winner’s circle. After all, you can’t fit 200 people into a li’l old winner’s circle.

Anyway, we thought it would be fun to look back at all seven victories accumulated by Emerald Racing Club since its 2014 inception

The Emerald Racing Club’s first ever race was June 1, 2014 when 6-year-old Dancing Yodeler–claimed for $3,200 at Golden Gate Fields two months earlier–finished third in a $5,000 claiming race. Afterward jockey Felipe Valdez was startled when Dancing Yodeler was rewarded with a huge ovation after being unsaddled in front of the grandstand. ERC members were simply happy with Yodeler’s effort!

“A horse doesn’t usually get cheered like that for finishing third, ” Valdez said. “It was both surprising and awesome.”

6-1 Dancing Yodler First Race

Dancing Yodeler in the post parade, June 1, 2014

A 6-year-old California-bred gelding, Dancing Yodeler thrived under Larry and Sharon Ross that season, and on July 13, 2014 made Emerald Racing Club history by surging to victory under jockey Leslie Mawing in a $3,500 claiming race.


Dancing Yodeler makes Emerald Racing Club history, July 13, 2014

It was a mob scene as waves of jubilant ERC members overcrowded the winner’s circle, thus beginning a tradition of win photos being taken on the racetrack!

Dancing Yodeler copy

Dancing Yodeler’s official win photo

Four weeks later and Dancing Yodeler struck again, this time rolling to an easy two-length victory in another $3,5000 claimer on August 9, running six furlongs in 1:09.40.


Dancing Yodeler’s second victory for ERC, August 9, 2014

The 2015 season was even better for the Emerald Racing Club. Charlie Thomas, a 4-year-old Kentucky-bred gelding with a touch of class, rolled past Rocky’s Quest to win a $15,000 claiming race on July 11 (below). Charlie Thomas’ next race might have been even better, as he finished second beaten a neck to Coach Royal–later voted the meet’s Top Claimer–in a $15,000 claiming race run in very fast 1:35.40 for one mile. Charlie Thomas earned a career-high 80 Beyer Speed Figure in defeat.


Charlie Thomas surges to victory, July 11, 2015

Emerald Racing Club had two horses in sharp form in 2015. On August 4, Tribal Waters rolled to a three-length victory in a $12,500 claiming race, the first of two straight victories for the 4-year-old Tribal Rule gelding (below).


Tribal Waters, August 1, 2015

I couldn’t locate a photo of Tribal Waters’ subsequent victory but I found something almost as cool. Dancing Yodeler was given a special retirement by Emerald Racing Club on August 15, and it’s a rare day when a lower level claiming horse is paraded before the fans. But Dancing Yodeler earned it by being a cool horse who was great for ERC on and off the track!


Dancing Yodeler and Leslie Mawing, August 15, 2015

Archie Graham was around for practically all of 2016 and proved a great addition both on and off the track. Claimed for $8,000 at Golden Gate Fields in March, Archie Graham rallied for a tremendous victory in his Emerald Downs debut two months later. Ridden by Leslie Mawing, Archie rallied from eight and last to prevail by a head in 1:36 for one mile. In the photo below it’s difficult to even see Archie Graham, but there he is with his gray nose for the victory!


Archie Graham prevails on May 15, 2016

Archie Graham then finished fourth four straight times before rallying to a two-length victory on August 15. He finished the year with a second to He’s Cagey on September 4 and subsequently was sold to Jim Engstrom (Left Coast Thoroughbreds) and is back in the Ross barn for the 2017 season at Emerald Downs.


Archie Graham scores his second ERC win, August 21, 2016

Next: On Wednesday, an update on acquiring horses for 2017 Emerald Racing Club.

Welcome Aboard, Mike Puhich!


Mike Puhich (left) trained 2015 Emerald Downs Derby winner Prime Engine

As the newest member of our team, 54-year-old Mike Puhich adds a wealth of racing experience to the 2017 Emerald Racing Club.

Puhich, who joins Larry and Sharon Ross on our trainers roster, comes from a family steeped in Washington racing; his father Nick and uncles Ivan and Stan were leading jockeys agents for decades on the west coast and cousin Steve was a successful trainer at Emerald Downs. Mike cut his training teeth at Longacres where he understudied under T.D. McLaughlin, a local training legend who racked up 21 stakes wins at the Renton oval while conditioning the likes of Ginger Sauce, Power Pays and Patient Princess.

A 1981 graduate of Renton High School, Mike Puhich opened his own stable in 1983 and scored some of his earliest successes while training for UW football and basketball announcer Bob Rondeau. In fact, Rondeau’s 2-year-old filly Niki Tora was one of Puhich’s first big winners at Longacres and Twice Written, a daughter of Staff Writer, nearly beat the boys under Rondeau’s silks in the 1986 Longacres Derby .

Puhich has done his share of traveling over the years, setting up stables in California, Kentucky and Texas, and has won five graded races: 1988 Longacres Derby (G3), He’s a Cajun; 1992 Del Mar Derby (G2), Daros; 1995 Princess Stakes (G2), Favored One; 2005 Lone Star Derby (G3), Southern Africa; and, of course, the 2012 Longacres Mile (G3), Taylor Said.

In fact, in the last five years horses trained by Puhich have won Emerald Downs’ biggest prize for older horses (2012 Longacres Mile, Taylor Said), 3-year-olds (2015 Emerald Downs Derby, Prime Engine) and 2-year-olds (2014 Gottstein Futurity, Prime Engine).


Puhich & jockey Mario Gutierrez after Taylor Said’s victory in 2010 Longacres Mile

Taylor Said raced for longtime client Glen Todd while Prime Engine is owned by Dr. Mark Dedomenico, whose Pegasus Training and Equine Rehabilitation Center is located on 100 lush acres east of Redmond and renowned as one of the nation’s elite facilities. Dr. Dedomenico campaigned 2010 Eclipse Award Winning 3-year-Old Filly Blind Luck and maintains a string of talented runners with Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer in California.

As Trainer and Director of Horse Operations at Pegasus for nearly a decade, Puhich has many duties including conditioning Dedomenicos string of runners at Emerald Downs. Puhich also trains and oversees some 30 horses to be sold at the Pegasus 2-Year-Old In Training and Horses of Racing Age Sale on Tuesday, March 21.


The Pegasus facility includes a half-mile training track with a synthetic surface

At Emerald Downs, Puhich has enjoyed great success and not just with stakes horses. He finished fifth overall in 2016, including 24 wins, 30 seconds, 25 thirds and $311,421 in earnings. And in 2015, he won 16 races and finished third in win percentage at 21.9.

Puhich shuttles between Redmond and Auburn during the racing season, although horses competing at Emerald Downs normally are stabled on-track at Emerald Downs. Either way, we’ll be able to see our Emerald Racing Club horses under his care, as Puhich has agreed to roll out the red carpet for ERC members including a field trip to Pegasus.

“We look forward to having everyone from Emerald Racing Club come up to Pegasus,” he said. “I really hope they enjoy it.”


The entrance to Pegasus Training & Equine Rehabilitation Center

Monday’s post: A look back at previous Emerald Racing Club horses.

Larry & Sharon Ross, Washington Superstars


Larry & Sharon Ross enter Washington Racing Hall of Fame, August 28, 2016

When Sophia McKee founded the Emerald Racing Club in 2014 one of her biggest decisions was hiring a trainer. In addition to being competent with racehorses, the trainer also needed to be adept at explaining the fascinating but complicated world of training.

McKee eventually chose Larry and Sharon Ross for the fledgling ERC, a decision that has been wildly successful to say the least. Under the Ross’ care, the Emerald Racing Club has compiled 7 wins, 5 seconds and 1 third in 22 starts with earnings of $59,307–which equates to 32 percent wins, 59 percent in the money and nearly $2,700 per start! Bear in mind that 20 percent wins is considered exceedingly good in Thoroughbred racing, so we’ve been spoiled to put it mildly!

On-track success is great but Larry and particularly Sharon Ross also have been great off the track, treating Emerald Racing Club members like VIPs at the barn and graciously explaining about morning gallops, workouts and other activities involving the horses.

Before settling on the Ross’, Sophia composed her criteria for prospective trainers:

  • The trainer, whoever he/she was to be, must have a strong reputation for exceptional horse care.
  • The trainer must be willing to work with an ownership Club that may number some 200 people.
  • The trainer must communicate well with the Emerald Downs’ media team and Emerald Racing Club race manager.
  • And finally, the trainer must have a history of success!

Looking back, however, McKee said the first item on her list outweighed all others.

“(I chose Larry and Sharon) because they do right by the horse, period,” she said. “And it shows in the longevity of their runners, success in stakes horses and the competitiveness of their claimers.

“If you want to introduce people to racing, you have to connect them with the right type of honest people from the start. And that’s Larry and Sharon Ross.”

In 2016, the Ross’ received the highest honor in racing when they became the first husband and wife team elected to the Washington Racing Hall of Fame. So that word you see up in the headline-“superstars”-is not hyperbole. Horse racing has been around for over 100 years in Washington, yet only 16 trainers have attained Hall of Fame status!

Here is the video Emerald Downs produced for Larry and Sharon’s Hall of Fame induction last year:

As we learned in the video, the Ross’ rank in the top 10 in every important category in track and state history. But as Sophia McKee said, it goes much deeper than that. The Emerald Racing Club needed to demonstrate that training Thoroughbreds is a way of life, one that requires expertise, patience, a profound love of animals and good judgment to boot. That they would also possess excellent communication skills with owners completes a well-rounded package.

In a post two years ago, McKee nicely summed up the Ross’ dedication to horses.

“Simply, Larry and Sharon Ross love the horses in their care,” she said. “We have observed it first hand for several years, and we’ve spoken to several owners who reiterate this point, providing glowing recommendations for the Ross’ superior horse care. We have also watched and admired as their horses arrive to the paddock for races—well groomed, shiny and healthy, the picture of good health.

“We’ve even witnessed little things like Sharon Ross escorting baby ducks across Emerald Downs drive, making sure they crossed the road safely. That’s the type of person that will provide our racehorse with the best care and a trainer that we are proud to have working for us. Additionally, Sharon has a long record of finding good homes for racehorses after their career is over – an important element of horse ownership that we will cover later in the season.


Sharon Ross welcoming back another ERC winner

“Also, the trainer must be a good communicator so we can provide all of you with detailed and accurate updates on your racehorses! This isn’t always easy when a trainer may have a dozen horses in their care and potentially a different owner for each one.”

Speaking of owners, the Emerald Racing Club has already produced some prolific ones: Aithon Stable (James Perkins and Mary Beth Holt-Perkins), whose Belle Hill was champion 3-year-old filly at Emerald Downs in 2015 while trained by the Ross’, and Muddy Waters Stables (Mike Waters), who finished second in the 2016 Emerald Downs owners standings and currently ranks second at Oaklawn Park.

Here’s hoping this year’s Emerald Racing Club also produces some great owners of the future. It sure helps when we have good people like Larry and Sharon Ross training the horses!

Sunday’s topic: We’ll introduce you to the newest member of the ERC team for 2017, trainer Mike Puhich.







2017 Emerald Racing Club Lanyards

Lanyard 2

Get Your 2017 ERC Lanyard!

The 2017 Emerald Racing Club lanyards are now available at the administration office at Emerald Downs. See Rafeline McMullen at the reception desk–9 a .m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday thru Friday–she has a list of ERC members and is glad to help you.

I also will pass out lanyards at our informal gatherings on March 19 and March 26, and at the official orientation at Emerald Downs on Sunday, April 9.

If you would prefer to have your lanyard mailed, just shoot me an email with your request and I’ll mail it ASAP.

Your WHRC license easily attaches to the green & white lanyard and clearly identifies you as a certified ERC member to security and stable personnel.

Many thanks to Emerald Downs’ Joe Withee for modeling!

Friday’s topic: We’ve pushed things back a day. We’ll begin a two-part series on our 2017 trainers with a look at Washington Racing Hall of Famers Larry & Sharon Ross.




Emerald Downs Barn Rules

EmD Barn 2

Emerald Downs houses nearly 1,000 Thoroughbreds

Continuing our countdown to the 2017 live racing season at Emerald Downs, today we examine barn rules and etiquette.

One of the great things about the Emerald Racing Club is that  you are allowed access to one of the most interesting areas in Thoroughbred racing–the barn area, aka “The Backstretch.”

However, as someone who has visited stables for nearly three decades, I’ve learned all about the necessary rules and guidelines in place for safety and security reasons. A couple of key things to remember at all times:

The barn area houses nearly a thousand horses and is a serious work place.

Thoroughbreds weigh half a ton, and every once in a while one gets loose, so always be on your toes and alert when visiting the barns.

Firstly, the barn is open to visitors 6:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday (the track is closed on Tuesdays during the live racing season). The afternoon is the quiet rest time for both horses and grooms. Please be respectful of their work and only visit during the hours designated above.

The barn is NOT OPEN to visitors any time on Saturday and Sunday if our trainers have a horse entered that day. As we approach the season, however, we’ll have a couple of weekend gatherings to familiarize ourselves with the barn area.

Once the season starts, bear in mind that race days are a busy time for the staff with horses getting special attention on those days. In addition to ERC, Larry and Sharon Ross and Mike Puhich have several other clients and we don’t want to interfere with race day preparation at their barns.In the past, we’ve had volunteers willing to escort ERC members back to the barn area. So please let me know if anyone’s interested!

The backstretch can be a little overwhelming, with a tremendous amount of hustle and bustle, so try and make it out for our informal gathering on Sunday, March 19! In addition to watching horses train, we’ll walk to the backstretch and show the exact location of the Ross and Puhich barns. We’ll  have another gathering on Sunday, March 26.

Larry and Sharon Ross, as usual, are located in Barn 2 West.

Mike Puhich is located one barn north, in Barn 3 West.

I realize those numbers probably mean little to you, especially the newcomers. So in an upcoming entry I will post a diagram that highlights the key locations.

Watch training anytime! You are welcome to come out to the track and watch training at any time on the track apron (the tarmac stretching in front of the grandstand all along the track to the turn and Quarter Chute Cafe). Training hours currently are 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Once the season begins the hours are 6:30 a.m. to  11:30 am, with a renovation break from 8:30 to 9.

And once we acquire a horse, we’ll get together with the trainer and inform everyone of that horse’s daily routine. For example, the daily time the horse goes to the track for training and workouts, etc.

The track kitchen aka Quarter Chute Cafe is open to the public and a great place to watch training. You’ll also likely see Sharon Ross walking back and forth (or driving her golf cart) as each set of horses goes out to train. Ditto with Mike Puhich once he arrives from Pegasus with his string of runners later this month.

Emerald Downs’ gates open at approximately 9 am, so if you arrive earlier you’ll have to enter by the Quarter Chute Cafe and walk up the track apron towards the grandstand.


EmD Barn 1

A shed row at Emerald Downs

Some general barn rules:

1) During the live racing season (April 8 to September 17) visit only on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 6:30 a.m. to  12:30 p.m. Current training hours are 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

2) No barn visits on weekends if a horse from the Ross barn or Puhich barn is entered. You are still welcome to watch training.

3) Do not walk through other people’s barns. Our horses will be located in either Barn 2 West or Barn 3 West. It is disrespectful to go through other shed rows without an invitation.

4) Wear your Emerald Racing Club lanyard with your WHRC license. The new lanyards arrived today!



2017 ERC lanyards!

5) If you have guests accompanying you, you must sign them in at security and accompany them at all times. Keep groups small – no larger than 6 in a group.

6) Horses bite, kick and can be reactive. Use good “horse sense” when in the barns. NEVER reach out to a horse you don’t know and keep your eyes and ears open at all times.

7) What happens in the barn, stays in the barn!

Happy racing!

As of Wednesday, we have 183 people registered in the Emerald Racing Club, so there’s still room for a few more! Opening night–Saturday, April 8–is exactly one month from today!

Thursday’s topic: First of a two-part series on out 2017 trainers, featuring Larry and Sharon Ross. We’ll meet Mike Puhich on Friday.

How to Acquire a Racehorse

In horse racing parlance, we’re into the stretch run for opening night, Saturday, April 8.

In fact, Wednesday marks the one-month countdown to live racing. So beginning today, we’re offering daily updates to help inform and update Emerald Racing Club members of everything in store for 2017.

First of all, it would be impossible to have a racing club without racehorses .ERC policy has always been to sell our horses at the end of each season and begin the following season anew. To that end, ERC trainers Larry and Sharon Ross and Mike Puhich are actively pursuing runners to proudly carry our green and white silks in 2017. Our goal is to acquire at least two runners for 2017, including one ready to race by opening day.

In a post here last year, ERC founder Sophia McKee posted an excellent rundown of the various ways to acquire a Thoroughbred. (Pay particular attention to #3  and #4.)

1) Breed your own. This is the most expensive way into racehorse ownership. First you must have a broodmare, then pay to breed to a stallion. Gestation is 11 months and then it’s another two years before they hit the racetrack. All total, you have expenses for a minimum of three years.


Zenyatta with foal in Kentucky 

2) Purchase at a sale. The Washington Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Association (WTBOA) holds a yearling sale each year. This year’s sale date has not been set, but generally the sale is held the Tuesday following the Longacres Mile at the M J Alhadeff Sales Pavilion at Emerald Downs. The majority of the horses in this sale are yearlings and the sale is a live auction where you bid on the horse that you would like to own. Since the horse is only a yearling, you have your purchase price plus the expense of breaking and training the horse to prepare it for the races. Depending on the horse they may be ready to race by their 2-year-old year; others don’t begin  until age 3. There are other sales around the country that auction horses ready to compete almost immediately. For example, Pegasus Training and Rehabilitation Center in Redmond is offering a 2-Year-Olds in Training & Horses of Racing Age Sale Set on Tuesday, March 21. These horses are pretty much ready to be bought and shipped to a racetrack and begin racing.

Here’s video of Zenyatta selling as a yearling for $60,000 at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale

3) Private purchase. This is an ideal way to purchase a racehorse. By purchasing privately you are able to do a pre-purchase exam with your veterinarian to check the horse’s overall health and soundness. The pre-purchase exam may help identify pre-existing conditions and save you money down the road. If the horse is already in training it can go straight to your trainer’s barn and continue preparations for competition. Of course, you just have to find another owner willing to sell! The other benefit is that there is no sales tax.

4) Claiming a horse. Claiming horses are the bread and butter of horse racing and compose over 80 percent of the races at Emerald Downs. In a claiming race a horse is listed for a “tag” or claiming price. This is the price for which it may be “claimed.” By running in a claiming race, anyone else may “drop a claim” for the horse provided they are licensed and have the appropriate funds with the horsemen’s bookkeeper. Running in claiming races carries a risk that you may lose your horse, but at the same time allows you to run among horses of a similar level where it can be competitive. A horse that has been competitive in $25,000 claiming races could invade a $10,000 claiming race and likely win in a cakewalk–but almost certainly would be claimed at a bargain price by his new owner and trainer. Thus claiming races greatly insures that horses are matched evenly.

Claiming a horse also is the quickest way to acquire a racehorse but it can be risky. The claim must be dropped into the claim box and time stamped no later than 15 minutes prior to post time. Therefore you have short window of time to see the horse walk to the paddock and make the decision to drop a claim based just on the horse’s past performances and appearance. State rules vary slightly, but for the most part, if you drop a claim, you own that horse once the gate opens regardless of it’s performance. If the horse is scratched on post parade or in the gate prior to the running of the race, you do not get to own the horse. (California also has a rule that protects new owners in the event that the horse is injured while racing. If the claimed horse does not cool out to the state vet’s satisfaction in the test barn, the claim can be voided and the horse returned to the previous owner.)


The Equibase chart above illustrates that Archie Graham was claimed for $8,000 at Golden Gate Fields on March 24, 2016. I hope you can make it out (pardon my shaky computer literacy with photos and charts, I’ll improve) but the last line reads Archie Graham was claimed by Sharon Ross; trainer Larry Ross. This simply denotes that Sharon Ross–on behalf of ERC–claimed Archie Graham from the 2nd race at Golden Gate on March 24, 2016. When the horse arrived at Emerald a month later, the ownership was changed from Sharon Ross to Emerald Racing Club.

A couple of other things about claiming races:

If more than one person drops a claim on the same horse then it goes to a “shake.” And it is quite literally a shake. You place as many peas as there are people into a jar and each person shakes out a pea one at a time. The new owner of the horse is the one that gets the #1 pea.


Red tag = claimed

Upon being claimed, a plastic tag is hung on the horse’s bridle immediately after the race when they come back to be unsaddled. This identifies the horse as being claimed and then they are escorted to the test barn. At the test barn, the new owners’ groom will take off the bridle of the previous trainer and place their halter on the horse. Then that’s it – the horse now belongs to the new owner and will go to a new stall.

You may have heard about “jail time.” When you hear this term, it is referring to a set of rules at a track that puts claimed horses in “jail.” The jail time is the time that the horse has before they are free to run at another racetrack. This is intended to protect the horse population at a given track. If you claim a horse at Golden Gate, you may not race the horse elsewhere for 45 days OR you may run the horse back one time at Golden Gate and then be free to race it elsewhere.

Claiming races may sound complicated, but once you understand the process it sheds a whole new light on the racing business and maybe even your handicapping!

Wednesday’s topic: Barn Rules