2017 Orientation Details

Emerald Racing Club logo

Reminder our 2017 Orientation and Kick-Off Party is 12 noon, Sunday, April 9, at Emerald Downs. In an unprecedented development, however, the Emerald Racing Club could have a horse racing BEFORE orientation!

Opening night at Emerald Downs is Saturday, April 8, and Distinguishable could be running in that evening’s feature race. But more on that later, first some general information on orientation:

Orientation and Kick-Off Party Details:

Who: You! (and a guest)

What: Emerald Racing Club Orientation & Party

When: Sunday, April 9, begins 12 noon

Where: Emerald Room – 4th Floor Emerald Downs (take either elevator from the first floor lobby)


  • 11:30 am – Check-in – We will have racing programs, so no need to purchase one
  • 12 noon – Orientation – Featuring trainers Sharon Ross and Mike Puhich, Emerald Downs President Phil Ziegler, and other guests.
  • 1 pm – Gary Dougherty long time handicapper for the Seattle Times will give a crash course on how to read the Racing Form, handicap, and watch a race.
  • 2 pm – Live racing starts and party transitions to the View Room (right off the Emerald Room) with free Clubhouse Seating.
  • 2:30 pm – 4:30 pm – Buffet in Emerald Room
  • The Emerald Room and View Room are reserved for Emerald Racing Club all day so you are free to float in and out as you wish.

No cost for Emerald Racing Club members and guest. If you have additional guests you’d like to bring, they may join you for the party. Additional tickets will be $20 and can be purchased at the door.

Distinguishable Ready To Roll!

According to trainer Mike Puhich, Distinguishable is fit and ready to go and will be entered to race opening night at Emerald Downs!


Distinguishable will enter Race 8

Distinguishable will be entered in Race 8 (above) which is 5 1/2 furlongs for $25,000 claiming fillies and mares 3-year-olds and up which have never won two races lifetime, with a purse of $15,000. Because Distinguishable is a 4-year-old filly with one career victory, she fits this condition.

Entries for the race will be drawn Wednesday, April 5, and I’ll be monitoring developments like a hawk. If the race “fills”, I’ll alert everyone so you can make plans to be here on the 8th. If the race doesn’t fill, I’ll send out an update and try to figure out the next possible date for a race. We likely need six or seven horses to enter our race, which is iffy, but keep your fingers crossed.

According to Puhich, Distinguishable continues to train well at Pegasus Training Center. She breezed five furlongs in 1:01 flat Monday (second fastest of six works at the distance) and I’ll email the workout to everybody later this week. Osvaldo Gonzalez, the leading apprentice jockey last season at Emerald Downs, pinch-hit for Javier Matias aboard Distinguishable on Monday and Puhich said, “All systems are go” for our filly.

While relentless rainfall has hampered training at Emearld Downs, Distinguishable has enjoyed the benefit of training over the all-weather Polytrack surface at Pegasus, where she might have one more light workout before vanning to Emerald Downs next week.

As for McDove, she jogged today (Tuesday) and might gallop Wednesday, according to trainer Sharon Ross. So both ERC horses are doing well!

Upcoming Field Trips

We’re working on a date for our field trip to Pegasus but probably will wait until the weather finally turns sunny. It definitely will be on a weekend and perhaps you all can let me know whether you prefer Saturdays or Sundays for upcoming outings? It’s about 40 miles one way from Emerald Downs to Pegasus in east Remond, so It will be an early morning start!

Other trips we’re planning include visits to breeding centers Blue Ribbon Farm and Griffin Place, both in Buckley, and El Dorado Farms in Enumclaw. A couple of you requested a visit to the jockeys’ room at Emerald Downs, apparently a big hit in previous years, which we could combine with a morning at Emerald Downs’ very successful Breakfast At The Wire.

Licensing Update

WHRC Executive Director Doug Moore said not to worry if we aren’t 100 percent licensed to start the season, and that we would be extended a grace period with temporary licenses granted to non-licensed club members.

Incidentally, licenses can also be obtained at the WHRC’s Olympia office located at 6326 Martin Way East.



What A Great Turnout!


McDove meets the Emerald Racing Club!

Despite a persistent drizzle, over 60 Emerald Racing Club members turned out Sunday morning to watch training at Emerald Downs and also watch McDove take her first spin around the one-mile oval.

Accompanied by a pony horse, McDove entered the track at 9:30 a.m. and got a feel for the surface on which she will race this season. Trainer Sharon Ross came over to answer questions as McDove got her feet wet, literally and figuratively, at Emerald Downs.

All things considered, it’s a great start for McDove. She’s only been here two days and is acclimating well to her surroundings, and soon Sharon will pass along the daily routine regarding a normal training time, etc. I’ll pass that information along, of course, as one of the great joys of Thoroughbred ownership is being able to watch your horses train in the morning.

Later we hiked over to the Ross barn and McDove proved a big hit with her new owners, who immediately bestowed rock star status on their 4-year-old filly. Like Archie Graham last year, McDove seemed to enjoy the attention as ERC members met and took photos and generally lavished the attention more normal for a Kentucky Derby winner.



McDove was the center of attention Sunday

Our other 4-year-old filly,  Distinguishable, continues training well at Pegasus in Redmond, according to Mike Puhich, and I hope everyone viewed the videos of her two recent workouts.

As for races, Emerald Downs opens the 2017 season Saturday, April 8, and I will keep everyone abreast of entries regarding our horses. Sharon did say, however, that even though McDove is relatively fit, they would proceed slowly with her for now.

For those unfamiliar with the various colors of Thoroughbreds, McDove is a 4-year-old bay filly and Distinguishable a 4-year-old chestnut filly. Here’s a link that explains how those colors are determined:

Thoroughbred Colors

We’re Full For 2017!

All 200 spots in the Emerald Racing Club have been sold for 2017. Keith Eldridge, a reporter-anchor with KOMO 4 News since 1983, procured the 200th and final spot Sunday morning.

This is the third straight year Emerald Racing Club has filled all 200 spots. Thanks to everybody for registering!



Hope To See You Sunday!


Morning training at a sunny Emerald Downs

Horse racing is like the United States Mail. Remember the old saying– “Through rain, sleet or snow we will go, etc.”

That’s us too! So even with Sunday’s grim forecast of more rain (surprise), the Emerald Racing Club is invited to attend morning training at Emerald Downs. Beginning at 9 a.m., one hour later than last week, we will watch the morning activity on the racetrack. It looks like about a 90 percent chance of rain, but if things get too bad we can duck for cover.

I will have all kinds of 2017 Emerald Downs calendars to pass out–wall, magnetic and pocket–and some Emerald Racing Club lanyards too. You’re also welcome to have coffee and breakfast at the Quarter Chute Cafe, as Sally Steiner and her crew will be expecting us.

During the track renovation we will visit Sharon and Larry Ross’ barn, where we can meet McDove. Sharon said our 4-year-old filly arrived Friday morning and appears to have shipped in nicely from Golden Gate. I was going to take a photo, but the horsemen’s meeting ran a bit long and I’ll have to meet her with all of you Sunday. McDove, incidentally,  is stabled next to Archie Graham ,and Sharon said the two seem to be getting along nicely.

Also, it’s possible that McDove  could go to the track Sunday, but that will depend on the weather and also McDove’s continuing acclimation to her new surroundings etc.

We’ll meet at the Paddock Gate, same as last week, and security will open the gate at 9 a.m. sharp. For those new to Emerald Downs, here’s a post explaining where to park, etc.

Instructions For Sunday, March 19

Remember To Get Licensed!

As of Friday afternoon, we were up to 198 members and only two spots away from being full!

Many thanks to everyone for promptly getting your Washington Horse Racing Commission licenses. Only 54 people still need licenses, and they can be obtained 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Wednesday thru Saturday at the WHRC office next to the Quarter Chute Cafe.

Both our horses–McDove and Distinguishable–should be ready to go early in the season, but neither is permitted to race until everybody is licensed.  And remember, the $109 license fee is included in your ERC membership.

Also, out of state members can be licensed by mail, but you still must be fingerprinted. You’ll need to fill out this form to get started: WHRC License

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.