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.
“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.