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