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

We’re Up To 170!


We still have some openings remaining in the 2017 Emerald Racing Club. As of Wednesday, we were only 30 away from our 200 person limit!

I always wanted to be a bartender and yell, “Last call!”, but this is the next best thing. Tell your family and friends that they still have a chance to be part of the 2017 Emerald Racing Club!

I always notify ERC members of upcoming events, but in case you haven’t heard our orientation will be Sunday, April 9, in the Emerald Room on the 4th floor at Emerald Downs. We’ll begin at 12 noon.

I would also like to invite everyone out for an informal gathering at Emerald Downs on Sunday, March 19.We can watch horses train–both at track level and from my office on the 6th floor–then walk to the stable area and check out the Ross and Puhich barns and perhaps grab some coffee at the Quarter Chute Cafe. It will be a wonderful opportunity to meet people and also introduce you to our trainers for 2017. I was thinking around 8 a.m.

There also is a neat event on Tuesday, March 21 , as the Pegasus Training and Equine Rehabilitation Center in Redmond hosts its “2-Year-Olds in Training & Horses of Racing Age Sale.” The sale begins at 1 p.m. For more information go to pegasustrainingcenter.com.

We are in the process of acquiring horses for the 2017 Emerald Racing Club, and the goal is to have two horses up and running throughout the season. It’s only 38 days until opening night!

I’ve been sending Debbie Hopkins and Jan Baze updated lists every few days of people ready to get their 2017 WHRC license. Current hours are 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Wednesday to Saturday.

2017 Emerald Racing Club Registration