Coming off a record-shattering fall meeting that established new marks in total wagering and field size, Grants Pass Downs in Grants Pass, Ore., looks to continue its momentum when the 2021 Spring Meeting begins Monday May 10.
The 17-day season features Monday and Tuesday racing at 5:15 p.m. PT. Holiday racing is offered Sunday, July 4, at 1 p.m.
According to track president Randy Evers, an update regarding fans will be released next week. The situation is fluid, but Josephine County is among 15 counties across Oregon moved into the “Extreme Risk” category for COVID-19.
Despite challenges presented by the ongoing pandemic, Grants Pass Downs is thriving. At the 16-day fall meeting, Grants Pass averaged 8.03 starters per race and exceeded $6 million in handle, including a record $868,632 on closing day. It was the track’s most successful commercial meeting yet.
“We were absolutely elated, we couldn’t have been happier with the season,” said racing secretary John Everly. “Grants Pass is doing everything possible to make horse racing successful. It’s so refreshing being around people who want to grow the sport.”
Under CEO Travis Boersma and Evers, Grants Pass Downs has undergone several significant upgrades with its racing surface and facility, including a state-of-the art safety rail and a widened racing surface that now accommodates 10 starters. And beginning this season, a new chute will make it possible for Evers to card six-furlong Thoroughbred races and 440-yard Quarter Horse events.
Everly anticipates all 450 on-track stalls being occupied by opening day, while long-term plan calls for a new off-track training and equestrian center to be built mere minutes away from the Grants Pass facility. Steve Wood, longtime track superintendent at Santa Anita Park, is overseeing development of the training center project.
Minimum purse for Thoroughbreds is $5,500 with opening week featuring a pair of stakes events: $10,000 Caveman Stakes for 3-year-olds and up on Monday, May 10 and $10,000 Daily Courier Stakes for fillies and mares on Tuesday, May 11. The initial Quarter Horse stakes is the $15,000 Mail Tribune Handicap on Monday, May 17.
In the trainers’ ranks, Jorge Rosales and Quinn Howey – winners of the last two Grants Pass training titles – head a strong roster that also features veteran conditioners Teri Beckner, Emilio Guerrero and Billy Christian.
Apprentice Joree Scriver, who edged McKenzie King for the fall riding title at Grants Pass, is expected to contend for another crown this spring. In 2020, Scriver also was leading apprentice at Emerald Downs, and she currently ranks sixth with 29 wins at Turf Paradise.
In the announcers’ stand, Jason Beem is looking forward to his second season as the voice of Grants Pass Downs. In addition to being one of the sport’s most talented young announcers, the Seattle native is extremely popular on social media where his annual Beemie Awards had an enormous following.
“I can’t wait to get back to Grants Pass Downs for the spring season,” Beem said. “Coming off such a successful fall season, I can’t wait to get things going again. Grants Pass Downs is a really fun place to call races because we have had good field size and the half mile track makes for lots of fast-paced action to keep me on my toes.”
2021 live racing dates: Monday, May 10; Tuesday, May 11; Monday, May 17; Tuesday, May 18; Monday, May 24; Tuesday, May 25; Monday, May 31; Tuesday, June 1; Monday, June 7; Tuesday, June 8; Monday, June 21; Tuesday, June 22; Monday, June 28; Tuesday, June 29; Sunday, July 4; Monday, July 5; Tuesday, July 6. Post time: 5:15 p.m. July 4: 1 p.m.
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