CEO Travis Boersma has plenty of reasons to be excited as Grants Pass Downs begins its spring/summer meet with eight-race cards Monday and Tuesday.
Entries for the first two days of racing are very healthy—128 total horses, an average of 8.0 per race. Both stakes races—Monday’s $12,000 Caveman Stakes and Tuesday’s $11,400 Daily Courier Stakes—drew deep and talented fields.
Moreover, the weather forecast is perfect, and last but certainly not least, fans will be allowed on-track for the races; advance tickets are available at gpdowns.com or at the gate.
“We’ve got up to 1,200 fans coming and that’s a big step for us,” Boersma said. “We’re ecstatic. It means energy around the grandstand. As far as an intimate track experience goes, I don’t think anybody has something like we have.”
When Portland Meadows shuttered for good in 2019, it could have been ruinous to racing in Oregon. But Boersma, born and raised in the Rogue Valley, had a life-long enjoyment of racing in Grants Pass, stepped up big time. He secured a long-term lease for a commercial meet at the Josephine County Fairgrounds, and in the past two years has made numerous improvements to the facility.
“Here’s the thing; I’ve gone to this track at Grants Pass since I was brought into this life, and so I’ve got these memories and experiences I’ll take with me the rest of my life,” Boersma said. “To think that horse racing could go away in the state of Oregon seemed tragic to me.”
“And I really started to look at how we could save it, that was the first step. And then the second step: could horse racing live without having to be propped up, and the short answer was yes.”
The Flying Lark restaurant and entertainment venue is due to open later this year on the southwest corner of the facility. The state-of-the-art venue will help finance horse racing purses, which currently average over $60,000 daily. As for wagering, the 2020 fall meet averaged a record $377,789 including a blockbuster $868,632 on closing day.
“We are a fun-loving mind-blowing company here to build legacies one race at a time, those principles and values and philosophy of business carry over to (horse racing) for me,” Boersma said. “When we can make an impact in a community in a positive way, when we can take the Josephine County Fairgrounds and start to inject life into it and take care of deferred maintenance and figure out ways to bring jobs to our community and make a difference in agriculture, make a difference in equestrian, and be a draw for horsemen and horsewomen from all over the state, that’s where my juices get flowing because that’s what it’s all about for me, quality of life and how we can live it.”
“We’re well on our way to stabilizing horse racing in Oregon, “Boersma said. “Our goal is to have the fair meets rock solid and funded, and our commercial race meet in Grants Pass dialed in and drawing people from all over the western United States.”
Boersma also participates in the races at Grants Pass. He owns a stable of horses with trainers Emilio Guerrero and Quinn Howey including five runners entered opening week, and a band of five broodmares whose progeny begin racing next year.
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