09/27/2010 3:12PM

2010 meet closes with declines across the board

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AUBURN, Wash. – Emerald Downs wrapped its 90-day meeting Sunday, with wagering, attendance, and average field size declining markedly from 2009.

Average daily betting on races run at Emerald Downs, and by Emerald patrons on races run elsewhere, was about $1,182,000, a decline of 7.4 percent from the previous season, track president Ron Crockett said shortly after the final race Sunday evening.

The average all-source handle on races contested at Emerald Downs was about $763,000 per day, Crockett said, down from $842,000 in 2009, a decline of 9.3 percent.

Fewer people attended the races this year, Crockett said, and they bet less on average than they did in 2009. Emerald doesn’t release official attendance figures, but Crockett said it was off about 8.5 percent. Per-capita wagering declined about 5 percent.

“We’re in very trying times these days in the country,” Crockett said in reference to the economy. “These are discretionary dollars, as opposed to needs. Rent, gas, heat – those things come first. So to be down 7 to 9 percent, that mimics what’s going on in society.”

A declining horse population led to fewer races and smaller fields. A total of 772 races were run, the fewest in track history and a 5.3 percent decrease from the previous season. Average field size was 7.03 per race, down from 7.43 in 2009.

“The horsemen did a tremendous job of filling races,” Crockett said. “We were off about a half a horse per race, but they stayed around until the end and did whatever they could.”

On the track, the season was dominated by Noosa Beach, a 4-year-old who captured the Grade 3 Longacres Mile and set a single-season record with five stakes victories. He was named horse of the meeting, top older horse, top sprinter, and top Washington-bred.

Ricky Frazier (114 wins) captured his fifth riding title in seven years, and Tim McCanna (63 wins) topped the trainer standings for the 10th time in Emerald’s 15-year history.

Howard Belvoir received the Martin Durkan Award for leadership, cooperation, and sportsmanship by a trainer, and Gallyn Mitchell won the Lindy Award for accomplishments and sportsmanship in a vote of his fellow jockeys.

Crockett said 2011 racing dates would be determined in the next few months. Track officials are still looking into adding Quarter Horse racing next year after testing the concept Saturday with the first Quarter Horse race in track history. Handle on the race was $82,000.

As for the long view, Crockett said he remains strongly committed to maintaining Thoroughbred racing at Emerald Downs, a track that has turned a profit just once in 15 years.

“No, it has not been profitable; the cash flow has not been perfect,” Crockett said. “But I’m willing to keep going. That’s the best I can say. I made a commitment to keep it going in 1992 and I will live by that commitment as long as I’m breathing.”