04/12/2005 11:00PM

Demon Warlock out one year

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AUBURN, Wash. - Demon Warlock, Emerald's horse of the meeting in 2004, will likely be sidelined for a year after being injured in his victory in last Sunday's Portland Meadows Mile.

Trainer Terry Gillihan said ultrasound tests revealed that Demon Warlock, a 5-year-old son of Demons Begone, pulled the suspensory ligament in his right front.

"It's a bummer," said the trainer. "It's a serious injury, but he can come back from it if we give him enough time. I think Captain Condo proved that."

The legendary Captain Condo, who is buried in the Emerald Downs infield, pulled

a suspensory ligament as a 6-year-old while contesting the 1988 Independence Day Handicap at Longacres. After taking 13 months off, he returned to race four more years and enjoyed his greatest success as a 9-year-old in 1991, when he was named horse of the meeting at Longacres. He retired after his 10-year-old season in 1992.

Demon Warlock ran second to Adreamisborn in last year's Longacres Mile, and he won the Mt. Rainier Breeders' Cup Handicap and the Muckleshoot Tribal Classic with memorable displays of tenacity, refusing to yield to Poker Brad in the Mt. Rainier and to Dark Intent in the Muckleshoot.

Last Sunday's Portland Meadows Mile was the same story. Under Gary Baze, who notched the 3,353rd win of his career, Demon Warlock pressed the pace of Knightsbridge Road and Grafton Square through six furlongs in 1:12.03, forged to the front in the upper stretch, and turned back a determined late run from My Friend Dave to prevail by a nose in 1:37.92.

"He waits on horses, but then he really digs in when they come to him," said Baze. "I'll tell you, though, I thought we lost it on the nod. I don't know how he pulled it out. I think he won on class and guts."

Baze last won the Portland Meadows Mile in 1979, when he booted Sporting Event to victory over Five Star General and Voolately.

"I always remember that race because Russell was second and Mike was third," said Gary Baze. Russell Baze is Gary's cousin, and Mike Baze, the father of current Southern California rider Michael Baze, is his brother. "It was an all-Baze trifecta."

Jockey coverage now $500,000

Emerald Downs has increased medical coverage for jockeys from $100,000 to $500,000.

The decision to increase coverage was reached Monday at a joint meeting of track executives, local riders, and the Washington Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association.

"In light of discussions occurring around the nation on this topic, Emerald Downs realized that the historic insurance coverage was low," said the Emerald Downs vice president, Jack Hodge. "We're delighted to be able to work out a plan with the WHBPA to be able to fund the increase in coverage for our local jockeys."

The agreement awaits ratification by a vote of the WHBPA board later this week.

Weekends, holidays get later start

Emerald Downs fans will notice a number of changes at the 2005 meeting, including a 2 p.m. first post for weekends and holidays. The traditional first post was 1 p.m.

"We have always noticed that our handle builds throughout the program, and we thought maybe we could handle more on our early races if we started later," explained director of marketing Susie Sourwine. "It's an experiment, but we thought it was an experiment that was worth trying."

Also new will be the advent of Monday night racing in the fall. Mondays will replace Thursdays on the racing schedule beginning in September in an attempt to maximize the sale of the track's signal to simulcast locations. There will be six Monday night cards from Sept. 5 through Oct. 10 before the 101-day meeting ends Oct. 16.

Another change is the increased clustering of important races on the same program. New this year will be Longacres Mile Preview Day on July 31, which will feature both the 6 1/2-furlong Governor's Handicap and the 1 1/8-mile Mt. Rainier Breeders' Cup for horses prepping for the Aug. 21 Longacres Mile. The program for the Washington Breeders' Cup Oaks on Aug. 20 will also be enhanced by moving two juvenile stakes, the Knights Choice and the Strong Ruler, to the same card. It is hoped that Mile Preview Day and Washington Oaks Day will join the traditional Longacres Mile Day and Washington Cup Day on Oct. 2 as highlights of the meeting.

"The idea is to create a couple more big event days," said director of racing Paul Ryneveldt. "We noticed that no horses have run in both the Governor's and the Mt. Rainier for the past few years, so there really wasn't any reason not to put them on the same card. As for the Oaks Day card, the extended racing season this year allowed us to move all of the 2-year-old stakes back, and it became possible to run those 2-year-old stakes on the same day as the Oaks. Now we'll have five stakes on the Oaks-Mile weekend, and it should make for a very attractive package."

Track to introduce Fletcher Center

The chief addition to the physical plant is the Fletcher Center for backside workers in the barn area. Named for John and Kitty Fletcher, whose estate provided the bulk of the funding for its construction, the complex includes a building for exercise and games; another building that will serve as a chapel, a lounge, a classroom for English as a second language, and a counseling center; plus courts for basketball, pickleball, and volleyball.

With abundant free housing and a full-time day-care center, Emerald Downs was already a leader in its treatment of backside workers. The Fletcher Center, which will be administered by chaplain Mike Smith, further enhances the track's reputation in that regard.

The Fletcher Center will stage its grand opening dedication and lunch at noon on Saturday, April 23.