08/17/2011 2:04PM

Emerald Downs: Artistic figure struck down at Portland Meadows

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AUBURN, Wash. – A memorial service will be held Tuesday in Vancouver, Wash., for Charlyn Taketa, a popular figure in Northwest racing and the equine-art field who died last Thursday in an accident at Portland Meadows.

Taketa had a small string of horses in Portland, where she worked alongside her husband, Jerry, a former jockey and longtime jockey agent. According to The Oregonian newspaper, Charlyn Taketa was kicked in the head by a loose horse while attempting to put one of her own horses on a hotwalker. Paramedics responded quickly, Portland Meadows officials said, but Taketa suffered severe head trauma and died at the scene. She was 62.

Taketa may have been best known for her work in the art community. She and her husband had owned a gallery and frame shop in Vancouver, just across the Columbia River from Portland, and Charlyn Taketa was active in art exhibits and sales at Emerald Downs near Seattle. Renowned equine artist Fred Stone met Taketa in the 1980’s, and the two remained friends for the better part of three decades.

“It’s a shock,” Stone said Monday from his home in Agoura Hills, Calif. “They’re wonderful people, Lynn and Jerry, and we had become quite close. Lynn started out with her gallery when collectibles were really hot in the ’80’s and early ’90’s and sold a lot of my plates, prints, and posters – a lot of them. She worked with the people at Emerald Downs, and we had exhibits that were very successful. She was funny and fun, she always had a bright outlook, and that’s why we worked together so well. She will be missed.”

Thelma Lynn, a former trainer and now a steward at Emerald Downs, said Taketa had returned to training horses in recent years, rekindling a love affair with the animals Stone and others realized so majestically on canvas. She and Charlyn Taketa were close friends.

“She started as a groom at Longacres, and then she ended up training at Playfair,” Lynn said. “That’s where she and Jerry met, and they’ve been married 22 years. She went to college, got an art degree, and she and Jerry opened their store. If you had something to be framed, you went to Lynn.

“She hadn’t been in racing as a trainer since Playfair, but she decided about three years ago that she wanted to get back into it because that was one of her real loves. She was an assistant to Robbie Baze, but she decided working for a big stable was more than she wanted, so she bought a couple of horses from Jim Penney and Kay Cooper, and she’s been training those down at Portland Meadows. She had planned to come up here and start one of them later this summer.”

A dazed Jerry Taketa spoke with media members shortly after the incident, saying, “I’m glad she went quickly and died doing what she loved,” before being led away by another trainer.

“The hardest part is, it’s just such a sudden thing,” Thelma Lynn said. “You always worry about someone getting kicked by a horse and getting hurt. It’s a freak thing, and that’s part of what set everyone back, just the way it happened.”

A memorial is scheduled for Tuesday at 12:30 p.m. at Evergreen Memorial Gardens Cemetery, 1101 NE 112th Ave. in Vancouver.

Hoonan-Trujillo out indefinitely

Jockey Deborah Hoonan-Trujillo, well on her way to a career-best season at Emerald Downs, will miss at least three weeks, and perhaps the remainder of the meeting, because of injuries suffered in a spill during the eighth race last Thursday.

Keith Drebin, Hoonan-Trujillo’s agent, said she suffered a skull fracture and other injuries when her mount, Miss Jo Lynn, broke down inside the final furlong. Hoonan-Trujillo , 44, lay motionless on the track for several minutes before being strapped to a stretcher and taken to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. She was released the following day.

Hoonan-Trujillo is fourth in the jockey standings with 59 wins and was on pace to top her Emerald career-high of 68 victories set in 2005. She was scheduled to ride double stakes winner You Me and Ema B in the $65,000 Emerald Distaff on Sunday. That mount will be taken by Jose Zunino.

“I know she hurts a lot,” Drebin said. “You’ve got to play it by ear, and we’ll have to see how she feels. She’s as tough as anybody, but if it’s 3-4 weeks, I’m not sure she’s going to rush back just to ride the final two weeks of the meeting.”

Two-decade hiatus ends

Some jockeys take a little break, and then there’s Troy Grissom, who returned last Sunday after a 22-year sabbatical. The 55-year-old native of Whittier, Calif., rode two horses, neither of whom hit the board, in his first action since 1989 at Playfair, a track in Spokane, Wash., that went dark 11 years ago.

Grissom enjoyed some good years at Longacres in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, winning stakes races aboard the filly Diamond Villa for trainer Don Munger. Grissom was vague about his reasons for leaving, except to say he wanted to be closer to his parents in Southern California. He worked as a butcher in grocery stores in California for many years before moving to Idaho about three years ago. He went to Arizona this past winter with the idea of buying a catering truck and dishing up “street eats” in the Phoenix area. When those plans fell through, he started galloping horses at Turf Paradise.

Grissom said he has been well received at Emerald Downs. He rode at 115 pounds Sunday.

“It’s been pretty good,” he said. “There are a lot of people I haven’t seen in a long time, and it looks like we might be able to drum up some business.”