08/23/2011 2:23PM

Emerald Downs: Longacres Mile business sky-high

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AUBURN, Wash. – Business was up – way up – last Sunday at Emerald Downs. Betting handle on the 10-race card, with the Grade 3 Longacres Mile as its centerpiece, was $3,250,016, the most ever at Emerald Downs and the second-highest one-day handle in Washington state history.

Ron Crockett, Emerald Downs’ president, cited several contributing factors, not least of which was a compelling Longacres Mile matchup between Noosa Beach, who came in having won seven consecutive stakes races, and Awesome Gem, the globetrotting 8-year-old gelding and Grade 1 winner of more than $2.5 million. Awesome Gem got the big prize in the $200,000 race, beating Noosa Beach by 1 1/2 lengths.

“We had a banner day, the biggest we’ve ever had in the history of our place,” Crockett said. “Mile Day was tremendous on every front. I think we handled the people – we handled them with style, they got served well. Everyone I talked to said it was a great day.”

“I think it was promoted well. The race was very interesting – the super local horse versus some well-respected horses from out of town, which helped significantly. The Daily Racing Form promotions that we did, with the pick four and our races in general, were very good. I think TVG coming to town and promoting us the way they did was significant. And I think, in general, with our attendance being up this year, it showed there is definite interest in the greater Seattle area in horse racing.”

The handle Sunday eclipsed Emerald’s previous best of $3,191,831 set on Mile Day in 2007. The state record is $3,339,087, established on the final day at Longacres in 1992. Emerald Downs opened in 1996.

A total of $787,294 was wagered Sunday on the Longacres Mile – about $31,000 short of the track’s single-race record – and another $122,606 was poured into multi-race exotics ending with the Mile.

Though 65 days of an 82-day meeting that concludes Sept. 25, betting handle at Emerald is up about 1 percent from 2010, Crockett said, with on-track attendance up a robust 12 percent. Crockett said he expects those numbers to hold steady as the meet winds down.

“I think that will hold true for the remainder of the year,” he said. “I think whatever we are averaging today, we’ll be very close to that 17 days from now.”

Racing resumes Thursday, the final midweek card of the meeting, before the schedule reverts to three days a week in September.