04/16/2013 1:12PM

Emerald Downs opener features iPad giveaway

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AUBURN, Wash. – After an unusually quiet winter for horse racing in the Pacific Northwest, Emerald Downs will begin its 2013 season Friday with a twilight card beginning at 6:45 p.m. Pacific.

A $25,000 claiming sprint for older horses will serve as the feature race, and Emerald Downs’s fan-friendly marketing team will send 30 opening-night patrons home with a free iPad.

The new meeting will be much like the 2012 version, spanning more than five months and culminating with the Gottstein Futurity on Sept. 29. But there have been a few tweaks: The live-racing schedule has been pared to 75 days, down from 81; the stakes program has seen some minor revisions; and weekday cards will begin at 6:45, a half-hour later than a year ago.

There will be racing three days a week – Friday, Saturday, and Sunday – but Thursday programs have fallen by the wayside, owing in part to a shrinking horse supply. But there is positive news on that front at Emerald Downs: Bret Anderson, the track’s director of racing, said last week that some 860 horses had taken up residence in the barn area, a 5-percent increase from the corresponding date in 2012.

Some of the increase is linked to ongoing changes at Portland Meadows, Emerald Downs’s nearest U.S. competitor, 150 miles to the south. After staging a winter meet for decades, Portland Meadows has been dark since December as it transitions to a summer/fall meeting that begins in mid-July. Some of the horses who would otherwise be running in Portland are now being prepared for starts at Emerald.

The stakes schedule includes 29 added-money races worth a combined $1,545,000 in purses. The traditional high point of the summer, the Grade 3, $200,000 Longacres Mile, is slated for Aug. 18, and Washington Cup Day, a six-race showcase for statebreds, is Sept. 8.

The stakes program for 2-year-olds was revised and a pair of early-season races eliminated. The $75,000 Gottstein Futurity has been lengthened to 1 1/16 miles and is half of a closing-day stakes doubleheader that includes the new, $50,000 Cahill Road Stakes for 2-year-olds at six furlongs.

The wagering menu is largely unchanged. Emerald Downs offers two daily pick 4’s – one on the day’s first four races, another covering the final four – plus a pick 5, rolling doubles and pick 3’s, and exacta, trifecta and superfecta wagering on each race with a sufficient number of starters. The takeout is 16.1 percent for win, place, and show wagering, and 22.1 percent for exotic wagers.