02/09/2013 11:58AM

Emerald Downs will cut back to three days a week this season, shortens meet by six days

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AUBURN, Wash. – Emerald Downs announced dates for its 2013 meeting on Friday. Among the changes: The elimination of Thursday cards, a later post time for Friday twilight racing, and an overall reduction of six racing dates from a year ago. At 75 days, it will be the shortest meeting at Emerald Downs since the suburban Seattle track opened in 1996.

The schedule begins April 19 and will follow a Friday-Saturday-Sunday format through Sept. 29. Post times are 6:45 p.m. Pacific on Fridays – 45 minutes later than a year ago – and 2 p.m. on weekends and holidays. Emerald’s signature race, the Grade 3 Longacres Mile, will be run Aug. 18. The rest of the stakes schedule has yet to be announced.

In 2012, Emerald offered Thursday cards in July and August, but filling four programs a week became a significant challenge for horsemen, particularly after Portland Meadows – about 150 miles to the south – launched a new summer meeting in mid-July. Overall in 2012, the average field size at Emerald Downs was 6.36 starters per race – 6.53 before Portland Meadows opened, and 6.17 over the final 11 weeks after the tracks began competing for horses.

The new schedule at Portland Meadows could provide a short-term boost in horse population for Emerald Downs. The Portland meeting ended in December, and for the first time in decades, the Pacific Northwest racing circuit will be “dark” until Emerald reopens in April. After sitting idle for four months, it is hoped that horsemen will flock to Emerald Downs for the early stages of the meeting.

Bret Anderson, Emerald’s director of racing, said he hopes to have between 900 and 1,000 horses on the grounds by opening night.