04/14/2009 12:00AM

Klokstad will skip Emerald meet


AUBURN, Wash. - Preparations for opening night at Emerald Downs continued this week, though one of the track's biggest personalities and most successful trainers will be missing when the 91-day season begins Friday.

Bud Klokstad, a fixture at Pacific Northwest tracks for more than 50 years, declined his Emerald Downs stall allocation and will spend the summer in Northern California, where he has 20 horses in training at Golden Gate Fields and was winning at a 26 percent clip through Sunday.

Otherwise, the Emerald Downs trainer colony will have a familiar look this summer. Tim McCanna, who has captured eight training titles in Emerald's 12 seasons and saddled a record 66 winners last summer, is back to defend his crown. Runner-up Frank Lucarelli has a strong stable topped by Emerald Downs 2-year-old champion Gallant Son, though Lucarelli said Gallant Son has been turned out following surgery to remove chips from both knees, injuries suffered in the Santa Anita Derby. Lucarelli said he hopes to have Gallant Son back in training in four months and ready to race this fall.

Howard Belvoir, who finished third in the trainer standings last summer, still has stable star Wasserman, whose victory in the Grade 3, $300,000 Longacres Mile was the signature event of the 2008 season.

After a winter freshening, Wasserman is scheduled to run in Friday's feature race, an allowance dash at 5 1/2 furlongs.

Klokstad asked for 24 stalls at Emerald Downs before having a change of heart. He said a number of factors, including his declining health and affinity for racing in Northern California, played into his decision. He and his wife, Billie, recently bought a home in Richmond, Calif., a short drive from Golden Gate.

"That's one reason I didn't come home," he said. "I've got a nice place here and I'm content. And we're doing pretty damn good."

Klokstad built a stellar reputation for horsemanship during a career that began in 1955 when he got his first trainer's license at Longacres. Renowned for his work with 2-year-olds, he has won the Gottstein Futurity, the Northwest's richest race for juveniles, a record seven times. He won 54 stakes races at Longacres and has a record 42 stakes victories at Emerald Downs. But the irascible Klokstad, 76, began to scale back his Emerald Downs operation in 2008, when he saddled a career-low 78 starters.

"I hate to miss it," he said of the Emerald meet. "I've been there since 1955, and it was hard for me to leave."