04/07/2016 11:39AM

New track superintendent for new meet


AUBURN, Wash. - New to Emerald Downs this year is track superintendent Steve Breckling, an Arkansas native who spent nine years as the track super at Oaklawn Park. Breckling, 56, replaces Wayne Damron, who is stepping into a less-demanding role to spend more time with his family.

Job 1 for Breckling is getting familiar with a surface that tends to run from fast to lightning-fast. Emerald Downs is home to two North American speed records: 1:00.87 for 5 1/2 furlongs, set by Hollywood Harbor in 2012, and 1:12.94 for 6 1/2 furlongs, set by I Keep Saying in 2014.

The Emerald surface is about 75 percent sand, Breckling said, with smaller portions of silt and clay. It tends to speed up dramatically a few days after getting soaked by rain.

“This place has been known as Concrete Downs,” Breckling said of fast times at Emerald Downs. “At Oaklawn Park, I worked with engineers for years and did a lot of my own testing, and I want to do that here. The rainfall here is about the same as in Arkansas, so I’m used to that. I don’t want to say I’m slowing [the surface] down, but I want it to be kinder and gentler to the horses.”

Breckling said he’ll work closely with Emerald’s trainers, even the chronic complainers.

“There are lots of alligators in Arkansas, so you develop that thick alligator skin,” Breckling said. “But I appreciate the horsemen’s input. I try to listen to all of their concerns.”