09/11/2009 12:00AM

Statebreds in tribute to Dodge


AUBURN, Wash. - If Dennis Dodge were handicapping the Dennis Dodge Stakes, the late Daily Racing Form correspondent would evaluate speed figures, trips, trainer patterns and such, and zero in on the probable winner. Dodge, who died of a heart attack a little more than a year ago, was remarkably accurate during his 33 years covering the races in Seattle and Portland, and on Sunday at Emerald Downs, they will run a stakes race in his honor.

The $50,000 Dennis Dodge Stakes, a 6 1/2-furlong race for statebred 2-year-old colts and geldings, is one of seven stakes on Washington Cup Day VII, the final major flourish of Emerald's summer season. The race itself is wide open, perhaps the toughest handicapping challenge on the card. The kind Dodge would have relished.

"The horses were his passion, and picking the races, he was very good at it," said trainer Chris Stenslie, who will start recent maiden winner Fast Trade in the Dennis Dodge. "He had a talent for picking good horses. On a personal level, you hear people say he was a great individual."

The president of Emerald Downs, Ron Crockett, broached the idea of a namesake race at a memorial service for Dodge, who was 62. The logistics came together quickly, and on Sunday, a contingent friends and family, including his wife, Melissa, and mother, Wanda, will be on hand for the races. Granddaughter Marlo, who turned seven months on the one-year anniversary of Dodge's death, will be in tow.

"He was a big supporter of Emerald and of horse racing in the Northwest," Melissa Dodge said. "He felt it was an important, viable industry for the region, and he always wanted to make sure we had racing here, not just for the track, but for the owners, breeders, trainers and jockeys."

Dodge started working at the Racing Form's Seattle office in 1976. He became the paper's Longacres columnist and handicapper in 1985, the same year Captain Condo began a Washington Hall of Fame career. Eventually, they named a stakes race for Captain Condo, and now the Captain Condo Stakes is the Dennis Dodge Stakes. Crockett said the name change would be permanent.

"Dennis really was Northwest racing, so to speak, for so many years," Crockett said. "He was a very bright guy, someone who could have done most anything he wanted in life. He loved handicapping, and no matter what level the race, he'd treat it like it was the Kentucky Derby. I think he would have appreciated having his own race, especially one for Washington-breds."