11/18/2005 1:00AM

Walters ushered in new era of betting


AUBURN, Wash. - Steve Walters will be stepping down as chairman of the Oregon Racing Commission as of Jan. 1, and his absence is sure to be felt by the state's entire racing industry.

Walters, who is moving to San Francisco to head his law firm's litigation department, has served on the ORC since 1991 and has helped to guide the industry through some very turbulent times. He said he is most proud of two accomplishments during his tenure.

"The first was the development of sound simulcast policies in the early 1990's," he said. "At that time there were a lot of disagreements about how to conduct simulcasting and how to divide the revenues, and I think we were able to come up with equitable policies that have served the industry well.

"Secondly, I'm proud of the commission's role in facilitating the establishment of account-wagering hubs in the state. We made an early decision to embrace the new trends and technologies in racing rather than resist them, and I think that decision has paid significant dividends."

Oregon became the first state to pass legislation authorizing interstate account-wagering hubs in 1997, and in 2000, the Television Games Network was licensed to operate in the state. The state and the racing industry received just 0.25 percent of all wagers handled, and that amounted to little in the first year, but it has since grown to about $2 million a year. One-third of that amount goes to the state's general fund, and the commission allocates the other two-thirds to help racing.

"The bulk of that money has gone to the nonprofit fair meetings, and as a result they are probably in better shape than they have ever been," Walters said. "I think what we need to look at now is helping the commercial meeting at Portland Meadows. We allocated $360,000 to supplement purses at the current Portland Meadows meeting, and I hope the commission will look at increasing that allocation in the future."

Walters said there would be no viable racing or breeding industry in Oregon without Portland Meadows, and he acknowledged that the track is in a perilous position.

"Right now I think Portland Meadows is hanging on by its fingernails," he said. "The reason is that there is just so much competition for the gambling dollar in Oregon. We go back and forth with Connecticut and Nevada for the distinction of having the most legalized forms of gambling, and it makes for a very tough economic situation for racetracks."

Walters has no magic solution for Oregon racing's economic woes, but he is not ready to despair.

"I think the great strength of the industry is the dedication and the resiliency of the people in the industry," he said. "I do think an alternative source of income has to be found, but I personally believe that they won't be able to keep a casino out of Portland. When it comes, I hope racing will be able to share in the revenues in some way. Until then, I think racing at Portland Meadows will be a year-to-year thing. Its survival will depend upon how much support the commission and Magna Entertainment are willing to give it.

"It's a difficult situation, but hope springs eternal."

I'madrifter to leave California for Oakhurst

Dr. Jack Root, who operates Oakhurst Farm in Newberg, Ore., said that he has obtained I'madrifter to stand the 2006 breeding season.

I'madrifter, a 7-year-old son of Slewdledo and Exploded's Girl, retired in 2003 with earnings of $291,212 from seven wins in 25 starts. He won the Grade 3 Berkeley Handicap at Golden Gate in 2003, and earned triple-digit Beyer Figures on five occasions.

"He stood the last two seasons in California, but he didn't get enough mares down there," Root said. "I think he'll be a much better fit in the Northwest, because people here have so much respect for Slewdledo."

Slewdledo is en route to becoming Washington's leading sire for the fourth consecutive year, but he will soon be 25. I'madrifter is his richest son at stud.

I'madrifter brings the Oakhurst stallion roster back up to 10. He replaces True Confidence, who was sold to Brazilian interests last summer. Though the long-winded True Confidence, a son of Mr. Prospector, never took hold in the Northwest, Root said he has been booked to 111 mares in Brazil.

Woodstead to stand You and I

Not to be outdone, Jerry Woods has announced that he will stand You and I at his Woodstead Farm in Chehalis, Wash., for the 2006 breeding season.

You and I, a Grade 1 winner of $701,235, began his stud career in Kentucky in 1997 and has stood in California in recent years. A 14-year-old son of Kris S., You and I is the sire of two of the best 2-year-olds to race at Emerald Downs in 2005. His sons Tusko T. and Schoolin You both won stakes at the Emerald meet.

Winter sale's catalog released

Catalogs are now available for the Washington Thoroughbred Breeders Association's winter mixed sale, which will be held Dec. 4 at 11 a.m. in the M.J. Alhadeff Sales Pavilion at Emerald Downs.

The catalog includes 251 hips, including 147 yearlings by sires such as Chester House, Helmsman, He's Tops, Menifee, Phone Trick, Skimming, Slewdledo, Songandaprayer, Swiss Yodeler, and Tribunal.