Background (left) and Windribbon lead the charge down the stretch in the 2021 Longacres Mile at Emerald Downs. (Photos courtesy of Emerald Downs)

Normalcy to return at Emerald Downs this season

The racing season opens Sunday and will return to a pre-pandemic schedule.

Herald news services

AUBURN — Emerald Downs opens its 2022 racing season on Sunday with a lot of familiar faces and a much more familiar rhythm than the past couple years.

The Northwest’s top horse racing venue is back on its pre-pandemic schedule after two years of scrambled calendars, limited attendance and COVID protocols. Opening day features a nine-race card, led by a tough nine-horse field of older horses contesting an allowance race over 5½ furlongs. First post time is 2:15 p.m.

The jockeys’ race this season figures to be highly competitive, with last year’s riding champion, Alex Cruz, heading a solid group that features five of the track’s top 10 all-time leading riders. In the trainers’ race, Joe Toye and Frank Lucarelli both return after finishing just three wins apart last year as Toye took his first title.

The 87th running of the track’s signature race, the Longacres Mile, will take place on Sunday, Aug. 14, with its purse raised to $150,000. Contenders should include Windribbon, who finished second in a photo finish in last year’s Mile; Papa’s Golden Boy, the track’s dominant sprinter the past two seasons; and Top Executive, who was named last year’s Horse of the Meeting after sweeping the top stakes races for 3-year-olds.

The Mile is one of 23 stakes races scheduled during the 52-day meet, worth a total of more than $1.2 million. Some of the track’s biggest annual draws include the annual July 3 fireworks display, Indian Relay Racing on June 17-19 and corgi races on July 24.

Fans will notice a change in the announcer’s booth, where Bill Downes takes over the microphone. Downes has spent the past nine years calling races at Indiana Grand near Indianapolis. Downes is the fourth track announcer in track history, taking over from Tom Harris, who handled race calling the past four seasons.

Another change is that the track has lowered its takeout on win, place and show wagers to 14.7 percent, the lowest of any racetrack in the United States. Lower takeout is welcome news to bettors; takeout is the amount the track removes from the wagering pools to pay its expenses before returning the rest to those with winning tickets.

Racing is only on Sunday this weekend, followed by racing on both weekend days on May 21-22 and May 28-29, and then a Friday-Sunday schedule through Sept. 18.

Fans can learn more and purchase tickets at, and the popular Parker’s tip sheet is available at

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