Even a steady rainfall couldn’t dampen the spirits Friday as Emerald Downs opened its 18th season of live racing with an eight-race card under the lights.
It was the first of 75 live racing days in 2013, and included the giveaway of 30 brand new iPad minis to lucky fans among the hearty opening night throng.
In the feature race for older fillies and mares, Stephanie Plum overtook odds-on favorite Way to Go Lo into the lane and held off long shot Jadey Baby for a 1-½-length victory in 1:03.38 for 5-½ furlongs on a sloppy track.
A 5-year-old Washington-bred by Memo, Stephanie Plum has turned into an opening night ace, as her previous win came in her career debut on last year’s opening night. And just like last year, Leonel Camacho-Flores was aboard Stephanie Plum for owners Swede Larson, Ed Zenker and owner/trainer H.R. Pat Mullens.
Stephanie Plum paid $11.20 as third choice in the wagering.
In the jockeys’ ranks, Juan Gutierrez was the only rider with two wins Friday. Coming off his first Emerald Downs riding title in 2012, the 43-year-old jockey needs just three wins to join Gallyn Mitchell in the track’s 1,000 win club. Gutierrez is scheduled to ride eight of Saturday’s 10 races.
Trainer Jeff Metz, meanwhile, also got off to a hot start, saddling two winners in his first day here. One of the top trainers at Turf Paradise, Metz has a large string of runners this year at Emerald Downs, and wasted no time locating the Winner’s Circle. Legendary Heart ($7.60) in the third race and Just Meteor in the sixth both were victorious for the Metz barn.
“The horses ran well, and even the ones that didn’t win ran third and fourth and were coming on,” Metz said. “My impressions (of Emerald Downs) were good. Even with the wet weather, the fans came out and there was a buzz in the air.”
NOTES: First-time starter Southern Solution ($13.20) and jockey Javier Matias captured the 2013 opener in :57.91 for five furlongs. Mike Puhich is the trainer for Kentucky Derby-winning owner Mike Pegram and Dr. Mark Dedomenico of Redmond*Eliska Kubinova scored her first EmD win as a journeyman rider with a gate-to-wire victory on Birdie Girl ($6.40) in race five for owner Rick Beal and trainer Larry Ross*Our Blend ($43) and jockey Rocco Bowen posted the evening’s biggest surprise with a 1-¾-length victory over 3-to-2 favorite Murray the Cop in the fourth race*2012 EmD Horse of the Meeting Class Included finished second in a $66,000 allowance race on the turf Friday at Keeneland. It was the 5-year-old mare’s second start since being sold privately by Mike and Amy Feuerborn*
Live racing continues Saturday at 2 p.m*Simulcast action includes Game On Dude in the $1.5 million Charles Town Classic (G2) at 7:30 p.m. (PDT) and the $750,000 Illinois Derby (G3) from Hawthorne.