Plateau trainers and more than 200 horses were on the grounds Monday as thoroughbreds began training for the 2016 live racing season at Emerald Downs.
Enumclaw trainer Don Munger, 92 years old, was on hand for his 21st straight stable opener, hauling in a string of runners from his Enumclaw farm.
Frank Lucarelli, five time training title winner, joined Chris Stenslie, both are trainers from Enumclaw.
Other trainers present were Robbie Baze, Terry Gillihan, Roy Lumm, Vince Gibson, Jose Navarro, Tom Wenzel, Cliff Balcom, H.R. Mullens, Candi Tollett and Robert Sodergren.
With sunshine poking through the clouds, Pippa Bou Peep reprised her role as first horse on the track in 2016. With trainer Charles Essex aboard, Pippa Bou Peep stepped onto the racetrack at exactly 8:30 a.m., the second straight year the Harbor the Gold filly was the first horse on the track for the new season.
Stable superintendent Vern Baze reported 211 horses on the grounds – up 23 runners from last year – and expects the total to grow daily over the next nine weeks. Last year, the horse population sailed over the 1,000 mark for the first time in four years.
Noosito, champion 3-year-old of 2014 and twice runner-up to Stryker Phd in 2015, was on the track Monday for trainer Doris Harwood, and newly turned 3-year-old Barkley, winner of last year’s Emerald Express Stakes, made an appearance for trainer Howard Belvoir.
Trainer Don Munger, 92 years old, was on hand for his 21st straight stable opener, hauling in a string of runners from his Enumclaw farm. Other trainers present were Chris Stenslie, Robbie Baze, Terry Gillihan, Frank Lucarelli, Roy Lumm, Vince Gibson, Jose Navarro, Tom Wenzel, Cliff Balcom, H.R. Mullens, Candi Tollett and Robert Sodergren.
Several jockeys were out exercising horses, including Javier Matias, Jennifer Whitaker and Matt Hagerty, while Gallyn Mitchell, the track’s all-time leader with 1,419 wins, also was on hand, although the 53-year-old announced his retirement last year.
Training hours are 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. daily, and fans can eat breakfast and watch training in the Quarter Chute Café.
Emerald Downs’ 20th anniversary season begins Saturday, April 9 and runs through Sunday, September 11. The 70-day meeting features 28 stakes beginning with the $50,000 Seattle Handicap for 3-year-old fillies on Sunday, May 9, and includes the 81st renewal of the $200,000 Longacres Mile (G3) for 3-year-olds and up on Sunday, August 14.