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Busy first day as training begins at Emerald Downs
For the Reporter
Activity was brisk Saturday as training began for the 2014 Thoroughbred racing season at Emerald Downs.
Stable superintendent Vern Baze reported over 200 horses already on the grounds, a total that will rise steadily in advance of the 75-day meet that begins Saturday, April 12.
River of Aces, a 5-year-old trained by Charles Essex, was the first horse to step on the track in 2014. The Washington-bred mare has won five races the past two seasons for owners Dean and Judy Ann Essex.
Winning Machine, 2012 Longacres Mile runner-up, and Stopshoppingdebbie, undefeated in five career starts, also made appearances for trainers Frank Lucarelli and Tom Wenzel respectively. An 8-year-old gelding, Winning Machine has won five stakes and $487,713 in a 39-race career, and 4-year-old filly Stopshoppingdebbie swept her division last year and was unanimously voted the track's top 3-year-old filly.
Other trainers with horses on the track were Chris Stenslie, Robbie Baze, Howard Belvoir, Bonnie Jenne, Blaine Wright and Terry Gillihan. Trainer Don Munger, meanwhile, arrived with three horses from his Enumclaw farm, and the popular 90-year-old conditioner planned to wheel in two more shipments later Saturday.
Training hours are 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. daily, and fans can eat breakfast and watch training from the Quarter Chute Café.
The 2014 season features 2 p.m. weekend racing in April, with Fridays added to the schedule in May. The stakes schedule including the 79th running of the Longacres Mile (Grade 3) will be released next week.
Dennis Snowden has been hired as Lucarelli's assistant trainer, replacing the late Juan Huerta*Jockeys on hand Saturday included Jennifer Whitaker, who handled her typical full workload of sets for Belvoir, along with Eliska Kubinova and Jorge Rosales. ... Former jockeys' agent Ray Kravagna, who worked several years with Hall of Fame rider Gary Stevens, was among a big contingent enjoying coffee and breakfast in the Quarter Chute Café. ... Lucarelli enjoyed a big day at Golden Gate Fields. Candy for Debbie, a 6-year-old gelding owned by Ron Maus and trained by Lucarelli, won the third race, and immediately afterwards Lucarelli's name was drawn in a TV Giveaway.