Grants Pass Downs, Oregon’s premier horse racing track, concluded its first commercial meet on November 4, following a successful seven-week run of Sunday and Monday racing. The meet, which began September 22, carded 123 races over 14 dates and drew about 25,000 racing fans to Grants Pass Downs. Hundreds of horsemen from around Oregon and across the West participated, with competitors coming from as far away as South Dakota.
Prior to the start of its first commercial meet, Grants Pass Downs completed a series of significant projects aimed at raising the standard of racing and ensuring the welfare of riders and horses – including the installation of a new state-of-the-art safety rail and an upgraded track to improve racing conditions. Combined with the voluntary decision to institute pre-race veterinary observation protocols, the meet enjoyed unprecedented safety. Of the nearly 900 horses that ran, no serious injuries occurred.
“The transition of racing from Portland to Grants Pass could have created a lot of uncertainty for the industry in Oregon, but we saw nothing but excitement and support for our first commercial meet – from Grants Pass and the racing community alike,” said Rod Lowe, Director of Racing at Grants Pass Downs. “Our main priority was to run a safe meet and ensure the welfare of our athletes, both human and equine. On that metric and beyond, it was an outstanding success.”
Winners received $907,100 in purse money on the season at an average of $64,800 per race day and $7,400 per race. The meet’s leading jockeys were Kassie Guglielmino (29 wins in 94 starts; $167,202 in purses) and Jake Samuels (26 wins in 97 starts, $165,219 in purses). Jorge Rosales was the meet’s leading trainer with 15 wins and five second place finishes in just 33 starts. Owner Marjorie Avery led the fall meet with eight wins in 16 starts.
“The enthusiastic and positive reception from the horsemen throughout our fall meet was incredible,” said Kendra Lellis, Vice President of Grants Pass Downs. “The level of excitement for this new era of racing in Grants Pass continues to build, and we look forward to sustaining the industry for the state and providing quality entertainment with a strong local economic impact.”
Following the closure of Portland Meadows in June 2019, Grants Pass Downs is the only track in state approved by the Oregon Racing Commission to host commercial horse racing events.
In advance of its next meet, Grants Pass Downs plans to widen its track to accommodate a larger starting gate, allowing it to grow field sizes from 8 to 10 horses. It will also undertake several other improvement projects, including the installation of lighting to support twilight racing in the future.
Grants Pass Downs will feature 35 racing days across three meets in 2020. Spring racing will kick off on May 10 and conclude June 8, with races held on Sundays and Mondays. A short summer meet featuring Saturday and Sunday races will follow from June 20 to July 12. Finally, the fall 2020 meet is slated for Sept. 20 through Nov. 9, with racing on Sundays and Mondays.