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  • GP Downs concludes season this weekend

  • In just about any other year, the Grants Pass Downs season would have concluded at the close of the Fourth of July weekend.
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  • In just about any other year, the Grants Pass Downs season would have concluded at the close of the Fourth of July weekend.
    But horse racing fans get two more chances at local pari-mutuel wagering as the nine-day season ends this weekend. Post time is 12:30 p.m. today and Sunday at the Josephine County Fairgrounds.
    "It all has to do with the state racing commission wanting to avoid having Union, Grants Pass and Prineville overlapping," said Tag Wotherspoon, GP Downs director of communications and marketing. "Union started a week earlier, that moved our calendar back a weekend. And Prineville moved their schedule back a weekend to accommodate Union and ourselves."
    Union and Prineville are four-day horse racing meets that flank the nine-day Grants Pass season. Those three along with Tillamook and Burns make up what is referred to as the "Oregon summer fair circuit."
    "This is uncharted territory for us having racing the weekend after the Fourth of July," said Wotherspoon, "So we don't know what to expect."
    The trend is encouraging with last weekend's attendance (7,730) and handle ($153,915) exceeding those of a year before.
    "Last weekend's numbers gives us some positive momentum," said Wotherspoon. "We had large crowds that had fun and we hope they come back again."
    This weekend's major races include the $6,000 Grants Pass Quarter Horse Derby and the Red Truitt Memorial Handicap on today's 10-race card. Sunday's feature is the only route race of the meet, the one-and-one/sixteenth-mile HBPA Au Revoir Stakes. Sunday's nine-race card has free admission on fan appreciation day.
    "There's been a real buzz from our fans," said Wotherspoon. "There's a lot of interest for another weekend of racing. Sunday is one of the better cards we've had on the final day in quite a while."
    Jockey Luis Torres is closing in on his second consecutive riding title. The Mexican native, who now resides in Vancouver, Wash., has 20 wins and has mounts in every race but one each day. First-time GP Downs jockey Hugo Herrera is in second with 12 wins and former leading rider Joe Crispin is third (11).
    Trainer Bob Beckner is on the verge of three straight leading trainer crowns and his fourth in six years. The 71-year-old Beckner, who has started more horses (47) than any other trainer, has a four-win margin over four others. Beckner has seven horses entered today and three on Sunday.
    The Grants Pass Quarter Horse Derby, today's fifth race, has eight horses breaking in the 400-yard sprint.
    The Scott Raley-trained Sissis Little Nipper is the 5-2 favorite. The 3-year-old colt has three seconds in three starts this year. Raley also has Fast Intention, with rider Joe Crispin, in the field.
    Shezahawk is the second choice at 7-2. The Patti Harris-trained filly last ran on Sept. 27, 2009. And the 2009 Firecracker Futurity winner, Roberts Running Boot, is the third choice at 3-1.
    Welfare Caddilac, winner of two here this season, is the favorite in the five-horse $3,500-added Red Truitt Memorial for thoroughbreds covering 61/2 furlongs.
    Today, all fans will be given a coupon for $10 off an oil change at Oil Can Henry's. Also anyone who stops by the Grants Pass location can pick up a free pass to today's races.
    Reach reporter Frank Silow at 541-776-4480, or e-mail fsilow@mailtribune.com
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