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Grants Pass Downs set to open May 10

GRANTS PASS — Grants Pass Downs will open 2021 spring season in less than two weeks, and the 17-date race meet will run through July 4.

The track, which is coming off a fall meet that broke records for total wagering and field size, starts racing May 10. The season will feature Monday and Tuesday racing at 5:15 p.m., with the exception of a Sunday card on July 4 that will start at 1 p.m.

Fan attendance remains uncertain because of COVID-19 restrictions and Josephine County’s “Extreme Risk” status. Randy Evers, track president, said an upate regarding fans will be released next week.

Despite challenges presented by the pandemic, Grants Pass Downs is thriving.

At the 16-day fall meet, the track’s most successful as a commercial entity, Grants Pass averaged 8.03 starters per race and exceeded $6 million in handle, including a record $868,632 on closing day.

“We were absolutely elated, we couldn’t have been happier with the season,” racing secretary John Everly said in a release announcing the upcoming schedule. “Grants Pass is doing everything possible to make horse racing successful. It’s so refreshing being around people who want to grow the sport.”

Grants Pass Downs has undergone several significant upgrades with its racing surface and facility, including a state-of-the art safety rail and

a widened racing surface that now accommodates 10 starters. Beginning this season, a new chute will make it possible for six-furlong thoroughbred races and 440-yard quarter horse events.

Everly anticipates all 450 on-track stalls being occupied by opening day, while long-term plans call for a new off-track training and equestrian center to be built nearby. Steve Wood, longtime track superintendent at Santa Anita Park in California, is overseeing development of the training center.

The first week of racing will feature two stakes events: the $10,000 Caveman Stakes for 3-year-olds and up on May 10, and the $10,000 Daily Courier Stakes for fillies and mares on May 11. The initial quarter horse stakes is the $15,000 Mail Tribune Handicap on May 17.

Jorge Rosales and Quinn Howey — winners of the last two Grants Pass training titles—head a strong roster that also features veteran conditioners Teri Beckner, Emilio Guerrero and Billy Christian.

Apprentice Joree Scriver, who edged McKenzie King for the fall jockey title, is expected to contend for another crown this spring. In 2020, Scriver was also the leading apprentice at Emerald Downs in Washington, and she currently ranks sixth with 29 wins at Turf Paradise in Arizona.

Jason Beem returns for his second season as the track announcer.

L Bar D Dixon Delite and jockey Louis Zacherle (center) nose out Shimmie Horn and rider Kassie Guglielmino (right) as fourth-place finisher Shez Sneakin Fast trails during the Firecracker Futurity at Grants Pass Downs last year. PHOTO BY LARRY STAUTH JR.