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Optimism high for GPD fall meet

GRANTS PASS — It’s nearly post time for the fall meeting at Grants Pass Downs.

Coming off a record-setting spring/summer meeting, optimism is high as Oregon’s premier racing facility begins an 18-day fall meeting Monday, Sept. 20, extending through Tuesday, Nov. 9. The eight-week season features racing every Monday and Tuesday at 5:15 p.m., and Sunday racing programs on Sept. 26 and Oct. 17 at 1 p.m.

Last year’s fall meet was enormously successful, establishing records for largest total handle, average handle, average field size, and total purses paid. The momentum carried into 2021, with the 17-day spring/summer meeting establishing new records for total handle ($6,919,434) and average handle ($407,026).

“By any measure, our spring/summer meet was a great success, and I am optimistic this fall will see even better results,” said Grants Pass Downs president Randy Evers. “The track is in beautiful condition and the horses are really enjoying their cool morning workouts. Race night sponsorships are at an all-time high and we look forward to providing fans with excellent customer service and a fun night at the races.”

Since the permanent closure of Portland Meadows in 2019, Grants Pass Downs has become the epicenter of Oregon racing, securing a 99-year lease agreement with the Josephine County Fairgrounds.

Under the leadership of Evers and CEO Travis Boersma, Grants Pass Downs has made substantial upgrades throughout the 64-acre facility located west of downtown Grants Pass:

– Installing a new state-of-the-art safety rail to ensure the welfare of riders and horses and raise the standard of the meet.

– Widening the track to improve conditions for racing, with an additional 800 tons of sand laid in anticipation of wet fall weather.

– Adding a new chute making possible six-furlong thoroughbred races and 440-yard quarter horse races.

– Installing lights for evening racing.

– Building the Flying Lark restaurant and entertainment venue on the southwest corner of the Fairgrounds.

Ladies have dominated the jockeys’ ranks at recent meets, with Joree Scriver edging Mckenzie King for both the 2020 fall title and 2021 spring/summer crown. In fact, women jockeys finished first, second and fifth (Taylor Smith) at the 2021 spring/summer meet.

Amongst trainers, Quinn Howey has operated the track’s most successful outfit, capturing last year’s fall title 12-9 over Jorge Rosales and the 2021 spring/summer crown 13-9 over Billy Christian.

Several important stakes races enhance the action with the $25,000 guaranteed Grants Pass Mile — the state’s richest and most prestigious event for Thoroughbreds — set for Monday, Nov. 9. Quarter Horses also are prominent at Grants Pass Downs, with the $40,000-added Far West Futurity scheduled Monday, Nov. 8.

Two stakes are scheduled opening week — $14,600 Siskiyou Stakes for fillies and mares 3-year-olds and up Monday and $13,000-added Applegate Stakes for 3-year-olds and up Tuesday. Both are 5 ½ furlongs.

Monday’s opener features eight races, five Thoroughbred and three Quarter Horse.

Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune The fall schedule at Grants Pass Downs begins Monday, Sept. 20.