THE WEEKLY HERALD   EVERETT, WASHINGTON
Published: Wednesday, August 22, 2012

And they’re off … to Emerald Downs

  • Mckenzi Ford, 4, of Puyallup, with grandma Cathy Stephens and grandpa Troy Stephens, meet lead pony Earl and his rider, Kyrie Baze, whose job is to le...

    For The Weekly Herald/CAROLINE LIPPERT-BURROWS

    Mckenzi Ford, 4, of Puyallup, with grandma Cathy Stephens and grandpa Troy Stephens, meet lead pony Earl and his rider, Kyrie Baze, whose job is to lead the racehorse onto the track and to the starting gate at Emerald Downs in Auburn.

Loners observe. Groups sight see. Gamblers study the racing forms. Kids run from place to place while moms keep an eye on them and dads price costs. Everyone is anticipating.
Emerald Downs offers a holiday setting for different people to do different things in different ways. But there is one thing that brings everybody to the same place at the same time.
The Downs is the capital of thoroughbred horse racing in the Northwest. From April through September, everyone and everything is about what happens between the starting gate and the finish line. Most guess. No one knows.
Tours by tram acquaint you with behind-the-scenes happenings having to do with the horses: the equine hospital, where their health is monitored and maintained; and the barn, where they are stabled, fed, washed, groomed and exercised. Are we talking thoroughbreds treated like royalty?
But that is only half the story. The horse is only one in a team of two that runs a race. The other is the jockey.
These competitors in boots and silks with only the reins and a riding crop can inspire the heart of a 1,200-pound racehorse enough for them together to win, place or show.
As for the comfort and convenience of the public, there is ample seating, eating, drinking, betting at windows and shopping for souvenirs. Eager-to-please jumps out at you.
My wife and I went on a sunny Saturday afternoon when you could see snow on the slopes of Mount Rainier. Come show time, we were in a receptive mood.
The ceremony of horses parading around the paddock sets the stage before a race. People crowd around to see. It is their chance to get up close and personal with the sport of kings.
Minutes later, the familiar “and they’re off” sounds out over loudspeakers.
Track and weather conditions, strategy, courage, endurance, the will to win and lady luck figure into a race. The drama intensifies when the stretch for home singles out the leaders from the pack.
In a matter of seconds from there on, with jockeys urging their horses to victory and everyone on their feet cheering, we all cross the finish line together.
Emerald Downs
WHERE: 2300 Emerald Downs Drive, Auburn
PHONE: 888-931-8400 or 253-288-7000
WEB: www.emeralddowns.com