The last few years has brought the closure of multiple legendary horse racing tracks around the country, leaving some worried about what the sport’s future might look like in Washington.
As the season at Emerald Downs kicks off Saturday, huge race fan and KIRO Radio host Dori Monson asked track owner Ron Crockett how long he thinks horse racing can last in Washington.
“Hollywood Park had its last races last year, Bay Meadows is gone,” said Monson. “Is there going to be horse racing at Emerald Downs 20 years from now? Am I going to be able to take my yet to be born grandkids to Emerald Downs?”
Crockett, the man responsible for bringing racing back to western Washington in 1996 after Longacres shuttered in 1992, didn’t hesitate telling Monson: “Yes you will.”
Keeping the track in business has become part of a philanthropic effort as Crocket said they aren’t making money off of it yet. But he sees value beyond that as it keeps the vibrant racing community alive and in the area, and provides a number of good jobs for the community.
“Standing there on Tuesday night with 500 employees – please raise your hands if you’re new this year – a lot of young people, a lot of minorities’ hands [were] going up in the air. It was a good feeling creating some jobs for people that wouldn’t have a job,” said Crockett. “That’s very important to me. I don’t like to see these people that are unemployed.”
Crockett said he thinks a lot of young people these days are opting to go to casinos over the races, but they plan to do everything they can to keep the operation running.
“We’ll be persistent enough and figure out ways to make it work so that it will be there.”
From Monson’s perspective, “There just is not a better way to spend a summer evening than out there at Emerald Downs with Mount Rainier looming over it.”
He confesses calling the last race at Longacres in 1992 was the first time he ever cried on the air.
“There’s something about it that just gets in your blood once it gets you.”
Crockett agrees and assured Dori he’ll be able to enjoy horse racing in western Washington for many years to come.