Opening Day - An Event to Remember
Portland Meadows Opening Day an Event to Remember
Portland Meadows kicked off the 2012 Summer Meet in a grand fashion on Sunday, with a day of racing that many won’t soon forget. For many of the people in attendance, it was a first time visit to the track. For others it was a trip down memory lane, a reminder of the old days when thousands graced the track each racing day. And for many of the people in the sport, it was a hopeful look at what could be.
“I was ecstatic about the day,” said Executive Director of the Oregon Racing Commission Randy Evers. “It was great to have the mayor there and the representatives at the racetrack. I haven't seen the facility look like that forever, the tent, beer garden it was all fantastic. I've never seen the facility look so nice. I walked around and saw people smiling all day. I was shocked even the last race there was still tons of people around. It was great seeing people stick around the whole card. Lots of people who I didn’t even know pulled me aside and were telling me what fun they had."
On track the action started with a Quarter Horse event that saw last year’s Leading Quarter Horse Trainer Juan Sanguino and last year’s Leading Quarter Horse Jockey Luis Torres team up for a win. Both were presented with their championship trophies and jackets after the first and second races. Portland Meadows generally runs 4 to 5 Quarter Horse Races per week, and they are a big part of the racing in Portland.
“It was wonderful, I thought it was a great day all around,” said Leah Nelson, who serves as the Executive Secretary of the Oregon Quarter Horse Racing Association. “I thought the facility looked really nice and the food was wonderful in the Turf Club and people were having a good time. When I was out on the apron was watching the crowd and seeing the new people yelling and screaming and having the best time, I thought oh this is great excitement."
"It went fantastic,” said Portland Meadows Assistant General Manager and Director of Racing Jerry Kohls. “We had a couple of good races, the crowd enjoyed themselves and the atmosphere seemed very fun. We had a ton of positive comments and people saying they were excited to come back."
Before the racing begun, there was a ceremonial ribbon cutting to officially open up the Summer Meet, which included Mayor Sam Adams and many other local dignitaries. One of them was Mike Rogers, President of TSG Developments Investments, Inc., the parent company of Portland Meadows.
“From the moment I walked in the building I felt the new energy level,” said Rogers. “The facelift of the building was amazing. As the day progressed the energy and the atmosphere just got better. I've been to major events around the world and the energy here was just fantastic. “
Local Horsemen supported Opening Day as they always do, and many were thrilled with the turnout and all the new amenities Portland Meadows has.
“I thought it was fantastic, it was an amazing day,” said OHBPA Executive Director Dick Cartney. “I don’t remember seeing that many people at the track since maybe the 70’s. From the horsemen’s standpoint I thought everything went off without a hitch. The races were competitive and a lot of fun.”
“I thought it was great,” said HBPA President and local trainer Jim Fergason. “It was great to see all those people here and it’s very encouraging going forward.”
His associate on the HBPA, Vice President and local owner Ron Sutton talked of how seeing the big crowds made him feel.
“It honestly brought me back to when I was five or six years old, and coming to the track as a kid and seeing all of the people around,” said Sutton. I loved the art work in the main entrance and really was just so thrilled to see everyone enjoying the day."
For Oregon Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association Executive Director Lynelle Smith, it was a jaw dropping experience to see Portland Meadows so filled, as she just started working with the OTOBA 15 months ago.
"I was so impressed, I've been with OTOBA for 15 months and when I walked in yesterday my mouth dropped open,” said Smith. “Look at the pictures, it looks so classy. I kept telling my husband who had never been that this is not what the track look liked before. We walked by the BBQ area and by 1pm and that area was completely packed and people were having a blast. I kept thinking this is what Horse Racing should be. We ran into so many families who were enjoying the day.”
OTOBA President Gay Welliver echoed her colleague’s words about just how exciting it was seeing the place packed.
"I was so pleased at the parking lot and driving in and seeing it packed,” said Welliver. “I thought it was a big step forward in re-engaging the general public. It was exciting to see so many younger people there."
Numerous Commissioners from the Oregon Racing Commission came in to watch the Opening Day Festivities and were pleased to see all that was going.
"I thought it was great,” said Commissioner Jan Palmer DVM. “I thought the turnout was great, everyone I saw was having fun.”
Her fellow Commissioner Charles Williamson echoed her statements. “I thought it was tremendous, the place looked beautiful. I walked around all the public areas and it was just great.”
Commissioner Chris Dudley who is the Vice Chair of the Oregon Racing Commission made the journey up from Salem for Opening Day. “It was truly a great day, just so much fun and the facility looked amazing. I was very excited.”
It was a truly wonderful afternoon of racing that saw Shamundi take home the $10,000 Inaugural Handicap in the feature race of the afternoon, masterfully ridden by jockey Rocco Bowen. The day closed out with Giacomina winning a race for last year’s Leading Thoroughbred Trainer Felimon Alvarado, a fitting end to what was a great day. Portland Meadows will now move forward, with 59 more days of racing in 2012.
"It was a great day,” said Portland Meadows General Manager Will Alempijevic. “We learned a lot about our new customers and how they interacted with our new amenities. We have a few changes to make so we can cut wait times and that will keep people happy and keep them coming back. The transformation started over a year ago but most of the improvements happened over the past month and it really was the culmination of a lot of hard work from everyone to get us here. It was great to see it all come together.”
Portland Meadows Summer Meet continues with racing on Wednesday and Friday nights at 6:00 p.m. and Sundays at 1:00 p.m. (Pacific).