The races are on at Sun Downs next month, but theres going to be a photo finish for the Tri-City Horse Racing Association to get things ready in time.
Nancy Sorick of the TCHRA reported that her group and the Benton-Franklin County Fair Association Board, which leases the grounds from Benton County, finalized an agreement on Tuesday afternoon for the 2014 race season.
So once again, Sun Downs will have six scheduled race dates for the meet April 19, 20, 26, 27, May 3 and 4.
That gives the TCHRA 30 days to get things ready for the meet.
Lampson Crane is scheduled today to take down the walkway bridge that goes over the track.
Meanwhile, Sorick will be looking for a few things.
We need a water truck, which is hard to find, she said. We need a tractor. And we need personnel to drive those vehicles.
Sorick will also have to get someone with a truck to go fetch the tote board from Grants Pass, Ore.
Shorty Martin, who has been the racing secreatry at Sun Downs for 14 years, feels confident everything will be in place before opening day.
The main thing for me is getting the starting gate up, he said. We have a lot of 2-year-olds that need to get practice in the starting gate. You have to have all the babies do that in order for them to run.
Sorick said that 42 2-year-olds have already been entered in the annual Pot OGold Futurity trials, and there could be more.
Thats why Martin wants that gate out on the track this week.
Its over at a quarter horse farm in Kennewick, he said. For me, thats basically it as far as getting ready. Just make sure the phones work.
The TCHRA and fair board have been meeting off and on over the past few months, trying to agree on a deal.
For horse racing fans, this agreement is welcome news.
Its also good news to the Washington Horse Racing Commission, which considers the Kennewick track important to the state of horse racing.
The commission thinks its vital to keep quarter horse racing in Eastern Washington, said Doug Moore, executive secretary of the WHRC. Its been there for 50 years, and weve supported it.
Sorick and Martin also believe race fans will support the meet, which in addition to the Pot OGold will also have three American Quarter horse Racing Association challenge races.
So the schedule is set. Now its up to Sorick and her group to get things ready.
Ive got a race all right, she said. Fortunately for me, Ive done it for so many years that it shouldnt be a problem. I know all the people and will call them in. Theyre waiting for me to call.
We hoping for good weather, she continued. Well have the backside (of the track) open. We have an April 1 takeover.
For Martin, getting horses in to race shouldnt be a problem either.
I think well be OK, he said. Sun Downs is kind of the starting point for a lot of places in the Northwest. Horses come here, then go on to Boise, the Oregon state fairs, Canada and Wyoming Downs.
This is kind of a jump-off point for these trainers and their horses.