And they’re off!
They are the words that bring a smile to the face of horse folk and a thrill to the spine of bettors.
And they will be said often in the coming weeks at the Benton County Fairgrounds as the Tri-Cities Horse Racing Association holds its annual meet.
The ponies will be in play the next three weekends, beginning 1 p.m. Saturday. Longtime racing secretary Shorty Martin said it should be an action-packed run.
“We have a busy schedule,” Martin said this week. “We have a lot of horses on the grounds already. The barn is almost full. We’ll have fuller fields, better (betting) handles, and have a real successful meet.”
The meet jumps right into the deep end on the first day with upwards of nine races, including the traditional Boekenoogen Memorial 250-yard quarter horse race as well as a pair of 350-yard trials for the American Quarter Horse Association Dick Monahan Maiden Challenge.
Sunday’s action will include trials for the AQHA Merial Distaff Challenge for fillies and mares plus four or five trial races for the Pot O’Gold Futurity. The Pot O’Gold runs on the final day of the meet, May 8, and usually has a purse of $20,000 to $30,000.
A third challenge race, the Adequan Derby Challenge, will run on Derby Day, May 7, easily the busiest day of the meet. Five races will run locally before action breaks for the Kentucky Derby simulcast, with three more local races closing out the day. Martin expects about $70,000 could be bet on the local races with another $25,000-$30,000 on the derby from local bettors.
“We’ve had a good season every year,” Martin said. “It’s probably one of the best nonprofit racing tracks around the whole Northwest. We’ve had a really successful meet around here.”
A lot of that, he said, has to do with timing.
“It’s the first place in Washington to get started,” Martin said. “It’s a mixed meet — quarter horses, thoroughbreds, all breeds. They want to get ready for the (state) fairs, so they come here — we’ve had the training centers open Feb. 1 — and get ready for their campaigns. And a big part of the meet is we have three AQHA challenge races.”
The winners of the Maiden, Derby and Distaff challenges qualify for spots in the final races at Los Alamitos in Cypress, Calif., with purses ranging from $100,000 to $350,000.
Kevin Anthony: 509-582-1403