Staff Rider dominates the final Joe Gottstein Futurity @ Longacres

20 Sep

Wow, 20 years ago TODAY, Staff Rider galloped his way to a spectacular victory in the most prestigious 2-year-old race in the Northwest.

Here is an excerpt from Joel Gillman’s piece that appeared in The Seattle Times.

RENTON – Yesterday, 14,525 paid respects to the track’s dominant 2-year-old, Staff Rider. The bay gelding galloped to a 9 1/2-length victory in the $198,135 Joe Gottstein Futurity.

The most difficult duty his jockey, Tim Doocy, had to perform during the 1 1/16-mile race was a couple of turns of the head to check on the fading competition, most notably second-place finisher Twenty Is Plenty. Staff Rider’s time of 1:43 2/5 was just 1/5 off Maharesred’s stakes record.  About the only uncertainty surrounding Staff Rider ‘s Futurity victory was whether his next race would be in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup on October
31.

For now, trainer Bud Klokstad would only say the horse has sore shins and wouldn’t have run yesterday if the purse hadn’t been so large. It was Staff Rider’s third race in 21 days and earned nearly $120,000 for Jollie Four Stable. It also raised his earnings to a single-season record of $279,549. That exceeded Snipledo’s 1990 haul of $273,810, the year he won the Longacres Mile.

It was the final Sunday of racing at the racetrack that Gottstein built in 1933.

More from Gillman’s Seattle Times piece that ran Monday.

RENTON – Fifty-nine years of live thoroughbred racing at Longacres ends this evening. “People are still asking whether this was just a marketing ploy,” said Lonny Powell, the track’s executive vice president. “They’re wondering if we’re all going to say, `April Fools!’ after the last race. The hope will last to the very end that this isn’t it.”  The final card started at 3 p.m. Free admission was expected to help attract a
record crowd of approximately 20,000. “We’re going to send it out in style,” Powell said.

An appearance by Chinook Pass, 1983 Eclipse Award winner; commemorative souvenirs; a dose of sentimental music, and two prestigious stakes races were expected to contribute to the atmosphere.

Doocy, competing in his first Longacres meet and more than 60 victories up in the jockey standings, discovered this summer that he also will be affected by the closing of Longacres.

“I really like it here,” said Doocy, a leading rider in the Midwest and Northern California. “We had planned on moving up here.”

Like every other horseman the track thanked with a free breakfast in the backstretch cafe this morning, Doocy must find another place to move to, barring a surprising development.  “This business is made up of eternal optimists,” said Powell, who opened and managed a track in Kansas City before coming to Longacres Park last year. “Maybe it takes an ending to clear the way for something down the road.”

So far, the balance of the clearing seems to be occurring at the track.  The lines at the gift shop yesterday formed when the gates opened at 11:30 a.m.and lasted until it closed seven hours later.

Questions about what can go have run the gamut from favorite seats, benches and the track’s surface, to the 16 colored poles that mark the distances around the oval.  Not even Powell is quite sure what will happen around 9 p.m., at the conclusion of today’s final race. There will be increased security, and extra staffing.

Powell said some of his goodbyes Saturday when he made a tour of the backstretch to officially thank the trainers, jockeys and grooms. “I didn’t handle talking to the horsemen very well,” said Powell, 32. “It was the first time I choked up.”

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