It figures to be a star-studded season this summer at Emerald Downs, the Auburn racetrack that opens its 24th season Saturday.
That’s because the older male division should be the strongest in years, which could mean for an exciting Longacres Mile, the signature race of the season, which is scheduled for Aug. 11.
Barkley, who won last year’s Longacres Mile, is back in training for his 6-year-old season. He will likely have to deal with Sippin Fire, who was last year’s 3-year-old-champion at Emerald Downs and the Horse of the Meeting, and Riser, who was the top older horse at Emerald before suffering an injury before the Longacres Mile.
The $200,000 Grade III Mile headlines 27 stakes that will be scheduled during the 67 days of racing that concludes Sept. 22.
Rocco Bowen is expected to try for his fourth consecutive riding title. Among those who will be trying to deny him is veteran Juan Gutierrez, who has been out since the summer of 2017 after suffering a back injury in a spill.
Gutierrez is No. 2 on Emerald Downs’ career riding list with 1,320 wins, 99 behind Gallyn Mitchell.
Trainer Jeff Metz returns after winning his fourth training title at Emerald. He edged Blaine Wright, who had won the previous two titles, and led last year’s trainers with nine stakes victories.