Cherokee Casino Will Rogers Downs’ spring Thoroughbred meet has come to a close. Racing officials crowned the season champions and look to 2019 with anticipation. The spring Thoroughbred meet in Claremore has now been in operation for 12 years.
The 30-day meet ran from March 12 through May 19. Each race day offered more than $100,000 in purses, running eight to 10 races per day. The stakes races ran a six-week period within the meet, offering eight races and guaranteeing no less than $50,000 per race.
More than $15 million was handled for the meet.
John Lies, the track’s racing secretary and announcer, has seen some major changes. He is excited about the season to come.
“We were thrilled to see our relationship with TVG grow, along with the reception of our live coverage in 2018,” said Lies. “When able to avoid post time conflicts with other tracks, we maximize our potential to get noticed by horseplayers and conducted a competitive race meet over one of the safest racing surfaces in the nation.”
Will Rogers Downs offered more than $394,000 for The Oklahoma-bred Program during the meet, and more than $4.1 million in estimated total purses for 270 overall races. A total of 18 horses were claimed during the meet for $127,500.
After a close race through half of the season, jockey Bryan McNeil, from Jones, ran away with the Leading Jockey title. He clinched the Leading Rider title by six wins over Curtis Kimes and eight wins over 2017 champ Floyd Wethey. This left McNeil with an impressive 40 wins during the 30-day meet. The champion jockey finished with a win percentage of 28 percent, while 60 percent of his mounts finished in the top three.
Trainer Scott Young exhibited his dominance during the spring meet by starting 100 total runners and winning with 28 of them. He finished 59 percent of his horses in the money and earned the 2018 Leading Trainer title honors. Young won at least 10 more races than any other trainer, while the balance of the trainer standings shows a sharing of the wealth with the second through ninth-place finishers, separated by only seven victories. Roger Engel and Francisco Bravo finished in second and third place, respectively.
The Leading Owner buckle went to End Zone Athletics Inc., managed by trainer Karl Broberg. End Zone Athletics Inc. registered 11 wins, eight seconds and 12 thirds from 58 starts at the meet, finishing in the money with 53 percent of their starters.
The 5-year-old Oklahoma-bred mare Fiddlers Tsunami, owned by Blue Moon Stables, was named 2018 Horse of the Meet based on her accomplishment of two wins and two seconds in four starts at the meet. In stakes company, she won the Great Lady M on April 23, after finishing second in the fog-filled Miranda Diane on April 2. The mare then returned to finish second in the More Than Even. She earned $74,106 in those four starts for trainer Jody Pruitt, while ridden by Kevin Roman.
Rookie Season, a 3-year-old Oklahoma-bred son of Notional who had made just one prior start, rose from being an unplaced maiden to a stakes winner in less than two minutes. The emphatic 12-length romp in the Will Rogers Handicap on April 24 was the most visually impressive win of the meet. Rookie Season was trained by Scott Young and ridden by Floyd Wethey.
A total of four horses were undefeated at the meet. Otto’s Dream, a 5-year-old gelding, went 4-for-4, while All Behroozed Up, Exy Zanadu and Mystery Solved each went 3-for-3.
Cherokee Casino Will Rogers Downs is located 3 miles east of Claremore on Highway 20. For more information, visit www.cherokeestarrewards.com or call 918-283-8800.
(from Will Rogers Downs news release)