Grants Pass Downs kicks off its summer racing season today with an eight-race opening day program featuring the Shady Cove Stakes, with a full field of 10 thoroughbreds competing for a purse of $12,000 at a distance of five furlongs.

The meet will boast more than 80 races scheduled over nine dates – June 16, 17, 23, 24, 30 and July 1, 6, 7 and 8 – with $60,000 available in purses each day. 

The venue has been busy making improvements over the spring, with new lighting installed to facilitate twilight racing, and the track widened to support bigger fields. Thanks to a grant from the Oregon Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association (OTOBA), Grants Pass Downs was also able to complete a number of other safety-focused projects. 

The stall area has also been expanded to accommodate up to 450 horses to meet growing demand. Those stalls are now nearly full as hundreds of horsemen and women from around Oregon and across the West have come to Grants Pass to participate in the meet.

“The uncertainty of these times hasn’t dampened any of the enthusiasm we’ve felt from our partners in the racing community since commercial racing came to Grants Pass last year,” said John Everly, racing secretary at Grants Pass Downs. 

“Demand remains very high, and even with the addition of more stalls in the barn area and fields expanding from eight to 10 horses with the widened track and an expanded starting gate, races should be pretty full throughout the meet.”

In accordance with current Oregon state health guidelines amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the meet will be held without fans in attendance. Racing fans unable to attend due to the current public health guidelines are encouraged to watch and wager at and other advance-deposit wagering (ADW) websites, as well as at participating off-track betting (OTB) locations around the state. 

Grants Pass Downs has also expanded its wagering menu and will offer two new bets during the Summer Meet, a 50 cent Jackpot Pick Five with a $5,000 guaranteed pool and a 15% takeout rate, and a one dollar early Pick Four. 

“The health and safety of our athletes, staff, partners and guests is our highest priority, and we have put new protocols in place to ensure a safe, fun environment for all as we resume racing operations,” said Rod Lowe, director of racing and chief operating officer at Grants Pass Downs. 

“We’ll be encouraging the use of masks or face coverings by all guests. Additionally, hand sanitizer stations have been set up in high traffic areas throughout the premises, and social distancing reminders – like signage and floor markings – have been posted throughout the premises.”