Over 275 horsemen and horse racing enthusiasts filled the fourth floor Emerald Downs banquet rooms on Saturday evening, February 25, in celebration of the 2016 Washington champion runners and to honor horsemen in both racing and other important aspects of the Thoroughbred horse industry.
The festive annual event featured a fun “Roaring 20s” theme with dress and posters giving off a jazzy Art Deco feeling which made you want dance the Charleston and sip a little “bootleg.”
The 2016 horse of the year title proved a tight race between Jim and Mona Hour’s Stryker Phd (above, Vassar Photography) and impressive two-year-old runner So Lucky, with Stryker Phd getting the nod with his victory in the Grade 3 Berkeley Handicap in late November. The now eight-year-old gelding by Bertrando out of 2014 Washington broodmare of the year Striking Scholar, by Smart Strike, also won the WA Cup Muckleshoot Tribal Classic and earned $101,760 while under the tutelage of trainer Larry Ross. Spokane residents Char Clark and Todd Havens bred the 2013-16 champion handicap horse winner.
Older filly or mare honors went to Todd and Shawn Hansen’s Ethan’s Baby, who was earning her third consecutive state champion title in her division. She was named for the special relationship shared by the Hansens’ nine-year-old son Ethan – who was also in attendance – and the now five-year-old daughter of Offlee Wild, who is currently in Kentucky and booked to Animal Kingdom.
The sprinter title went to Emerald Downs 2016 six-furlong record setter and two-time stakes winner Kaabraaj, who broke Absolutely Cool’s three-year strangle hold on the short distance title. Bred by Jean Harris and her son Jeff Harris, the gelded son of Abraaj races for Scott Gruender’s Horseplayers Racing Club and Tim Floyd’s Warlock Stables and hails from trainer Jeffrey Metz’s barn.
Top two-year-old honors went to Pegasus Too and Rising Star Stables three-time stakes winner So Lucky, a son of Coast Guard bred by Jean and Ed Welches’ Tall Cedars Farm. He is trained by Howard Belvoir, who also trained and owns champion three-year-old male The Press (by Harbor the Gold and bred by Tice Ranch Stable LLC). Belvoir was also the leading owner by Washington-bred earnings in 2016 and was awarded a special racetrack achievement award after his charges won seven stakes at last year’s Emerald Downs meeting.
Karl Krieg, who has had at least one homebred Washington champion since 2012, triumphed again in 2016 when his homebred filly Risque’s Legacy was named champion juvenile filly. The unbeaten daughter of 2016 Washington leading freshman sire and multiple state champion Atta Boy Roy is trained by Tom Wenzel.
John and Janene Maryanski and Gerald and Gail Schneider’s talented distaffer Invested Prospect was named best sophomore runner. Also sired by Abraaj, Invested Prospect was bred by Charles Dunn out of his 2007 Washington champion No Constraints, who – following her dam Nightatmisskittys’ example in 2007 — was named broodmare of the year for 2016. Invested Prospect is trained by Blaine Wright, who was also given a special racetrack achievement award after earning his first training title at Emerald Downs last year at a 29 percent clip.
Both of the top claimers, Pat and Mullan Chinn’s Knight Club (by Matty G) and Jerry Hollendorfer’s Percy’s Bluff (by Raise the Bluff), were bred by Nina and Ron Hagen.
For the sixth consecutive season Gibson Thoroughbred Farm’s now 17-year-old Parker’s Storm Cat (by Storm Cat) was the state’s leading sire.
The top Washington-bred Off Track Thoroughbred (OTTB) honors went to Christina Klein’s versatile Back to Wine (by Baquero).
For the second year in a row, Pam and Neal Christopherson’s Bar C Racing Stables Inc. was named top breeder by earnings.
The prestigious S. J. Agnew Special Achievement Award was given to longtime industry members Terry and Mary Lou Griffin, who own and operate their Buckley-based Griffin Place.
Others honors accorded during the evening were: the Mark Kauffman Media Award – this year fittingly sponsored by BloodHorse – to photographer Reed Palmer; longtime Eastern Washington horsemen Shorty Martin and Steve Meredith each were lauded with special lifetime achievement awards; and trainer Vince Gibson received the WHBPA Willing Heart Award.
The always helpful Kathy Coffey, Emerald Downs Director of Customer Services, received a standing ovation when it was announced she was the recipient of the WTBOA/WHBPA Special Recognition Award.
Another popular award winner was Down the Stretch Ranch, whose co-founder Boone McCanna came up to accept the Thoroughbred Charities of American Award of Merit for the Creston-based organization which is devoted to healing our service veterans through their work with retired racehorses. This provides a win-win for both man and horse.
The gala affair also featured live and silent auctions and raffles to benefit the Washington Thoroughbred Foundation and the Washington Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Association who would like to thank all for their many contributions to make the night a success and especially the following people and organizations who lent their sponsorship: Drew and Jamie Baker, BloodHorse, Blue Ribbon Farm (Mr. and Mrs. Frederick L. Pabst), Castlegate Farm (Dr. Duane and Sue Hopp), Clay Ward Agency, Daily Racing Form, Duane Weber Insurance, El Dorado Farms (Nina and Ron Hagen), Freight NW (John Parker), Griffin Place (William and Mary Lou Griffin), The Levine Law Firm PLCC (Kany Levine), Mahlum Thoroughbreds (Dale and Sue Mahlum), NTRA, Sport Horse Medicine (Drs. John and Jeff Stenslie), Tall Cedars Farm (Ed and Jean Welch), Thoroughbred Charities of America, and last but not least, Xpressbet, who sponsored horse of the year.