The novel "A Tale of Two Cities" starts "It was the best of times. It was the worst of times."
In a lot of respects, that describes the 2021 Crooked River Roundup Race Meet.
The four-day event saw record crowds, with approximately 5,800 spectators on Friday and more than 6,000 on Saturday.
"I was pleased with the crowd all four nights," said Race Chair Doug Smith. "It's been absolutely incredible crowds."
However, the race meet opened with tragedy as jockey Eduardo Gutierrez-Sosa passed away Wednesday night from a tragic accident in the first race of the evening. Racing continued through the second race on the card before it was suspended for the evening.
The accident put a damper on the races, but also showed the generosity of Prineville.
"I have spent a lot of time talking to horsemen and they are so impressed with this community," Smith said. "The generosity has been beyond belief. And, it's not just Prineville. People from all over Central Oregon have been helping."
More than $40,000 were raised for the Sosa family during the race meet, and more funds are still being raised.
"I have been working with my friends from the Oregon Horsemen's Benevolence Association," Smith said. "They held their board meeting Saturday in Prineville and elected to start an education fund for Mr. Sosa's three children. Stay tuned, the Crooked River Roundup will let you know how to donate to that educational fund."
Gutierrez-Sosa was the first jockey to die in a racing accident in Oregon since Dan Castle died at Portland Meadows in 1972. Ironically, that race also had a Prineville tie as the horse Castle was riding was owned by Jack Rhoden of Prineville.
James Wooten Jr. was named jockey of the meet winning nine of the 29 contested races, while Taylor Smith won seven races, including five in a row.
Bill Hof and Jaqueline Smith were co trainers of the meet, winning three races each.
In the biggest race of the meet, Jose Figueroa rode Hold On Im Gone to victory in Saturday's Jack Rhoden Memorial 250-yard quarter horse race, which had a $11,400 purse.
The Prineville OHBPA Stakes were won by Wooten Jr. riding Pulpits Power, while Figueroa won the Art Smith Memorial Stakes riding El Alto Hombre, while Robert Burney rode Jersey Red to victory in the Ben Woodward Memorial.
Smith was quick to thank everyone who volunteered to make the Roundup happen.
"We always need more volunteers, this event takes between 100 and 125 volunteers per night and if we are going to continue to grow and get better, we have to figure out new ways and new methods in order to do it," Smith said. "We've got some things we've been chatting about throughout the week about how to make it better, and it's all going to key around can we get the volunteers to make it happen. Prineville, the volunteerism is incredible, so, if you are new to the community and want to get involved, give us a call or a jingle, we need you."
Smith added that the race meet had two new tractors that were made possible because of donations from the Oregon Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association and Pape Machinery.
"They provided us with some of the nicest tractors that any race track could ever hope for and many many other pieces throughout the race enclosure," he said.
Smith added that he was pleased with how well the community rallied to make the races happen, especially with the tragic start.
"That was one of the most devastating things I've ever seen," Smith said of Wednesday's accident. "But tonight's card (Saturday), reflects the kind of horses we've had. We've had incredible races tonight. It started off rough, but it's absolutely going to end on a high note."
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.