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Races start with ladies not on Wednesday, July 10, conclude on Saturday night

CENTRAL OREGONIAN FILE PHOTO - This year's Crooked River Roundup Race Meet should be one of the biggest horse racing events in the state of Oregon. The four-day event includes several races that are expected to attract top quality horses from around the Northwest. In the photo riders round the final turn and head into the stretch run in a race last year.
Are you ready for a good time?

Are you ready for some racing?

The Crooked River Roundup Race Meet is nearly here.

"Entries don't start until next Tuesday, but at this point, I've been told that our stalls are full," race meet director Doug Smith said. "We are expecting in the neighborhood of 320 horses right now. If our stalls are full then I expect us to have six, seven and eight horse fields for the most part. There may be some that don't make it that full, but for the most part, that's what we have been told to expect."

Smith noted that there are a full slate of races nightly, with eight races on both Wednesday and Thursday and 10 races slated for Friday and Saturday.

As per usual, Wednesday is ladies night with women admitted to the event free of charge.

This year's race meet has several major changes.

For starters, the giant television screen that greeted rodeo goers at this year's Crooked River Roundup will be back.

"You will be able to see the races from three different camera views as well as displaying the odds and everything else," Smith said. "It will be basically the same feed that goes out to our simulcast venues and it will be live on that big screen TV. It's a huge investment by the Crooked River Roundup with the intent of it being a huge plus for our fans."

The big screen TV means that, for the first time, race-goers will get a completely clear view of the backstretch.

Cameras at the race will record both the front stretch and back stretch from straight in front of the horses, as well as a finish line camera and a camera on the towers in the infield that will pan with the horses during the race.

"All races will be covered by at least three cameras," Smith said. "That will be a gigantic change as far as what the spectators see."

Although the races will be run much like in the past, there are several other changes as well.

Instead of taking winners circle photos on the track, this year there will be a raised platform in the infield where horse owners and their families can go. The winning horse will remain on the track while those in the photos will stand behind and above the horse on the platform.

"The winners enclosure will de dedicated on Friday in honor of Craig Woodward (the local timber baron, land owner and race supporter, who unexpectedly passed away this spring)," Smith said. "It will become Craig's winners circle."

Smith added that the Woodward family is sponsoring Friday night's racing and Friday will be called Craig Woodward Appreciation Night.

For the past several years, the American Quarter Horse Association had sponsored a bonus challenge program. The Crooked River Roundup Race Meet participated in that program with the Jack Rhoden Memorial Quarter Horse Race. The national organization has dropped the program this year, but Smith noted that the Rhoden Memorial Race will still be big.

CENTRAL OREGONIAN FILE PHOTO - A pair of jockey's battle each other in a race at last year's Crooked River Roundup Race Meet. Probably the biggest change for this year is that the races will be broadcast live on a giant television screen, which will be displayed on the north side of the infield."We were able to put together, between the Rhoden family, the Crooked River Roundup and the Oregon Quarter Horse Racing Association, a program where that race will be a $9,500 added in total, and then there is the potential of another $4,000 paid into the race if we get eight horses in it. So it could run for $13,500 this year," Smith said. "It's not something that's being repeated all over the state of Oregon. This is a Prineville deal. It kind of makes you proud that you were able to put it together for Prineville."

Smith added that the Woodward Memorial thoroughbred race will have the same kind of package, with the Woodward family helping to make that purse just as large.

"It will be by far the biggest thoroughbred race in Prineville and I would have to check, but I'm pretty sure that it will be the biggest thoroughbred race at any of the fair races in Oregon," he said.

Both races will run on Saturday night as well as the Art Smith Memorial Race.

Several other important races are on Saturday's schedule as well.

"We are going to have nice races all week," Smith said. "But I said it before, and I will say it again, Saturday is going to be the nicest night of racing maybe in the state of Oregon."

One other thing that Smith is hoping to change is the pace of the racing.

"We are working real hard to make sure that we have our pari-mutuel rooms adequately staffed so that we can get the wagers done," he said. "Remind the fans that the speed of the race meet usually is determined by how efficient the fans are at placing their wagers. We encourage them to make their decision and place their wagers early. My entire philosophy about how to run a race meet is that you get going, you get a rhythm and you get it done. People should have time to buy a beverage, place a bet and watch a race. Buy a beverage, place a bet and watch a race. Well, not too much on the adult beverage, because we want everyone to be safe driving home."

Gates open nightly at 5:30 p.m. with post time at 7:15 p.m.

"I looked at a weather forecast yesterday that shows us in the mid-80s in the races," Smith said. "If it's in the mid-80s, I'm just going to thank God because that's great weather for horse racing."

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