Courtesy photo

Courtesy photo

Indian Relay Racing set to return in early June

  • Monday, April 23, 2018 3:52pm
  • Sports

Emerald Downs offers some type of promotion for each of its 67 live racing days in 2018. It begins with a TV giveaway on opening day — 20 4K TVs will be given away to lucky fans between races — and ends with a new $100,000 stakes race for 3-year-olds on closing day — the Getaway Stakes, a 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-olds with the money provided by an anonymous donor.

In between there will be Fabulous Fridays, twilight Saturdays, a Food Truck Festival, Armed Forces Day, First Responders Day, Fiesta Premio Esmeralda for Hispanics, Mother’s and Father’s Day, Equine Art Show, races for ostriches, camels, zebras, Corgis and Wiener Dogs, Fireworks Spectacular and much more.

For sheer competition, however, nothing beats Indian Relay Racing. In fact, nothing else comes close. It’s three days of championship competition with many of the nation’s best Indian Relay teams converging on Emerald Downs. Tribes from Idaho, Montana, South Dakota, Oregon and Washington will be represented, with Starr School of Browning, Montana looking to defend its Muckleshoot Gold Cup title from last year.

The third annual Muckleshoot Gold Cup will be held June 8, 9 and 10 with three qualifying races Friday and Saturday, and three more races Sunday climaxed with the championship Gold Cup. The competition features over $75,000 in prize money and has proven an immediate hit with fans.

“Until we held our first event here in 2016, most of us knew little or nothing about Indian Relay Racing,” said Emerald Downs Racetrack and Casino President Phil Ziegler. “But you didn’t need to be an expert to see that it was a very exciting and very serious competition.”

In Indian Relay — the nation’s oldest sport with a history that goes back 500 years — teams race twice around the Emerald Downs one-mile track and exchange horses every half-mile. Each team’s rider must leap from one galloping horse to another in their assigned exchange box while other team members assist in handling the horses. It’s an enthralling, colorful competition.

The Muckleshoot Tribe hosts the event as the owners and operators of Emerald Downs, and the Muckleshoot Casino is sponsoring the competition. As mentioned before, there will be three relay races each day along with the regular full card of live Thoroughbred races.

With Isiah Cross Guns leading the way, Starr School, a member of Blackfeet Nation, won two of three heats including the final in capturing the 2017 Muckleshoot Gold Cup. Carlson Relay, also from Browning Montana, captured the inaugural Gold Cup in 2016.

Emerald Downs’ admission is just $9 for adults, and ages 17 and under are admitted free. Box seats can be purchased in advance by calling 253-288-7711. More information will be available at

Emerald Downs, located in Auburn, WA, is the premier Thoroughbred racetrack in the Northwest. The 2018 season begins on Sunday, April 22. Post time is 2 p.m.

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