A standing-room-only crowd turned out for Saturday's final night of the Crook County Roundup Race Meet.
The crowd of roughly 4,500 eclipsed even the huge crowd that attended Wednesday's opening night of the races.
"I was beyond happy with the crowd," said Crooked River Roundup Board member and racing chair Dean Noyes. "This is an amazing crowd. This is the best crowd we have had in years."
Noyes added that, as of press time, he still does not have complete attendance figures, but that more than 13,000 attended the four-day race meet.
With such a large crowd on Saturday night, parking was at a premium as the main parking area at the fairgrounds quickly filled to overflowing.
Despite the huge crowds, Noyes noted that the new betting machines that the Roundup board had installed for this year worked well, keeping lines to a minimum.
"You know it was a leap of faith, but I think the technology works better," he said. "I know it was a lot better for the volunteers who were using them. There were less errors, plus they were more efficient when the tickets were going back in making it a more efficient process."
In addition to new betting machines, the Roundup also went high tech this year, streaming races live worldwide, while betting was possible through Idabet.com.
Although complete totals for how much betting was done online are incomplete, the total handle for the four-day meet was at least $265,518, with more money still possible from the online betting.
Noyes was quick to point out that betting at the windows was approximately the same as a year ago, but that the online betting has led to some additional revenue.
"Our live handle was consistent with last year, but our total handle is in excess of what we had last year, so Idabet is going to be a source of additional revenue on the handle side," Noyes said. "We are committed to this for three years, just so we can establish a trend number and see where it goes. The goal is with additional advertising resources and the ability to market our meets throughout the country that we can increase interest in our meets."
He added that at least one night of the meet there were just two tracks in the entire world with horse racing taking place, Prineville and Sydney, Australia, leaving the possibility that horse racing fans around the world may tune into the races with increasing frequency as word about the race meet continues to spread.
Not only was Noyes excited about the size of the crowd and the betting, he was quick to point out that the entire race meet is run with volunteer help.
"We have hundreds of volunteers and thousands and thousands of hours annually that go into this nonprofit corporation," he said. "But it's to benefit the community. Folks may not have the resources to donate directly to a nonprofit, yet they can help us put this event on and in turn help that nonprofit. What a great way to do it. The races are a community resource that provides a family reunion for thousands of people every night."
Noyes added that youth groups like the Boy Scouts, NJROTC, Tri-County Rodeo Club as well as several sports teams help out at the races and in turn benefit by receiving money for travel to special events. In addition, the race meet is able to donate a portion of proceeds to other nonprofits as well.
Finally, Noyes said that the races themselves also went well.
There was a horse that went over the rail on Friday, but that horse ended up with just a bloody nose and was otherwise fine. The jockey, Jaime E. Lopez, was transported to the hospital and was kept overnight for observations, but was otherwise OK.
A second horse had an incident inside the starting gate on Saturday prior to the Jack Rhoden Memorial Bonus Challenge.
However, other than that, there were no injuries to either horses or jockeys during the four days of the meet.
"We are very fortunate to have such a talented group of riders and such a healthy group of horses compared to even just a few years past," Noyes said. "The riders are so much smarter these days and honestly, one of the biggest compliments has to go to the track manager and our crew out there running the equipment, as well as Pape Machinery for a million dollars' worth of tractors that help us keep our implements on the track and keep the track in really good shape. It's really a multi-tiered process to make sure that rider and horse cross the finish line, and we were very fortunate to have the success we did."
Speaking of success, although there were no track records set, racing was still highly competitive.
Jockey Jake Samuels had one of the best race meets of his career as he earned jockey of the meet with 13 wins in 35 starts.
Samuels started off hot, winning the first race Wednesday night, and never let up. He went on to win four races Wednesday, two more races Thursday, four on Friday, and three more Saturday, including the prestigious Jack Rhoden Memorial Bonus Challenge.
The total purse for Samuels' 13 wins was $42,874. Samuels added six seconds and five thirds as horses he rode earned money in 69 percent of the meet's races.
Jose A. Figueroa was a distant second, winning seven races, with one second and three thirds with a total purse of $17,554.
Luis Zacherle won four races, while Kassie Guiglielmino, Eduardo Guitierrez-Sosa and Jose A. Guerrero each won three races.
Jackie Smith was the leading trainer with three wins, three seconds, and three thirds in 11 starts. Bill Hof, Nick Lowe, Emilio Guerrero each also had three winning horses, although none of the three trainers had any horses run second.
Michael Robert Morris, Phoenix Farms, Darin Munden, William J. Hasenoehrl and Brian R. Lusk each owned horses who won two races at the meet.
There were two big races on Friday, as Watch Me Fly Bye, ridden by Figueroa, won the 250-yard Jody Click Memorial with a time of 13.480, and Samuels rode Keepherrockin to victory in the 5 1/2 furlong Bud and Gloria Simonis Memorial race with a time of 1:06.36.
Saturday saw J. Jesus Afanador ride Fierce Hawk to victory in the Prineville Quarter Horse Futurity with a time of 13.671 over the 250-yard course.
Samuels rode Gone Fast to victory in the high-paying Rhoden Memorial with a time of 13.239 seconds over the 250-yard race.
The seven furlong Art Smith Memorial Stakes was won by Stone Quarry, ridden by Zacherle with a time of 1:30.09.
Samuels was in the winner's circle again in the Ben Woodward Memorial as he rode Xerxes to victory with a time of 1:06.18 over the 5 1/2 furlong race.
Guerrero earned a victory in the Crooked River Hook Mixed Breed Stakes riding Chicks Fast Farley to victory in a time of 31.651 over the 610-yard course.
Samuels earned his final win of the meet in the ninth race Saturday, riding Ain't Tellin' to victory in the one and one eighth mile Prineville Quarter Horse HBPA Stakes with a time of 2:01.48 before Robert Burney picked up the final win of the race meet riding Goodlookinggeorge to victory in a time of 1:07.23 over 5 1/2 furlongs.
"My motto for racing is to have fun," Noyes said Saturday night. "The reason we do this is to just have a darned good time. The whole town can come out and have a good time, and that's evident tonight. Tonight capped off the entire week as to how outstanding it was."