UNION, Ore. — It’s a long trip from Fruitland, Idaho, but horse racing trainer Scott Stewart has been participating in the Eastern Oregon Livestock Show for nearly 30 years.
Following the postponement of last year’s EOLS, horse racers were back in action for a full slate of races at this year’s livestock show in Union.
“We’re just glad to be back and we really try to support (EOLS) and win races,” Stewart said.
The stakes were high, with attendees at the livestock show lining up to place their bets on the horse races on Saturday, June 12. Six races took place with more than $20,000 being awarded across all the horse races.
One of Stewart’s biggest races of the day was the second race, a thoroughbred allowance race for 3-year-old or older horses that have not won in 2021. Cosmic Tripster, a 6-year-old mare originally bred in Washington, entered the race with high hopes from Stewart and the racing team.
The horse, whose owner is Dustie Crystal, earned more than $25,000 in winnings from 2018 to 2020. The second race of the EOLS entailed a 5-1/2 furlong-contest between three eligible horses. The race was originally set to have four horses competing, but 6-year-old mare Blingin was scratched prior to the start of the race.
Right out of the gate, Cosmic Tripster and jockey Jamie Lopez took a sizable lead over the other two competing horses and led by multiple horse-lengths through the first straightaway. With a cushion between first and second place, Cosmic Tripster completed the final lap and galloped through the finish line to take home the first-place prize with a time of 1 minutes, 3.40 seconds.
The purse was $3,100, but the return of horse racing at EOLS was a prize within itself.
“It’s fun to be able to have horses here,” Stewart said. “Sometimes you get some horses in the paddock and they buck a couple of bulls out there and the horses get a little under the weather.”
Stewart is referencing the bull-riding and other rodeo events taking place in between the horse races throughout the livestock show. Between the races, rodeo contestants took in steer wrestling, team roping and tie-down roping.
“We’re just glad to be back racing in Union and out here competing with these horses again,” said training assistant Chad Ekins.
Ekins, a former jockey in the 1990s, serves as hotwalker and exercises many of the team’s horses during training sessions, in addition to working on many of the horses' shoes.
The Idaho-based team brought a number of horses to compete in the races at the livestock show for one of the group's first competitions this year. They anticipate a full summer of races.
The warm spring weather presented fast track conditions for the horses, an element that has been hard to predict over the years at the EOLS.
“I’ve been here when it’s raining quite a bit and I’ve been here when it’s snowed,” Stewart said. “It’s tough to have races but (EOLS) seems to always come through with it.”