Oregon Thoroughbred racing suffered mightily in 2019 when Portland Meadows closed its doors for good. Later that year, however, a group of horsemen in Grants Pass stepped up to fill the void. Their first step was to hold a fall meet in September and October 2019. In November 2020, they took a familiar next step by establishing a gaming venue at Grants Pass Downs.
The racetrack is at the southwest corner of the Josephine County Fairgrounds and the gaming venue will be adjacent to the oval. The name of the sporting center will be The Flying Lark. It will house a full-service restaurant as well as casual concessions, two bars, facilities for special occasions, and a state-of-the-art gaming floor. Of particular interest will be many artistic displays focusing on the region's long-standing connection to horses, going back to the Lewis & Clark Expedition.
The name Flying Lark was chosen in honor of an Oregon Thoroughbred of the same name who led the nation in wins for two years in the 1980s. Flying Lark was owned by Don Jackson, a highly esteemed, long-time resident of Grants Pass who worked diligently to build horseracing in Oregon.
As with other gaming establishments situated by live racing tracks, the underlying purpose of the Flying Lark is to provide financial support for the horseracing and equine support industries throughout Oregon. The ultimate goal is to make Grants Pass Downs a sought-after destination for tourists as well as citizens of southern Oregon and northern California.
The parent organization of Grants Pass Downs and The Flying Lark is TMB Racing, presided over by Travis Boersma, one of the driving forces behind the expansion of Thoroughbred racing in Oregon. Commenting on the first day of racing in 2019, Boersma stated, "I grew up here in Grants Pass and have been going to the races since I was a kid. So it truly is an honor to have the opportunity to grow the sport in Josephine County and help establish Grants Pass as a racing destination on the West Coast."
Following the closure of Portland Meadows, horseracing in Oregon has been limited to county fair tracks with short schedules. Live racing was held at Grants Pass, Crooked River Roundup, the Tillamook County Fair, and the Harney County Fair. With the expansion of Grants Pass, major Thoroughbred racing will stretch the length of the West Coast from Canada to Mexico.
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