MLT fixture Kelly Dougan fulfills lifelong horse racing dream

After three seasons as head coach of the high school’s varsity football team, eight years as owner of Sorelli Pizza and almost 20 years involved in local youth sports, Kelly Dougan has become an identifiable face around Mountlake Terrace.

Dougan is now starting to receive the same type of recognition 40 miles south in one corner of Auburn.

Fulfilling a lifelong dream, Dougan stepped into the world of thoroughbred horse racing a few years ago and now shares ownership of a number of racehorses, four of which are running at Emerald Downs during its 2017 season, which runs from April through September. And with thousands of dollars invested in the endeavor, Dougan makes regular trips south a part of his busy life.

“It’s a short season, so I’m down here as often as I can,” Dougan said during a recent venture to Emerald Downs.

A day at the track for Dougan usually starts with visits to the barns to peek in on Sorelli, Luvthisbar, Feel The Charge and Annie Love Ya, the four racehorses he owns in partnership with a couple other owners. Dougan also check-ins with trainers, groomers and others he has gotten to know at the track — and shares a few pizzas he brings down from his Sorelli Pizza restaurant.

Dougan will also chat with vendors, race officials and Emerald Downs’ management when on site.

The frequent visits to the track — along with the recent success by one of his horses in particular — has given Dougan some notoriety at the facility.

Last September, Sorelli was named Emerald Downs’ Top Quarter Horse of 2016. The six-year-old mare is having another strong season this year, with one win and one third place in her four races.

Sorelli also had her biggest win of her career at Emerald Downs when she captured the 2017 Bank of America Emerald Downs Championship Challenge, a $59,760 stakes race last August. The victory earned Dougan and Sorelli co-owner Tim Floyd $27,940 in prize money.

While the financial rewards of winning can be lucrative, owning racehorses is not a cash cow. Not only are the expenses numerous, but big payoffs aren’t guaranteed. Sorelli’s third place finish this year (in a $5,000 allowance race on June 4) came in a race that the mare was the 8-5 favorite in and only resulted in $625 in prize money — and after the jockey, trainer and barn grooms got their cuts, the owners were left with less than $500, not enough to pay off any of the bills associated with racing Dougan was quick to point out.

Accumulating great wealth isn’t the primary reason why he started putting money into racehorse ownership, Dougan explained. Being involved in horse racing has been a dream of his since childhood.

“There was horse racing on ABC’s Wide World of Sports when I was growing up and I loved it,” Dougan explained. “I got caught up in the spectacle of it all.”

While a young teen, Dougan would ride the bus down to Renton from his home in the Lake City neighborhood of Seattle and watch the races at Longacres before its closure in 1992.

With the opening of Emerald Downs in 1995, Dougan could continue to follow a sport he loved, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that Dougan made the leap from observer to active participant.

“A friend I play cards with invited me to join a raci

ng club where members own a small percentage of a number of horses,” Dougan explained.

From there, Dougan has now moved into owning racehorses with Floyd and a few other trusted partners, and is always looking for more horses to grab in claiming races or purchase in other ways.

Dougan admits it’s a gamble to put money down on owning racehorses, but answers with a long-time adage in the industry: “Without betting, there’s no racing.”

–By Doug Petrowski

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