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South Jordan Journal

A quarter of the race — the same amount of heart

Aug 06, 2019 01:00PM ● By Amber Allen

Horses get ready to race at Salt Lake County Equestrian Park’s Laurel Brown Racetrack. (Amber Allen/City Journals)

By Amber Allen | [email protected]

And … they’re off! While horse racing is a much bigger event in other parts of the country than it is in Utah, South Jordan hosts quarter-horse races from time to time, and on June 28, the Utah Quarter Horse Racing Association held races at the Laurel Brown Racetrack on 10800 South and 2200 West. With nine races on the docket and a start time of noon, there was plenty of time for attendees to take in a race or two. 

People first started racing quarter-horses during the early 1600s. Traditionally, courses measured .24 miles, and those who planned the races formed courses through forests or took advantage of a street within a settlement, a far cry from the finely groomed racetracks in use today. 

The Laurel Brown Racetrack is well maintained. It features soft dirt that’s perfect for galloping hooves. A water truck wets the track between races to keep the dust down. On June 28, the track was dry and fast. While thoroughbred races usually extend the full circle, or more, of a traditional track from beginning to end, a quarter-horse race mainly takes place along the home stretch. This makes for an exciting race, one that’s short and sweet. 

After loading the quarter-horses into the starting gate, there is a brief pause while the starter waits for the animals to settle down. In quarter-horse racing, it’s important to get a good start because the races are so much shorter than they are in thoroughbred racing. Jockeys can help their horse come back from a bad start during a thoroughbred race, something that’s almost impossible in a quarter-horse race. 

Once the gates fly open, the jockeys must ride their horses hard and fast for 110 yards to 440 yards, taking anywhere from seven seconds to 21 seconds to complete. Quarter-horse races are more about the hustle than the style — a race is truly over before you know it.  

Since nine races were being run in South Jordan on June 28, the races varied. The first race was limited to 2-year-old quarter-horse maidens. It cost participants $100 to enter, and the winner won a purse of $2,000. Later races were limited to 3-year-old and older quarter-horses. 

To enter some races, the participants must have raced in certain trials or other races. For example, to run in the fifth race, the horses had run in the Beehive Futurity Trials, while others were only eligible if they were non-winners of two races throughout their entire racing careers. 

The stands get quiet between races. Horse owners and other viewers relax on the bleachers or ready their animals for an upcoming race. To give those in the bleachers a look at the horses and settle the jittery animals down, the jockeys parade their pretty horses in front of the stands. After everyone has a look, the jockeys and their escorts make their way to the gate. This is the moment when the owners and handlers gather in front of the track, waiting to cheer their horse on to victory. 

Just like thoroughbred races, the announcer calls out each racer’s position, keeping the crowd informed about who is in lead. It can be hard to tell which horse wins a race since they are often clustered together at the finish line. This is especially the case with quarter-horse races because they are so short. Once the judges have determined the order that the racers crossed the finish line in, the announcer informs the crowd. More often than not, the owner of the winner squeals with delight while jumping up and down at the news. 

The Salt Lake County Equestrian Park and Event Center in South Jordan is a world-class facility. Along with its 85,000square-foot arena, the center features an American Quarter Horse Association- approved three-quarters-mile track as well as a polo field and five outdoor arenas. In addition to horse-based events, the center hosts fairs and concerts. It is a place where residents can gather and enjoy their great city.