Horses set for gate at Sun Downs

April 18, 2013 

When a young 2-year-old quarter horse races at Sun Downs, the trainer doesn’t just show up on race day with that horse ready to run.

Those babies have to learn how to come out of the starting gate, ready to run.

Shorty Martin, the racing secretary for the Tri-Cities Horse Racing Association, has been busy making sure the young ones are race-ready.

Good thing, since the six-date meet at Sun Downs begins at 1 p.m. Saturday.

The meet runs this Saturday and Sunday, then April 27-28 and May 4-5; the post time each day is at 1 p.m.

Martin has been on the grounds helping get the 2-year-olds ready to run since March 1. He uses a professional starting gate that the track has.

First, you have to take the horse up to the gate and walk it through, he said.

If they do well with that, then the gate is closed, then opened with a bell.

A group of trainers have their own gate down in Hermiston and have been working with a number of horses down there.

But those horses will need Martin’s approval to run.

“Each horse actually needs to get two gate OKs from me,” Martin said. “When we set the gate up, we do it from 225 yards out. And the horses have to break from the gate with company. So there has to be two, three, five horses in the gate.”

It’s a training race, he said.

“We’re getting a lot of horses ready to run this year,” he said. “There are some guys here with horses who aren’t here to run (now) but will later this year. They’re training to break from the gate.”

Martin usually puts in 21⁄2 hours a day in working with the horses at the gate. But sometimes, it can be up to five hours.

When it’s all said and done, Martin expects 50 2-year-olds to be trained from the gate by the time this meet ends.

The next big quarter horse star just might come from that batch.

Notes: Martin said there were 21 horses in Thursday’s draw for the Pot O’Gold Futurity trials, which will be held Sunday. They will be divided into three trial races. He also is expecting two to three strong thoroughbred races. ... There will be 10 races for Saturday’s card and nine for Sunday. ... Half of the haul-in horses are from the Hermiston area.

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