Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Downs a good place to start

When they're in the gate, safety of rider, mount No. 1 priority

  • Print

22It was a legitimate question, but it had six-time Assiniboia Downs leading trainer Clayton Gray, his son, promotions and media co-ordinator Allan Gray, and head starter Derek Corbel laughing so hard, they were almost rolling on the floor in the Backstretch Kitchen.

"Coming from a layman, that is a good question," chuckled the elder Gray.

The discussion circulated around track safety, and the people whose job it is to ensure that Assiniboia Downs is one of the safest race tracks around.

"There is no way to tell the horse how to do it," said Corbel, the son of two-time leading trainer Emile Corbel. "My theory is that you keep bringing the horse over, and stand him in the gate. Then back him out. He doesn't always know that he is jumping out of the front, or even that he is going to be in a race. Hopefully he'll settle down...

"I had a guy get kicked in the stomach last night (July 8)," continued Corbel, adding that the job can be dangerous for the horse, jockey and his staff. "Our priority is the rider. If the horse flips in the stall (approximately 3x7 feet), we get the rider out first and look after the horse later. A lot of times (the rider will) get chucked right out the back before being thrown down to the bottom."

"Most of the horses load with no problem," said Dr. Joe Meek, the Downs' veterinarian "There are some which are reluctant, so they have to wrap up (two guys, one on each side of the horse, who lock hands under the rump, and muscle him into the gate)."

Tyrone Nelson, currently the No. 2 jockey in the standings, said a lot can happen in the moments prior to the start of a race. "The gate people here are pretty good, but you really have to be alert. Sometimes the horse does crazy things. Sometimes he leans on one side, or he just sit on his hind legs. Or sometimes they force their nose right up on the front of the gate."

Track supervisor Bob Timlick's job is to make sure the race surface is safe for both horse and rider. While admitting his job isn't as exciting as being a Zamboni driver, Timlick believes it is every bit as important. "The composition of every dirt track is different," he said. "Ours is about four per cent clay, three per cent silt and the rest is sand content."

Timlick, who dumps 40,000 gallons of water on the track each morning of race days, and can be seen driving the water truck between each race, says if you could see a cross-section of the track, "you'd see that we have a three-inch cushion, with an inch-and-a-half sub-base of higher clay content. Under that is a limestone base about 15 inches thick. Prior to the first race, I do cushion checks from each marker pole outward to make sure we have three inches right across, and I grade the track once a week."

Spring presents a particular challenge to Timlick and his crew of five. "Spring training begins March 1, at minus 20, often in snowstorms. We have a guy who runs the tractor all night during spring training just so that the track won't freeze."

"If a track is too hard there is chipping ankles and cracking shins," said Gray. "If it is too loose, you get them pulling suspensory (ligaments), tendons, and have lots of trouble with their back ends. But at this track, you don't have too much of anything."

One thing that exacerbates the chance of injury at smaller tracks such as Assiniboia Downs, said Gray, is that "We can't spend a lot of money, so we buy everybody's rejects (older horses). They are getting rid of these horses cheap for a reason, but we very seldom have horses hauled off in a wagon (because of injuries) either. At some tracks that is a daily occurrence, so I think it is fantastic how well we do."

"We get lots of young horses without problems, but there are some with problems," said Meek, "and we watch them pretty carefully. Horses can race up to 12 years, but probably, on the outside, only eight years. We've got several horses here that are eight, maybe the odd nine-year-old, but it is rare to get a 12-year-old. I think the majority of the time, the track is pretty kind to the horses."

allan.besson@freepress.mb.ca

 

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 10, 2009 C5

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

J.P. Vigier’s Whiteboard: Coach Maurice’s first full season

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Someone or thing is taking advantage of the inactivity at Kapyong Barracks,hundreds of Canada Geese-See Joe Bryksa’s goose a day for 30 days challenge- Day 15- May 22, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • A black swallowtail butterfly land on Lantana flowers Sunday morning at the Assiniboine Park English Gardens- standup photo – August 14, 2011   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

How many goals do you think Evander Kane will score this year?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google