By Jeff Rebitski, Staff Writer
The answer to this question is a resounding Yes! According to Marlene Young of Lander Wyoming. She is one of the few who still raise, train and run quarter horses in this area.
At 90 years old, Marlene is a whirlwind of information and energy as she cares for and brags about her “Family.” “Horses become your family and that is why I keep them all instead of selling them when they are done racing.” says Marlene as we gaze upon some of her past champions and brood mares that produce her upcoming champions.
On a small place just south of the highway, she manages two separate facilities that keep her busy all day long. From early in the morning until late at night, she is often caring for her horses and it shows. “They have everything they need here with me.”
Her trainer, who lives in Preston Idaho, a former jockey turned trainer after becoming too heavy to effectively ride, trains and prepares her ponies for competition and takes them to and from the track. “One of my colts is hopefully running in a futurity race in Rock springs this weekend” says Marlene, “I am waiting for the word that he has been selected.” The race is potentially worth up to $150, 000 dollars to the winner after adding in all the prize and stakes money, making it a lucrative venture if you have the right blood in your horse and the guts to take the chance.
Marlene is a character who is bright and shiny as she speaks about her life in not only the race industry, but as a singer and keyboard player in the famous “Westerners” band that played all over the state and hailed from Lander. Her horse career began in Dubois at her fathers ranch where they worked 500 head of caws and rode horses in a time where if you needed to be somewhere, you got there on a horse. At 3 or 4 years old, she began to climb up on a stock horse and she felt as though she belonged. It wasn’t long before she was working cows and training stock horses for her father and local residents. Marlene became a Lander celebrity in barrel racing andeventuall as the queen of the Lander Pioneer Days rodeo. She was introduced to racing as a young girl and after some time, began to purchase and train those horses for the track.
These horses are not the kind that will run a mile and a quarter, like at the Kentucky Derby, they are American Quarter Horses and are designed for short bursts of speed. They run 300 yard races that are over in a skinny minute, so you have to keep your eyes peeled.
The question remains, is racing alive? There are several tracks across the state of Wyoming and according to Marlene, the purses are getting bigger and the interest is growing. There are trainers in Riverton who raise these magnificent horses for the track and Shoshoni hosts a group as well. The Owners of “The Starting Gate Bar and Restaurant” here in Riverton are a group that also raise horses for the track. Their headquarters is in Shoshoni.
Wyoming Downs in Evanston is one of the largest tracks in Wyoming, hosts a jackpot total of $391,000 and currently is working on next year’s race schedule. They hope to draw more and more owners to their track. They simulcast their races live and off track betting is available through national companies and through the off track betting clubs throughout the state.
Follow this story as it develops and anyone who is out there and has a part to play in future stories, please send information to Jeff@wyotoday.com. Include your phone number and a good time to met in person and discuss your role in this industry.