Sunny weather raised the spirits of those attending this weekend's Utah State Chariot Racing Championships, but those spirits plunged when an injury Saturday afternoon required the destruction of a horse.
Hav A Reb, a 4-year-old quarter horse belonging to Dennis Jones, Midvale, broke a leg and had to be destroyed. No collision was involved.Keith Bevan, program specialist for Salt Lake County Parks and Recreation, said it was the first injury of such seriousness in two to three years at the County Equestrian Park, 10800 S. 22nd West. "But it is a heartbreaker when it happens."
Ten clubs compete in 12 divisions in the state championships. They qualify by finishing in first through 12th place in the club race season, which starts about the first week in December.
The first- through fourth-division winners in the club races also qualify to go to the World Cutter and Chariot Racing Championships in Elko, Nev., March 18, 19, 25, 26 and 27.
Ed Giles, South Jordan, of the Utah Valley Cutter Chariot Racing Association, holds the record in the world competition for driving his two-horse team 440 yards around the track in 22.07 seconds.
If anyone beats that time this weekend, "the odds-on favorite is Ed again. He's got the same team and it's in fine shape," said Bevan.
Don Bambrough, a member of the Wasatch Slopes Chariot Racing Association in Weber County, said Giles' time was bettered in a Wasatch Slopes club race this season by Blaine Hadley, who had a time of 21.92 seconds.
But, technically speaking, world records can only be set at the Elko meet.
For many years, the Utah Valley club has hosted the state championships at the Salt Lake County Equestrian Park. But it's being challenged for next year's event. The Wasatch Slopes club is bidding to host the races at the new Golden Spike Arena in Weber County.
The state association will decide at a meeting Sunday whether to move the races.
Chariot racing is often referred to as cutter racing, but cutters, which run on sleigh-type runners instead of wheels, are seldom used anymore, Bambrough said. They were popular in the sport's early days in places like Wyoming, where the races were held on snow.
The name "cutter" is often used still, and some Wyoming clubs still race cutters, but Bambrough said he's unaware of any Utah clubs that do.
The chariot rules require that a driver and rig, not counting the horses, weigh at least 275 pounds. Chariots typically run 80 to 100 pounds, with some expensive magnesium models getting down to 60 pounds, Bambrough said.
Most drivers now use nylon harnesses instead of the heavier leather ones, so it's not uncommon for drivers to have to add small sandbags to their chariots to make weight.
The horses that compete generally range in value from about $1,000 to more than $15,000. Many that run in chariot races in the winter also run in flat-track races, where they're ridden by jockeys, during the summer.