Get on your mark at the horse races

At a slot race in Salina, Utah, Lana Sulkey rides her horse Gunner. She’ll be riding Gunner in Moab at Barrels 4 Bucks. [Photo courtesy of Lana Sulkey]

You don’t have to travel to the Kentucky Derby to watch a fun horse race.

Every year on Memorial Day weekend, horses from around the region race at Barrels 4 Bucks in Moab at the Old Spanish Trail Arena, 3641 S. U.S. Highway 191, located just a few miles south of town. The event is free for spectators.

Riders and their horses begin warming up in the Old Spanish Trail Arena on both Saturday and Sunday at 10:30 a.m., and at 9:30 a.m. on Monday. Open barrel races — divisional contests where horses navigate barrels set up in a clover-leaf pattern — happen both days at 1 p.m. and on Monday at 11 a.m.

The entry fee for the open races is $50. Payout to the top five winners is determined by the number of entries.

Divisional races are open to all horses and their riders, but sometimes people who have faster horses want a bigger payout. On Saturday, there will be a night slot race where riders who know they have a fast horse pay a $250 entry fee for the chance to win a larger jackpot. Payouts go to the seven top contenders. The slot race begins at 7 p.m.

“It’s a straight old-fashioned race limited to 27 riders,” said Barrels 4 Bucks Co-Founder Lana Sulkey of Cedaredge, Colorado. “The music gets played louder; it’s more exciting. These are the fastest horses. They’re the best of the best of the regular races.”

In the divisional races, the ground is smoothed out after every three riders; for the slot race, the ground is dragged every three riders, Sulkey said.

Children, ages 4, 5, 6 and 7, hop in the saddle for peewee rides that take place Saturday and Sunday at 12:45 p.m. The kids ride around the barrels on their own, or, as is often the case, their parents lead them through the clover-leaf pattern.

Sulkey, along with Barrels 4 Bucks Co-Founder Sally Soltvedt, of Hotchkiss, Colorado, has been organizing horse races for the past decade, she said.

“We started (Barrels 4 Bucks) because we have a lot of local barrel racing on the Western Slope of Colorado and we thought we’d have a kickoff to the summer races (in Moab),” Soltvedt said.

Sulkey and Soltvedt organize two other Moab horse races in October, essentially extending Colorado’s season of horse racing, Soltvedt said. Participants come from Utah, Colorado and New Mexico. Sulkey said they hope to have 80 “runners” at this year’s event.

“A lot of people (in our Colorado club) didn’t want the racing to be done,” at the end of the summer, Soltvedt said. “We went to Moab because Moab has this beautiful indoor arena and people like coming to Moab, where there’s a lot of stuff to do.”

Soltvedt called the event “family- and kid-friendly.” A food vendor will be on the premises that weekend.

Prior to the race, ride times and exhibitions — which spectators are welcome to watch — are opportunities to practice and allow for the horses to become familiar with the arena, Sulkey said.

Ride times on Saturday and Sunday are at 10:30 to 10:50 a.m., 10:50 to 11:10 a.m. and 11:30 to 11:50 a.m. Exhibitions are at 11:10 to 11:30 and again from 11:50 a.m. to 12:10 p.m. On Monday, ride times are at 9:30 to 9:50 a.m. and 9:50 to 10:10 a.m. Ride times are $10 and limited to 10 people. The cost to ride in an exhibition is $5.

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