Horse racing runs distant last in Utah

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I've often joked with my wife, family and friends that divine intervention led me Utah, where becoming an NFL quarterback is more likely than becoming a race track bum, which was my preferred occupation at one time.

In nearly every other state, race tracks are as common as 7-Elevens, and spending time there is as easy as a drive across town.

Not in Utah.

While horse races are run everywhere from Ogden to Beaver to St. George, the economic stimulus provided by parimutuel wagering is missing.

The last attempt to legalize it was organized, well-financed and supported by some influential politicians.

Still, the issue was voted down and probably won't be revisited for decades to come.

That means horse racing in our state will never be more than minor-league, when many of the necessary ingredients to make it major league exist.

Too bad.

Even in Utah, however, I think everyone has heard of the Kentucky Derby.

It's that big horse race held annually on the first Saturday in May.

It's on TV and everything.

There have even been a few local connections to the Derby in the last couple of years.

Utah native Jeff Mullins, one of the country's top trainers who is based in Southern California, has saddled three Derby starters since 2000.

Last year, I Want Revenge was supposed to be another Mullins starter, but the morning line favorite didn't run after suffering an injury on the eve of the Derby.

In 2006, Brother Derek was one of the favorites, too.

As a baby, the horse spent time living and training at the Salt Lake Equestrain Park in South Jordan.

In the Derby, Brother Derek finished in a dead heat for fourth behind Barbaro.

A year earlier, 50-to-1 long shot Giacomo scored a shocking victory in Kentucky.

The horse was owned by Jerry and Ann Moss. He is a famous record producer and member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She was born in Salt Lake City and, according to one story about her after Giacomo's win, grew up riding horses on her grandfather's ranch.

This year?

No Utah connections, not even obscure ones.

In March, one of the great stories in racing was a horse named Caracortado and his jockey, Paul Atkinson.

Caracortado won an early Derby prep race. It seemed possible that Atkinson, who cut his professional teeth at the small tracks in Utah and Idaho and whose first win at a parimutuel track came at Wyoming Downs, would ride in his first Triple Crown race at the age of 40.


Caracortado was trounced by Sidney's Candy in the Santa Anita Derby.

The loss knocked Caracortado and Atkinson off the Derby trail.

But most Utahns probably already knew that, right?