If Don Young awarded sheepskins to all the horses and horsemen who graduate from his colleges, the world would have far fewer sheep.
"I ran Sage and Sands Training Center in Hermiston for 17 years," said Young, who now is at the Grants Pass Downs meet, "and I have a training center at my ranch in Boardman. Right now, I would dare say, we have 80-some horses in training up there between the two places."
Unlike most students, those educated by Young soon get their hands and hoofs dirty. This was evident during the recent six-day meet at Sun Downs in Kennewick, Wash.
"I'm not bragging, but this year we ran 42 different horses 65 times in six days. We had 12 winners, nine seconds and a bunch of thirds," he said, exercising a professorial way with numbers.
He also had horses that ran so fast, they qualified for big races far and wide.
"We qualified horses all the way to Iowa. We have one going there to Prairie Meadows for a $125,000 race."
Among Young's many proteges are his nephew, James Young, who was leading trainer at Grants Pass last year, and Hector Magallanes, against whom he'll compete in the Firecracker Futurity.
"It's a friendly competition," said Don Young, though he's still shaking his head over what the stewards did at Sun Downs — they disqualified his winning horse Jess Be Hawkin and gave the Pot O'Gold Futurity purse to Magallanes' One Famous Strawfly.
Today, Young will run five horses at Grants Pass. They include Hannibal Lector, who once held the 350-yard record here, and Shame on Rosie.
"Rosie won three stakes races at Portland Meadows," Young noted.
One of his assistants is trailering in more mounts for Sunday.
"We got about eight horses running this weekend and eight the last weekend. It's an 840-mile round trip from here to my ranch."
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Young has many racehorses simply enjoying their retirement.
"Big Red Dustem is there. He's an Appaloosa 20 years old. He set the world record for 600 yards right here in Grants Pass.
"I have an old mare up there 33 years old. She ran 105 races. She's still walking around the pasture," said Young, who at age 75 has been racing horses for nearly half a century.
"Last weekend I got forced into taking care of all my horses here. I found out I could still do it."
THE BATTLE FOR top jockey is all tied up as we approach the midway point of the meet. Tadd Skaggs, Ruben Camacho and Troy Stillwell have six wins apiece; Jose Guerrero has five; and Tim Neal and April Boag have four each.
Boag will ride six horses today after missing last weekend because of a shoulder injury.
Jockeys have been praising the gate crew for loading and releasing horses quickly.
"The gate's the most dangerous place on the track," said Skaggs. "You don't want to spend more time in there than you have to."
AMONG OTHER notable entries today:
- Snip N Dale in the seventh race holds the Grants Pass 350-yard record of 17.32 seconds.
- Focus Now in race eight, the Wheeler Toyota Sprint, is an unknown monster trained by Nancy Klapatch.
- Noballstwostrikes will make his much-anticipated debut at the Downs in the first race. The Golden Gate gelding is the pride and joy of Tony and David Hoover. Their winning filly, Sexy Bride, is slated to run Sunday. The brothers do have a way with naming horses.
Dan Guthrie can be reached at email@example.com