Inside The Starting Gate

Sep 06,2018 Lisa V

Have you ever wondered who is responsible for opening the gates and starting a race? A Racetrack Starter is the one who holds all the responsibility. At Century Downs Racetrack and Casino, Joe Gray has been our Starter for the past two seasons.

As a starter, Gray ensures that all horses are loaded safely and efficiently and are all set for a fair start. Gray then holds the power to press a button which simultaneously rings the starting bell and flips open the magnetic gate doors!

There is also a lot of teamwork happening between Gray and his starting gate crew. Gray oversees a team that is responsible for getting each horse into the gate. “Before the race, we set up a loading order and I watch to see that the horses are behaving and if they are, we can get them off to a good start.” Gray Said.

Getting all of the horses to cooperate and get into position at the same time is sometimes difficult. Gray explained, “It is difficult, especially when there’s a few misbehaviours because you’re always going to have that happen. You just have to get lucky and get them all in at the same time.”

Not only do Gray and his team work at the beginning of races, they begin their day in the early hours of the morning. They are also responsible for schooling the horses and giving them some experience entering and becoming comfortable in the starting gate. “When two-year-old horses start out, we have to train them in order for them to become more relaxed and get them into the process of breaking out of the gate. It’s always a whole lot better when horses are well behaved.” Gray explained.

Even with schooling, the Quarter Horses are still sometimes a little rowdier and more difficult to manage in the starting gate. “The gate can rock a little bit with the Quarter Horses, but that just makes it more challenging and I like that,” Gray said.

We would like to thank Gray and his team for all of their dedication and hard work here at the racetrack. For more details on Gray and his position, head over to Century Downs’ YouTube channel or Facebook page (@CenturyDowns) for the full video on this story.



If you are a Winners’ Zone member, don’t forget that you can join in on our Jackpot Mondays every Monday in September. Every hour, on the hour, from 1 – 8 p.m., choose from one of our jackpot envelopes, and you could instantly win up to $500 in slot play!

Mark your calendars for the Alberta Breeders’ Fall Classic on September 16! Watch and wager on stakes races competing for over $350,000 while enjoying a warm salt pretzel with mustard, pork roast, potato grostl, beer gravy and Kaiser schmarrn for dessert in our Bier Garden! Tickets are $35 + GST and service charges per person and are available at customer service or by emailing events(at) VIP tickets for a luxury Fall Classic experience are also available! The experience includes guaranteed covered infield viewing, a buffet lunch and a drink ticket! Buy your tickets now for $75 + GST and service charges at customer service or by emailing events(at) You can also enjoy the Alberta Marketplace featuring a range of products and services that are all made in Alberta!

See you at Century Downs!