HELENA – While all eyes will be on the Kentucky Derby this Saturday, a local man is watching his own horses as they compete in other races around the country.
Gary Hoovestal, owner at Hooves & Stalls Quarter Horse Racing Stables, has been racing horses for 20 years. It’s an interest that started with his father.
“My dad always liked race horses and when Greenway started to mature and we had a little money, we bought a race horse for him,” Hoovestal said. “After he got that race horse, we bought some for ourselves.”
Now he has 115 horses and a canine companion named Rollo.
He’s spent years trying to find the right mix of breeds to come up with a strong competitor.
“It might become a little more of a science, but now it’s more of an art,” Hoovestal said. “Trying to figure out which horses cross best with the others – it’s not easy. It’s a guessing game pretty much.”
Hoovestal races quarter horses which are known for their speed at short distances.
The horses in the Kentucky Derby are thoroughbreds. It’s a difference of speed versus endurance.
Hoovestal said it’s a tough business.
“They haven’t accomplished nearly as much as I wish they had and let me say there are many more lows in racing than there are highs,” Hoovestal said.
It’s also expensive. Some horse racers have spent millions only to walk away with little to show for it.
A number of Hoovestal’s horses are now retired, some even blind or partially disabled. They’ve found a home on his ranch.
Still Gary is not giving up. His goal is to win the All American Quarter Horse Race at Ruidoso Downs, N.M.
“We’ve run some in the trials at the All American and we have one running at Los Alamitos in California and then we have four of them running in the trials for the Ruidoso Futurity.”
Gary said there’s only so much preparation he can do.
“The best of the best and hope for the rest,” Hoovestal said.
The Kentucky Derby airs this Saturday with coverage starting at 12:30 p.m. on NBC.