Del Mar Diaries: The Gate Keepers

by | 07.20.2013 | 8:19am
The Del Mar gate crew helps school young horses in the morning.

Thousands of horse races are run each year, and most of them go off without a hitch. That's largely due to the starting gate crew. Being a member of the gate crew requires a special touch with horses and other skills that the public rarely gets a chance to see.

In this edition of Del Mar Diaries, Ray Paulick and Scott Jagow go behind the scenes with the racetrack's starting gate crew and its veteran leader, Gary Brinson.

  • Jw

    Gary and his crew are the the best in the country! Hats off to you Ray for recognizing the guys who keeps our horses and our jockeys safe!

  • GloriaU

    I agree with Jw. Besides being a jockey, gate crew has to be the most dangerous job in horse racing. I enjoyed this piece a lot!

  • Concerned Observer

    I don’t think most owners realize how many problems can be caused by a bad gate crew.
    The best tracks have great gate crews, like Spec Alexander at Keeneland and his crew of veterans like Doug and Reilly.
    A bad crew can turn a horse into a bad actor at the gate, and some never recover fully.
    Until you have seen a good horse ruined, you have little appreciation for the value of this team.
    These are dangerous jobs and brave men that do it.

  • Patti Davis

    I was taught if you worked at a race track (in whatever capacity), and you saw a member of the gate crew in a bar, you ALWAYS bought him a round out of gratitude.

    That is one tough job.

    • Paul Bialk

      Amen Patti.

  • Beach

    Ok, I’ll advertise my ignorance and ask what all of you might view as a dumb question–I’m not some raging feminist, and don’t consider men/women unequal but I do consider them highly different; and of course, despite what some crazies think, one sex can sometimes do what the other can’t, and vice versa. That said, I usually don’t see too many women, if any at all, working the starting gates–is it the kind of thing where a lot of women just don’t like to do it, or physical brute strength is more often needed, so men are better suited to that job? Still, I know no man can make a 1200-lb. animal do what the animal does not want to do. But, I just wondered why I seem to see more women jockeys, exercise riders, lead pony riders, etc., but not too many working the starting gates. Just wondering…

    • Kris


      I’m a woman and I don’t want to work on a starting gate crew as I don’t think I’m strong enough. The strength isn’t just for the horses, either, as I’ve seen these guys literally lift a jockey off of an unruly horse and throw said jockey out of harms way. Physically, I’m not capable of that and I’m a fairly strong woman.

    • Camilla Osterman

      In Scandinavia there are a lot of women working on the gate and some of them are the best. We also have a female starter who is my favorite.

  • Paul Bialk

    Great piece Ray. Loving the daily series so far!

  • Mimi Hunter

    That’s like standing in the front of a horse trailer with the horse. And you couldn’t pay me enough to stand where Mr. Brinson does to start a race. He is right in the line of fire. A machine needs all of it’s parts to work well and in harmony. When it works right the result is good – a fair and even start to a race. I’m glad it works well at Saratoga.

  • Delrene

    Thanks so much for this enlightening video. What a job!!! Brave and strong.

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