Couple travels on racing circuit

The Arizona County Fair horse racing circuit is a long ordeal for the trainers and owners who follow it from one end of the season to the other.

Racing began in January and the first part of the season ends up after Hualapai Downs at the Mohave County Fairgrounds.

Gene and Varue Wilson have been on the road with eight horses hitting one county fair race after another since January.

They haven't been to their Hurricane, Utah, home since then.

They will take a break after Hualapai Downs and head home.

Gene doesn't mind life on the road, but his wife Varue is ready for a break.

"I'm ready.

We need to see the grand kids.

A bunch of them are there in Hurricane.

Some are kind of spread around," Varue said.

"I'm always ready to go home by the middle of May."

While Gene misses the grandchildren, he doesn't mind life on the road.

"It isn't that bad," Gene said.

"We have a 30-foot trailer and satellite TV.

We've got everything we need."

Everything they need includes eight race horses that have kept them traveling nearly half a year in 2003.

Gene is the trainer and owner of the couples' horses and he'll be busy on Saturday.

They have four horses running Saturday, one each in the second, third, fourth and fifth race.

In the six-furlong, second race, a claiming race for 3-year-old and up thoroughbreds, the Wilson's entry is Foxxy Walker.

"Prior to last week he won his last two starts," Gene said.

"Then last week he run like a pig."

In the third race, a six and a half-furlong claimer for thoroughbreds 3-years-old and up, is Oklahoma.

"He's probably the best shot I have at a win on Saturday," Gene said of the 4-year-old gelding.

"He won two races then the last time I run him in Sonoita and he run second."

In the fourth race, a four-furlong claiming race for 3-year-olds and up, the Wilson's entry is Maria Ferrante.

The horse currently is puzzling Gene.

"I just bought her and I've run her three times," Gene said.

"She goes out on top on the lead then she just quits.

It's just a matter of trying to find out why she's quitting.

"It would be a lot easier if they could talk."

In the fifth race, a 5 1/2-furlong race for 3-year-olds and up, the Wilsons have coup De Lafourche, a 9-year-old gelding.

"I think he's telling me he's ready to retire," Gene said.

"This may be the last time I run him.

I ran him in Duncan and he didn't run that well.

"I'll give him a shot.

Maybe he'll prove me wrong."

Running four horses in a row in four races will keep Gene hustling.

The trainer is responsible for taking care of the horse in the paddock, but he also needs to bring it from the barn, lead it onto the track, lead it off the track and get it back to the barn.

"You don't have much time.

We have help at the barn area and we change horses halfway down there," Gene said.

"While they're on the track, between the time I put them on the track and they get started at the gate, I'll run back to the barn and put wraps on and bridles."

For nearly a decade the Wilsons followed the Arizona County Fair circuit.

Gene admits, though, he doesn't really recall how long he's been involved in racing.

"It's been a long time.

I'm a retired school teacher.

I taught school for 30 years and raced part-time," Gene said.

"I retired seven or eight years ago.

"I had horses all my life.

I was raised on a ranch.

Before we started racing horses we raised horses.

We had stallions, brood mares, colts.

That was never as much fun as racing.

"When I retired we sold all them and just raced.

Now we kind of do it fulltime."

Even though it's a lifestyle the Wilsons are very happy with, winning is what keeps them on the road.

"That's what it's all about," Gene said.

"One win makes up for a whole lot.

We've won 11 times since Tucson this year."

And you never grow immune to the excitement.

"You still get a knot in your stomach about the size of a grapefruit," Gene said.

For the moment, the Wilsons are content to just follow the circuit and spend their free time with their horses and race the weekends.

"The horses have to pay their own way or things get kind of quiet around the supper table," Gene said.

"I don't plan to win any of the big races.

I'd sooner win a cheap race than run fourth in a big race.

"We've set kind of a goal to win so many races in a year, but that's the only goal."

Hualapai Downs isn't over and Varue and Gene haven't been home yet, but it doesn't stop Gene from dreaming of the next stop on their horse racing tour of the West.

"We're going home for a while and rest our horses," Gene said.

"Then we'll either come to Yavapai or go up to Montana, they run there the 24th of July."

Either way, the Wilsons will spend about 10 months out of year racing.

But, they only have two days of racing left at Hualapai Downs before they go home.

Hualapai Downs racing continues Saturday and Sunday.

Race time is 1 p.m.

both days.

Admission is $2.