Chariot racing has a long and glorious history, dating back to ancient Greece.
The Giles family, charioteers from Morgan with a long racing history, will rely on hard work and hope as they try to add a first division world championship to their laurels.
When the races begin at noon today at the Weber County Fairgrounds, 1000 N. 1200 West, the Giles family -- including aunts, uncles, cousins, wives, brothers, sisters and young'uns -- will be cheering on Zoo Zoo Zoom and Dashin' Straw when they jump from the gate in the toughest and highest division race in this first weekend of the 2008 World Cutter and Chariot Racing Championships.
The family's racing history may not go back to the days of Greek glory, when chariot racers competed in the first Olympics, but the family has a long association with the American version of this fast-paced sport.
Ray Giles grew up working and training horses and has had his own horse since he was 3. Forty years ago, when he was 19, he started going to the chariot races with his uncle, Homer Randall.
Ray Giles, who turns 60 next month, started bringing his brother, Bruce, and his nephews, Dave, Blake and Clay, with him. The fever and the fury of two horses attached to a 60-pound chariot pounding down a 400-meter track infected them all.
"David used to go with me all the time, from when he was about 10 or 12, and then he just really got into it," Ray said.
"He'd study the horses real close ever since he was a little kid. Blake went, on and off, with us. Blake started getting really involved when we started with our own team."
After his Uncle Homer died, Ray used his years of helping and watching to put together his own team: The Giles Family of Wasatch Slopes Racing Association.
"You kind of get the bug," said Dave Giles, team statistician and horse scout.
"You're watching your family do it, and you want to do it yourself, and you want to have your own team, so he (Ray) finally was able to do it 13 years ago. We've run every season since."
This is the third time the team has competed in the first division at the world championships.
"Everyone helps," Dave said. "My uncle (Ray), he feeds them in the morning, and my younger brother, Clay, he's there every night. He's the stall cleaner and gets 'em on and off the walker and spends a lot of time working with the horses.
"Blake is our driver. He's the gallop person, the driver of the team at the racetrack. I kind of pick horses out -- figure out which ones we're going to buy."
The combination of working with horses, friendly competition and even sheer luck draws the Giles family back year after year.
"I know there's not very much money involved in doing it," Dave said. "We probably lose money. It's the competitive spirit, something about the bond with the horses. You trust them, they trust you. You can tell. You know their personality, and they know yours, and it just gets in your blood."
Preparing for the races is a year-round commitment, and the Giles family spends up to three hours a day taking care of their horses.
In preparation for today's race, they've already put in weeks of work, running, training and prepping the horses, prepping the stalls for the horses and loading the trailer.
"You have to have more than one person," said Clay Giles. "I guess one person could do it, but we have, gosh, I'll betcha when we're at the track getting ready to run, we have eight or 10 people helping.
"Each has their duty. One pulls the chariot, and one holds the lines, a couple people are choking up, and a couple are riding ponies, leading the horses off, and a lot of people, almost everyone in there, is family."
Blake said chariot racing is expensive, but worth the price for the family togetherness.
"The biggest thing is, it keeps all our family involved. Not very many people can say they go out and spend four hours every Saturday with their family. We're pretty close as a family, and it just gives us an excuse to get together once a week."
IF YOU GO
The World Cutter and Chariot Racing Championships is co-sponsored by the Wasatch Slopes Racing Association and Weber County.
* When: Noon today and Sunday, and March 28-30
* Where: Golden Spike Arena at the Weber County Fairgrounds, 1000 N. 1200 West, Ogden
* Cost: $7 per day or $25 for all five days
There are websites here and there with more info on this (apparently growing) sport ... I wonder if they have four-horse races ...