Fate at the gate - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Fate at the gate

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Del Mar gate man Kevin Steed. Del Mar gate man Kevin Steed.

DEL MAR, Calif. (CBS 8) - Sometimes things can get a little crazy a the Del Mar Racetrack, like the time a horse almost ran into the crowd.

Larry Himmel reports from Del Mar with the story of a brave track worker who risks it all for a good break.

Ask anyone who has spend time around the track, and they'll tell you that thoroughbred horses can be high strung. Even the most well-bred can be a handful, and some of these 1,000-pound equine athletes are head cases. Just ask Kevin Steed. He'll tell you.

"My chin's been busted open, hyperextended my knee a couple of times, broke my foot several times, my collarbone's been busted -- nicks and bumps," he said.

It's Kevin's job to load runners into the starting gate, get them settled in and ready to roll.

"Once I pick the horse up from the pony boy and I start to load up into the gate, it's my responsibility from that point to get the best break I can get with the horse I'm taking care of, and also to ensure that the rider on that horse is safe at all times, Kevin said.

When a horse balks at going into the gate or acts up once it's loaded, they are called "fractious", but what they are is downright dangerous.

"You figure you load up a 1,000-pound animal and you surround him with 20,000 pounds of steel, and I stand on a four-inch ledge about shoulder height to the horse," Kevin said.

He's been around a racetrack since birth; his father was a trainer. Del Mar's starter Gary Brinson knows just how vital guys like Kevin are to the game.

"They load the horses into the gate, they protect the riders, they protect the horses and they protect each other," Gary said.

For gatemen, it's all in a day's work. Most people who bet at the races are just trying to break even. Kevin risks his life to give horses an even break.

"This is the greatest job in the world. You're outside, working with animals, you've got 40,000 people coming out here to watch you. This is the greatest job there ever was," Kevin said.

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