Last September, a quarter horse owned by Dr. Ray '69 and Wendy Norgaard '67, MST '72 set the world's record for the fastest 300 yards in a derby trial at Yellowstone Downs in Billings, Montana. Although the couple didn't make any money, they had something better.
"You dream of a moment like that," says Ray Norgaard. "Winning a race is wonderful, but when Eyes of Dawn broke the previous record, she made history."
Inclement weather conditions canceled the actual race a few days later, but the Norgaards plan to run the filly this year. With 30 other horses on their Arlee, Montana, ranch and 20 more boarded in other states, Eyes of Dawn won't be the only Norgaard horse to cross national finish lines.
A retired anesthesiologist, Ray Norgaard did his residency in Portland. He returned to his home state of Montana in 1977 to start his practice and raise cattle. Wendy Norgaard taught in Portland-area elementary schools for 10 years. In Montana, she has helped manage their ranch and raise their two children.
When he was young, Ray Norgaard's uncle raised horses and let them roam. The thrill of chasing them back to the corral sparked his lifelong interest in horses.
In the 1980s, the Norgaards began racing quarter horses and thoroughbreds. They sold their cattle a few years ago and made horse racing and breeding their business.
The Norgaards breed 12 mares each year and aspire for one out of 20 surviving offspring to become fast runners. Last year their horses won 15 races in various venues, but they haven't won a lot of stakes races. Eyes of Dawn could change that.
"Horseracing is all about hope," says Ray Norgaard. "If you were in it only for the winning, you'd quit. It truly is our passion."
Ray Norgaard recently read that it take about 20 years before horse racers truly know the business. If that's true, the Norgaards are just hitting their stride. –KJ Fields