At age 69, Dale Youree says he isn't planning on slowing down.
The Addington, Okla., barrel racer is referring to the prospect of retirement, but he could just as easily been talking about his rides in this week's National Barrel Horse Association World Championships. They have been anything but slow.
Riding Ole Man Slew, a grandson of Hall of Fame racehorse Seattle Slew, Youree broke the 15-second barrier in both his Open qualifying runs. Ole Man Slew ran a a 14.812-second first round time and 14.925-second time in the second round.
After each of the 643 riders in the Open division took their best time from the two rounds, Youree's 14.812 easily advanced to tonight's finals, which bring together horses with the top 40 qualifying times. In the finals, the slate is wiped clean and all horses start even.
As far as Youree is concerned, there should be many more finals runs in his future.
"I'm going to keep competing as long as I can get on and off a horse without getting hurt," Youree said. "I'm not going to slow down. I'm going to go as long as I possibly can."
Youree can point to Ole Man Slew as an example of why he's been in the sport for more than 50 years and doesn't want to leave it. Youree says the 5-year-old Ole Man Slew is "still a baby" and should only improve as he ages.
"I enjoy seeing some progress on a young horse," said Youree, who has won every major barrel horse Futurity (for 4-year-old horses) at least once. "It's like painting a fence. When you get to the other end of the fence and you've painted it, it looks good, It's the same way with barrel horses. The finished product is what I'm looking for. It's always a pleasure for me to see the finished stage come into effect."
Youree bought Ole Man Slew as a yearling and trained him to be a barrel horse.
"He's the only grandson of Seattle Slew and he acts it," Youree said. "He's a little hot-blooded. You stir that thoroughbred up in a horse and it's a little bit harder to calm him down than a regular good quarter horse."
As Youree speaks, Ole Man Slew, who has just finished his Open division second- round run, is kicking and pawing the dirt in the warmup area at the Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center.
"See that?" Youree asks. "That's the thoroughbred in him. He wants to go do something."
Youree makes sure Ole Man Slew is in the best of physical condition.
"I keep him in what I call racehorse shape," Youree said. "Making sure his body fat is right is about all I do to him. The way you train him and keep his body fat makes a lot of difference when the competition gets this tough."
In addition to Ole Man Slew's two sub-15-second runs in the Open division, the horse carried Youree to a 13th place finish Monday in the 401-horse Sweepstakes division with a time of 15.173 seconds.
Ole Man Slew has been so impressive this week that Youree rode him in Friday's first round of the Senior division instead of the 4-year-old Dells Little Bully, the horse Youree had planned to ride.
"Dells Little Bully is probably as good a horse as this one but he doesn't run as accurate runs like this one does," Youree said. "Ole Man Slew turns quick and doesn't stay long behind the turn. He's hard to stop when I bring him back (from a barrel). That's his only fault."
There is the possibility that Youree and Ole Man Slew could sweep the finals tonight. While they are already in the Open finals, the field for tonight's Senior finals won't be determined until the completion of this morning's second round.
"I feel good about the (Open) finals," Youree said. "The winner will be whoever get their good run at the right time. That's what it all boils down too. All the horses will be pretty equal in the finals."