Barn Buddies Presented By Dapple Up: The Delta Downs Infield Is Marty's World - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Barn Buddies Presented By Dapple Up: The Delta Downs Infield Is Marty’s World

Marty the alligator on the track – and on the simulcast feed – at Delta Downs.

If you're a horse racing type with a Facebook account, you've probably seen the video.

An alligator is seen ambling across the dirt path that goes through the infield at Delta Downs in Vinton, La. A nearby horse is understandably unsure what to make of the reptile, ultimately deciding to spin around as the handler tries to maintain control and get the horse to the paddock for an upcoming race.

The caption for the video, posted on Facebook by Joe Allen, an assistant trainer for Richard Lane, reads, “It's Marty's world. We just live in it.”

Marty is a decades-long tenant in the Delta Downs infield. Unlike many tracks, where horsemen walk their charges to and from the paddock around the turns of the track surface, Delta has a straight-line dirt path that splits down the middle of the infield, and separates a larger pond inside the first turn from a couple smaller ponds as the field turns for home.

Allen said that Marty tends to keep to himself on race day, but on that particular day, the alligator crossed the road during a high-traffic period of the card. He's much more likely to be seen crossing the path during morning training hours, when the walkway isn't in use.

“We were headed up to race, and he just came across the path going across to the paddock,” Allen said. “He got about halfway across, and he just laid down right there. I've been coming here for years and running horses, and to be honest, that's probably the first time I've had an experience like that.

“I didn't really know what to expect next,” he continued. “Is one of the horses gonna jump on top of me, or tear loose? An instance like that is definitely unusual for a horse. What horse can get used to an alligator of that size just crossing the path?”

Even though the horses didn't know what to make of the alligator, Allen described Marty as “the life of Delta Downs,” and the kind of living landmark that's known by practically anyone that visits or trains at the track.

With so much space that tends to go relatively unused in a racetrack's infield, it's not uncommon to see wildlife take up residence, and occasionally insert themselves into the race day. There are myriad instances of birds, rabbits, foxes, possums, and deer popping up in and around the races, but Louisiana's large gator population gives Delta a different kind of infield resident.

“He pretty much takes care of himself,” Allen said. “He lives in that big pond in the middle of the infield, and he's lived there for years and years. He pretty much just feeds off the fish in the pond. He doesn't bother nobody.”

Allen's video of Marty crossing the walking path has garnered attention from outlets both local and global. The video boasts more than 732,000 views on Facebook alone, with over 7,500 shares and over 1,000 comments.

Local news outlets picked up on the video, as did international publications including Yahoo!, The Sun, the U.K's Daily Mail, and numerous outlets in India.

“To be honest, I was leading the horse to go race, and I thought I'd just video this,” Allen said. “Then, it just took off. I wasn't expecting it to take off like that. I've never shared a video on Facebook and gotten that many views and shares. It's rather cool. My phone was just 'ding, ding, ding,' and people were sharing my video.”

An interested 'spectator' catches the races from the infield at Delta Downs

A few days after posting the viral video of Marty, Allen checked back in with an update on the social media sensation. He posted a screenshot of the Delta Downs simulcast feed with the gator lying down on the racing surface near the inside rail, with four minutes to post.

If Marty held up the races, it wouldn't be the first time that a gator has created an artificial post drag.

In 2016, the Delta Downs camera crew caught a gator, who may or may not have been Marty, that wandered onto the sloppy racing surface ahead of a race, and was examining the outside fence with three minutes to post. He made his way back toward the infield, but plopped himself down in the mud several feet away from the inside rail. As the horses made their way behind the gate, the gator finally got up and completed the journey.

If Marty doesn't feel like getting off the track himself, Allen said the track has an informal contingency plan.

“He's getting up in age, so most of the time, a couple of the valets will just shoo him away, but he don't move real fast,” he said. “Most alligators are rather fast movers, but he's up at the age where he don't really move fast.”

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