By JIM WELLS
It was a day for thought, reflection and celebration Sunday, a day for memorializing old friends and welcoming some, too, a day for sadness, joy and stories.
Oh, the stories. Some were told in whispers, others in loud bursts of emotion. Not all of them will be repeated here.
There is no place like the racetrack environment for capturing the rhythms of life, the passings and arrivals, the defeats and triumphs.
On a happy note there was the return of Luis Quinonez, the Q as he is known, winner of 546 races and five consecutive riding titles in Shakopee. He was in town, for the first time since 2003, to ride Dale Schenian’s Rys Alley Cat in the Dean Kutz Derby, a race named for the late two-time riding champion and Hall of Fame rider.
There was also the scintillating effort of Jess A Runner, trained by Kenny Laymon and ridden by Doug Frink, a blowout, three-length winner of the $15,000 Great Lakes quarter horse stakes in a sizzling, track record time of :21.16.
On a more somber note, two long-time stalwarts in the racing world were memorialized with races named in their honor: Dr. Les Martens, the gentlemanly figure never without his cigarette and often in his green pants and pink polo, an owner of Hall of Fame horse Northbound Pride and a racing fan through and through, was remembered in race No. 3, The Les Martens Memorial. Dr. Martens died in January.
One race later, Robert “Bun” Colvin, a trainer on Canterbury’s backside since Day One, make that Race One, in track history was remembered. Colvin grew up on a horse and was still breaking babies at age 73. Try as he might, he could never leave racing, returning after retiring three times. Colvin died at home in South Dakota last December. Oh, that very first horse he saddled? Sultan’s Gold, who ran third to Faiz in the state’s first pari-mutuel race.
The winner of the Dean Kutz Derby was Wild Jacob, trying the turf for the first time. Owned by Stanley Mankin of Grand Island, Neb., Wild Jacob cruised home a length in front of Fairing and Juan Rivera, 3 in front of Cactus son.
Mankin recently retired from farming and went into training on his own. He has four horses in Shakopee, two of them 2-year-olds. He ran a horse here a few years ago by the name of Skunk Tail, who was still winning at age 13.
Incidentally, the figure eight on Quinonez’s horse (the noseband) broke in the gate, and Rhys Alley Cat was never a factor.
Then there was the Blair’s Cove Stakes, named for the 1988 Horse of the Year at Canterbury, won on Sunday by Tubby Time, ridden by the master of pace, Derek Bell. “He’s just a push button horse, a very nice horse,” said Bell after finishing 2 ¼ lengths in front of Mac’s Blackhawk and Paul Nolan, with Bizet in third.
Bell was concerned for an instant at the head of the lane that his horse was going to quit on him. “I whacked him a couple of times and he responded,” Bell said.
There was one more race in honor of a former Canterbury and Minnesota horseman and horse, the Bob Morehouse/Cash Caravan Stakes. Morehouse was a well-known quarter horse breeder and owner who had an impact on the fledgling industry in Minnesota.
Lien On Me was the upset winner in that race with Jennifer Schmidt up. Owned and bred by Tom Pouliot of Cocoran, Lien On Me finished a half length in front of It’s a Jazzin Time with Seis It Fast, the 2010 Canterbury Horse of the Year, next.
Lien On Me was bottle fed his first two weeks after his dam, Lenas Rare Lady, nearly died. Now three, he is long removed from those perilous days and had the competition running for their lives on Sunday.
So it went on Sunday, one story after another, some of victory, others of defeat and still others simply in memory.
There was one final vignette on Bun Colvin, who was at home in Ethan, S.D., last Dec. 4, his wife, Marlene, at his side. They were watching the races on TVG when Bun died suddenly, suffering an aortic aneurism.
Three weeks later, Sultan’s Gold died and was buried on the farm in a spot already dug and prepared by Bun in anticipation of just such an event, should it occur in the winter when the ground was frozen. Shortly after that, the family cat went, too, and Marlene searched high and low, finally locating a spot prepared for the feline as well.
Mark Erickson, Canterbury’s vice president of facilities, recalled a Colvin complaint about the hard surface of the racetrack in the late 1990s.
“He told me I didn’t know how hard it was because I didn’t have to ride a horse on it,” Erickson said.
So, Colvin invited Erickson to the backside one morning. “I’d only been on a horse once or twice in my lifetime,” Erickson said. Colvin outfitted the man from facilities on a horse and escorted him to the track.
All went well as they trotted out to the front of the grandstand until they turned around, in the direction the horses run. “That horse took off with me,” Erickson said. “Bun” was laughing, all the trainers on the viewing stand were laughing.”
The trainer had made his point.