Nik Goodwin was born on the White Earth Indian reservation of Chippewa parents and lived there until the third grade when his family moved into Bemidji.
His early environment made two lasting impressions on him. He had access to horses and to a multitude of nearby lakes. He fell in love with both.
From the time Nik can remember, he was on the back of horses owned by his grandfather or casting a line into one of the nearby lakes in pursuit of walleye, trout or whatever else a lake could offer.
Goodwin, who is riding at Canterbury Park for the fourth summer, got a brainstorm the other day, a way to help out with the Don MacBeth Memorial Jockey Fund. In the land of 10,000 lakes, he reasoned, there must be a racing fan who likes to fish and wants to spend a day in a boat with him and another rider and help the MacBeth fund in the process.
“We can talk about the details of the trip with the winner,” Goodwin said. “Basically, we’ll probably meet somewhere near here, maybe the stable gate, and then head out for a day on a lake somewhere.”
Canterbury Park annually leads the nation in attracting donations for the fund that assists disabled riders, and this weekend there will be an opportunity for patrons to bid on many donations, trips and getaways, a chance for a day in a boat with Goodwin and one of his colleagues from the local stable of riders.
“The fishing day will have to be a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday,” Goodwin added.
Any other day and Goodwin is busy riding at Canterbury.
He is ninth in the current standings with 10 wins, 12 seconds and 11 thirds from 102 mounts, with earnings of $118,621.
Those early years on his grandfather’s horses _ he raced some of them _ planted the seed for Nik. He rode his first winner at the Barnum fair when he was 11 and got serious at age 17, leaving Bemidji in 1995 to seek his fortune at some of the nation’s thoroughbred tracks.
He spent two months in the highly competitive and talented colony at Santa Anita Park in California, then decided to head East. “Kent Desormeaux’s agent lined me up with an agent in Maryland,” Goodwin said. “So I went.”
He rode in Maryland for 10 years before returning to his native state to ride in Shakopee. “It was nice coming home,” he said. “I’m riding here for the fourth summer and I’ve taken the last three winters off to work in Ocala.”
When the Canterbury meet ends, Nik, his wife, Charity, and 1 1/2-year-old son, Layne, will depart for their home in Maryland. “It’s about 15 minutes south of Baltimore,” Goodwin said. “It’s 13 minutes to Laurel and 20 minutes to Pimlico.”
They’ll spend a couple of months there and then head to Ocala where he’ll break babies and breeze horses for the 2-year-old in training sales.
But first things first.
“This should be fun for some fan,” Goodwin added, referring to the fishing trip he’ll offer this weekend. “There’ll be four of us in the boat, two fans and me and another rider.”
Goodwin says he can guarantee the trip will be fun. Catching fish will be up to the winning bidder.