Think back over the past few days about the sporting world and name your favorite athlete. Maybe it was iron man Michael Phelps, American darling Gabby Douglas or the million dollar man, Oscar Pistorius.
Or, if racehorses are your thing, Lori Keith just won the biggest race ever run at Canterbury Park, the Mystic Lake Derby. Three-time defending riding champ Dean Butler won the $50,000 Princess Elaine and the $100,000 Lady Canterbury Stakes on Saturday. Maybe Thomas Wellington, the defending quarter horse riding champ, who got his first win of the meet Sunday in the $40,400 Canterbury NCQHRA Futurity at 350 yards.
Or how about Chris Davis, assistant trainer to Michael Stidham, who saddled the Mystic Lake Derby winner Hammers Terror and came right back with the Lady Canterbury victor, Ruthville.
Maybe even the ride from Hall of Fame jockey Scott Stevens in Sunday’s fifth race on Not So Fast Festus in which he coaxed every ounce of resolve out of his horse to hit the wire ½ inch in front of Cachemassa Creek and Larren Delorme.
Or, just maybe, the choice will be made on considerations aside from winners of big time local races, Olympic gold medals or sterling rides.
Maybe, just maybe, you will pull for the little man, the one who will go unnoticed even though he is now a winner, a union carpenter and native of Jamaica.
We are talking here about Clinton Venner, 53, a native of Belle Plaine for eight years after relocating from Jamaica. Venner has had his training license for about a year and saddled his first winner in Sunday’s second race, a 6-year-old gelding named Timber Hills.
He worked with horses in Jamaica before coming to the U.S. to take a carpentry job with Minneapolis Public Housing.
Venner had saddled 12 horses prior to Timber Hills without a win, but got there with a stout ride from Denny Velazquez and an even stouter dismount in the winner’s circle.
Timber Hills had a rather stout reaction of his own as the winning picture was being taken, rearing straight up as Velazquez made a hurried dismount, good enough to get comments from onlookers. “You get a 9.9 on that one,” identifier Mark Bader said.
“I guess he’d never had his picture taken before,” said Velazquez, a perfectly accurate statement if winning a race is first required to have your picture taken.
Riders and other occupants of the jockeys room were fascinated by the picture of the event taken by Shawn Coady in which Nate Quinonez appears ready to catch the dismounting Velazquez.
“He looks like he’s ready to catch a baseball,” said Derek Bell.
“Heckuva catch,” said Jerry Simmons.
NCQHRA Quarter Horse Futurity
Staying on a horse for eight seconds in this race would have gotten you a trip to the NFR finals in Vegas next December.
“Kind of like a rodeo out there,” one trainer said.
“Kind of a wild one,” said winning trainer Bob Johnson.
Yes, indeed. These two-year-olds started acting their age in the paddock, a couple of them dead certain that anything moving was a deadly creature poised to do them harm.
The 10-horse field was reduced to eight after Atsi Hero and V Os Red Hot Cole scratched early in the day. That left eight for the race, but only six of them made it out of the gate. Traffic Patrol ran off before the race and was chased down by an outrider and Girls Dont Seis was scratched after she began fussing and feuding while trying to line up.
Meanwhile, Wellington rode Jess Lika Blair to a tight win over stablemate Hastabealeader, ridden by Clyde Smith, who was given a choice of horse for the race and chose wrong by an inch or so.
“Clyde thought he won,” said Wellington. “I didn’t say anything. I let him think he did.”
So Wellington, who’ll have to relinquish his private parking spot as the riding champ, compensated a bit with the win.
“It was worth the trip (from Iowa),” he said.
Let Those Stirrups Out
Brittany Rhone approached her father, Lonnie Arterburn, with a plan this week. “I have a crazy idea,” is how she presented it.
What Rhone wanted to do was let her stirrups out, by quite a bit, so she could get more leg on the horse she rode in the third race Sunday, She’s The Cat.
The horse had lugged out on her the last couple of times and was hard to handle.
Whenever Rhone galloped the maiden filly in the morning she had her stirrups long and could get much-needed leg on the horse.
She proposed doing the same for Sunday’s race and dad consented.
“If I hadn’t won, they would have thought I was crazy,” Brittany said afterward.
But she did win, and the long stirrups helped considerably. “She tried to lug out on me once,” Brittany said. “I got my leg on her and that was the only time.”
Longer stirrups and She’s The Cat is no longer a maiden.
This blog was written by Canterbury Staff Writer Jim Wells. Wells was a longtime sportswriter at the Pioneer Press and is a member of the Canterbury Park Hall of Fame.
Photo Credit: Coady Photography