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Wearing Many Hats & Cleaning Many Silks

It’s a wonder that Nate Quinonez doesn’t dream in Technicolor given the kaleidoscope world of hues and paint palate combinations that inhabit his life much of the week.

For 2 ½ hours or more before first post each day, and at periods throughout the card, Quinonez is occupied with sorting and cleaning the correct silks for each rider in each race on the card.

There is also the matter of matching saddle cloths with helmet covers – a much more straight-forward proposition – each according to the horse’s post position in a race. Red goes with No. 1, white with No. 2, blue with No. 3 and so on.

Keeping straight the silks of 700 different owners and trainers takes an organized mind and system.

It’s a big job that goes unnoticed unless Quinonez makes a mistake. Although many of the bigger tracks in the country require each owner to have his own silks, that is not true at Canterbury. In some cases, the silks are the trainer’s. There is also a clothes rack with “house” colors for a horse whose owner or trainer is without silks.

Upon arriving each day, a jockey will find in his or her locker the silks for each race, one on top of the other in the order of use. Whenever an owner has horses in more than one race and his silks are soiled during the first out, Quinonez puts the washer and dryer to use and has them clean and ready for the next race.

Quinonez, if you don’t recognize the name, is the stepson of Canterbury Park Hall of Fame rider Luis Quinonez, who won riding titles in Shakopee for five straight meets starting in 1995.

Nate grew up at the racetrack and attended kindergarten and first grade in Shakopee, before his father moved his tack and family to Jones, Okla., and began competing at Remington Park.

When he came of age, Nate, 27, returned to Canterbury and worked in various capacities – hot-walking, grooming and then galloping horses.

He is more active today than at any previous time in his life, rising at 4:50 a.m. each day to gallop. When he returns before the races, he has the silks room to handle and is valet to four riders as well – Tanner Riggs, Dean Butler, Bobby Walker, Jr., and Adolfo Morales.

“Some people only want to do one job,” he said, “but this is a chance to make extra money by doing more than one thing, so I do it.”

Quinonez always knew he would do something at a racetrack. Following his stepfather’s footsteps was out of the question early on. Now 6-1 and 175 pounds, he was already too big by the time he got seriously involved in riding and began galloping at age 20.

“It would be fun, riding,” he said, “but I was always too big for it.”

He left Canterbury last autumn for Pleasanton, Calif., where he broke babies and galloped horses seven months.

This year he is considering Delaware and working for trainer Mac Robertson once the Canterbury meet concludes.

Canterbury Park is always in his plans, as it is in 2013. “Each year that I come back I make more money than before,” he said.

Clearly then, among the many colors in Quinonez’s daily life, green might be his favorite.

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