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A Slight Canadian Detour

Jake%20Barton%208-16-13The last time Jake Barton spent any time in Shakopee, the racetrack was called Canterbury Downs and he was called every other hour by an agent in Canada who wanted him there.

Long story short. Barton left Shakopee for a weekend trip to Assiniboia Downs, wound up falling in love, getting married and now, 24 years later, is back in Shakopee.

The story began unfolding in 1989. Barton spent 1 ½ months in Shakopee riding for Doug Oliver among others. He couldn’t seem to shake an agent named Roger Oleksiw, encouraged to call the rider by the owners of Assiniboia Downs, who knew Barton from trips to Turf Paradise in Phoenix.

“He’d call me at 1 a.m., 2 a.m., constantly. Basically, I went up there to get the guy off my back,” Barton recalled with a chuckle. Barton met the agent’s daughter, Cheryl, the day he arrived, dated her the next day and wound up marrying her a year later. And the guy he wanted off his back became his father-in-law.

Barton In the meantime had to do some shopping after leaving Canterbury in 1989. He brought only enough clothes for the weekend.

In the last two decades, Barton has raced throughout Canada and the Southwest, settling at Prairie Meadows for recent summers after the Phoenix meet.

He decided to try Canterbury Park after the purses were increased through the partnership with the Mdewakanton Sioux Community of Mystic Lake.

“It fits better with the meet in Phoenix, too,” he said.

For the record, Barton did return to Canterbury two years ago to ride in a stake race.

He displays two of his life’s loves on his shoulders – the Browning logo tattooed on one, his wife’s name on the other.

People who know him say he disappears immediately whenever he’s done riding for the day at Turf Paradise. “Yeah, if I don’t ride the last race I can still get in an hour of hunting when I get home,” he said.

His residence in Surprise is near a patch of state land that offers ample opportunity for bird hunting, quail and dove.

“Every chance I get,” he said.

His weapon of choice is a Browning 12-guage, and it has been useful in various ways over the years.

“I always wear snake boots when I’m out,” he explained. “I’ve stepped on rattlers more than once.”

On one occasion, traipsing through desert shrubs and grass the barrel head of his Browning came in direct contact with a rattler. “That snake was about 6 ½ feet long,” he said. “He was traveling through the grass so he wasn’t coiled and couldn’t strike.”

Nonetheless, the Browning was put into service on the spot.

The Bartons have two children, Jessica who is on a full ride soccer scholarship at Grand Canyon University, and Justin, a senior at Willow Canyon High School in Surprise.

There is one other love that Jake and Cheryl share – dancing. Two-step, swing, you name it. “I can hunt in the daylight and dance when it gets dark,” Jake said.

As Barton carried on a conversation Friday night, young Alex Canchari, hoping to overtake Dean Butler for the riding title this summer, stopped momentarily to discuss a race with the veteran rider.

Barton has won titles in the past in Canada but such pursuits are not part of his goals at age 46. “I’m more of a money rider now,” he said.

Making a living.

The purses at Prairie Meadows provided that opportunity, yet there is another factor today not present during Barton’s trip to Canterbury Downs in 1989.

“This just fits better,” he said. “You only have to move once if you come here after the Phoenix meet,” he said. “And then you go back when Canterbury is done.”

Shakopee in the summer. Phoenix all winter.

Hard to beat.

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.