BY JIM WELLS
There is an old racetrack axiom accepted as scripture among trainers and horsemen:
Here is an approximate interpretation: The grass is always greener someplace else, except when it’s not.
How else to explain that 24 trainers with stables on the grounds in 2010 are not here for the 2011 meet and that, on opening day, stall man Mark Stancato had applications from 24 trainers who were not here in 2010.
An even-Steven swap.
Some of the 2011 conditioners have been in Shakopee in years past. A couple of those with stall applications on opening day have not responded and are assumed no longer interested or possibly lost at sea.
In any event, there are a multitude of new trainers, which translates to new horses and new past performances for the betting public to study, decipher and anguish over in the coming weeks.
One of the most intriguing newcomers is Mike Chambers, who is here with 20 horses from Phoenix, where he won another training title over the winter. Chambers might be in Seattle again, except for a couple of factors. One is native Minnesotan Ann Van Rosen, who rode for Chambers in Phoenix. She certainly offered an influential voice. Yet it was Canterbury Park’s turf course, something Seattle doesn’t offer, that had the biggest influence on Chambers’ decision.
Chambers also has stalls at Prairie Meadows, so his summer appears full.
Although his reputation precedes him, let’s not concede the training title quite yet. You might recall that Keith Bennett was at Canterbury after winning the training title in Phoenix but was unable to supplant the redoubtable Mac Robertson.
Judd Becker, a Wisconsin trainer who has stalls in Chicago, has a couple of stalls here this spring. One of them _ reportedly _ will be home to a Minnesota-bred.
Roy Bland is here for the first time, catching on again from Phoenix connections. Some of Stancato’s people know him from Detroit. He is here with eight “nice”horses.
Herman Fennell, a South Dakota trainer, will have five to 10 horses on the grounds. Kenny Jansen is new to Minnesota. He was in Hot Springs over the winter, has 18 horses on the grounds in Shakopee and has already won a race.
Valerie Lund returns to Canterbury from Phoenix. She has been here before, originally taking a look at the place during the Claiming Crown few years ago.
Stanley Mankin once owned a horse named Skunk Tail, trained by Mike Kirby. Now, Mankin is in Shakopee as a trainer himself with three or four horses, including a fancy three-year-old named Wild Jacob, a horse to keep an eye on.
Not much needs to be said about Joe Merrick of the Oklahoma Merricks. The Merrick ranch is part of quarter horse racing lore. He has been at Canterbury in years past and has 24 stalls, thoroughbreds and quarter horses.
Also here from Phoenix is a recognizable name on the backside: Bobby Pate. He has eight horses up from Turf Paradise, where he trained last winter. Pate was one of the best outriders in Canterbury annals a few years ago.
Alonzo Quinn is planning to ship four quarter horses to Canterbury from Nebraska next Tuesday. He’s waiting for things to dry up so he can load up.
Also high on the list of new trainers is someone not only well known at Canterbury but a native Minnesotan. Tony Rengstorf has 30 head and will take over the Sampson stable.
John Shryock, who is associated with Joe Berndt, a successful trainer in Chicago, will be at Canterbury off and on throughout the meet.
George Stevens is a possibility from Georgia with four head.
Tom Tarwater, who trained at Canterbury years ago, will ship in a load of Kansas quarter horses any day. Aaron Taylor has been here most of the winter from Florida and has nine horses.
Jim Warvell, at Canterbury off and on over the years, will have a couple of Texas horses on the grounds until July.
Randy Weidner, a former Minnesota Quarter Horse Racing Assn. president, is training four or five horses for the quarter horse meet. Justin McKinley, a local guy, has six to eight horses.
Wayne Gray was at Canterbury four or five years ago and returns with an eight-horse stable from Ocala, Fla., His son, Chuck, works on the starting gate.
Gerry Corcoran has already won a race. The Irish trainer has a small but very useful stable of five horses. He’s been at Canterbury before, as a gallop boy.
That’s the current lay of the land on the Canterbury backside. It probably won’t change much in the coming weeks, unless, of course, it does