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Aroney Evokes Racing Nostalgia

The moment passed without fanfare or celebration beyond the most perfunctory of acknowledgement, a picture in the winner’s circle without even the horse’s owners present.

Then again, this was a testament to someone else altogether, a former owner who had a prominent part in Minnesota and U.S. racing history.

It was a special moment tinged with nostalgia and a hint of sadness. The winner of Friday night’s third race was the last of his particular kind, the last link to a stable that is part of Minnesota and U.S. racing lore.

Aroney (pictured above), a 4-year-old gelding by Aptitude from the Chester House mare Ambling, is owned by Astar Lindquist Stable, but it is his previous owner who is the subject of attention here.

Aroney is the last horse owned by the late Bentley Smith and made his last start at Canterbury Park, for this season any way. It was a winning final appearance with Tanner Riggs in the irons.

“That’s a pretty classy horse,” said Riggs. “He’s really fun to ride.”

Trainer Gary Scherer, who trains many of Dave Astar’s horses, said he likely will take the horse to Arlington Park at the conclusion of this meet next week. “He really took to the turf here,” said Scherer. “His first two races he got beat by a nose and maybe a neck but he was in tons of trouble both times.”

James Lane, a Minnesota Racing Commissioner and attorney, was a long time friend of Smith’s and a personal representative of his estate. He negotiated the sale of Aroney to Dave Astar shortly after the meet began at Canterbury Park in May. The horse sold for less than $20,000. “I probably sold him too cheap,” said Lane.

Smith ran Genter Stables for his mother-in-law, Frances Genter, who died in 1992. Genter Stables owned some of the finest thoroughbreds in the country from the late 1930s until Mrs. Genter’s death in 1992, two years after her Unbridled delivered the most prestigious wins of her racing career in the Kentucky Derby and the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Smith, who died on Oct. 23, 2011, carried on for a period time with the stable and then branched out on his own but began dispersing his equine holdings little by little in the last few years. Aroney remained in racing under the training of Carl Nafzger, who also conditioned Unbridled among others for Mrs. Genter. “He was still paying his way so Carl kept him racing,” Lane added.

Astar was unable to attend Friday’s races and encouraged Lane to attend on his behalf. So Lane and his wife, Joni, were on hand to watch the last horse owned by their friend put on an impressive show. The win was the third straight for Aroney, who is three for five at Canterbury since June 8 with two seconds, one by a half-length, the other by a nose. His late, explosive charge on Friday got him to the wire 1 ½ lengths in front of Mister Bernstein.


Aroney was the second of five winners for Riggs, who has had three five-baggers this meet, a first in track history. The big night broke a tie and put him five wins in front of three-time defending champion Dean Butler in the riding standings.

Riggs nearly gave up riding last December after struggling with his weight in Chicago, so this meet has been nothing short of a Godsend for him on several levels.

“I was ready to quit. I wasn’t even in the top ten. I was winning maybe 10 percent and now to come here and win this many races is unbelievable,” he said.

Riggs rode his first winner of the night in race two on Theatre of Dreams. He followed the win on Aroney with his third of the night, on Mamameme in the fourth race. Riggs didn’t have a mount in the fifth race and finished third in the sixth with C J Mamas Boy (where a tough luck trip cost him a chance for another win). He made it four for the night with Mr Good in race seven and was on Heart’s of Gold in race eight for number five. He was out of the money with his final mount of the night in race nine.

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