Bob and Julie Petersen

by JIM WELLS

There was a time when travel for Bob and Julie Petersen meant daily commutes between Cokato and one of the seven bar/restaurants they’ve owned in the last 28 years.

At one time or another, they’ve had businesses in Buffalo, Elk River, Minneapolis, Winsted, Montrose, Osseo and Brownton. During one period they had places in Buffalo, Brownton and Montrose at the same time.

A phone call on a recent afternoon interrupted Bob at the family swimming pool, a location once considered a luxury. “We’ve had it 10 years and all I ever did before was pull weeds out of it,” he said.

That hasn’t been the case this summer. The Petersens sold the last of their restaurants in November, and life has changed in the ensuing months at their Cokato horse farm, For Amusement Only.

There has been opportunity this summer to visit the swimming pool and to spend more time, happily, with their racehorses. The Petersens have had primarily quarter horses since they got involved in racing two decades ago, but a thoroughbred now and then, too.

“We do have more time for the horses now,” Bob said, still a bit flush from the thrill of Sunday’s big win at Canterbury Park with Holland North, a homebred, in the Grade III Northland Futurity, a race worth $61,000.

The three-hour trip from Prairie Meadows to Canterbury last Sunday was a long one after the night before. The Petersens had won the last race of the day at Canterbury on Saturday with the Inclindinator and then headed to Altoona, Iowa, where a horse of theirs ran dead last.

Normally, the drive from Canterbury Park to For Amusement Only is about an hour and 15 minutes with only farm land to look at. “You can figure out what farmer’s planting what along the way,” Bob said. “But the Northland (win) made the ride home a lot easier.”

The victory was one more of many for the Petersens since they started racing at Canterbury Park in 1989. In the two decades since, they have left a mark on quarter horse racing in Shakopee. Heading into the 2008 meet, For Amusement Only horses had won 40 races, second all-time, and had earned a leading $332,836.

“We’ve been lucky,” Petersen said.

Luck often comes to those who spend and participate as passionately as the Petersens.

“They spend money and they work hard at it,” said Ed Ross Hardy, who’s trained for them the last seven or eight years. “They have good mares and breed to good stallions. Every once in a while it pays off, like it did on Sunday.”

Hardy has eight horses for the Petersens in his barn at Canterbury Park. There is another one in Altoona.

For Amusement Only has had a number of good horses over the years, including the 2007 Quarter Horse of the Year at Canterbury _ Stone Cold Roller.

Bob didn’t know much about horses until the late 1980s. Julie is the horseperson of the family. She grew up around horses and attended the races at the Anoka Country Fair as a youngster with her father. She has three horses she rides at the farm and has gone on weeklong trail rides in the hinterlands of Wyoming or North Dakota for several years. Their two children, Morgan and Grant, have had horses race in their names at Canterbury but are more inclined toward other things.

“If we gave them a choice of rollerblades or a pony as kids, they would usually pick the rollerblades,” Julie said.

“Getting them to help with the chores was like pulling teeth,” Bob added. “But they always jumped right in the car whenever we were headed to the races.”

Morgan, 19, is at South Dakota State University, studying agriculture education and dairy management. “It was as big a surprise to us as it is to everyone we tell,” Bob said. “But she has always been in 4H and FFA.”

And Grant, the Petersens’ 15-year-old son?

“Grant likes horsepower,” Bob said. “Four-wheelers, motorcycles and the truck.”

For Amusement Only got its start in the late 1980s when the Petersens bought a mare, Billy Do Dash. “She was supposed to be in foal but wasn’t,” Bob recalled. “We took her back to Oklahoma and got her bred again.”

They started racing at Canterbury Downs in 1989 with a two-year-old they bought in Oklahoma called Hustling Dreams. “She won two out of three, but we took her to Prairie Meadows and she got claimed,” Bob said. “So we went down to Weleeka, Okla., and got another one.

The Petersens’ first homebred wasn’t a winner. “We ran him two or three times,” Bob said, “and ended up selling him to some ropers.” Among the Petersens’ best horses are Callies Corona, a yearling purchase at Ruidoso, N.M., who is still in the Petersens’ stable. “He’s won about $180,000,” Bob said.

Then, of course, there is Southern Fun, who ran for a couple of years for the Petersens but started to go blind and was retired as a broodmare. The Petersens have four broodmares, three of them quarter horses: Southern Fun, Chick in Traffic and Inclinda, a homebred winner of the Minnesota Derby and Cash Caravan Stakes and the dam to Inclindinator, last Friday’s winner.

Southern Fun is just a bit special, however. “She had trouble getting in foal two years in a row,” Bob said. “She had a bad infection and they pulled an egg out of her and put it in a recipient mare. She got in foal, then, too.”

The result was twin sons. Southern Fun foaled a colt that was named Holland South. The recipient, or surrogate mare, foaled a colt named Holland North, the big winner for the Petersens last Sunday. They are hopeful of more to come yet this summer.

There is a long straightaway of country road that runs past the Petersens’ horse farm, and Bob had to excuse himself during a phone call the other day because of the noise from a passing car. “Motorcycles and fast cars like to open it up past here,” he explained.

Fast automobiles or fast quarter horses, For Amusement Only has them both.

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