The words from other riders who left Phoenix spring after spring and headed north to Canterbury Park. “Give it a try, give it a try. You’ll like it,” he heard countless times.
He decided as long ago as 2005 that he would indeed give the racetrack in Minnesota a shot, once everything fell into place.
He needed a break from racing so he took it last summer, working horses at his sister-in-law’s place in California instead. He was prepared to race in Colorado at the current Arapahoe meet but once again those Phoenix colleagues began talking up Canterbury Park. On two days notice, he made the decision.
Meet Wilson Omar Dieguez, born in Guatemala, raised in Southern California, educated at the same high school he was told Bill Shoemaker attended, and, like several riders in Shakopee, a regular at Turf Paradise. For Dieguez, Turf Paradise has been his winter home since 2000, and for nearly that long he had heard good things about Canterbury Park.
So far, so good.
It’s a long way from Central America, to be sure, but Dieguez, 36, has been in the United States since he was four years old. Anyplace he races is home to him now and that just happens to be Shakopee for the first time this summer.
“We love it here. We really do,” Dieguez said. He was speaking not only for himself but for his wife, Amy, and 8-year-old daughter, Mae. “I’m hoping to make a name for myself here,” he added.
That sounds pretty much like a commitment. Now all he needs are plenty of winning mounts and the case is closed.
Dieguez was a high school wrestler, weight lifter and even played football a couple of seasons at Rosemead High School, graduating in 1995. “I was athletic,” he said. “So I always thought I could be a jockey.”
That idea might or might not have been inspired by Dieguez’s belief that Shoemaker had attended Rosemead, too. A few notables did, including Vicki Carr and former Detroit Lions head coach Rod Marinelli. The school also served as the set for filming of the Wonder Years, but does not include Shoemaker as one of its dropouts. El Monte High School claims that distinction.
Nonetheless, the Shoe and Dieguez do share a common trait. Dieguez is 4-foot-11 just as the Shoe was.
Dieguez comes in around 115 pounds, about 17 more than Shoemaker during much of his career.
Dieguez has two riding titles in his resume, one at Turf Paradise in 2004 and a second at Arapahoe Park in 2005.
He got his rider’s license at Del Mar Thoroughbred Club but began riding at Portland Meadows an Emerald Downs. He rode at Hollywood Park in the late 1990s and spent several meets in Northern California, where he met his wife.
Amy Goda was an assistant trainer to her sister Marie at Bay Meadows. The team included a third sister, Lori.
“They were known as the Goda girls or the Backside Babes,” Wilson recalled.
Wilson began riding for the Godas and a relationship developed with Amy.
That union is even stronger this summer.
“I got here, promised I would have no trouble getting an agent,” Dieguez said.
“There wasn’t one to be had.”
His daughter was still in school so she and his wife couldn’t join him in Minnesota for the first two weeks of the meet.
“I can’t find an agent,” he lamented to Amy during a phone call. Enter Mrs. Dieguez, Amy Goda, who has worked the industry inside out in jobs from California to Dubai to Ireland but had never before been an agent. “She was stressed out at first because she’s not a big talker,” Dieguez said.
It was another issue completely once he brought in a couple of winners. The riding requests began coming in right and left.
He had seven on Tuesday’s sweltering card. He rode six straight on Friday’s card.
He’s won 12 races form 96 mounts. “It’s getting better all the time,” he said.
HBPA DOINGS GALORE
The annual horsemen’s meeting and brunch is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Saturday in Longshot’s. Nominations for a trainer and two owners to the HBPA will be accepted.
The annual golf tournament is scheduled at Dahlgreen Golf Club with a 10:30 a.m. shotgun start on Monday. The $55 fee includes a round of golf, the card and a lunch.
The Groom Elite program will graduate 17 students on Wednesday. Tuesday is scheduled on Monday and Tuesday.
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