By JIM WELLS
A good night for one man might be a bad night for another, or, in some cases, maybe a fabulous evening.
It’s all a matter of perspective, but you could pick up nods of approval from almost anyone in the know when a horse named Francis Henry cruised to an easy win, lengths ahead of the nearest rival, in race four Friday night.
Horsemen and anyone else familiar with the situation gave the winner a mental thumbs up, because he was trained by Troy Bethke, one of their own, who has had a miserable summer, even by his own estimation.
“I’ve never had a meet like this one,” he said. Indeed not.
With only 10 days left in the meet, the one-time champion trainer at Canterbury notched just his third win. He’s been plagued by bad luck, misfortune, bad cards, poor rolls of the dice, you name it and it’s happened. Breakdowns, head bobs at the wire, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
So when Francis Henry romped for owner Dave Hansen, there were whoops from certain quarters, including the winning rider’s. Paul Nolan has had a tough summer, too, but became Bethke’s favorite jockey, for a short while at least, while notching his 11th win of the meet.
Sir Francis demonstrated a bit of attention-deficit disorder early in the race but got his mind back on business with a reminder or two from his rider. “I had to get him to focus,” Nolan explained.
Hansen himself was surprised at the easy victory. “This was a very pleasant surprise,” he said.
By the way, the winner notched the first win of his career running in the six-furlong maiden claiming event and is now 3-1-0-0.
On another front, the Ulwellings, Bill and Al, inched a bit closer to their first owners’ title with their 14th win of the meet in the opening race on the card, won by Big Cal, ridden by Lori Keith.
The Ulwellings had one other shot on the card, in race three with Borregan Lass, who finished off the board. Nonetheless, they now have a six-win lead over Curtis Sampson in the standings.
“Mr. Sampson probably deserves it,” Al said. “He owns the place, and we’re just guests, but our horse ran well.”
He was referring, of course, to Big Cal, now 4-5-2 from 18 career starts with earnings of nearly $60,000, including Friday’s take.
The Ulwellings have 14 wins, 10 seconds and 13 thirds from 66 starts this meet and earnings of nearly $128,000
They are rooting for Mike Biehler, who handles most of their horses, to win the training title.
Biehler and Mac Robertson had one win apiece on Friday’s card and trail the leader, Bernell Rhone, by three.
The Ulwellings will send some of their horses with Gary Scherer to Hawthorne Race Course when the Canterbury meet ends and others with Biehler to Remington Park.
“Then, at Thanksgiving, Gary will take his to the Fair Grounds,” Bill said.
Back to the good night, bad night concept:
Juan Rivera was thrown backwards out of the gate when his mount in race five, Cuvees Choice flipped. Rivera limped off the track and took off the rest of his mounts on the card. Wilfredo Arroyo replaced him on Cuvees Choice, an easy winner in the race.
“That was a good one,” Arroyo said as he stepped on the scales afterwards.
In this case, one man’s bad night was another’s good night.