by JIM WELLS
Headlines blared the news from the newspaper boxes at the main entrance to the racing office on a wet Wednesday morning:
A late-morning e-mail from Las Vegas had another version:
”Vikes get Favre.
Proof that cash for clunkers is working.”
Peggy Davis, seated at her computer in the racing office, was taking a brief break at her desk. “I’m catching up on the Favre news,” she said, motioning to the story on her screen.
A passerby commented to Hall of Fame trainer Bernell Rhone.
“Well, it’s a done deal.”
“Yup, No. 4,” Rhone replied.
Trainer Jerry Livingston was in the midst of a conversation about the Vikings’ big acquisition when a woman hustled through the door and shook the rainwater from her hair. She had a freshly purchased newspaper in hand and brandished it like a weapon.
“I’m from Joliet, Ill., and I’m a Bears fan,” she snarled. “Favre is a sissy and you’ll see what happens when we play them.”
“How do you really feel about it?” Livingston wondered.
Trainer Steve Erban walked through the office wearing, as he often does, a Green Bay Packers sweatshirt. A bystander made a comment. Erban lifted the sweatshirt to reveal a Packers tee-shirt underneath.
“I’m a lifelong Packers fan,” he said. “But I will root for Favre no matter who he plays a against. What management did to him two years ago was unconsionable. ”
As Erban stepped through the racing office door that leads to the lobby, some horsemen seated on a bench nearby noticed his sweatshirt and had a question.
“How much does a Vikings ticket go for?” they wondered.
“Oh, $75 to $100,” Erban replied.
Or maybe more, now, according to Hall of Fame trainer Doug Oliver.
“A fellow I know has season tickets and didn’t think they were worth much,” Oliver said.
“He’s changed his mind in the past day. They’re worth quite a bit right now.”
And so it went on the second to the last Wednesday morning of the meet. Trainers talked as much about Favre and getting ready to depart Shakopee as they did the upcoming race cards.
Oliver has to get new tires on his trailer for the five-day trek home to Phoenix. “You don’t want bad tires hauling horses across the desert,” he said.
The trip takes a typical driver two to three days, but Oliver takes some of the back highways from Ogallala, Neb., winding through his native state of Colorado and stops to take advantage of horse owners’ hospitality along the way.
“They let you pen your horses so you can feed and water and let them stretch out,” Oliver said.
No charge. Simply horsemen helping horsemen.
“The horses love it. They eat and drink and fill their bellies, empty out and stretch their legs,” Oliver added. “They’re anxious then to get back in the trailer.”
New laws about destroying horses has created some suspicion along the way however.
“When some of these people see I have racehorses, they don’t worry so much because they recognize the investment,” Oliver said. “But some people simply abandon their horses when they don’t want them any more and that’s the last thing these people need _ more horses.”
It was later agreed that the only people who seem to want more horses these days are racing secretaries.
A PITCH FOR BELL
Jockey agent Richard Grunder wasn’t talking about Favre or a trip to Phoenix. He was disappointed that there is no Hall of Fame induction at Canterbury this meet.
Grunder was expressing his opinion Wednesday and calling for the induction of jockey Derek Bell, who has won six riding titles at Canterbury Park since 2000.
“He belonged in there last year and if he doesn’t make it pretty soon, then the Hall of Fame is a joke,” Grunder said.
Bell used Grunder to hustle mounts for him until this meet, when he abruptly and without explanation switched to Chad Anderson.
Although Grunder was mystified and hurt by the move, he obviously put it aside as he made his appeal on Bell’s behalf Wednesday morning.
“It doesn’t matter what happened between us,” Grunder said. “He belongs in the Hall of Fame, no ifs, ands or buts about it.”
NEW OWNERS WANTED.
New owners, potential owners or anyone with questions on the subject, or simply interested in talking to horsemen, are invited to a Meet and Greet arrangement Saturday, immediately following the races in the U Betcha Bar.
HBPA executive director Patrice Underwood was requesting Wednesday that horsemen interested in attending the get-together let her know in advance.
The meeting will give anyone interested in horse racing an opportunity to discuss the details and ramifications of horse ownership.
A QUICK GETAWAY FOR THE STALL MAN
Stall superintendent Mark Stancato took advantage of Enterprise’s great weekend specials for several years, before prices eventually went up and the plan continued to lose appeal.
“They had a $9.99 a day special that I took advantage of for four or five years _ every weekend,” he said.
Stancato recently became a Hertz man and picked up a Kia for a weekend trip to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
“I had never been to the U.P. before,” he said.
Stancato left about 1:30 p.m. on Sunday after finishing the morning line odds for Friday’s card and drove to Escanaba on Lake Michigan, stopping for dinner at an Irish pub in Menomonie, Wis.
Upon arriving at his hotel in Escanaba, he immediately inquired about a good restaurant and was directed to the Stone House.
Having already eaten, he waited until the next day to try it out.
“I had one of the best pieces of walleye I’ve ever had,” he said..
There was another side to the meal that he found every bit as appealing for a couple of reasons.
Stancato enjoys white wine and was told that, yes indeed, the Stone House did handle one of his favorites _ a Rombauer chardonnay.
“It was $40,” he said, still a bit amazed. A bottle of that particular bubbly is usually $75 to $90 whenever he and his mother order it other places.
Good fish, good wine. But now back to reality.
“I can’t drink for the next couple of days,” he said ruefully on Wednesday. “I have to have my cholesterol checked on Friday.”