By JIM WELLS
ONE LAST PICK SIX STORY
The pronto pup stand, the Home Stretch café and bar and the ice cream stand were buzzing Friday night.
Of all the players who participated in the pick six, the largest ($166,349) in Canterbury Park history, none was any more excited than the three college men at work in those concession stands at Canterbury Park.
Jeff Engebretson manages the pronto pup stand, Taylor Sampson was working in the ice cream stand and Caston Johnson in the Home Stretch bar.
They took turns running from one stand to the other after each race in the pick six. Johnson sent text messages to a fourth player on their $32 ticket, Aaron Stroeing, who was working at the movie theater in Chanhassen.
“We’re still alive.”
As each winner came in, the guys congratulated one another and Stroening would text back to Johnson “no way,” simply unable to believe the good luck that was on their side.
Stroeing and Engebretson attend St. Cloud State, Johnson is at the University of Minnesota and Sampson will be in the fall.
With five winners in, the four friends were doing their jobs and dealing with the swarming butterflies in their stomachs at the same time.
Engebretson was finishing up business at his stand, counting money and dong his paperwork as the final race approached. “I got it done as quickly as I could and ran up to the Home Stretch to watch the race,” he said.
Johnson had singled the No. 2 horse in the final race, Silent Preacher. “We don’t do this very often,” said Johnson, who describes himself as an occasional player. “I usually go by the trainer, jockey and choices in the program,” he said.
Well, on Friday night that was proving an effective handicapping strategy for these four players.
Their ticket had two horses in the first three pick six races and the seventh _ and singles in the sixth and final races.
Johnson, Engebretson and Sampson, whose dad, Randy, is the president and CEO of Canterbury, gathered at the Home Stretch bar, to root home the final selection on their ticket.
Johnson went with Silent Preacher, based on the success Ry Eikleberry had on some mid-priced horses in recent races.
Alas, Eikleberry and Silent Preacher couldn’t close enough ground on Lori Keith and 15-1 longshot Sir Reddington in that final race and finished second by ½ length.
Paddock analyst Kevin Gorg had these words of wisdom after hearing the story of this near miss.
“It’s a good lesson to learn young,” he said, “that when you bet the horses, it’s all about heartbreak.”