By JIM WELLS
Maybe the Minnesota Vikings can pick up some tips on how to put away an opponent by observing the way Dean Butler is closing the 2010 meet at Canterbury Park.
Butler had a 10 or 11-win lead two weeks ago in the jockey standings, equivalent, say, to a 10-point lead in a football game.
He had the riding title all but locked up but unlike our beloved locals in purple, Butler demonstrated a real killer instinct over the final couple of weeks, surging to 20-win lead heading into Saturday’s card, the next-to-last one of the meet.
Butler did not stop there. With his nearest rival, Ry Eilkeberry, sidelined after a spill on Thursday’s card, Butler continued to ride Saturday as if the title were still at stake.
His first win on Saturday’s card came in the fifth race aboard a daughter of Demidoff bred by Kisson Thoroughbreds, owned by Ann and Sunil Sachdev and trained by Francisco Bravo.
A fellow approached Butler afterward and congratulated him on his second consecutive riding title.
“It feels very good but it was a lot of hard work,” he said.
Hard work accompanied, Butler insists, by opportunity.
“A lot of times I was simply on the best horse,” he said. “Bernell (Rhone), Mac (Robertson), Gary (Scherer) and others gave me a lot of good chances. And my agent (Pete Antonucci) got a lot of those mounts for me.”
Nonetheless, Butler competed this summer in one of the finest riding colonies in track history.
“Yes, the colony was pretty deep this year,” Butler said. “We had a lot of good jockeys here.”
So choice opportunities, a bit of good fortune and some solid riding throughout the summer put another trophy on Butler’s achievement shelf.
Butler got his second win on Saturday’s card in the sixth race aboard Root River Kid, a four-year-old gelding trained and owned by Donald Cheloha and bred by Edna Cheloha and Steve Zmyewski.
He added his third win on the card aboard Daring Attraction, trained by Clay Brinson, in the eighth race in a track record :55 2/5 for five furlongs.
The previous record was set by Rockhurst,. :56:01. In 2005.
Ya’ll Come Back won the final race on Saturday’s card in a breeze, finishing a dozen lengths in front. Trained by Vic Reedy, the winner was ridden by Derek Bell, who moved into a tie with Ry Eilkeberry for second place in the riding standings with 51 wins.
One jock’s loss is sometimes another’s gain. Take a maiden filly named Early Girl, for instance. The two-year-old, bred and owned by Triple AAA Ranch in Phoenix, and trained by John Johnson, made mincemeat of eight opponents in a 5 ½ furlong maiden race.
Lori Keith originally had the mount on Early Girl but was injured in a spill Thursday night. Nik Goodwin picked up the mount and his filly won at first asking, by a dozen lengths.
“Oh, that horse can run,” said Rhone as he gave Goodwin a leg up in the next race.
So, what instructions did Goodwin get from Johnson before the race? Did he simply tell him to give the filly her head? “Pretty much,” said Goodwin. “He said to give her a breather along the way.”
It should always be so easy.
ULWELLINGS PICK UP A TROPHY EARLY
Al and Bill Ulwelling were in the winner’s circle with their families after the eighth race on Saturday to receive their trophies as the leading owners this season.
The Ulwellings have become big players in the game in the last five or six years and that investment is revealing itself.
They started 56 horses at Canterbury this summer, producing 20 wins, 13 seconds and five thirds: that’s a win percentage of 37 percent, in-the-money figure of 69 percent and total earnings of $193,010.
Miguel Silva was second on Saturday with 10 wins. Jeff and Deb Hilger of Bleu Valley Farm were third with nine wins.
Eilkeberry and Keith were injured in Thursday’s spill and did not ride on Saturday. Eilkeberry was at the track and got a massage and spent time in the whirlpool. He might ride on Sunday’s Festival of Racing card.
Keith was scheduled to get out of St. Francis Hospital on Saturday after suffering a compression fracture in her back in the spill.
BREAST CANCER AWARENESS PROMOTION
Fillies Race for Hope director Gary Speich had a table at the track on Saturday, soliciting support for his organization, which is sponsoring a filly who will race at Canterbury among other tracks next season.
Dance With Elegance, by Dance With Ravens from Elegance, will race in the organization’s colors next summer with her earnings earmarked for Fillies Race For Hope.
She will race at Canterbury sometime next summer in an all-filly race.
Speich says the plan is for her to tour the country racing at various tracks. The advertising company for his organization is Baker of Wayzata, which has designed the Fillies Race for Hope logo, a pink horse’s head, and has done extensive promotional work.