The curtain comes down Saturday on another season, on 70 days of racing, the longest meet since 1992, with a new riding champion and a repeat training champ.
There were trailers already in the stable area Friday morning awaiting their cargo at the conclusion of this final day, these last 11 races of the 2015 meet that will culminate with Robertino Diodoro winning a second straight training title and an affable, friendly new addition to the jockey colony in 2015 who will win the 8th riding title of his career.
That, of course, is Leandro Goncalves, a native of Brazil, who was enticed to Shakopee through the Thomas Amoss stable. He wasn’t quite ready to acknowledge his latest triumph Friday night, despite a seven-win lead over Dean Butler, who held the lead from opening day until about two weeks ago.
“I’ve won seven titles,” Goncalves said. “Hoping for eight.”
Goncalves will head to Kentucky to ride after Canterbury’s final day and then relocate in New Orleans for the winter meet. A second summer at Canterbury in 2016?
“I would like that,” he said. “It all depends on what Amoss wants to do.”
Butler set the single season earnings record in 2014 and surpassed that figure this summer. As much as another riding title, his fifth, would have hit the spot, his earnings mark is probably more important to him.
Butler will head home to Florida, and until Tampa Bay Downs’ meet begins on New Year’s Day, might fly on weekends to the Meadowlands, which will offer two days of racing for six weeks, allowing the rest of the week to spend with his children.
Butler’s horses had earned $1,714,400 before Friday’s card, a clear improvement over the $1,386,030 bankrolled in 2014. Nonetheless, he is looking forward to some time off to let his body rest and heal from a long, hard summer. “I get pretty beat up here,” he said.
Stands to reason. The first two months of the season he was breezing eight to 10 horses each morning and then riding in the afternoon.
Goncalves, meanwhile, rode the most winners this season for total earnings of $1,472,560 (through Thursday’s card).
Trainer Francisco Bravo had a solid meet this summer as well. Through Thursday’s card he had saddled 29 winners for total earnings exceeding $690,000 and was third in the standings. He will head to Remington Park, a mere 85 miles from his ranch in Oklahoma, so the switch to racing there is a welcome change.
Rider Hugo Sanchez is headed to Florida to ride after nixing a plan to try Chicago for a while. “I was going to go there,” he said, “but it’s just too cheap.” Apprentice rider Katelin Willey, meanwhile, plans to head home to Washington state for three days or so and then return to Turf Paradise in Phoenix to begin working horses for the meet that opens there on October 17.
Mark Anderson, the clerk of scales and jockey lounge boss, will spend some time visiting relatives in Nebraska and Texas before he begins hustling book for the Turf Paradise meet.
Meanwhile, Canterbury’s photography department, is packing up for a return to headquarters at Turf Paradise. Shawn Coady is headed directly home. His Canterbury assistant, Oscar Quiroz, will work the through the end of the quarter horse meet at Prairie Meadows before heading home to Phoenix.
BY Jim Wells