BY JIM WELLS
It must have been an alignment of the stars, a celestial clue to eclipse all clues.
Or as announcer Paul Allen put it, “the hunch bet of all time.”
The grand subject of Friday night’s card was none other than jockey Lori Keith, who was not only celebrating her 29th birthday but acknowledging it with appearances in the winner’s circle.
Heading into race six, Keith had two wins in the bag for trainer Vic Hanson, who was hoping for another in the upcoming race.
There was no reason to think the stars were not sending a message as the facts of the matter fell into place just before post time.
Keith was gunning for a hat trick on her birthday. The horse she was riding was named The Third Guy, and the race was labeled “Laurie’s Birthday Dash” although for another birthday celebrant who spelled her name differently.
Think of it: It was all there.
Allen was right, the hunch bet of the century.
Hanson got his win in the race, only with Anne Von Rosen, who was riding For Instance for him. The Third Guy beat only two guys in the 12 horse field.
So much for hunch bets. Maybe the cloud cover obscured the starlight.
Nonetheless, Keith was having a royal 29th. She was aboard Pleasant Life for Hanson in the third race, a 71/2 furlong maiden event on the grass. “I thought maybe she’d place,” Keith said. “I didn’t think she’d win.”
But Pleasant Life did just that, stretching out in front of J’Noodle in the final strides.
Keith made it two for the night in the fifth, aboard Speakfromyourheart. “I love that horse,” she said. “I thought he could win.”
Keith also had mounts in the seventh and eighth races, to no avail.
As she considered the notion of a triple early in the evening, she was asked about her last hat trick.
“I had a quadruple just before I left Phoenix,” she said.
Getting an acknowledgment of her correct age was another matter. “I’m 21,” she said behind an emerging grin.
“Tell me, or I’ll make something up, just like News of the World,” she was told.
That was all it took for the English lass to give it up.
By the way, riding leader Dean Butler had a quadruple on Friday’s card.
HORSEMEN EXPRESS GRATITUDE
Horsemen clearly were pleased with the response from management during the shutdown that deprived them of 12 racing days.
The track remained open for workouts. Trainers were able to go about their daily chores as usual.
Horsemen were delighted with the response from CEO/President Randy Sampson and the Canterbury board of directors.
“We want Randy and the board to know how much we appreciate that,” said HBPA president Tom Metzen. “They went to exorbitant expense to keep the place open and allow us to train.
“We want them to know how pleased we are with what they have done for the industry during a very difficult time.”
Management is now in talks with horsemen to rescue as many races as possible from the 12 race cards that were cancelled during the shutdown. “We won’t get all our days but we know we’ll get as many as we possibly can,” Metzen added.
“The rest of the country should know about this,” he added. “They’ve gone above and beyond the call of duty for us here.”
STEVENS ON THE MEND
Each day he says the pain is a bit less and he thus infers that the healing process is under way. It didn’t start out that way, however.
Scott Stevens underwent surgery to repair his left shoulder on Tuesday and felt good enough to make a trip to Canterbury Park on Thursday night, although he was still in considerable pain.
“It’s a lot better today,” he said on Friday. “It was awfully painful.”
Doctors were pleased with the results. “They seemed to think everything went well,” Stevens said.
Stevens’ right scapula was cracked and a bone on the top of his left shoulder was chipped in a gate accident in June.
The right shoulder has healed. Now he will begin that process on the other one after having five metal clips, two cables and two screws inserted to stabilize the shoulder.
Stevens originally wanted the surgery done even earlier, but is glad now it was postponed. “It’s probably a good thing that I waited,” he said. “I wouldn’t have been able to drive or anything right off the bat. ”
He would have been without even limited use of either arm had the surgery on the left shoulder taken place before his right shoulder healed.
“At least I know I’m on the upswing now,” he said.
Doctors predicted a recovery period of four to six months, although Stevens has already altered that prognosis in his mind. “I’m saying maybe three,” he said.
Pain or no pain, nothing could stop Stevens from attending the races on Thursday night.
“I couldn’t miss the second opening of the year,” he said.