Ry Eikleberry surely spoke for many others at Canterbury Park on Saturday afternoon with his response to the news that colleague Scott Stevens had been released from the hospital.
“Good, good, good,” Eikleberry said.
Stevens’ release came much earlier than expected, but as his friends and acquaintances considered the good news they were not completely surprised that this amazing athlete had beaten the odds once more.
Eikleberry visited the man who mentored him in race riding on Thursday night and was still shaking his head Saturday at what he witnessed.
“He still had a tube in him, he was spitting up blood and he wanted the nurse to let him go home,” Eikleberry said.
Stevens reportedly is walking on his own, although slowly, despite extensive injuries from the worst spill in track history on July 2. He was on the lead horse of a six-horse field, and his mount went down after breaking a leg. Only two of the six horses finished the race. Dean Butler was the only unseated rider who walked away from the incident.
Paul Nolan and Don Proctor also were injured in the spill, suffering broken vertebrae, but Stevens was injured much more severely, suffering broken ribs, punctures to both lungs, back injuries and a ruptured spleen.
Track president Randy Sampson, horsemen Dan Mjolsness and Steve Erban and his wife, Dorothy, were among a number of people who intended to visit Stevens on Saturday but were informed that he was going home _ about a week ahead of expectations, even a few days ago.
Chad Anderson, Stevens’ agent, was not entirely surprised. Stevens, 49, has been injured severely several times during his long career and always bounces back sooner than expected.
Anderson recalled an incident that occurred in 2005, the day of the Claiming Crown races in Shakopee, indicative of his rider’s tough spirit. Stevens sprained an ankle badly while doing some work at home that morning. “His ankle was swollen like this,” said Anderson, indicating a large circumference with his hands.
“No other jock I know would have ridden that day or maybe for several days.”
Yet, Stevens figured out a way to get the swollen ankle into a boot, and a way to position himself in the irons without putting undue pressure on the injury.
He not only rode that afternoon, he won the Claiming Crown Glass Slipper on Ells Editor for trainer Percy Scherbenske.
Anderson’s trailer is a couple down from where Stevens lives. The agent planned to stop by after the races on Saturday and invite him to dinner. “I’ll throw something on the grill,” Anderson said.
HEY, WHEN’S THAT GAME, AGAIN?
You could find Vikings purple in various parts of the grandstand on Saturday, as part of the Ride for Life motorcycle rally benefiting the Vikings children’s fund.
Track superintendent Ian Gamble proudly displayed a picture that included him, track president Randy Sampson and several Vikings cheerleaders, who were on hand for the occasion.
Gamble attended the NFC title game in New Orleans last season, decked out in his Vikings colors, and was lucky to escape with his life. There is that rematch on Sept. 9, of course.
Trainer Gary Scherer has been wearing his New Orleans Saints cap proudly most of the meet and had it on Saturday.
He wished he had gotten an opportunity to visit the winner’s circle with his cap early in the race card when the cheerleaders were present.
Sampson had other ideas on the matter.
Encountering Scherer later on in the day, he told him that his cap would have become mush underfoot had he shown up with it as he wished.
Vikings fans can’t wait.
DOES THIS RING A BELL?
Derek Bell did a fine job of handicapping the two mounts he rode on Friday night at Prairie Meadows Racetrack when he talked about them earlier that day.
Bell thought he would win with the two-year-old filly he was on. He wasn’t certain about the other mount, a Claiming Crown horse. He thought he might need the out and figured the race was a good prep for the Claiming Crown.
Just as he analyzed, Bell won on the two-year-old, Spunkette, in a maiden special weight at 5 ½ furlongs. He finished third on James Wilfred, three lengths back, in the second race.