14,455 Enjoy Father’s Day Card

Hammers_Terror_Brooks_Fields_StakesThere is nothing like horse racing for destroying a person’s spirit one instant and then restoring it a few minutes later. These are the vicissitudes of a sport that can present more ups and downs, more highs and lows, than the Wild thing at Valley Fair. You can be a dejected loser one moment and an exuberant winner the next.

That’s exactly how the feature events played out on a glorious Father’s Day at Canterbury Park Sunday. The unbeaten Heliskier went to his knees, reportedly cut his face, on the break and was taken by van from the track. Then the odds-on favorite in the feature event of the day, the $50,000 Brooks Fields Stakes, did all that was expected of him to balance the scales for the day.

For whatever reason, much of the crowd of 14,455 departed immediately following Heliskier’s race. Perhaps that answers a question for Marlene Colvin, Heliskier’s owner, who wondered before the race: “Do you think this large crowd is here to see him?”

Well, the case now can be made that perhaps it was.

Perhaps Father’s Day and a solid card were factors, too.

HELISKIERDerbyFinish

In any event, Heliskier’s (pictured above winning the Minnesota Derby in 2012) unbeaten winning streak ended at seven, and a tearful Colvin approached the winner’s circle afterward seeking information on her horse.

Rider Derek Bell, visibly upset, made conflicting statements afterward but left the strong impression that Heliskier was probably OK but that erring on the side of caution was the best approach in this case. Reading between the lines it seemed apparent that Bell was cautiously confident he horse would recover but wasn’t willing to push his luck after the gate incident.

The day’s activities included a horseshoe toss that included Daily Racing Form correspondent Ted Grevelis. “I didn’t realize how far that toss was,” he said afterward. His efforts drew a comment from a pressbox know-it-all who said, “I had a horse who could throw a shoe with more accuracy than that.”

Grevelis later took umbrage with the behavior of several fans during the running of Heliskier’s race. “When they saw him go to his knees they yelled and clapped,” he said.

Grevelis was appalled and reacted with this response. “A horse or a rider could have been severely injured and they’re clapping. I don’t get it.”

With Heliskier out of the mix, a 19-1 choice named Rainier Ice, ridden by Alex Canchari, cashed in, finishing in front of Jamaican Memories and Bizet.

Then, under sunny skies, Hammers Terror (pictured at top), winless in five races since the Mystic Lake Derby in Shakopee last July, got healthy again, leading seven others to wire, repelling challenges in the stretch run from Slip and Drive and Wild Jacob to finish in front of those two.

With three scratches in the race including the far outside two, the outside spot was left to the winner.

“That was a concern,” said winning rider Dean Butler, who had four winners on the card, “But once I brought him over he settled nicely.”

Butler moved his horse up gradually to the front where he prefers to run and the son of Artie Schiller took charge on the lead (full race replay below).


SKIP ZIMMERMAN MEMORIAL STAKES

Trainer Stacy Charette-Hill considered sending Stone Cottrell, a five-year-old gelded son of Sc Chiseled in Stone back to the farm to freshen up when the Remington Park meet concluded this spring.

Then her husband and assistant trainer, Randy, intervened. “There is a stakes race at Canterbury Park called the Skip Zimmerman that he could run in,” he said.

Stacy had a response. “This horse can’t run 350 yards,” she said. Indeed, he had not gone more than 350 yards in some time.

Then Stacy began weighing the odds. Stone Cottrell is the first baby from the dam Rainbow Riches to run at a track. “I figured if he could even get a third up here it would help his mare,” Stacy said.

Stone Cottrell did more than that in Sunday’s co-feature, withstanding a late, hard rush from A Splash of Hell to win by a head in 17.73.

“He couldn’t have gone 355 today, though,” Stacy said happily.

The win was fifth in two days at Canterbury for her stable and rider Jorge Torres, riding for the first time this year.

“He comes from a racing family,” Stacy said. “He’s ridden in some match races but hadn’t ridden this way until this year.”

The Hills are from outside Lexington, Okla., and have liked all they’ve seen of Canterbury Park since arriving. “It’s wonderful here,” she said. “The people are exceptionally cordial and nice. I’d consider bringing a big stable here if they had more than two quarter horse races on their regular cards.”

This blog was written by Canterbury Staff Writer Jim Wells. Wells was a longtime sportswriter at the Pioneer Press and is a member of the Canterbury Park Hall of Fame.

Photo: Coady Photography

Video: Michelle Benson & Canterbury Television Department

Jockey Race Tight Early

Lori Keith 5-28-12Lori Keith bounded out of the tunnel leading to the paddock Sunday afternoon and right past the No. 1 spot for her horse, Oughterson. “Hey, Lori, over here,” someone called. “I was distracted. He distracted me,” Keith said, pointing to a nearby interloper while gathering her wits.

Keith is as focused as she’s ever been this spring, concentrating on the task at hand like never before. That is all part of being in the thick of the fray for the riding title and the forces of competition.

Keith was in the lead at that point of the card with 10 wins, one in front of Ry Eikleberry and two in front of Eddie Martin, Jr.

“I can’t shake Ry or Eddie,” Keith said later. “They are right on my heels. I win one and they win one.”

By day’s end, Keith and Eikleberry were tied with 10 wins each and Martin was on their flanks with nine.

The situation has created some good-natured banter between Keith and Eikleberry, who traded jabs on their way to the paddock before the sixth race.

A group of three to five-year-old girls awaited Keith at the top of the tunnel steps. “Oh, my little Lucky Charms,” Keith said happily.

“They need to go away right now, right now,” Eikleberry joshed.

Keith in the view of many observers is riding at her highest level ever this spring. She has first call in the barn of the track’s leading trainer Mike Biehler, riding six of his eight winners. “He’s been training a long time and knows what he’s doing,” said Keith. “I just ride them.”

Yet, the thrill of winning creates its own form of competition. “You start to get greedy,” she said. “You win a race and you want to win another.”

She has had to this spring to keep pace.

“I’ll win a race and Ry or Eddie will win the next.”

Martin got the first win of the leading three riders Sunday in race No. 3, surviving a stewards’ inquiry aboard the maiden runner Bing’s Magic from the Mac Robertson barn.

Eikleberry got his win for the day in race No. 5 with Sputey’s Cabin, a 10-1 choice, that gave the Tim Padilla barn a win for the second consecutive day. The allowance sprint offered a purse of $34,800 (including $17,800 from the Mystic Lake Purse Enhancement Fund) that brought a smile to Padilla’s face.

“That’s just great,” he said. “That will pay some bills for the summer.”

The purses have nearly doubled from those offered before the business agreement between Canterbury Park and the Mdewakanton Community at Mystic lake that was struck last summer. That might be the leading factor in a large, competitive jockey colony this season.

Eikleberry comes prepared for a battle every day.

“I’d rather be way in front,” he said. “but this makes it fun, too. You know that if you don’t win one every day you’re going to fall behind.”

The meet is only 10 days old and anything can happen, particularly during a meet that could continue as the most competitive in years, as it is right now.

Keith and Eikleberry lead the way with 10 wins each, followed by Martin with nine, Nik Goodwin with seven, Alex Canchari and Dean Butler with six and Scott Stevens and Derek Bell with five.

“It’s very competitive right now,” Eikleberry added. “There are five or six riders right now capable of winning it.”

Times have changed?

“Yes,” said Eikleberry. “It’s not the good ol’ boys club any more.”

Certainly not with Keith in the mix.

This blog was written by Canterbury Staff Writer Jim Wells. Wells was a longtime sportswriter at the Pioneer Press and is a member of the Canterbury Park Hall of Fame.

Heliskier Unbeaten Streak Hits 7

HeliskierThe sheen in his brown coat accents his muscular frame, and he stands out immediately from other horses around him. The unbeaten son of Appealing Skier truly is something to behold. There is not another horse on the grounds in this four-year-old gelding’s class. He is a man among boys, a giant among Lilliputians, a horse among weanlings.

“This is not a horse you come to bet on,” said Canterbury Park paddock analyst Angela Hermann. “This is a horse you come to see.”

What a sight to see.

Heliskier made it seven for seven on Saturday, leaving eight other horses huffing and puffing behind him in the $50,000-guaranteed 10,000 Lakes Stakes.

Willow Parish took a short stab at it, challenging Heliskier early on and finished in front of one horse. Speakfromyourheart had similar thoughts and wound up fourth. His rider, Lori Keith, shrugged her shoulders afterward and said,”well, we tried to catch him off guard.”

She couldn’t have been more facetious.

For the first time in seven races, Derek Bell, the only jock to ride Heliskier, gave him a tap on the shoulder down the lane. He didn’t need it and galloped home 5 ½ lengths In front of Freedom First, who had a head on Bobble Doit and another 1 ¾ lengths on Speakfromyourheart.

“He’s a monster. He’s put on 150 pounds (since last year) and is two inches taller,” said Bell.

“He’s the big horse in the barn and he knows it,” said Brad Hedges, assistant to trainer Mac Robertson.

Owned by Marlene Colvin, Heliskier brought tears to her eyes in the paddock before the race. The horse was the last one raised by her late husband, Bun.

Marlene is not alone in that regard, however. Heliskier brings out the emotion in lots of folks.

“He’s so good he brings tears to your eyes,” said Hedges.

Other Saturday Racing Tidbits:

Alex Canchari, the native of Shakopee, graduate of Shakopee High School and one-time employee at Canterbury Park, had a request of the track photographers, the Coady brothers, after the first race on Sunday. “Hey, whenever I win a race,” said Canchari, “just make a picture for me and put it on my bill.”

Canchari, whose father, Luis, was a local rider in the 1980s, placed his first photo order of the season after Saturday’s opening race and after riding a gelding named Third Rail, trained and owned by John Shryock. “He tried pulling himself up at the 16th pole,” said Canchari. So, Canchari went to work himself with three reminders from the stick. “Most horses don’t come back like that on a tiring track,” Canchari added. “That was pretty nice.”

Two riders who won races on the season-opening card the night before were back in the winner’s circle Saturday. Keith, who won three races on the card, brought in the second half of the daily double aboard Finding Candy, trained by Mike Biehler and owned by Al and Bill Ulwelling, withstanding a challenge from the favorite, Stone Crazy, with Eddie Martin, Jr. up. “Yes, I could feel him (coming on),” said Keith, whose horse rebuffed the mild challenge and went on.

Martin countered in the very next race, making easy work of it aboard Midwest Thoroughbreds’ Eighteen Wheels. Midwest horses will be making many more trips to the winner’s circle this summer.

Keith won the fifth race on Krissy’s Tiger Paw and the ninth with Mingun’s Peaches.

This blog was written by Canterbury Staff Writer Jim Wells. Wells was a longtime sportswriter at the Pioneer Press and is a member of the Canterbury Park Hall of Fame.

Canterbury Inside the Numbers

Dark Star Memorial StartLive racing at Canterbury Park starts Friday, May 17. Optimism is high for the 2013 season with full barns on the backside and a higher purse structure in place. This should be a good formula for larger fields and more competitive racing, which equals better opportunities for large payoffs!

Let’s look back at the 2012 meet from a jockey and trainer perspective, and see if we can identify some history that might repeat itself this year.

2012 Trainer Tendencies

Mac Robertson has led the trainer standings at Canterbury Park for years. Last year he was well clear of the other trainers, posting 53 winners and a 29% win rate. Betting an equal dollar amount on all of his runners would have resulted in a 17% loss, but he did have some categories that showed a flat bet profit.

His best category was with two-year-olds, where he won with 6 of 9 starters for an 86% return on investment (ROI). Dirt routes were also strong, where he won with 6 of 13 starters for a 72% ROI. He also had success in the maiden special weight category, winning with 11 of 19 starters for a 47% ROI.

Michael Biehler saddled 34 winners at Canterbury last year from 140 starters (24%). He had a particularly impressive season in that a wager on every one of his starters generated a 4% profit. It was the Biehler Mutual Fund last year! He showed solid strength at most class levels, except the maiden special weight level where he was only able to find the winner’s circle once from eighteen tries and that was with a $4.40 winner.

Bernell Rhone also saddled 34 winners last year, but his win percentage was only 14% which was down from previous years. Wagering an equal amount on all of his starters would have resulted in a 49% loss. Ouch! Rhone was formidable when he saddled the favorite last year as he had a 49% win rate with the chalk, resulting in a 24% ROI. But his longshots were dismal, only 1 winner from 100 starters that went to post at 8-1 or above.

You can expect these three trainers to be at or near the top of the trainer standings again in 2013 even as they take on the influx of new trainers. Perhaps their winning patterns will repeat themselves as well.

2012 Jockey Tendencies

Last year, the 3 leading riders were Tanner Riggs, Dean Butler and Derek Bell. Indications are that Tanner Riggs will not be riding at Canterbury in 2013 and he rode 72 winners last year. That’s a big void to fill and plenty of opportunity for other riders to increase their win totals.

Dean Butler rode 64 winners last year and is the main rider for the Rhone barn. His overall win percentage was 20% but he was very strong when he rode the favorite, winning 51% of the time with an ROI of 21%.

Derek Bell rode 37 winners last year, and 21 were for Mac Robertson. He was very good with maiden special weight horses, winning 11 of 17 races at that class level with an ROI of 99%.

Honorable mention goes to Alex Canchari, who rode here last August and rode 11 winners in total, but 2 that paid over $50.

Good luck in 2013 it promises to be a great season!

This blog was written by Canterbury Regular “The Oracle”. The Oracle is a longtime Minnesota race fan that has handicapped Canterbury’s races religiously for more than 20 years. He writes about handicapping and statistical trends in Canterbury’s races.

Photo Credit: Coady Photography

Canterbury Inside the Numbers

Dark Star Memorial StartLive racing at Canterbury Park starts Friday, May 17. Optimism is high for the 2013 season with full barns on the backside and a higher purse structure in place. This should be a good formula for larger fields and more competitive racing, which equals better opportunities for large payoffs!

Let’s look back at the 2012 meet from a jockey and trainer perspective, and see if we can identify some history that might repeat itself this year.

2012 Trainer Tendencies

Mac Robertson has led the trainer standings at Canterbury Park for years. Last year he was well clear of the other trainers, posting 53 winners and a 29% win rate. Betting an equal dollar amount on all of his runners would have resulted in a 17% loss, but he did have some categories that showed a flat bet profit.

His best category was with two-year-olds, where he won with 6 of 9 starters for an 86% return on investment (ROI). Dirt routes were also strong, where he won with 6 of 13 starters for a 72% ROI. He also had success in the maiden special weight category, winning with 11 of 19 starters for a 47% ROI.

Michael Biehler saddled 34 winners at Canterbury last year from 140 starters (24%). He had a particularly impressive season in that a wager on every one of his starters generated a 4% profit. It was the Biehler Mutual Fund last year! He showed solid strength at most class levels, except the maiden special weight level where he was only able to find the winner’s circle once from eighteen tries and that was with a $4.40 winner.

Bernell Rhone also saddled 34 winners last year, but his win percentage was only 14% which was down from previous years. Wagering an equal amount on all of his starters would have resulted in a 49% loss. Ouch! Rhone was formidable when he saddled the favorite last year as he had a 49% win rate with the chalk, resulting in a 24% ROI. But his longshots were dismal, only 1 winner from 100 starters that went to post at 8-1 or above.

You can expect these three trainers to be at or near the top of the trainer standings again in 2013 even as they take on the influx of new trainers. Perhaps their winning patterns will repeat themselves as well.

2012 Jockey Tendencies

Last year, the 3 leading riders were Tanner Riggs, Dean Butler and Derek Bell. Indications are that Tanner Riggs will not be riding at Canterbury in 2013 and he rode 72 winners last year. That’s a big void to fill and plenty of opportunity for other riders to increase their win totals.

Dean Butler rode 64 winners last year and is the main rider for the Rhone barn. His overall win percentage was 20% but he was very strong when he rode the favorite, winning 51% of the time with an ROI of 21%.

Derek Bell rode 37 winners last year, and 21 were for Mac Robertson. He was very good with maiden special weight horses, winning 11 of 17 races at that class level with an ROI of 99%.

Honorable mention goes to Alex Canchari, who rode here last August and rode 11 winners in total, but 2 that paid over $50.

Good luck in 2013 it promises to be a great season!

This blog was written by Canterbury Regular “The Oracle”. The Oracle is a longtime Minnesota race fan that has handicapped Canterbury’s races religiously for more than 20 years. He writes about handicapping and statistical trends in Canterbury’s races.

Photo Credit: Coady Photography

Week in Review: Canchari Heats Up

With nine days of live racing remaining in the 2012 season, favorites are still winning 44% overall in thoroughbred races with an ROI of $0.98 for every dollar wagered. Favorites in dirt sprints are winning 48% of the time (ROI $1.02), favorites in dirt routes are winning 43% (ROI $0.98) and favorites on the turf are winning 33% (ROI $0.87).

Spotlight: Alex Canchari

Last week was quite the wild ride for jockey Alex Canchari. In a season dominated by favorites and low-priced winners, Canchari scored with two huge bombs and finished in the money with several others. Here are the highlights from Canchari’s fantastic week:

Thursday

• Rajablou (Place at 23-1) – Rajablou had a 2 for 28 career record and was 0 for 6 on the turf, although he did show three in-the-money turf finishes. Trained by Coty Rosin, Rajablou grabbed the early lead but was passed in deep stretch by 5-1 Grandpa George. Rajablou paid $17.60 to place and $12.80 to show.

Friday

• Andrea’s Josie (Place at 20-1) – Andrea’s Josie had four prior turf races with her best finish being sixth, beaten four lengths. Canchari kept her near the lead and she ran a game second, beaten a length by the 3/2 favorite Theater of Dreams, but six clear of the third place horse. Andrea’s Josie paid $13.40 to place and $8.20 to show.

• Ming Glo (Win at 27-1) – The very next race, Canchari guided Ming Glo to a one length victory at 27-1 on the turf. Ming Glo, an 8-year-old gelding with a 1 for 59 career record and 0 for 15 turf record, was selected on the Friday pre race show by media personality and Canterbury handicapper Mike Gelfand. Mike correctly pointed out that Ming Glo had competitive turf figures and was a contender in this field. Ming Glo was switching back to his preferred surface after running in several dirt sprints at Prairie Meadows. Ming Glo paid $57.20 to win, $18.80 to place and $6.00 to show.

Saturday

• Third Rail (Win at 6-1) – Third rail was exiting a third place finish, beaten ¾ of a length at the same distance but was stepping up in class to a higher claiming price. The public sent him off as the fourth choice in an eight horse field and the believers were rewarded. Third Rail paid $15.60 to win, $7.20 to place and $4.80 to show.

• Cherryful Lady (Place at 19-1) – Cherryful Lady had been beaten by a combined 55 lengths in her prior three starts. Her last race was a 19 length defeat on the turf at odds of 40-1. So the public understandably stayed away from this filly even though she had won a dirt sprint earlier in the meet at 16-1. Canchari made a bold, mid race move on Cherryful Lady but came up a length short behind front running 4-1 winner Mane Slick. Cherryful Lady paid $18.00 to place and $7.20 to show.

Sunday

• Forest Sunrise (Win at 29-1) – This 8-year-old gelding was lightly raced with a solid overall record of 4 wins from 22 lifetime starts. But his last three races he had been well beaten despite showing pretty good early speed. Canchari took this horse right to the front and he proved to be very game on the front end, holding on for a 1 length victory. Forest Sunrise paid $60.20 to win, $25.00 to place and $8.40 to show.

Congratulations if you were holding winning tickets on any of the Canchari longshots from last week! And take a close look at his mounts for the remainder of the meet, perhaps his wild ride will continue.

This blog was written by Canterbury Regular “The Oracle”. The Oracle is a longtime Minnesota race fan that has handicapped Canterbury’s races religiously for more than 20 years. He writes about handicapping and statistical trends in Canterbury’s races.

Photo Credit: Coady Photography

If the Glove Fits…

Contrary to what you’ve heard previously, you can go home again. Not only that, but you can arrive on a triumphant note with everything just short of blaring trumpets.

Alex Canchari did just that Friday night. He came home and rode the winning horse in the fifth race, at the same racetrack where his father rode, at the same racetrack where he worked the concession stands from the time he was 14 years of age, selling tacos and making friends of just about everyone who knew him.

“All the kids loved him,” said track president/CEO Randy Sampson. “He has a smile a mile wide whenever you see him.”

Sampson began receiving text messages and phone calls shortly after Canchari brought in Rack Daddy for leading trainer Mac Robertson.

“We’re happy as can be to see him here, someone who started out here as a kid working the concession stands and now he has come back as a rider,” Sampson continued.

Alex used to accompany his dad, Luis ‘The Glove’ Canchari, to Canterbury Downs, watching the races, hanging out on the backside, dreaming a boy’s dreams.

He grew up in the shadow of the race track, in Shakopee, attended high school there through his sophomore year and then graduated with online courses while galloping horses for Moises Yanez and Brian Williamson in Chicago.

His riding career got under way there, then shifted to East Coast tracks, then to the south, at Oaklawn Park, then back East.

But yes indeed that was Canchari, now 18, on Friday night steering an erratic Rack Daddy across the finish line, just a couple of miles from where he grew up dreaming of becoming a jockey one day, seeing the racetrack lights at night as he fell asleep.

“I wanted to become a jockey from the time I was a little boy,” he said in the jockeys lounge afterward. So, he practiced every chance he got. He had a practice horse at home, on which he learned the rudiments of the trade before going to the real thing.

“My dad helped me a lot. I was about 13 years old and he would tell me how to relax a horse. He told me to watch the New York and the California riders for tips on what to do.”

On June 2 this year Canchari amazed himself with a win at Belmont Park on a horse named Dr. Wesley.

“I couldn’t believe it,” he recalled. “I was riding in a race against all my idols – Javier Castellano, John Velasquez, Ramon Dominguez, David Cohen, Eddie Castro and Rosie Naprovnik, all in the same race.”

He rode against his idols and he won the race.

Canchari arrived home five days ago, having driven from New Jersey with his mother, Ann. He had planned to come home all along to visit his sister, Ashley, who was pregnant and about to give birth, but the details of the trip changed suddenly three weeks ago.

He had been riding at Belmont and Monmouth parks and drove to Delaware Park to work a horse, a single horse, but he was injured during the work, breaking a bone and tearing a ligament in his left shoulder.

“It was next to the growth plate and the orthopedic surgeon told me no horses for two weeks,” Canchari related. “I started working some here five days ago.”

Canchari left Chicago for the East early this year after making contact with a stable that put him on mounts in Philadelphia, Monmouth and Belmont Park and also worked some horses at Saratoga.

Alex left New York to give Oaklawn Park a try in January, second guessing himself the entire way. “I didn’t know if I was doing the right thing,” he said. “I took a big risk going there.”

He didn’t second guess the decision long. Canchari rode winners on his first two mounts in Arkansas, on opening day, Jan. 13.

There wasn’t much risk coming home, to where he is known so well. He had four mounts, although one scratched, on Friday’s card, has mounts in the Princess Elaine and Hoist Her Flag stakes today for Robertson and has mounts in every race on Sunday.

His Chicago connections obviously stretch all the way to Shakopee. “I rode in Chicago for Mac’s dad,” Canchari explained. “I rode before for Charlie Smith, too.”

About that time, Adolfo Morales stepped into the silks room where Canchari was carrying on his conversation and gave him a congratulatory fist bump, recognition of the bugboy’s first win on the home turf.

Canchari’s first professional mount came last Dec. 26 in Chicago and through Friday night’s card he has won 30 races from 319 mounts. His bug will be extended by three weeks, because of his injury, to next March.

And now that he’s here, Canchari’s plans are to stay through the end of the meet. He has an agent, Jodie Sinclair, and, of course, there is a very recently arrived niece, Nova Ley.

This blog was written by Canterbury Staff Writer Jim Wells. Wells was a longtime sportswriter at the Pioneer Press and is a member of the Canterbury Park Hall of Fame.

Photo Credit: Coady Photography

If the Glove Fits…

Contrary to what you’ve heard previously, you can go home again. Not only that, but you can arrive on a triumphant note with everything just short of blaring trumpets.

Alex Canchari did just that Friday night. He came home and rode the winning horse in the fifth race, at the same racetrack where his father rode, at the same racetrack where he worked the concession stands from the time he was 14 years of age, selling tacos and making friends of just about everyone who knew him.

“All the kids loved him,” said track president/CEO Randy Sampson. “He has a smile a mile wide whenever you see him.”

Sampson began receiving text messages and phone calls shortly after Canchari brought in Rack Daddy for leading trainer Mac Robertson.

“We’re happy as can be to see him here, someone who started out here as a kid working the concession stands and now he has come back as a rider,” Sampson continued.

Alex used to accompany his dad, Luis ‘The Glove’ Canchari, to Canterbury Downs, watching the races, hanging out on the backside, dreaming a boy’s dreams.

He grew up in the shadow of the race track, in Shakopee, attended high school there through his sophomore year and then graduated with online courses while galloping horses for Moises Yanez and Brian Williamson in Chicago.

His riding career got under way there, then shifted to East Coast tracks, then to the south, at Oaklawn Park, then back East.

But yes indeed that was Canchari, now 18, on Friday night steering an erratic Rack Daddy across the finish line, just a couple of miles from where he grew up dreaming of becoming a jockey one day, seeing the racetrack lights at night as he fell asleep.

“I wanted to become a jockey from the time I was a little boy,” he said in the jockeys lounge afterward. So, he practiced every chance he got. He had a practice horse at home, on which he learned the rudiments of the trade before going to the real thing.

“My dad helped me a lot. I was about 13 years old and he would tell me how to relax a horse. He told me to watch the New York and the California riders for tips on what to do.”

On June 2 this year Canchari amazed himself with a win at Belmont Park on a horse named Dr. Wesley.

“I couldn’t believe it,” he recalled. “I was riding in a race against all my idols – Javier Castellano, John Velasquez, Ramon Dominguez, David Cohen, Eddie Castro and Rosie Naprovnik, all in the same race.”

He rode against his idols and he won the race.

Canchari arrived home five days ago, having driven from New Jersey with his mother, Ann. He had planned to come home all along to visit his sister, Ashley, who was pregnant and about to give birth, but the details of the trip changed suddenly three weeks ago.

He had been riding at Belmont and Monmouth parks and drove to Delaware Park to work a horse, a single horse, but he was injured during the work, breaking a bone and tearing a ligament in his left shoulder.

“It was next to the growth plate and the orthopedic surgeon told me no horses for two weeks,” Canchari related. “I started working some here five days ago.”

Canchari left Chicago for the East early this year after making contact with a stable that put him on mounts in Philadelphia, Monmouth and Belmont Park and also worked some horses at Saratoga.

Alex left New York to give Oaklawn Park a try in January, second guessing himself the entire way. “I didn’t know if I was doing the right thing,” he said. “I took a big risk going there.”

He didn’t second guess the decision long. Canchari rode winners on his first two mounts in Arkansas, on opening day, Jan. 13.

There wasn’t much risk coming home, to where he is known so well. He had four mounts, although one scratched, on Friday’s card, has mounts in the Princess Elaine and Hoist Her Flag stakes today for Robertson and has mounts in every race on Sunday.

His Chicago connections obviously stretch all the way to Shakopee. “I rode in Chicago for Mac’s dad,” Canchari explained. “I rode before for Charlie Smith, too.”

About that time, Adolfo Morales stepped into the silks room where Canchari was carrying on his conversation and gave him a congratulatory fist bump, recognition of the bugboy’s first win on the home turf.

Canchari’s first professional mount came last Dec. 26 in Chicago and through Friday night’s card he has won 30 races from 319 mounts. His bug will be extended by three weeks, because of his injury, to next March.

And now that he’s here, Canchari’s plans are to stay through the end of the meet. He has an agent, Jodie Sinclair, and, of course, there is a very recently arrived niece, Nova Ley.

This blog was written by Canterbury Staff Writer Jim Wells. Wells was a longtime sportswriter at the Pioneer Press and is a member of the Canterbury Park Hall of Fame.

Photo Credit: Coady Photography