A Night Full of Quarter Horse Racing Tuesday

Two trials will be conducted Tuesday for the Canterbury Park Quarter Horse Derby with the 10 fastest horses qualifying for the Aug. 11 final. The final will be the 33rd running of the QH Derby dating back to the inaugural in 1986. That race was won by 3-year-old Throb for owner Pine Tree Racing Stable.

Ed Ross Hardy has won the QH Derby eight times. His first came in 1998 with Oro O Toole. Hardy has two chances to qualify for the final.

Trainer Jerry Livingston won back to back in 1999 and 2000. The 1999 rendition had a lasting impact on Minnesota quarter horse racing as the winner Easanon, owned by Sylvia Casby, became a productive broodmare responsible for several stakes winners for Casby and her daughter Cam.  Easanon offspring CS Flashlight, CS Night Light, CS Strobelight and CS Limelight won the Minnesota Quarter Horse Futurity in 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2007 respectively.

One name absent from the Canterbury QH Derby’s winning trainer list is Jason Olmstead, the top trainer here the past five seasons. He has been knocking on the door in the final however.

……………………..Jason Olmstead

Last year his entry was second by a head, in 2018 third and 2017 second. Before training, Olmstead was a jockey and rode in the Canterbury Park Derby multiple times. Victory was elusive then as well. In 2008, Olmstead lost by a nostril while riding for wife Amber Blair.

Olmstead will saddle four in the Derby trials and 23 over Tuesday’s 12-race program including 12 in the Northlands Futurity trials. Little Bit of Hero in race 1 finished second in the Gopher State Derby July 7 and Tipsy Girl B in tonight’s 2nd, favored in the Gopher State, finished fourth after a poor break. Both are favored in their heats.

Racing begins at 4:30pm.

Fastest Day In Minnesota Sports Tuesday With Six Quarter Horse Stakes

All quarter horse program includes Grade 3 BOA Canterbury Park Championship Challenge

Canterbury Park’s Tuesday racing program won’t take long or at least the races themselves won’t, as the 10-race program features quarter horse racing exclusively with distances ranging from 250 yards, usually clocking in at just over 13 seconds, to 870 yards. Track officials refer to this as The Fastest Day In Minnesota Sports. This year’s event includes six stakes races headlined by the $62,739 Bank of America Canterbury Park Championship Challenge, which was designated a Grade 3 race by the AQHA Graded Stakes Committee. Racing, conducted weekly Monday through Thursday, begins at 4:40 p.m.

Jason Olmstead

Defending champion Pyc Jess Bite Mydust is one of 11 entered in the 440-yard BOA Championship Challenge. Trained by five-time leading trainer Jason Olmstead,  the 6-year-old Minnesota-bred is often his own worst enemy, breaking poorly from the gate and leaving too much ground to make up at shorter distances. He hopped at the start in this race last year but persisted to get up at the wire, winning by a head. Olmstead would have considered scratching had the gelding not drawn an inside or outside post. Pyc Jess Bite Mydust drew post one.

“There are a lot of tough ones in here this year,” Olmstead said. “More than last year. Danjer is fast and Casey Black has a good one.”

Danjer, the 5 to 2 morning line favorite trained by Dean Frey, has earned $534,473, more than any other in the field and has won three of seven at the 440 yard distance. Frey also entered Kowboy Jim, winner of this race in 2018. Eagles Fly Higher is trained by Black. The 4-year-old colt won a grade 2 and grade 1 race at Remington Park this spring. The BOA is the ninth race with an 8:40 p.m. post time.

The richest stake on the card is the $67,335 MQHRA Stallion Auction Futurity at 350 yards, run

Vic Hanson

as the seventh race. Trainer Vic Hanson qualified four of the five 2-year-olds he ran in the June 16 trials including the fastest of the 10 qualifiers Jess One Lane who is the 5 to 2 morning line favorite Tuesday.

Hanson won this futurity once since its origin in 1986 as the Minnesota Stallion Breeders’ Futurity. He could not recall when however. “It’s been so many years,” he said. The win came in 1997 with Luckys Tiny Bit. The purse was $10,000. He has competed in the trials and the finals since then but a victory has been elusive. Tuesday could change that for Hanson, who is fifth in all time quarter horse wins, 97, and earnings, $1,024,928, in the suburban Minneapolis racetrack’s history.

“We got almost all of them in,” he said. “Now you just freshen up and go.” He likes his chances in the 33rd running and expects more from Easter Eve Bug, the slowest of those qualified, who had a bad break but closed to finish second in her trial.  “She’s been consistent. She didn’t break very well but she ran by enough horses to qualify.”

The four other stakes are the $34,315 Canterbury Park Distaff Challenge; the $49,575 Gopher State Futurity for which Olmstead qualified five of the 10 in the race; the $45,975 Gopher State Derby; and the $26,648 Canterbury Park Distance Challenge.

Quarter Horse Racing Straight And Strong At Canterbury Park

American Quarter Horse racing continues to be an important component of the Canterbury Park racing season. The 2020 mixed-meet format will offer more than 100 races offered exclusively for America’s fastest athlete, the quarter horse. Total purses should near $1.8 million. While the first quarter horse condition book won’t be available until mid-May, owners and trainers can be assured that the same races, distances and conditions that have become commonplace at the Shakopee, Minn. racetrack will again be offered. Overnight races will have a bottom level purse of $7,500 for $5,000 Maiden Claimers and an Open Maiden Special Weight purse of $11,500 ($13,500 for Minnesota-bred restricted). Quarter horse overnight purses max out with a no-condition allowance race purse worth $18,000.

Amber Fontenot, who has served as Canterbury’s assistant racing secretary, has been named Quarter Horse Racing Secretary.  “I am excited for the opportunity to work closely with the quarter horse trainers and owners and develop great working relationships so that we can all be successful,” Fontenot said.

The previously released 2020 quarter horse stakes schedule, with $800,000 in purse money, includes the track’s signature quarter horse race, the $150,000 estimated Mystic Lake Northlands Futurity, being run for the 33rd time, on Sunday, Aug. 9. Also that day is the Canterbury Park Quarter Horse Derby with an estimated purse of $75,000.

July 5 will feature only quarter horse racing. The race day, dubbed the Fastest Day in Minnesota Sports, will offer six stakes including the Canterbury Park Championship Challenge which was designated a Grade 3 race by the AQHA Graded Stakes Committee. The Gopher State Futurity and Gopher State Derby are also on July 5 along with the Distaff Challenge and Distance Challenge.

“Canterbury Park will offer a strong quarter horse program and I expect that we will see some very talented horses racing this summer, horses that can compete anywhere in the country,” Fontenot said. “There is a tradition of quality here that we will maintain.”

Nomination deadline for the 2020 Mystic Lake Northlands Futurity, Canterbury Quarter Horse Derby, Gopher State Futurity, Gopher State Derby, Minnesota Futurity and Minnesota Derby is Monday, March 2. Nomination forms and info can be found here.

Stall Applications and other 2020 Live Meet Information can be found at canterburypark.com/horsemen/

Another Esqueda Joins Jockey Colony

BY JIM WELLS

His throat and mouth were so dry that he could barely spit. His stomach acted as if he were on the Wild Thing across the way at Valley Fair, and the muscles in his arms and legs were in knots.

“I couldn’t even move in the paddock,” he said. “I couldn’t believe it was happening.”

Eighteen years old and riding a race for the first time, Erik Esqueda was aboard a 2-year-old filly name  CC Senator Page in the opening race on Friday’s card. He scanned the crowd as he and the horse circled the paddock ring, seeing little and hearing nothing but the buzzing of bees that invades the mind at such times.

Not until he reached the racetrack did the alarm bells ring and bring him back to the moment and what was about to occur.

The first race is always like that, no different than a fighter crawling between the ropes for the first time, a singer debuting on stage, a comedian staring into the haze of the audience out front. The mind goes blank and the body moves as if on automatic pilot.

Once he reached the track for the post parade everything started to fall into place, return to normal. “It seemed just like being on the track in the morning then,” he said.

Esqueda took his mount out of the no. 1 hold for trainer Jason Pascoe and when they crossed the wire seconds later they were not among these who hit the board, but race one was behind him then, out of the way.

Esqueda had a mount in the second race as well, but was delayed more than once by well wishers on his way to the jockeys’ lounge after his debut.

He started toward the steps but turned to greet railbirds saluting him, and then reversed course to retrieve some goggles as mementoes for young fans surrounding the winner’s circle.

There were accolades yet to come from young sons of quarter horse trainers at the track, Austin Hardy, 10, and Ryder Olmstead, 9.

“Hey, great race,” said Hardy.

“Way to go,” added Ryder.

Esqueda  was in a hurry to reach the jockeys lounge and don the necessary silks for the second race. In his haste he started to make a left hand turn into the photography studio before correcting and turning into the lounge.

“Hey, he doesn’t even know which way to go,” his young admirers chuckled.

With race no. 1 behind him, Esqueda donned the blue and white silks of his owner, Marshall Wier, for race two and was given a leg up on a 4-year-old mare named Valiant Suzy.

As he reached the track a different feeling overcame him this time, as he looked toward the rail and saw his mother, Veronica, and sisters, Emily, 13, and Allie, 8, who had made the 10 hour drive from Ligonier, Indiana.

“I had no idea they were coming,” he said. “That was beautiful, just great.”

It was a special race for the entire family as Erik rode Valiant Suzy hard to the wire, losing by a neck to Cristian Esqueda, his older brother, and Mansory.

“Hey, that makes us one-two-three,” chirped the young Olmstead, after Ry Eikleberry piloted One Famous Ocean from the same barn to third place in the race.

The Esquedas will enjoy a brief family reunion with their mother and sisters over the next two or three days. But there is work to do, as well.

Cristian has mounts in the first three races today.

Erik, the newest jockey in the family, has been named on a filly named La Tabaquera , an also eligible, for race two.

Esqueda Returns To Canterbury With A Rush

BY JIM WELLS

There is the front or back nine on a golf course, there is ninefold to express a given quantity times, yes, nine; there is a starting lineup consisting of nine in baseball and there is a ninepin bowling designation.

The number applies with equal significance to the number of horses sired by Hes Relentless that ran in Friday night’s MQHRA Futurity trials.

As owner Tom Maher asked, of no one in particular, after the first race on Friday. “There are nine Relentless horses in (Friday’s two trial races),” he said. “Wonder how many will qualify.”

The answer, he soon discovered, was nine. Nine of the 14 horses entered in the two trials. The top 10 horses in Friday’s two trial races qualify for the final on July 7 and its $36,000 purse.

The first of the qualifiers was Maher and Paul Luedemann’s Tipsy Girl B, ridden by Cristian Esqueda, last year’s quarter horse riding champ who returned to Canterbury Park on Thursday night and has won two of the three races he has ridden. “Not bad,” he said after running second in Friday’s second qualifying race. “Two wins and a second in three races.”

Esqueda has ridden primarily for the Jason Olmstead barn since the two met in Iowa two years ago. The relationship is strong enough to hold during the meets at Remington Park, in races they qualify for or enter at Ruidoso as well as during the off months when Esqueda, his wife and son (a second son will join the ranks within the next month) call home the Olmstead ranch in Oklahoma, where Cristian breaks babies and helps train.

Esqueda, fans might recall, has been riding at Canterbury since 2017 and considers Shakopee ”home” during the summer months, Ruidoso home whenever he rides there (“it’s so beautiful,” he said ) and Remington and Oklahoma home when he is there. He is comfortable almost anywhere he lands, a consequence of loving what he does for a living.

A native of Aquascalientes, Mexico, Esqueda, now 26, was 10 years old when his family moved to Ohio, and he progressively learned the many aspects of racing at the side of his father, who raised and raced quarter horses, a distinction that still holds sway with Cristian. “I don’t care for thoroughbreds,” he said. “I am a quarter horse person.”

There were family relocations to Michigan and Indiana in the years after Ohio and Cristian ultimately found his vocation on the racetrack, where trainers and owners alike respond well to his positive demeanor and strong work ethic.

“Oh, he can ride,” said Olmstead. “And he’s a class act and a good worker.”

Tipsy Girl B was the second fastest qualifier on Friday, covering 350 yards in 18.105, outrun by only HR Storm On In, trained by Vic Hanson and ridden by Doug Frink, who won the second race in 17.978.

For the record, Cristian and his wife, Stephanie, an Indiana native, already know she is carrying a boy, a second son they will name Arley, after the Mexican singer Arley Perez.

There are already other Esquedas on the grounds in Shakopee, soon to be introduced to the racing public. Cristian’s brother Eric, 18, is galloping horses with plans to start riding here in the coming days.

The Esqueda brothers are laying for the groundwork perhaps for Cristian’s sons to one day pick up wherever they leave off. “Oh, yes,” Cristian said, “I would like for them to become riders, too. Then maybe they can accomplish things that I might not be able to.”

That might not be much if he continues to ride as he has the last two summers in Shakopee.

Canterbury Park 2019 Quarter Horse Stakes Schedule

Mystic Lake Northlands Futurity one of seven stakes on Fastest Day in Minnesota Sports, July 7

Canterbury Park’s quarter horse racing stakes schedule was announced today and includes 17 races during the 66-day season that begins May 3. The premier race, the Mystic Lake Northlands Futurity, with a purse estimated to reach $150,000, will be run Sunday, July 7. This will be the 32nd rendition of the Northlands Futurity, one of seven stakes that day worth a total of more than $400,000.

Other stakes races on July 7, a rare day at the Shakopee, Minn. racetrack when only quarter horse races will be run, include the $75,000 estimated Canterbury Park Quarter Horse Derby, the $45,000 added Bank Of America Canterbury Park Championship Challenge, the ARC Distaff Challenge, the Distance Challenge, the MQHRA Stallion Auction Futurity, and the Northlands Juvenile for 2-year-olds that did not qualify for the Northlands Futurity. Each of the Challenge races held this day will provide the winners with automatic qualifying berths to the 2019 AQHA Challenge Championships, the industry’s signature championship event, on October 26, 2019 at Albuquerque Downs in New Mexico.

“This is the Fastest Day in Minnesota Sports,” senior director of racing Andrew Offerman said. “Minnesota quarter horse racing has produced some very solid runners in recent years and deserves a showcase like this. We will feature the best and fastest quarter horses on a single day competing for the biggest purses Canterbury Park offers.”

Quarter horses bred in Minnesota will have ample stakes opportunities beginning with the $25,000 North Star State Stakes May 27 and concluding with the Minnesota Futurity and Minnesota Derby, each worth more than $50,000, Sept. 1. The $35,000 Bob Morehouse Stakes will be conducted July 27 and the $35,000 Cash Caravan Aug. 10.

A new state-bred-only stake for 2-year-olds has been added on Aug. 10, the $20,000 Cam Casby Futurity. Casby, a Canterbury Hall of Fame member celebrated for her accomplishments as an owner and breeder of both thoroughbreds and quarter horses and for her vocal support of Minnesota racing, bred and owned multiple stakes winners including four Minnesota Futurity and one Minnesota Derby winners. Casby died in 2014.

Stall applications for the 2019 meet are due March 18 and are available, along with the first condition book, at www.canterburypark.com.

2019 Quarter Horse Stakes Schedule

2019 Quarter Horse Stakes Schedule

Jason Olmstead Wins Another Training Title

By Rebecca Roush

With 21 wins this season, trainer Jason Olmsted certainly knows his way to the winner’s circle. This will be his fourth straight champion quarter horse training title at Canterbury Park.

The Olmstead barn is currently filled with 45 horses, but with the quarter horse portion of the meet concluding soon the 39-year-old trainer will soon be down to only five remaining here for the Minnesota Festival of Champions on September 2, as the other trainees will head to Prairie Meadows in Altoona, Iowa to race before he sends them “home” to their owners.

When he arrives at his farm in Pryor, Oklahoma in October, Olmstead says there will likely be nearly 40 two-year-olds waiting for him to break, many acquired through sales.

Olmstead has won more than 200 career races and the horses have earned more than $4.29 million for their connections.

He trained 2-year-old Lynnder 16 to victory in the $864,500 Grade 2 Remington Park Oklahoma Bred Futurity and now that filly is at Ruidoso Downs awaiting the trials for the $3 million All American Futurity later this month.

Olmstead comes from a family of horsemen. His grandfather was a trainer and Olmstead grew up helping him with horses until he was able to become a jockey. Olmstead rode professionally for 15 years before moving on to training with his wife, Amber. He ended his riding career with 69 wins from 1,084 starts and earned more than $530,000 for his connections.

Having had a career as a jockey was a “big help” for Olmstead and he says it led him to where he is now. He had the chance to observe many barns while riding and says he picked up different tricks along the way. “I was able to learn from some of the best trainers out there,” he added.

The multi graded stakes winning trainer says that the biggest lesson he has learned is that “you continuously evolve.” He added that “every horse is so different and what works for one might not work for another.”

Olmstead has had many successful meets at Canterbury Park and this year is no exception. On July 8, he won the $146,400 Mystic Lake Northlands Futurity with Minnesota bred Jess Doin Time, the third time the trainer has won Canterbury’s richest Q race.

First of 15, a 3-year-old filly trained by Olmstead, is tied with Jess Doin Time with three wins, the most of any quarter horse at the meet.

“Training is a 24/7 gig,” Olmstead said. “It takes an army to get a horse to where it needs to be,” he added.

Tom Pouliot Has A Very Fast Quarter Horse

By Rebecca Roush

Growing up on a five-acre hobby farm in Maple Grove, racehorse owner Tom Pouliot had always been around the sport. His parents owned racehorses and others that he would barrel race. They started out racing the horses at “small bush tracks,” at the Anoka County Fairgrounds, and in Lake Elmo and Wadena, before moving on to larger tracks down south.

In 1980, Pouliot’s father owned a Quarter Horse named Razzle Dazzlum. The 4-year-old mare at the time led the nation in wins after winning 10 races in a row that year, ending it with 13 total wins.

Years later, Pouliot began contemplating purchasing a horse of his own. “After growing up around horses, barrel riding, and keeping up with racing results, I felt like giving it a try for myself,” he said.

Pouliot ran his first horse, Chicos Lil Bully, at Canterbury Park in 2005 before finding better success in 2007 with a Minnesota-bred horse named Okey Dokey Irish. He went on to run horses at Prairie Meadows, Remington Park and tracks in Indiana.

Today, Pouliot breeds his own quarter horses and has found recent success with Jess Doin Time. The 2-year-old filly won the meet’s richest Quarter Horse race, the $146,400 Mystic Lake Northlands Futurity, only the fourth Minnesota bred to do so. “By far winning is the best part of owning horses, especially if you raised them,” Pouliot said.

Pouliot often owns just one horse at a time and says this “can be a huge advantage.”  The horses Pouliot owns are in training with Jason Olmstead. “Jason does an outstanding job with my horses,” he said of Canterbury Park’s leading Quarter Horse trainer.

One piece of advice that Pouliot offers to anyone thinking about buying a horse is to “do your research and make sure you are getting a quality horse. Cheap seldom works.”

Now living on a larger hobby farm of 10 acres in Corcoran, Pouliot understandably spends “a lot of time” mowing his lawn. He also finds time to golf and spend time with his wife Jan, who is “an excellent barrel racer,” he commented. Their son, Trent is an airline pilot who flies out of Los Angeles, but makes it home to see Pouliot and watch races.

Jess Doin Time was the fourth fastest qualifier for Saturday’s $45,000 NCQHRA Futurity.

Scheckel Knows How To Make A Shekel

BY JIM WELLS

One of his trainers sizes it up simply as a numbers game. Or in metaphorical terms, if you shoot a lot of bullets you’re apt to hit the bulls-eye sometimes.

There is more to the analysis than that, however, because Thomas J. Scheckel has been a horseman for as long as he can remember, since he was five years old when he climbed into the saddle for the first time. He owns horses, shows horses, buys and sells horses and, in the latest of his equine endeavors, he races horses.

And he’s proven pretty darn good at it, although, yes, in his bid for the winners’ circle, he empties the corral  at Canterbury Park, where he shared the quarter horse owners’ title last year with Dean Frey and is positioned to make a solo claim on it this season.

Scheckel has shown horses for years, but has been racing them a half dozen years, or maybe less, and he has taken a different approach to the game than many owners.

For example:

He uses several trainers at Canterbury Park: Jason Olmstead, Manny Campos, Bill Harris and Shawna Manriquez.

Why so many?

“I don’t like to put my eggs all in one basket,” Scheckel explained. “You never know, something could happen to a trainer; he could get ruled off for something.”

The quarter horse season (except for the Festival of Champions card) ends next weekend, and Scheckel is in solid position to win it alone.

At the conclusion of the race week Saturday, his stable is 7-2-4 from 46 starts with earnings of $83,042. In second place is Milena Kwiecien, 4-0-2 from 13 starts, with $40,460 in earnings.  Tom Pouliot is 3-1-0 from four starts with earnings of $78, 788. The difference in starts among the three leaders is appreciable, but Scheckel likes doing things in a big way.

Asked if his farm has a name, this native of Bellevue, Iowa, put the question to rest by pointing out that he owns some 19 farms, most of them in the state of Iowa, and owns some 100 horses of various breeds and descriptions.

“I’m horse poor,” he said. “I have reining horses, cutters, draft horses and we’re still showing halter horses.  We raise, buy and sell horses.”

It runs in the family.

“My dad was in the business, my brothers are all in the horse business. I’ve been at it about 60 years, since I got a little white Welsh pony when I was five years old.”

Scheckel’s  foray into the racing end of the equine world included thoroughbreds but is limited exclusively to quarter horses now.

“I had five thoroughbreds for a couple of years,” he explained, “but they were losing me money. Quarter horses have more residual value at the end of their racing. You can sell them to the rodeo crowd. Unless you have a thoroughbred that can become a jumper there’s not much use for him.”

Scheckel won the owner’s title twice in his home state, at Prairie Meadows, and has all but wrapped up a second one in his neighboring state to the north. “I don’t foresee anyone catching him,” said Olmstead “We’ve got a few more bullets in the gun.”

Scheckel’s wins in Shakopee include two stakes, the Gopher State Derby last year with La Mos Pyc and the Dash in a Flash with Divas Candy Girl in 2016. And another owner’s title appears to be forthcoming.

His knowledge of the industry would seem to bode well for his financial goals. Sheckel is someone who should know how to make a shekel in a tough business.

He knows the realities. Asked what it takes to become a millionaire in the the horse racing business,  Scheckel’s answer is always the same. “Well,” he says, “you have to start with two million.”

Cristian Esqueda Leads The Way On The Qs

By Rebecca Roush

Leading quarter horse rider at Canterbury Park, Cristian Esqueda, grew up watching his father ride and train the Q’s.  “I felt like I had big shoes to fill,” he said. At just 10-years-old Esqueda moved to Ohio with his family from Aguascalientes City, Mexico.

Around the age of 13 Esqueda took a job, when his family moved to Michigan, on a horse farm where he learned how to exercise race horses. He began going to the track where he would watch jockeys work the horses. It was here that he was later introduced to owners and trainers, Roy and Penny Moore. “They really got me into the sport. This is where my passion formed,” he recalled.

After receiving his jockey license and going through years of training with the Moores, Esqueda began to form a respect for the sport. “It took a while for me to get the hang of things,” he said. “I didn’t think I had what it took at first, but with a lot of practice I became more confident in my riding abilities.”

That practice soon paid off. In 2011, at 19-years-old Esqueda debuted his professional riding career at Mount Pleasant Meadows. It was there that he won his first of 13 career stakes races aboard Fearles Fred in the 2013 Don Boyd Memorial Handicap. He started out riding both thoroughbreds and quarter horses, but in 2014 he began to only ride the Q’s. He has made strides in improvement since, which is evident by is record of 154 quarter horse wins from 1,362 starts and almost $3 million in earnings for his connections.

In June of 2017 Esqueda began riding at Canterbury Park. “I love it here,” he said. “Everyone was so welcoming.”

Earlier this year, Esqueda won an $864,500 Grade 2 stakes race at Remington Park before making his way back to Minnesota.

The five-foot, six-inch jockey made waves here this summer after winning three stakes races including: The North Star Stakes, The Gopher State Derby, and The Canterbury Park Distaff Challenge Stakes.

Esqueda has been the leading quarter horse jockey this meet since mid-June. When asked how it feels to be recognized for such an accomplishment he replied, “It feels great. I have never been so proud of myself during a meet before.”

One goal that Esqueda has for his riding career is to win the All American Futurity at Ruidoso Downs in New Mexico.  “It has been a dream of mine since I started riding the Q’s,” he said.

When Esqueda is not busy at various meets, he enjoys spending time with his wife, Stephanie,and 2-year-old son, Cristian Jr. “Family is a very important piece to my success,” he said. “They are a great support system.”