Mojica Having Magical Summer

BY JIM WELLS

Orlando Mojica seldom changes expressions, seemingly focused on the task at hand, frequently an upcoming race on a horse he will shortly ride out of the paddock.

He changes little afterward either, on the way back to the jockeys’ lounge, win or lose, his mind already refocusing on what awaits, at the same time making every attempt to relegate what just transpired to the past…expressionless, his eyes straight ahead.

He moves quickly, unwilling to waste even seconds, talking as he walks, never stopping.  Few words. Work awaits. Intense.

He seems all business, his thoughts devoted almost exclusively to the chores of the day. What is done is done. Only the present needs attention.

Mojica’s demeanor seems permanently fixed on the job because that is how he puts bread on the table and a roof over the heads of his family. He is never satisfied, even when winning a race with a $200,000 purse. “Money goes fast,” he explains. “With a family to feed.”

Call it intensity or focus…Mojica is having a superb meet.

Take the fourth race on Saturday’s card, for example.

He was on a horse named C Dub, a fast five-year-old gelding claimed by Robertino Diodoro last March at Oaklawn Park.  Having ridden the horse twice previously, including a  6 ½ length triumph June 29, Mojica was familiar with the tendencies, idiosyncrasies and capacity of his mount, and delivered the perfect ride.

Gate to wire.

He took one look over his shoulder on the backstretch, positioned his horse where he wanted him on the lead and put the field to sleep. Nobody challenged him and C Dub expanded a comfortable lead to 5 ½ lengths at the wire in a seven-horse field, with a winning time of 1:16.11.

“My horse is fast. Real fast,” he explained. “Whenever I put him in front of horses he gets competitive like that.”

Mojica is not much different himself.

His mounts have earned more than any other rider’s this meet, due largely to his win aboard Faraway Kitten in the $200,000 Mystic Lake Derby, the richest race of the meet.

He also won the Victor Myers Stakes with Mister Banjoman and the Minnesota Turf with Hot Shot kid.  On Thursday he rode four winners, had one more on Friday and two on Saturday ( 34 for the meet) and is now within four wins of Francisco Arrieta in the rider standings.

DASH IN A FLASH STAKES

Call it a highlight or a novelty, the 110-yard quarter horse event is typically exciting for its extreme brevity and crowded quarters at the finish line.

Here is a breakdown of the first six horses in the nine-horse field: Nose, nose, half, head, nose, head. Photo finish, naturally.

And the winner is …………………………….

After a brief delay, Ima Dashin Folie, a nose in front of First of 15, at 17-1, in a winning time of 6.94.

A narrow enough finish that winning rider Doug Frink turned to Cristian Esqueda as their horses galloped out with this question: “Did you get me?”

“No,” Esqueda replied correctly. “You got me.”

The winner is a 5-year-old daughter of Ivory James from Dimples Dash O Denim.

Ima Dashin Follie  is owned by William Joe Geditz and trained by Bob Johnson.

“Nice horse. Good mare,” said Johnson.

BHR Flashing Effort wins MN Stallion Breeders’ Quarter Horse Futurity

Trainer Bob Johnson, who estimates he has run a horse in each of 31 renditions of the race dating back to 1986, won the Minnesota Stallion Breeders’ Quarter Horse Futurity for the seventh time on Sunday at Canterbury Park.

The 350-yard dash for 2-year-olds, with a $30,305 purse, went to BHR Flashing Effort by a head over favorite Haute Wagon. Johnson trains BHR Flashing Effort for Chad Pederson’s Broken Heart Ranch. Chase Clark was in the irons.

The colt acted up in the paddock but when he arrived at the starting gate, BHR Flashing Effort “got his game face on,” Clark said.

Johnson felt the colt had plenty of talent even if his lone start at Ft. Pierre resulted in a fourth place finish, beaten more than two lengths. “He got run over and still closed,” Johnson said.

Final time for the day’s opener was 18.46 seconds. FHR Flashing Effort returned $18.40 to win.

PYC Jess Bite Mydust victorious in inaugural North Star State Stakes

In the next race, PYC Jess Bite Mydust won the inaugural $24,000 North Star State Stakes by a neck and paid $2.60 as the betting favorite. The 4-year-old Minnesota bred is trained by Jason Olmstead and is owned by the breeder Lunderborg LLC.  Cristian Esqueda was aboard. Jess a Rumor was second and Jess a Chance was third.

“He’s just a really nice horse. I came back from Oklahoma to ride him,” Esqueda, who yesterday rode at Remington Park, said.

Final time for the 300 yards over a fast track was 15.73 seconds.

LITTLE BIT BRANDY’S WIN A LONG TIME BREWING

LITTLE BIT BRANDY - Cash Caravan Stakes - 08-20-15 - R02 - CBY - 003

by Jim Wells

Sometimes you have to wait seemingly forever to get what you want, so we human beings have fashioned axioms to help provide the wherewithal to await such things.

Who hasn’t heard that good things come to those who wait, or I prayed for patience and God made me stand in a long line and wait and wait…. Many of us were raised hearing out elders talk about someone who had the patience of Job.

Patience, we are told in a variety of ways, is a virtue, something to treasure if one has it, to pray for and acquire if one does not.

It is sometime necessary in the horse business to fortify oneself with an axiom or two. Then, if we’ve awaited something long enough, it often seems incredible when we finally get it. Take Thursday night. Lowell Schrupp couldn’t quite believe what he got, a victory in the $30,000-added Cash Caravan Stakes, a 440-yard test that drew a field of nine.

Schrupp, from Howard Lake, was still dealing with a big case of the butterflies and wiping the emotional tears from his face when he was approached afterward. “You don’t really believe something like this,” he said after his horse Little Bit Brandy, at 16-1, finished ½ length in front of Cokato Cartel and a full length in front of Justa Bump.

Even the winning rider, Jorge Torres (the leading quarter horse jockey, by the way) seemed a little surprised if not perplexed by such a win. “I always try hard,” he said.

Schrupp was mostly concerned about Irish Brew (at 2-1) and last year’s winner of the race, Dirt Road Queen (at 8/5). “Those are two tough horses,” he explained. Irish Brew got a piece of the action, finishing fourth, but Dirt Road Queen, last year’s champion quarter horse, settled for sixth.

Schrupp has been racing in Shakopee since the track’s early years if not from the very start, and Thursday’s win was one of the biggest if not the biggest of a long career. “I can’t remember if I had any horses here in 1986 or not,” he said. He did recall that he raced his small stable at Queen City Downs in 1985 before quarter horses joined the scene in Shakopee the next year.

“A lot of horses can run 300 yards, others can run 400 but it takes a hell of effort to win at 440,” said trainer Bob Johnson, who has Schrupp’s only other horse on the grounds, a three-year-old named LS Little Effort, who, it so happens, is a full brother to Little Bit Brandy. “A nice horse but not as fast as Brandy,” said the trainer.

Schrupp is not only the owner of the winner but he bred and raised him also.  His biggest win came late in a long if limited racing career, but he’s done just fine in another aspect of the horse business. Schrupp is known for the barrel racers he raises, and that frequently command a tidy sum from anyone looking for a good mount for that sport.

Winning Thursday’s stake race, restricted to Minnesota-breds, has some history attached to it. Cash Caravan was a star during the early days of horse racing in Shakopee, winning 14 races with seven seconds and eight thirds in 37 career starts. He had 13 starts at Canterbury and won seven of them, earning more than $80,000 in his career and is enshrined in the track’s Hall of Fame.

He was owned in partnership by Curt Sampson, the future owner of the racetrack, and bred by Bob Morehouse, a Canterbury Park Hall of Fame breeder.

Consequently, winning this race has a certain amount of sentiment attached to it in addition to the winner’s share of $16,850. Enough sentiment even to cause a fellow to tear up upon winning it.

“Nope, you just don’t expect something like this,” Schrupp added. It couldn’t have come at a better time for him.

He’s been saying all year that this is his final season of racing.

2013 Festival Records & Repeats

4080_MnFestivalOfChampions_REVISED_7.9The Festival of Champions has always been, from Day One, one of the best days of the race meet in Shakopee. Crowds, enthusiasm and competitive races are the order of the occasion. The Festival annually is one of the grandest days of the summer, including Sunday’s rendition that drew a crowd of 15,023 and record-setting off-track wagering.

There were 10 races in all, eight of them Festival Stake events, that produced a total handle, from all sources, of $878,092, an increase of 3.9 percent over 2012 when one additional race was contested.

The total per race handle averaged $87,809, an increase of 14.3 percent. The total out-of-state handle was $480,154, a Festival of Champions record.

Mac Robertson won four stakes races, five races in all, en route to all but locking up another training title.

Dean Butler, current meet leading rider, won both juvenile stakes on the card. Alex Canchari, hot in pursuit of Butler, won three stakes to narrow Butler’s margin on the meet to just six. Justin Shepherd won a stake and an allowance event.

$55,000 WALLY’S CHOICE MINNESOTA CLASSIC CHAMPIONSHIP

A perfectly executed ride, from gate to wire, by Alex Canchari took Coconino Slim to his second consecutive win in the race, in commanding fashion.

Canchari put the horse on an easy lead, widening it as the race unfolded, from two lengths to three lengths and then a commanding finish for a five-length win over Ghost Dane, 11 lengths over Tubby Time.

One more win for Robertson and Canchari and a second trip to the winner’s circle for Catherine DeCourcy after this race.

Coconino set the pace along the inside and simply drew off under pressure.

For her part, DeCourcy extended credit for the win to her trainer, who has locked up yet one more training title.

Robertson won four Festival stakes, five races in all, to run his all-time leading Festival total to 23.

This year’s training title is the ninth straight for Robertson.

$55,000 GLITTER STAR DISTAFF CLASSIC

This race offered lots of speculation, not only on the outcome, but on some of the voting for the best runners at the track in the coming days.

Badge of Glory had struck a claim on Horse of the Year but needed a win in this race to secure a hold.

It’s Tamareno had Ry Eikleberry in the saddle and a shot at the winner’s circle if a speed dual ensued.

Then, of course, there was Congrats and Roses, the defending champion in this race.

The speculation on anybody but the reigning winner was useless, since it was a one-horse race, from gate to wire. Alex Canchari, who has shown skill far beyond his years this summer, guided the defending champ through easy fractions, and Congrats and Roses added to her lead every step of the stretch run, finishing 7 and 3/4 lengths in from of Blues Edge, 15 in front of Badge of Glory.

Another win for trainer Mac Robertson and the second for Malkerson Stables who also took down the Bella Notte Distaff Sprint with Congrats and Roses half sister, Somerset Swinger.

“My wife was there for both (Festival winners) births,” said Bruce of his wife, Mary. “She raised them both.”

$75,000 NORTHERN LIGHTS FUTURITY

Would it be Appeal to the King or You Be Gator Bait. Sunday’s big crowd wasn’t sure from the 16th pole to the wire. Even then they weren’t sure.

It was simply too close to call.

The race was decided by the tip of Appeal to the King’s nose, giving trainer Bob Johnson his first Festival win. Owned by Wayne Simon and ridden by Butler, Appeal to the King was one of three horses sired by Appealing Skier to hit the winner’s circle Sunday.

It was the best race of the day, the first two horses’ heads bobbing up and down, first the tip of one’s nose in front, then the other, from the 16th pole to the wire.

Even when the photo appeared, a person had to look closely to see the difference. Appeal to the King was the winner by not more than ½ inch.

The winner is owned by Wayne Simon.

$75,000 NORTHERN LIGHTS DEBUTANTE

Henry Hanson has been watching races in Shakopee since the track opened in 1985. In fact, he’s been running horses at Canterbury since then.

Sunday, though, was the first time he has visited the winner’s circle as owner of the winning horse in a stake race, the first time after years of devotion to the sport.

Better yet the winner was sired by Hanson’s now deceased stallion Appealing Skier, whose son Heliskier, the 2012 Horse of the Year, won earlier on card.

She Can Ski, under Butler, simply added to the lead she had at the top of the stretch, finishing three lengths in front of Blumin Sweetheart and seven ahead of Bad River Belle.

“This has been lots of fun,” said Hanson, who lives in Adrian, giving a nod at the same time to Heliskier. ” He’s a very nice horse. Appealing Skier has had a lot of winners here this summer,” he added.

For Hanson, though, the winner still crowned, was something special.

$55,000 BELLA NOTTE DISTAFF SPRINT CHAMPIONSHIP

Somerset Swinger settled in behind horses, running fourth at the half-mile pole, but moved up on the turn and was second, a head behind Polar Plunge at the stretch call.

Alex Canchari, riding the horse for the first time, picked up something quickly. “I noticed that if she got a little dirt in the face she became more aggressive,” he said.

So, Canchari positioned her to take a little dirt and the horse stayed alert and into the bridle to the top of the lane, where Canchari swung her wide, outside three others, and set her down for the drive.

Somerset Swinger and Polar Plunge went head to head down the lange with Somerset hitting the wire just a head in front. Third, another 2 and 3/4 lengths back, was Gypsy Melody.

Somerset Swinger provided Malkerson Stables with their first of two wins on the card.

$55,000 CROCROCK SPRINT CHAMPIONSHIP

Ask his jockey, the worst thing about riding a horse such as Heliskier is messing up the opportunity.

The horse is expected to win each time out, and he did just that once more under Justin Shepherd, simply much the best in a field of six. He drew off from the field and finished under a hand ride, 4 and 3/4 lengths in front of Desert Alley, 10 and 3/4 in front of Jost Van Dyke.

It was just that easy for the 2012 Horse of the Year at Canterbury, another seemingly effortless run to the wire.

“Every race is special. Every win is special,” said owner Marlene Colvin.

The winning time was 1:09.62, enough for an easy win on Sunday.

So a rider’s biggest concern riding a horse of Heliskier’s caliber?

“Messing it up,” said Shepherd.

Shepherd was in the saddle for the second consecutive time, taking over for the injured Derek Bell, the only other rider the horse has had.

It was a race that Robertson could hardly lose. He saddled Desert Alley, Jost Van Dyke and Heliskier… four of the six competitors.

$30,000 MINNESOTA QUARTER HORSE DERBY

V OS Red Hot Cole is back in fine fettle, fully recovered from the banged-up foot that hampered him in recent weeks, and the evidence was right there in the first race on Festival Day.

Under Rusty Shaw, V OS Red Hot Cole had a little more than a half length on Tres My Tracks, finishing in 20.63. Tres My Tracks had a neck on First Down Marie.

“He banged up his foot in the gate,” said Rodney Von Ohlen, owner of V OS Red Hot Cole, “and has been healing up for the last two months. ”

Von Ohlen is no stranger to the winner’s circle at Canterbury. For instance:

V OS Red Hot Cole is out of Miss Eyewear, the same mare that foaled Von Ohlen’s First Class Smarty, winner of the Bob Morehouse twice, the Canterbury Park Derby and the Northlands Futurity among others.

As Shaw stepped on the scale in the winner’s circle, a bystander commented. “Hey, Rusty, riding in the All American Futurity (a $2.6 million race held at Ruidoso on Monday) this year.”

“Yeah, I wish,” he responded.

For the moment, however, Shaw, Von Ohlen and tainer Ed Ross Hardy had all they needed.

$30,000 MINNESOTA QUARTER HORSE FUTURITY

Much the best. Easy. One-sided.

Pick your descriptions. They all fit.

Sportwagon, under Ry Eikleberry, simply ran away from eight rivals to add another trophy to the burgeoning collection of Canterbury Park’s newest Hall of Fame entrants from the quarter horse ranks, Bob and Julie Petersen.

Thus, Sportwagon broke his maiden in his sixth attempt.

Horses owned by the Petersens finished one-two. Good Eye was a length back of her winning stablemate. Justa Bump was next, followed by Little Bit Brandy.

The victory brought to mind the winner’s dam for Bob Petersen. The Petersens also campaigned Inclinda, winner of the 2003 Cash Caravan Stakes.

It also brought to mind the second-place horse’s dam, Southern Fun. Good Eye, aptly named, since Southern Fun is completely blind.

She had raced six or seven times when glaucoma began taking her sight, and the Petersens brought her home from Los Alamitos.

2013 MINNESOTA FESTIVAL OF CHAMPIONS PHOTOS

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.

Feel Good Story Caps Weekend

TCF  Captain  Call  Minnesota  Stallion  Breeders  Futurity 06-23-13 R-08  CBY InsideFeel good stories abound at any racetrack. Stories about horses winning with limited vision, maybe a single working eye. Stories about horses rebounding from near-death experiences with winning efforts, horses with names dedicated to a dying patron or trainer coming through in his memory.

But how about this one: A husband-wife training team partnering up with a husband-wife riding tandem to win two races.

That’s right – and it happened on Sunday’s card.

Patricia Trimble and Rusty Shaw were married at Turf Paradise in Phoenix two years ago. Sunday they rode winning horses for Harvey Berg, who trains horses in his wife Susan’s name.

Shaw rode the first winner on the card, a 3-year-old named Dalbo. Trimble brought in Amazingly Karen in the fifth race.

The Bergs also started Ridgeofstone, ridden by Trimble in race six. She ran fourth in that race.

“That’s three-fourths of our entire barn right there,” said Susan Berg. “The fourth is Caring Karen and she’ll run on Thursday’s card.”

Rusty had been named on Ridgeofstone to start. “Patricia was whining about how she wanted to ride the horse,” he joshed. “So I went to Harvey and he didn’t care which one of us rode the horse, so I told my agent to take me off and put Patricia on.”

The Bergs are from Milltown, Wis., and have been racing since they were married 55 years ago. They had horses at Canterbury when the track opened in 1985, left when Canterbury closed in the early 90s and have been back for several years. Racing extends throughout the family. Their daughter, Kari Watson, is an outrider at Remington Park.

There is nothing like racing they insist, for people who like it. Even the traveling has been OK with them. “You know people wherever you go,” Susan said.

Shaw and Trimble showed up at the Bergs’ barn on Sunday morning prepared to gallop, but the track was closed because of its wet condition. Instead, they pitched in and mucked stalls. The Bergs have a small operation and handle the barn on their own.

“I’m happy for them,” said Shaw. “They’re very nice people. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Harvey mad. He just doesn’t get mad about anything.”

There was one problem, however. The Bergs don’t have employees to share with when Shaw and Trimble deliver the doughnuts this week.

It is traditional for a winning jockey to bring the barn a dozen doughnuts for each win. “I don’t think the two of them can eat 24 doughnuts,” Rusty said. “We’ll have to bring them a box at a time.”

MINNESOTA STALLION BREEDERS’ FUTURITY

A jockey walked into the paddock before the eighth race on Sunday and announced: “This is the Bob Johnson Futurity.”

No it wasn’t, even with six starters in the nine-horse race.

“His mistake today was only six starters, instead of nine,” a wise-cracker offered.

It was the Brent Clay-John Lawless stakes as it turned out, with TCF Captain Call (pictured at top), Stormy Smith up, claiming the winner’s circle in 18.245.

Lawless and his wife made the three-hour drive north from Eldora, Iowa, for the race, a bit of drive that was cushioned by a purse worth $39,000.

“It seems like 10 minutes now,” said Lawless, who raced at Canterbury up until about three years ago and was attracted back by the increased purses.

“This is a great facility and now with the purses it’s even better,” he said.

His chief concern Sunday was TCF’s frame of mind. “He’s moody,” Lawless said “Nothing serious but he does get moody.”

Enough so that if affects his effort.

There was none of that on Sunday as TCF surged to a half length win over Tucan Sam. Third was Just Beach and fourth, Johnson’s It’s A Royal Flush.

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.

Hastabealeader Wins Northern Plains

Just as trainer Bob Johnson was leaving the paddock shortly before the final race on Sunday’s card he was presented with a thought to consider.

If everything went all right, would that be what it would take.

“That’s all it should take,” he offered.

You have to read between the lines here, but basically that’s quarter horse talk for “we’ll win the darn thing.”

Everything went just fine, thank you, so you already know the result. Now, the only thing necessary is to supply a name, a time, a margin etc…

Oh, yes, and a description of the race itself. The subject of conversation was the $22,069.75 Northern Plains Stallion Futurity, which drew a field of 11.

The winner was the 6-5 favorite Hastabealeader, trained of course by Johnson, ridden by Clyde Smith and owned by Gloria J. Myers of Ipswich, S.D.

The winner had ½ length on Mr Shakem Diva, trained by Ed Ross Hardy and ridden by Nik Goodwin and the chief concern to the Johnson team.

“He [Hastabealeader] is an honest colt, a nice colt. He’s consistent, and he’s good in the gate. The No. 3 horse [Mr. Shakem Diva] is fast. He’ll be tough. I’ve ridden both of them and I like my colt,” Smith said earlier in the afternoon.

He liked him even better later in the day after all the pieces fell into place to assure a perfect trip for the winner and a convincing win.

The trip was not so perfect for Rebaday, who unseated Wilfredo Aroyo shortly out of the gate and left the rider on the track, shaken but not seriously injured.

The winner was 2-1-2 from five career starts and had previously lagged in the gate after delays in the start of the race. “He’d get ticked off and get a late break and have to run them down,” Smith explained.

There was none of that on Sunday.

The starters lined up without incident and the winner got away with a perfect start. The start was so clean that Smith figured then and there his chances were excellent.

“Nobody was acting up and we didn’t have to back out,” Smith added. “He got away clean and I knew then he was probably a winner.” He was indeed, in 18.240.

Johnson had three other starters in the race and one of them, Mr. Imgunasteelurgirl, got a check, for fourth.

Johnson agreed that the incident-free start to the race made a difference for his winning colt.

“That helped a lot,” he said. “He just broke straight and clean so all he had to do was outrun the others.”

In other words, everything went all right.

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

Clyde Henry Smith

Clyde Smith began rolling back the tape in his memory, five years, 10 years, 15, 40 years… could it have been that long ago. He was 10 years old in Snyder, Okla., driving his younger siblings to school in that three-on-the-column, 1961 Ford Falcon.

Not unusual in those days, the early 1970s, not in Snyder. “I was driving a six-ton truck in the hay fields when I was six,” he said. “It was very common. I think every kid in town past five or six was driving at the time. I lived in the country. I was a country bumpkin.”

Cars and trucks were not Smith’s only means of transportation in those days. He was also into horses. Three-quarters of a mile down the road was a farm that had a racetrack on it, and young Clyde was there frequently, running his Shetland pony down the road at age seven to the farm with the racetrack, learning the rudiments of a game that would become his livelihood.

Seven years old and Clyde bought that pony himself. “I saved the money,” he said. “Mowing grass, driving hay truck, chopping cotton.”

All the kids began asking for Shetlands once they saw Clyde on his.

That’s the way it started and it seemed to grow from there. By age 10 or 11, Clyde was exercising and galloping horses, the only member of his family interested in the racing game.

“There were six of us, three boys and three girls,” he said. “Nobody else in the family had anything to do with racehorses. I was the only one.”

His attraction to race-riding would not prevent Smith from trying other athletic activities “I played them all, baseball, football, basketball, gymnastics, track,” he said.

About that time, Nate Quinonez walked into the silks room where Smith was carrying on a conversation. “Hey, whose silks are those,” Smith wondered . “They look familiar.”

Quinonez unfolded the shirt on his arm. “Harvey Berg’s,” he responded.

“Hey, I rode for Harvey in 1995 at Prairie Meadows, first year I was there,” Smith added.

Iowa was as far north as Smith got in those days after riding in New Mexico, Colorado, Texas, just about every place in the Southwest. Then, three years ago, he arrived at Canterbury Park for the first time. To listen to him talk there will be many more.

“I love it here,” he said. “Nice facilities, good people. This is the least prejudiced place I’ve ever been.”

Smith was talking exclusively about the community. “Yeah, outside of the track,” he said.

Race has not been an issue for him at the tracks he’s raced at throughout the Southwest. That hasn’t always been the case in the communities at large. It hasn’t been an issue at all for him in Shakopee.

Smith is second in the quarter horse standings with an 11-8-11 record from 68 mounts.

Life is good now, at age 50. “I’ve been blessed,” he added. “Three of my (five) children graduated from college.”

His youngest, 15-year-old Preston, is destined to become a jockey, too. ‘He’s a natural,” Smith said. “He’s like his mother, no bigger than a minute, 70 pounds if that.”

What Clyde sees in young Preston is probably an old tape of himself at about the same age. “He’s a natural. I put him on ropin’ and barrel horses and didn’t have to show him a thing.”

Clyde started out riding thoroughbreds for the first 14 or 15 years of his career and still will but is mostly a quarter horse rider these days. He’s still a good hand in the barn and when it comes to breaking babies as well.

“He’s a good horseman, different from a lot of people,” said trainer Bob Johnson, who first rode Smith around the mid 1990s. “I think it was about 1995. He won a stake for me in Albuquerque. He’s really good with colts and babies, really good. A very good hand in the morning AND the afternoon.”

It was mentioned to Johnson that Clyde Henry Smith was getting on horses and galloping at an age when a lot of youngsters were still carrying their Roy Rogers lunch buckets to school

Didn’t surprise him in the least, not with what he’s seen of the man.

“Oh, yes,” said Johnson. “I’m pretty sure he’s been doing this his entire life.”

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

Patriate Claims the Crown

Bob Johnson left no doubt about his thoughts on the Claiming Series Thursday night as he considered it in the paddock minutes before post time for the championship race.

“I like this,” he said. “I like it a lot. I hope they have a lot more of them.”

Rival trainer Mike Biehler could understand the sentiment perfectly, as it applied to Johnson.

“Yeah, and he’ll probably like it a whole lot more in a few minutes,” Biehler said.

Johnson appeared to suppress a wry grin as he gave Patricia Trimble a leg up on Patriate, who already had three gate-to-wire wins this summer and had won two of three qualifying races for the championship, beating every one of his Thursday night rivals in the process.

He had good reason to like the series, and, just as Biehler forecast, hadn’t changed his mind in the least a few minutes later after the seven-year-old gelding went gate to wire once more, finishing 2 ½ lengths in front of Brokenandbusted, who had a neck on French Moon.

Patriate claimed the winner’s share of the $25,000 championship purse, a very significant reason for liking this concept since Johnson not only trains the winner but owns him also. Thus he didn’t have to share the $15,000 winner’s check with someone doling out day money.

 

Brokeandbusted, owned by Tom and Karen Metzen and Gary McCloud and trained by Biehler collected a check for $5,000 and a $3,000 check went to French Moon, trained by Valorie Lund and owned by Zephyr Stable.

Winning time for the race was 1:05 and 4/5, after a :46 and 2/5 half mile and :22 and 2/5 for the quarter mile.

“I love this old guy,” Trimble said afterward. “He earned all his money the hard way.”

Previously, Patriate had earned $81,849 with a record of 14-14-4 from 52 career starts.

Pressbox manager Jeff Maday and assistant Andrew Offerman devised the rules for the series (there was one for fillies and mares that concluded last week) last winter after being inspired by a similar concept at Portland Meadows.

With only six horses lined up for the championship race Thursday, the idea did not match their expectations.

The biggest reason, both agreed, was probably lack of education, a point embraced by Biehler, who said he did not understand the entire concept early on.

Track president/CEO Randy Sampson also pointed out that the idea was formulated before the addition of supplements from the Mystic Lake agreement that enhanced purses significantly.

Still, Offerman, for one, was not totally discouraged. “This is the type of racetrack where this kind of thing has a chance to be very successful,” he said. “We’re a little disappointed in the number of horses participating this year, but it has an opportunity to grow. It’s a fantastic opportunity to get people interested in owning a horse.”

The idea, of course, is that someone can claim a horse for $3,500 and within four to five weeks have the opportunity to run for $25,000 or more.

Bob Johnson might be a good one with whom to discuss that very possibility.

For more information on the Canterbury Claiming Series, and for complete standings, check out the Canterbury Park webpage.

The 2012 Canterbury Claiming Series is sponsored by Continental Diamond.

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

A Little Bit Like a Rodeo

Think back over the past few days about the sporting world and name your favorite athlete. Maybe it was iron man Michael Phelps, American darling Gabby Douglas or the million dollar man, Oscar Pistorius.

Or, if racehorses are your thing, Lori Keith just won the biggest race ever run at Canterbury Park, the Mystic Lake Derby. Three-time defending riding champ Dean Butler won the $50,000 Princess Elaine and the $100,000 Lady Canterbury Stakes on Saturday. Maybe Thomas Wellington, the defending quarter horse riding champ, who got his first win of the meet Sunday in the $40,400 Canterbury NCQHRA Futurity at 350 yards.

Or how about Chris Davis, assistant trainer to Michael Stidham, who saddled the Mystic Lake Derby winner Hammers Terror and came right back with the Lady Canterbury victor, Ruthville.

Maybe even the ride from Hall of Fame jockey Scott Stevens in Sunday’s fifth race on Not So Fast Festus in which he coaxed every ounce of resolve out of his horse to hit the wire ½ inch in front of Cachemassa Creek and Larren Delorme.

Or, just maybe, the choice will be made on considerations aside from winners of big time local races, Olympic gold medals or sterling rides.

Maybe, just maybe, you will pull for the little man, the one who will go unnoticed even though he is now a winner, a union carpenter and native of Jamaica.

We are talking here about Clinton Venner, 53, a native of Belle Plaine for eight years after relocating from Jamaica. Venner has had his training license for about a year and saddled his first winner in Sunday’s second race, a 6-year-old gelding named Timber Hills.

He worked with horses in Jamaica before coming to the U.S. to take a carpentry job with Minneapolis Public Housing.

Venner had saddled 12 horses prior to Timber Hills without a win, but got there with a stout ride from Denny Velazquez and an even stouter dismount in the winner’s circle.

Timber Hills had a rather stout reaction of his own as the winning picture was being taken, rearing straight up as Velazquez made a hurried dismount, good enough to get comments from onlookers. “You get a 9.9 on that one,” identifier Mark Bader said.

“I guess he’d never had his picture taken before,” said Velazquez, a perfectly accurate statement if winning a race is first required to have your picture taken.

Riders and other occupants of the jockeys room were fascinated by the picture of the event taken by Shawn Coady in which Nate Quinonez appears ready to catch the dismounting Velazquez.

“He looks like he’s ready to catch a baseball,” said Derek Bell.

“Heckuva catch,” said Jerry Simmons.

NCQHRA Quarter Horse Futurity

Staying on a horse for eight seconds in this race would have gotten you a trip to the NFR finals in Vegas next December.

“Kind of like a rodeo out there,” one trainer said.

“Kind of a wild one,” said winning trainer Bob Johnson.

Yes, indeed. These two-year-olds started acting their age in the paddock, a couple of them dead certain that anything moving was a deadly creature poised to do them harm.

The 10-horse field was reduced to eight after Atsi Hero and V Os Red Hot Cole scratched early in the day. That left eight for the race, but only six of them made it out of the gate. Traffic Patrol ran off before the race and was chased down by an outrider and Girls Dont Seis was scratched after she began fussing and feuding while trying to line up.

Meanwhile, Wellington rode Jess Lika Blair to a tight win over stablemate Hastabealeader, ridden by Clyde Smith, who was given a choice of horse for the race and chose wrong by an inch or so.

“Clyde thought he won,” said Wellington. “I didn’t say anything. I let him think he did.”

So Wellington, who’ll have to relinquish his private parking spot as the riding champ, compensated a bit with the win.

“It was worth the trip (from Iowa),” he said.

Let Those Stirrups Out

Brittany Rhone approached her father, Lonnie Arterburn, with a plan this week. “I have a crazy idea,” is how she presented it.

What Rhone wanted to do was let her stirrups out, by quite a bit, so she could get more leg on the horse she rode in the third race Sunday, She’s The Cat.

The horse had lugged out on her the last couple of times and was hard to handle.

Whenever Rhone galloped the maiden filly in the morning she had her stirrups long and could get much-needed leg on the horse.

She proposed doing the same for Sunday’s race and dad consented.

“If I hadn’t won, they would have thought I was crazy,” Brittany said afterward.

But she did win, and the long stirrups helped considerably. “She tried to lug out on me once,” Brittany said. “I got my leg on her and that was the only time.”

Longer stirrups and She’s The Cat is no longer a maiden.

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

Heliskier Does it Again… Just as Impressively

There are numerous sorts of intoxicating, maybe even medicinal qualities attached to the phenomenon of winning.

For Marlene Colvin, it might have meant a good night’s sleep Sunday night. For Cam Casby, it might have provided the perfect remedy for the summer cold she’s battling.

Clearly, winning as he did polished the already shiny image of the remarkable gelding Heliskier, who breezed home in 1:16 and 4/5 under a hand ride. It also made the filly Keewatin Ice, who hasn’t won in her last five outs, look like the lady who won the Northern Lights Debutante last Sept. 4, galloping home as she did (1:17) in the $35,000 Lassie Division of the MTA Stallion Auction Stakes.

All in all, winning proved to be the perfect tonic in each of these instances Sunday.

Colvin has been on a flying carpet ride with Heliskier, the last horse trained to saddle by her late husband, Bun.

It’s been ages since there’s been a Minnesota-bred such as this one on the grounds at Canterbury Park. The son of Appealing Skier from Plana Dance is five-for-five after simply loping away from four rivals, winning by six lengths without so much as a look at the stick in the $35,000 MTA Stallion Auction Stakes.

Consider this. Derek Bell has tapped this horse once, lightly on the shoulder in five races and probably didn’t even need to deliver that reminder.

“He’s a racehorse, the best I’ve been on,” Bell said. ‘I can’t imagine what he’d do If I asked him for anything.”

For her part, Colvin has been living in a heady world since this horse began racing. “Nobody paid any attention to me all those years I was mucking stalls back there in the barns,” she said.

“Now people I’ve never met come up to me and say ‘good luck, way to go or what a horse’ it’s kind of nice to have people pay attention to you that way.”

Indeed, although there is a tradeoff to the attention surrounding Heliskier. “I’ve been nervous all day,” Colvin said. “But I got a motel room. I’m not driving back tonight (to her home in South Dakota). I’ve learned that lesson.”

Heliskier went over $100,000 earnings after Sunday’s win, so Colvin could at least get a room with a magic fingers feature to ease any remaining tension.

“People tell me I can go someplace else now besides the Super 8,” Marlene said “I guess they just don’t know Marlene.”

She is, on the other hand, getting to know Heliskier. “I’m starting to believe in him,” she said.

Just as her husband did while breaking the horse. “The horse has a good head on him,” she said. “He knows what’s going on and learns quickly. Bun used to say you only have to show him something once. He might take a look at a deer that startled him in the river bottom the first time, but that was the only time.”

Just like last time, someone dropped approximately $200,000 to win on Heliskier on the final click of the tote board sending him off at 1-20.

Now to Cam Casby and her Keewatin Ice, a winner by eight lengths after Juan Rivera asked her at the head of the lane.

Casby never watches her horses race. She waits until the replay. “I can’t watch until I’m sure they’re home safely,” she said.

In that case, it was mentioned, she could have started watching at the head of the lane on Sunday.

Casby, who’ll be inducted into the Canterbury Park Hall of Fame in September, is battling a cold and hopeful that standing outdoors in the heat and humidity Sunday might assist in its demise.

Watching Sunday’s replay was enjoyable, particularly since Keewatin was on her game and made it easy on her owner.

A QUARTER HORSE HAT TRICK

Clyde Smith had a puzzled look on his face as he headed out the tunnel for Sunday’s final race of the day.

Smith had just been congratulated for his “hat trick” although either the intent or the meaning seemed to evade him.

Nonetheless, Smith and trainer Bob Johnson had just teamed up to win all three legs of the North Central Quarter Horse Futurity trials.

Some nice payoffs accompanied those wins.

Smith was on Dash Ta Ozona in the first of the three 350-yard dashes, finishing in 18.34 at odds of 6-1.

Jess Lika Blair finished in 18.24 under Smith in the next trial, winning easily with a return of $25 and change.

Hastabealeader was quickest of all with a time of 18:18 in the third trial of the card at 7-2 odds.

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