VODKA AT MOONLIGHT WINS MOREHOUSE

Vodka At Moonlight

BY JIM WELLS

The bloodlines in racing are not always a study exclusively of the horses that line up in the starting gates or of those that send their progeny to the racetrack. The connections between owners and breeders, their sons and daughters and the generations that follow in their footsteps are often overlooked.

An impossible element to ignore after the 18th running of the Bob Morehouse Stakes on Sunday, a race that brought Morehouse daughters, grandsons, granddaughters and as many as 12 great grandchildren to Canterbury for the $29,200 400-yard dash.

There was another element to the story. One of the winning owners of Sunday’s race, Maren Luedemann, once competed in barrel racing with Becky Morehouse, one of Bob’s daughters.

Daughter Bobbi Morehouse, a Canterbury Park Hall of Fame inductee, shook her head in disbelief at the mere idea that this race has been run 18 times. “It’s really hard to believe,” she said.

The Luedemanns, Maren and Paul, were still shaking off the effects of their daughter Cadyn’s graduation from Buffalo High School on Saturday while trying to absorb what their horse Vodka At Moonlight had just accomplished __ their first horse to run in the stakes that honors the Hall of Fame breeder.

Vodka at Moonlight has behaved in the starting gate at times as if she had just consumed a pail-ful of the  alcoholic libation that makes up part of her name. “She bangs her head in the gate, crazy-like,” said two-time defending training champion Jason Olmstead. That, in turn, affects her start, the all important aspect to any quarter horse race. .

Apparently that is a problem resolved, the way Paul Luedemann sees it. “She’s had the problem a couple of times, ”Luedemann. “She’d get kind of antsy in the gate.”

That didn’t occur on Sunday. “Jason took the blinkers off her for the first time and she was able to see what was going on around her,” Luedemann added.

The result was a race run without incident in the gate (aside form a bit of a duck) and a victory for horse, rider Brayan Velazquez, Olmstead and the Luedemanns.

Maren Luedemann added to the analysis of their grand victory on Sunday, crediting the rider for his understanding of horses.  “Brayan’s a good rider, very intuitive,” she said. “He knows how to read a horse.”

So, too, did the man for whom the race is named, and the stories flowed on Sunday, tales that the Luedemanns had not heard, but should go well with their celebration of Sunday’s victory..

Perhaps the best of those involves a snowbound trip somewhere in Nevada in the 1950s, long before the United States had the highway system that exists today.

Morehouse had been a stunt man and wrangler for numerous Hollywood westerns and had lent his spurs to John Wayne for a particular scene in a film that became well known among the fans of cowboy movies.

Short of cash and snowbound somewhere in Nevada with his wife and young child, Bobbi, Morehouse traded the spurs to a gas-station owner for the fuel he needed to complete his trip.

Then there was the tale Bobbi seems to like most. Her father was sharing a house with a young up-and-coming Hollywood star, Jimmy Cagney.  It seems that the two were at a standoff on who should do the dishes.

“They just keep piling up,” Bobbi recalled.

Back to Vodka At Moonlight. She broke fourth in Sunday’s race, moved to second within a head of  Rey D Arranque and reached the wire a head in front of Blacks Cartel, finishing in 20:305 and giving the Luedemanns a story to tell of their own. Along with those they heard for the first time on Sunday about the man for whom the race they won is named.

GOODWIN CONTINUES HIS LEGACY

Nik Goodwin won the sixth race on Thursday’s card aboard a horse named Saganaga, the 1,000th thoroughbred winner of his career.

Then, on Sunday, Goodwin added to his legacy aboard a horse named First Flyin Eagle in the third race to tie Ry Eikleberry for the all-time number of winning quarter horses at the racetrack. The quarter horse winner was the 107th for Goodwin, a Bemidji native.

“That’s two big milestones in one week,” said Goodwin. “Well, actually I still have to win one more to set the record.”

BOUNCING BALLS BENEFIT PAUL NOLAN

Canterbury jockeys competed in an inflated ball race, riding large bouncing rubber balloon-like balls 30 to 40 yards on Sunday to raise money for Paul Nolan, an injured colleague and one-time leading rider in Shakopee.

The event raised money for Nolan and created a number of sideline comments, including the notion that the winning ball would be sent to the test barn to be examined for disallowed quantities such as helium.

Thirteen jockeys bounced their way to the finish line. Actually some were disqualified for carrying their mounts. The winner of the event after much confusion was Jareth Loveberry, who happens to be the current leading thoroughbred rider at Canterbury.

The event was sponsored by 13 separate horse owners, raising more than $3,000 to assist Nolan, currently under 24-hour a day supervision at Craig Institute in Colorado. Nolan is unable to stand, walk or move his arms after the horse he was riding rolled over the top of him following a race at Will Rogers Downs in April.

Nolan’s wife, Sherry, was on hand to receive a check after the event on Sunday, presented to her by jockey Dean Butler.

A Barrel of Fun

He was not very fast on the race track, but plenty fast in the career that followed. He had a short, unspectacular first career, but has had an exceptionally long and illustrious second one. He was bred by Canterbury Park Hall of Fame breeder Bob Morehouse. He was owned and raced in partnership by Hall of Fame owners Paul Knapper and Bobbi Morehouse.

He is Silver Visions, a racetrack failure at two, a champion barrel horse at 25.

He is known as simply Silver around the barn. He’s worth his weight in gold in the rodeo ring. He was born in 1985, the year that Canterbury Downs arrived. He arrived at the track himself in 1987.

He didn’t stay long. Three starts and it was clear that Silver Visions needed a different line of work.

Silver Visions lasted only an eyeblink in the racing business. He is still going strong at 27 in the barrel-racing business. After leaving Canterbury, Silver Visions began to prove his worth. He became a useful horse. He did team penning at one time. He’s been used in match races. He is sure-footed and confident on a trail, can do some dressage if asked, but it is his passion – trying to shave the barrels and keep them standing – at which he truly excels.

He is a son of Bob Morehouse’s Jet A Van from the mare Mam’s Bam, a throwback to a time gone by, to an era of quarter horse racing that is now part of Minnesota’s racing past. Not many horses enjoy this kind of longevity, much less this kind of productivity.

To the best of Paul Knapper’s memory, the original partnership in Silver Visions also included Lori Locken, in her first horse; Paul’s grandmother, Violet Scharfe and his mother and father, Beverly and Curtis. Their trainer was the redoubtable Joe Merrick.

Jodi (Wyoke) Lee started Silver’s barrel racing career, an impressive one at that. He has won trophies for the past two decades and was named Minnesota Barrel Racing Horse of the Year in 2010 and inducted into its Hall of Fame at 25 years of age.

Erin Bayer has owned Silver Visions since 1997. When Jodi needed money for college, she sold the gelding to a friend of Erin’s parents. It was through that friend that Erin became enthralled with the horse at age 16. “I saved up half the money and my parents traded him a mare for the other half,” she recalled. Silver Session was hers.

Although she picked up immediately where Jodi had started the horse, on the barrels, Erin also competed with Silver in pole events and timed games, and a multitude of other activities.

“My husband and I have taken him trail riding in the Black Hills of South Dakota. I did some team penning with him, too,” Erin added. “But the barrels were definitely his best event, right from the start.”

Erin has used Silver to teach barrel racing to students the last few years, and the grey gelding has competed with Allison Oschwald and Bailey Tyson of Monticello. However, no one has been on his back in the arena more often than Erin’s 11-year-old niece, Maddy Ritter.

“He’s very laid back but he always tries. He loves his job and has never refused the gate to make a run,” she added. “Maddy can ride him bareback with a halter and lead rope.”

Bayer gets compliments routinely on how good Silver looks for his age, how well he still performs. “People tell me all the time that he doesn’t look his age. He still competes in the top two divisions when he races. He still acts and feels 10 years old.”

Of course, he is treated with kid gloves. His age is taken into consideration. “We pick and choose our spots for him, when he’ll compete,” Erin added.”And we make sure he gets all of the necessary supplements.”

Becky Boll is a daughter to the late Bob Morehouse. She got a call from Erin’s husband, Grant, one year. He was trying to put together a photo montage of Silver’s early years as a surprise birthday gift for his wife.

“He wanted pictures of Silver when he was a foal, when he was young,” she recalled. “I came up with some pictures for the montage. Erin and I have been friends ever since.”

So, Silver Visions has that talent, too, an ability to bring people together. No wonder Erin has a note on her website, at the bottom of a long list of Silver’s accomplishments.

It says simply, “Not for Sale.”

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.