WALKER, BATTLING ILLNESS, WANTS TO GO HOME

Bobbie Walker Jr 6-16-12_600x300

The jockey colony gathers before each day’s racing card to say a prayer together for their collective safety in the upcoming races.

Often they include injured riders in those prayers, colleagues who’ve been hurt during morning workouts, during a race or even in the gate as the race is about to take place.

It is a matter of course, part of the routine in the daily life of the men and women who ride thoroughbreds and quarter horses for a living.

In recent days, they have included former jockey Bobby Walker, Jr., in those daily supplications. The 53-year-old former rider gave up his quest to reach 3,000 career wins, just 19 short of the goal, and returned to Canterbury as a jockey agent this meet, picking up Nik Goodwin and Justin Shepherd as clients.

It had been an OK summer, with the usual ups and downs, gains and setbacks, typical of many lives on the racetrack.

Then, a few weeks ago, Walker began experiencing back pain. When it didn’t subside and started to become worse, he sought medical advice and was diagnosed with kidney stones. He underwent the associated medical procedure for such ailments.

He got no relief, so he sought a second opinion, at a second hospital.

“They told me I had testicular cancer,” he said on Thursday from his room at Fairview Southdale Hospital in Edina.

Walker would prefer to be home in West Monroe, La., with family and friends but is prevented from going anywhere until his blood count shows improvement. “And when all the infection is gone,” added his daughter, Brittany, who was at his side.

Even the trip home raises issues, however.

Walker will need medical transportation of some kind and that will cost between $5,000 and $10,000 out of pocket, which the family is trying somehow to raise.

“Louisiana Downs is planning on trying to do something, trying to put together a fundraiser with the jockeys of some kind ” said Brittany, who is also working on having shirts stenciled to sell on her father’s behalf.

Walker made his first visit as a rider to Shakopee in 1986 when he was riding a barnful of good stock, most of it for Hall of Fame trainer Jack Van Berg, who was the leading conditioner at Canterbury Downs the previous, inaugural year. In those days, Walker rode largely at AkSarBen in Omaha, Neb, and Louisiana Downs in Bossier City, La.

“He was a very good rider,” said Canterbury Hall of Fame rider Scott Stevens, who has known Walker since 1988. “I first rode with him that year at Louisiana Downs,” Stevens recalled.

Walker established himself as a reliable, journeyman rider, steadfast in his trade. “He was a very good rider who had a very good career, but he is also a very good person,” Stevens added.

Thursday Walker was dying to drink the glass of orange juice in front of him. “I’d really like to,” he said, “but I’ve been getting medication and my stomach’s so bad.”

He has undergone seven treatments and will need at least one more before he will be stable enough to travel. He is positive about the future. “I think I definitely have a decent chance, but I’ve had some setbacks,” Walker added. “Not everything’s gone the way we hoped.”

Thursday he underwent a blood transfusion. “He’s pretty sick,” Brittany said. “But we’ve had lots of support from the racing community, from around the entire country. Make sure everybody knows how grateful we are for that support and for their prayers. We appreciate it more than we could ever explain.”

Brittany said the family hopes to transport her father from Fairview Southdale to a hospital in West Monroe sometime next week if doctors are satisfied with his condition at that point.

 

BY JIM WELLS

Record Crowd of 17,053 Enjoys 2012 Festival

The Festival of Champions began 20 years ago as a rebuke to track management at the time, as a demonstration by horsemen that the Ladbroke Corp.’s marketing strategies and ideas about live racing were wrong.

They’ve been proving that nearly every year of live racing since, often most notably on Festival day, but never quite like Sunday.

A crowd of 17,053 fans, nearly 6,000 more than ever previously recorded on Festival Day and the fourth largest overall in Canterbury Park history, took in a sun-soaked afternoon of racing featuring Minnesota quarter horses and thoroughbreds only. The record crowd wagered $432,978 on track, contributing to a total handle of $845,309

More than $400,000 in purses attracted the best from the barns in Shakopee with the notable exceptions of Heliskier, the likely Horse of the Meet, and the redoubtable Tubby Time.

It was a throwback to the days when large crowds were commonplace at Canterbury. Lines at mutual windows, concession stands and elsewhere were long, the escalators were packed and busy throughout the afternoon, the paddock full before races and the winner’s enclosure packed after races.

The card comprised 11 races. The final one of the card – an indication of a slower pace throughout the afternoon – went off at 6:50, nearly 20 minutes later than scheduled.

$50,000 Minnesota Distaff Classic

There are several ways to describe what took place in this race, but one that cannot go unrecognized is the role the rider played. It was indeed Tanner Time for the third time on the card, as Canterbury’s champion jockey for the season, Tanner Riggs, kept his filly’s head in the race from gate to wire for a convincing victory. That filly was Congrats and Roses, who had run a total of four times this season without a win.

All eyes (or was it ayes) were on Keewatin Ice in this one, at least until it became apparent that the Mac Robertson-trained horse with Riggs in the irons was not going to be denied. Sasha’s Fierce was second and Sam’s Grindstone finished third.

As she broke from the gate, Riggs gave his horse a reminder with a crack to the belly to assure she was cognizant of the race under way.

In a bit of banter possible only with Canterbury’s champion trainer, Mac Robertson, involved, the following comic exchange took place:

“Boy, I didn’t see this coming,” said Canterbury president and CEO Randy Sampson.

“Hey,” countered Robertson,” this filly ran great in this race last year. Ever since you started hanging with the commissioner, you’ve lost faith in me and it’s cost you money.”

Just then the subject of the moment, Minnesota Racing Commission chairman Jesse Overton appeared, camera in hand.

“Speaking of the devil,” Robertson intoned, as Overton prepared to snap a picture. “You should take those of me before the race,” Robertson added.

You can say those kind of things after winning eight consecutive training titles.

$50,000 Minnesota Classic Championship

They couldn’t touch Coconino Slim.

He broke to the lead and stay right there despite pressure throughout the mile and 1-16 events, finishing 2 ¼ lengths in front of Samendra and 8 ¼ ahead of Jaival.

Owner Catherine DeCourcy had a simply response in the winner’s enclosure afterward. “I’m honored and I’m humbled,” she said.

Under Tanner Riggs, the winner ran just the race needed for his first win in six starts. With a clear lead out of the gate, Coconino shook off a challenge on the backstretch and drew off in the stretch drive as the odds-on favorite.

It was a “chalky” kind of day and this race demonstrated it perfectly. Coconino won as the people’s choice. Samendra and Jaival were second and third as 3-1 choices. Eurasian was fourth as the next choice on the board.

 $65,000 Northern Lights Debutante

Badge of Glory needed only to win this race to get her own badge of honor after breaking her maiden on July 28. She gets it after Sunday’s effort. It always helps to have Scott Stevens in the irons when the mount is a two-year-old, as demonstrated once again, in this race.

By Badge of Silver from Dracken, Badge of Glory is considered by her breeders as one of the most talented horses they have raised. They recognized her precocity hours after her birth in the way she handled herself in the stall. “We knew when this filly was two hours old that she would be the best we’ve raised,” said Richard Bremer.

$50,000 Minnesota Distaff Sprint

One of Canterbury Park’s enshrinees in the Hall of Fame Saturday night was breeder/owner Cam Casby, whose first shot with a thoroughbred on Festival Day was Polar Plunge.

With speed galore, the race set up beautifully for this daughter of Successful Appeal and that’s pretty much the way it played out.

Polar Plunge, the odds-on favorite, took advantage of the swift pace in front of her and glided home under Bobby Walker, Jr., one-half length in front of Gypsy Melody and 2 ½ in front of Happy Hour Honey

Casby declines to watch her horses run, preferring to watch the replays after the drama is over, but she stays tuned in to a certain extent, as she did for this race.

“We wanted her to be behind,” Casby said, “especially with those fractions. They were way too fast.” Happy Hour Honey set the pace for the first quarter in 21 3/5. The half was done in 44 2/5.

Still, Casby did not head to the winner’s circle until all the Is were dotted and the Ts crossed.

“You never know until you are past the wire and the photo proves it,” she said.

$65,000 Northern Lights Futurity

This race produced a stunning effort from Sugar Business, a son of Stormy Business from Sugar Hills Miss. Under Derek Bell, the brown colt left his rivals far back, finishing in a stakes record 1:10 1/5.

The start was only the third for the Curt Sampson-owned colt, who hadn’t run since July 13. “We wanted to rest him,” said trainer Tony Rengstorf. “This race was what we were shooting for.”

And the record time?

“A pleasant surprise,” said Rengstorf.

Surprising,too, to the winner’s rivals. Bet Your Life was second, eight lengths behind the winner. Lil’ Apollo was 18 ¾ lengths behind in third.

$50,000 Minnesota Sprint Championship

Normorewineforeddie is entitled to a goblet of the very best after winning this race for the third consecutive year, again in convincing fashion. The Scrimshaw horse covered the six furlongs in a swift 1:09 2/5 with plenty of ground between him and Gold Country Cat and Freedom First.

He had 6 ½ lengths on the second place horse, who got the place by a neck.

Winning owner Tony Didier was wearing a tee-shirt in the winner’ s enclosure depicting a jockey holding a bottle of wine aloft in a salute to Eddie. The wine bottle has been uncorked so it seems possible the state’s open bottle law does not apply to thoroughbred racetracks.

Didier, as usual, gave credit to his trainer, fellow Nebraskan Bruce Riecken and to winning rider Dean Butler.

“Bruce did a great job getting him ready,” Riecken said. And Butler’s ride? “You don’t have worry about anything with Dean Butler.”

The race was only the third for Eddie this year. “He’s had a few problems,” said Didier. “Hopefully he’s over them.”

Hardys Continue Festival Dominance

Employee problems among other issues kept Kari Hardy in Iowa for qualifying races on Saturday night, so she was unable to attend the Hall of Fame festivities at Canterbury and had nothing to show for the trip when she arrived back in Shakopee. How did you do in Iowa, she was asked.

“Mediocre,” she said. Neither of her two horses qualified for the John Deere juvenile challenge.

There was some consolation upon her return, however.

Western Fun (above), ridden by Mark Luark and owned by Canterbury Park’s newest owners in the Hall of Fame , Bob and Julie Petersen, won the first race on Sunday’s card, the $22,400 Minnesota Quarter Horse Derby in 20.640 seconds. Western Fun had a neck on Flyin Coronas (who was later disqualified for interference), who was a half-length in front of Streak N Hot.

The Hardy barn had the winner of the $23,350 Quarter Horse Futurity, too. Tanner Riggs, the champion thoroughbred jockey of the meet, brought in Fly Eyeann (below) in 18.607 for owner Rodney Von Ohlen, whose V Os Red Hot Cole finished third in the race. In between those two was Tres My Tracks.

“That helps a bit,” Hardy said.

Could it have been any better? “Well, yes, it could have been first and second,” said Von Ohlen.

Nonetheless, it was the fifth time the Hardy barn has swept the two races as this team adds each summer to their local dominance. They have won 16 races in the Minnesota Festival, 12 more than anyone else. The Hardy barn has claimed 11 training titles at Canterbury since 2000. The victory for the Petersens was their eighth on Festival Day, three more than anyone else.

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

Troubled Trip – Thepointman

Last thursday night saw a lot of trouble: The first Buck Night of the year, the turf racing and Thepointman – were all affected by the rain. In the third event, a rather inexperienced lineup took to the racetrack with two Tony Rengstorf entries. Lambda Nu and Thepointman appear to have worked together for a while, with the latter outworking the former in most of their morning training. Lambda Nu is strictly a front-runner, and one who’d been fading in each of his lifetime starts while still hanging on for three show finishes. One would think a son of Belmont winner Point Given would appreciate a stretch out in distance more than a speedy sprinter (LN), and Thepointman was set as a decent longshot for the night.

When the gates opened, both horses came out fine. However, take a look at the replay – Particularly the first turn.

While Thepointman didn’t go down, steadying that hard into the first turn took the race completely out of his hands, and left his stablemate alone on the front end with little pressure. It took everything Quote to Cash had in the tank to beat him as the heavy favorite. It appeared that Bobby Walker had all but wrapped up on Thepointman after the trouble and saved his run for another day. I know it’s a stretch but this horse has the breeding to take on a distance of ground and should fare better next time around. Given his lifetime resume it’s safe to say we’ll see a price unless he is dropped to the very bottom rung of the ladder.

Let’s hope for value and a clean trip next time – Thepointman has more to offer than he showed in this troubled race.

This blog was written by Canterbury Paddock Analyst Angela Hermann. Angela Hermann is entering her second year as Canterbury’s Paddock Analyst after previously serving in a similar role at Lincoln Racecourse and Columbus Ag Park. She blogs about both local and National racing.

12,120 Enjoy Father’s Day Stakes

As the second choice at 7-2, it was difficult to call this horse a sleeper. But that’s exactly what he is, anytime you visit him in the barn. Ask his owners, Al and Bill Ulwelling, Canterbury Park’s champion owners the last two seasons.

“This horse sleeps all the time, but I guess that’s good,” said Al Ulwelling.

Hard to argue the point Sunday after a command performance by Stachys, a 5-year-old gelded son of Candy Ride. A Father’s Day crowd of 12,120 was on hand to witness the sterling effort.

It took that performance plus a smart ride from Tanner Riggs, but there was little doubt about the outcome after Stachys collared 8-5 favorite Gleam of Hope at the head of the lane, and drew off to a 1 ¾ length victory in the $50,000 Brooks Fields Stakes. Show money went to Wild Jacob, another eight lengths back.

“I was really worried about the No. 7 (Gleam of Hope),” said Ulwelling, “but this one goes to Mike. He had him ready.”

He was talking about trainer Mike Biehler. When the 7 ½ furlong race was moved to the main track from the turf, Biehler got the first item on his wish list. He wasn’t certain how Stachys would handle the mud, however.

“Tanner did a great job of keeping the horse close,” Biehler said. “I was worried with the way the track was playing, that the speed might get away if he didn’t stay close. ”

He was close enough to make a race-winning move coming out of the turn that put his horse in charge in the stretch run.

Apparently all that rest he gets in the barn paid off. He had plenty to offer in that stretch run to the wire.

SHOT OF GOLD GETS A RECORD-SETTING RUN

The axiom goes something like this: You can have the best horse in the world, but if his trainer doesn’t find the right race it won’t matter in the least. We paraphrase, of course.

Yet the maxim proved its worth on Sunday in the $50,000 Shots of Gold Stakes.

Trainer Clay Brinson has been placing his horses in perfect spots for them the entire meet. This time it was worth the winning share of fifty grand.

Brinson claimed the horse for $14,000 last December, picked up a win in Chicago, then one at Canterbury on May 19 in an optional/claiming event.

Sunday, the horse put it all together, pulverizing six rivals in a stakes record 1:09.

Under Bobby Walker Jr., I’ll show Them (pictured above and replay below) was the even-money favorite and finished 4 ¾ lengths in front of 2-1 second choice Silver Magnus and 8 ¼ in front of Humble Smarty, who was fourth in the same race last year.

Brinson was in Canada at Assiniboia Downs to saddle Schillerthekiller in the $30,000 Free Press Stakes and missed his horse’s record-setting effort.

The winner of last year’s race was Atta Boy Roy, who is back on the grounds this summer, happily occupying the No. 1 stall in trainer Valorie Lund’s barn, but not close to running for at least the next month.

“He’s about five weeks away from a race,” Lund said. “I don’t have anything in mind for him. We’ll see when the times comes.”

With the Mystic Lake purse enhancement fund in full effect, Walker smiled broadly when reminded that the original offering of $35,000 had been increased by $15,000.

“I like that. I’m really happy with that,” he said.

WEATHER WAS (NOT) FOR THE DOGS

The soggy conditions created a number of changes in plans for the Father’s Day card. The feature of the day was moved off the grass for starters, but some folks were outright disappointed when the Dachshund Dashes, informally known as the Wiener Dog Races, were postponed until next Saturday. That weekend card will include additional Dashes on Sunday.

JOCKEYS’ ROOM BACK IN GOOD HANDS

Jerry Simmons was back at his station as the custodian in the riders’ quarters on Saturday after a brief hiatus for some surgery. Simmons said he was feeling fine, better than he has in months, after getting two stents in his left artery.

Simmons received the stents on Thursday and was released from the hospital on Friday. “Il feel great. I wish I had this done a long time ago,” he said.

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.

12,120 Enjoy Father’s Day Stakes

As the second choice at 7-2, it was difficult to call this horse a sleeper. But that’s exactly what he is, anytime you visit him in the barn. Ask his owners, Al and Bill Ulwelling, Canterbury Park’s champion owners the last two seasons.

“This horse sleeps all the time, but I guess that’s good,” said Al Ulwelling.

Hard to argue the point Sunday after a command performance by Stachys, a 5-year-old gelded son of Candy Ride. A Father’s Day crowd of 12,120 was on hand to witness the sterling effort.

It took that performance plus a smart ride from Tanner Riggs, but there was little doubt about the outcome after Stachys collared 8-5 favorite Gleam of Hope at the head of the lane, and drew off to a 1 ¾ length victory in the $50,000 Brooks Fields Stakes. Show money went to Wild Jacob, another eight lengths back.

“I was really worried about the No. 7 (Gleam of Hope),” said Ulwelling, “but this one goes to Mike. He had him ready.”

He was talking about trainer Mike Biehler. When the 7 ½ furlong race was moved to the main track from the turf, Biehler got the first item on his wish list. He wasn’t certain how Stachys would handle the mud, however.

“Tanner did a great job of keeping the horse close,” Biehler said. “I was worried with the way the track was playing, that the speed might get away if he didn’t stay close. ”

He was close enough to make a race-winning move coming out of the turn that put his horse in charge in the stretch run.

Apparently all that rest he gets in the barn paid off. He had plenty to offer in that stretch run to the wire.

SHOT OF GOLD GETS A RECORD-SETTING RUN

The axiom goes something like this: You can have the best horse in the world, but if his trainer doesn’t find the right race it won’t matter in the least. We paraphrase, of course.

Yet the maxim proved its worth on Sunday in the $50,000 Shots of Gold Stakes.

Trainer Clay Brinson has been placing his horses in perfect spots for them the entire meet. This time it was worth the winning share of fifty grand.

Brinson claimed the horse for $14,000 last December, picked up a win in Chicago, then one at Canterbury on May 19 in an optional/claiming event.

Sunday, the horse put it all together, pulverizing six rivals in a stakes record 1:09.

Under Bobby Walker Jr., I’ll show Them (pictured above and replay below) was the even-money favorite and finished 4 ¾ lengths in front of 2-1 second choice Silver Magnus and 8 ¼ in front of Humble Smarty, who was fourth in the same race last year.

Brinson was in Canada at Assiniboia Downs to saddle Schillerthekiller in the $30,000 Free Press Stakes and missed his horse’s record-setting effort.

The winner of last year’s race was Atta Boy Roy, who is back on the grounds this summer, happily occupying the No. 1 stall in trainer Valorie Lund’s barn, but not close to running for at least the next month.

“He’s about five weeks away from a race,” Lund said. “I don’t have anything in mind for him. We’ll see when the times comes.”

With the Mystic Lake purse enhancement fund in full effect, Walker smiled broadly when reminded that the original offering of $35,000 had been increased by $15,000.

“I like that. I’m really happy with that,” he said.

WEATHER WAS (NOT) FOR THE DOGS

The soggy conditions created a number of changes in plans for the Father’s Day card. The feature of the day was moved off the grass for starters, but some folks were outright disappointed when the Dachshund Dashes, informally known as the Wiener Dog Races, were postponed until next Saturday. That weekend card will include additional Dashes on Sunday.

JOCKEYS’ ROOM BACK IN GOOD HANDS

Jerry Simmons was back at his station as the custodian in the riders’ quarters on Saturday after a brief hiatus for some surgery. Simmons said he was feeling fine, better than he has in months, after getting two stents in his left artery.

Simmons received the stents on Thursday and was released from the hospital on Friday. “Il feel great. I wish I had this done a long time ago,” he said.

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.

The Crafty Cajun

Bobby Walker, Jr., made his way up the tunnel after a race last week, moving slowly and clearly in pain but intent on riding the next race nonetheless. It wasn’t going to happen. He simply wasn’t able, not after taking the head of an 1,100-pound thoroughbred directly to the groin.

The question here doesn’t concern his inability to ride, but his intentions. You don’t survive as a race rider for more than 30 years if you aren’t tough. Walker, as he attempted to demonstrate once again, is tough as they come.

He has had his share of shoulder, neck and back injuries, like any other rider. One mishap stands out.

In 1992 a horse he was riding was tripped up in the first 40 yards of a race and went down, unseating him. A trailing animal stepped on his nose, nearly tearing it off his face. “It was laying against my eye,” Walker recalled.

It was bad enough that his two-year-old daughter, Brittany, wasn’t allowed to see him in his wounded condition. “I looked like the Elephant Man,” Walker said.

Surgeons had to rebuild a nose for him and the first attempt wasn’t satisfactory. A second surgery a few months later was needed to refuse blood vessels, a procedure more painful than the first. Today, there is a modest scar at the top of the bridge and a small obtrusion where the break healed.

“It isn’t a question of if you going to get hurt in this game, it’s just when,” Walker allowed. Riding thoroughbreds for a living presents risks.

Then again, there isn’t much in his life Walker, a native of Monroe, La., hasn’t tried to ride. Sheep, small steers, horses – all mounts he had in the Junior Britches rodeo; then something considerably more dangerous at the next level in Jack Pot rodeos.

His career course was mapped out when an uncle gave him a tip that a hand was needed at a nearby barn to break babies. Months later he was mounting his first horse at Louisiana Downs. It was 1979. He was 18 years old.

He rode his first stakes winner with the bug, won 137 races and the riding title at Evangeline Downs in 1980 and topped it off with 31 wins in the last four weeks in Shreveport.

He has won just about every stake race in Louisiana save the Louisiana and Super derbies. He has been on the backs of Eclipse Award winners Risen Star and Dispersal. Yet, the fastest horse he has ever ridden is quite familiar to the 1980s crowd in Shakopee: Who Dr. Who. “He wasn’t the best, but he was definitely the fastest,” Walker said.

In addition to Louisiana, Walker has ridden regularly in Texas, Oklahoma and Nebraska. Need a rider for a stake race somewhere in the Midwest. Walker was often that fellow. He rode extensively for Jack Van Berg at one time

He needs 51 more winners to reach 3,000 for his career, a goal that keeps him motivated, even at 51. “Ten percent of my wins have come in stake races,” he added. One of those 10 percent was in the 2005 Lady Canterbury Stakes aboard Rue de Reves, two more were aboard Claiming Crown winners in Shakopee and the most recent was Santo Gato in the Honor the Hero Stakes on Memorial Day.

He rode at Canterbury full-time for the first time in 2001, winning 37 races, good for fourth place in the standings.

He rides regularly for the Gary Scherer barn, a trainer he’s known since the mid 1980s, before he was a trainer.

“Bobby rode my first official winner for me as a trainer,” Scherer said. “It was at Hoosier Park, a horse named Lake Harriet, owned by the Valenes.”

Scherer, like anyone else who watches him ride, knows Walker can still compete. “He knows how to save a horse, which stick to use and when. He gives a horse pretty much the best trip it’s going to get.”

Sometimes a horse might not get the best trip and end up a winner nonetheless. Like Cowboy Luke in Saturday’s seventh race, putting Walker one win closer to that goal.

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.

As Tough As Nails (With Video)

Say it to anyone around the track and you’ll get an immediate look of understanding or a nod of respect. He works the gate. Stories abound around any racing community about accidents in the gate, about horses stomping, tearing or kicking a member of the gate crew into the next county.

“I’ve seen horses throw a guy around like a ragdoll,” said clerk of scales/jockey room custodian Jerry Simmons, who worked gates throughout the Midwest for two decades.

The most recent, local example of mayhem in the gate occurred on Saturday’s card, in the seventh race. The crew was trying to load the No. 2 horse, Surplus, when the four-year-old delivered a cow-kick into the groin of 25-year-old Jared Harris.

Harris was wearing the mandatory helmet and flak jacket required in Minnesota but it was of little use where he was kicked.

“I guess you’d call that a nice cow-kick,” he said Monday shortly before the fourth race (check out the video below).

Harris was observed in the hospital for three hours on Saturday and then released. He was back at work on Sunday’s card but still applying ice from time to time on Monday to the affected area. “We don’t want any swelling,” he said.

The kick caused Harris to hit the dirt as if he’d been leveled by a shotgun blast, a perfectly understandable result.

“I probably wouldn’t have had to go to the hospital if I’d been kicked in the chest or somewhere else,” Harris said. “But I wasn’t about to take a chance with this. No way was I going to take a chance.”

The dangers of working the gate are obvious to anyone familiar with racing, but the crew Harris is part of pretty much agrees they have the second most dangerous job on the track.

“The riders are No. 1. We’re No. 2,” said Harris.

Danger and injury don’t seem to deter these fellows from their jobs.

“The job is addictive,” said starter Larry Davila, who oversees the crew. “There is nothing more satisfying than keeping a horse under control and getting him out of the gate.”

Anyone who’s worked the gate has had to deal with injury of one kind or another.

Levi Vivier of Belford, N.D., broke a wrist.

Ed Butler, who rode at Canterbury in 2010, broke a knee working on a gate in 2007. But, as if to prove Harris’s earlier point, he broke his neck while riding last year at Ft. Pierre, S.D.

Simmons, one time, suffered a painful injury when a horse decided to take a bite out of his forehead and wound up sinking a tooth into his skull.

Local racing fans might recall the most devastating incident in Canterbury history. The accident occurred during the mid 1980s. Bobby Compton, a member of the gate crew, was killed when he fell as the gate pulled away from the starting line and a wheel crushed his chest.

HONOR THE HERO EXPRESS

The field included the defending champion, a Mac Robertson-trained veteran of Grade III competition and lots of speed on the front end.

Part of that early speed included the 2011 winner of the race, the Greg Boarman-trained Humble Smarty, who was sent off at 2-1. Silver Magnus, trained by Robertson, drew top attention at 6-5.

On this sunny, breezy afternoon, a horse named Santo Gato, a veteran of competition at Churchill Downs and the Fairgrounds, was a bit too sharp for his seven rivals and won the $35,000 turf express, run for the second year on the dirt.

Under Bobby Walker, jr., Santo Gato (photo above & video replay at the bottom of the post), a gelded-son of Kitten’s Joy, took charge at the eighth pole and hit the wire 1 ¼ lengths in front of Richmond, a 20-1 longshot trained by Mike Biehler and ridden by Lori Keith. Humble Smarty was another ½ length back.

No Peace At All, who wound up dead last, worried the winner’s trainer, Gary Scherer, a bit as he watched the race unfold down the backstretch. “I thought the nine horse was going to kill us on the backstretch,” Scherer said.

“I wasn’t going to let him kill us,” said winning rider Bobby Walker, Jr., who got his horse to stay close without extending himself until they hit the turn.

The winner is owned by Merrill Scherer, Dan Lynch and Ken Sentel.

SKIP ZIMMERMAN STAKES

Christine Hovey was on hand from Adel, Iowa, for the running of this 350-yard event and its $15,000-added purse money.

Hollywood Trickster (photo below & video replay at the bottom of the post), her horse in the race, made the trip worthwhile. The five-year-old son of the thoroughbred Favorite Trick was a convincing winner at 5-1 odds for trainer Ed Ross Hardy and rider Derek Bell, finishing in 17.903.

Bell, who typically rides thoroughbreds, had a terse, witty appraisal of the race afterward. “I didn’t have to rate him at all,” he said.

Hovey obviously was pleased with the result, although she might have been a bit skeptical on the trip from Iowa. Her horse prefers longer distances, although that wasn’t evident on Monday. Where’s Your Wagon, trained by Amy Wessels and ridden by Oscar Delgado, was second. Show Me The Wave, trained by Amber Blair and ridden by Mark Luark, was third.

On hand in the winner’s circle was Miss Rodeo Minnesota, Paige Oveson of Columbia Heights, as well as her father Jim. “My parents were good friends of Skip Zimmerman,” Paige explained.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

Adolfo Morales rode back-to-back winners for trainer Clay Brinson, Boneafide Cat in the fourth race and Teton Motel in the fifth.

Trainer Larry Donlin had terse advice for Morales, who rode Know No Somerset for him in race six.

“Just pretend this is a Brinson horse,” Donlin told him.

HONOR THE HERO & SKIP ZIMMERMAN STAKES REPLAYS

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

Video Credit: Jon Mikkelson & Canterbury Park Television Department

2012 Jockey Rumor Mill Begins

You know the live race meet is near when the Canterbury stable begins coming to life. Trainers are now sending in their advance teams to prepare barns for the imminent arrival of horses this week. Lay down the mats, hang the tubs, bed the stalls, sharpen the pitch forks.

The main track will open for training on Friday as the sprint to opening day begins in earnest.

All of the top trainers are planning to return. Mac Robertson should hit Shakopee soon in defense of his training title. Bernell Rhone, enjoying a bang-up meet at Tampa Bay Downs, is expected here in the first week of May.

The jockey rumor-mill is churning as it does each spring. Word is Ry Eikleberry will remain in slots-rich New Mexico. Jockey agent extraordinaire Richard Grunder has indicated that he will handle the book of Tanner Riggs, last seen here as a regular member of the jockey colony in 2007. Unconfirmed yet buzzing is that Paul Nolan will go to Assiniboia Downs. Paul has been a mainstay in Shakopee for decades. The all-around good guy would be missed here if that pans out. Bobby Walker Jr. is also rumored to be coming to Canterbury this spring.

With all these rumors, the only thing we know for sure is that nothing is for sure until the subject of said rumor drives through the stable gate, or in some cases doesn’t.

Good news for those that dine in the stable area as the track kitchen will be run by a local restaurant specializing in authentic Mexican cuisine.

This blog was written by Canterbury Media Relations Manager Jeff Maday. Maday has filled multiple positions including Media Relations and Player Relations Manager since the track’s reopening in 1995.

2012 Jockey Rumor Mill Begins

You know the live race meet is near when the Canterbury stable begins coming to life. Trainers are now sending in their advance teams to prepare barns for the imminent arrival of horses this week. Lay down the mats, hang the tubs, bed the stalls, sharpen the pitch forks.

The main track will open for training on Friday as the sprint to opening day begins in earnest.

All of the top trainers are planning to return. Mac Robertson should hit Shakopee soon in defense of his training title. Bernell Rhone, enjoying a bang-up meet at Tampa Bay Downs, is expected here in the first week of May.

The jockey rumor-mill is churning as it does each spring. Word is Ry Eikleberry will remain in slots-rich New Mexico. Jockey agent extraordinaire Richard Grunder has indicated that he will handle the book of Tanner Riggs, last seen here as a regular member of the jockey colony in 2007. Unconfirmed yet buzzing is that Paul Nolan will go to Assiniboia Downs. Paul has been a mainstay in Shakopee for decades. The all-around good guy would be missed here if that pans out. Bobby Walker Jr. is also rumored to be coming to Canterbury this spring.

With all these rumors, the only thing we know for sure is that nothing is for sure until the subject of said rumor drives through the stable gate, or in some cases doesn’t.

Good news for those that dine in the stable area as the track kitchen will be run by a local restaurant specializing in authentic Mexican cuisine.

This blog was written by Canterbury Media Relations Manager Jeff Maday. Maday has filled multiple positions including Media Relations and Player Relations Manager since the track’s reopening in 1995.