Chief Cicatriz at Del Mar for Grade 1 Bing Crosby on Saturday

Chief Cicatriz pretty much dictated his own terms in the Dark Star Cup at Canterbury Park in June, but the competition is at another level in Saturday’s Grade I, $300,000 Bing Crosby at Del Mar Thoroughbred Club.

Just the same, trainer Shawn Davis figures with good reason that his horse belongs in this lineup and says he’s training better than he has the past few races, even though his times don’t always reflect it.

The Chief turned in a Beyer of 110 en route to a Grade III Stakes win at Churchill Downs in June of 2018, the best speed figure over that duration of any horse in Saturday’s field. He has been running below that figure since, but Davis says he’s showing signs of improvement nonetheless.

“I think he fits in this one real well. He’s running better now than he has in some time,” Davis said.

The Chief ran a 96 Beyer in the Dark Star Cup, his last outing, on June 22.

“He needed that race,” Davis said. “I’ve noticed that he doesn’t work here [at Del Mar] or at Canterbury real fast, but his attitude is as good as I’ve seen it. His training has been outstanding out here (San Diego). He didn’t work real fast, but his attitude’s great.”

Ruben Fuentes has the mount in the Bing Crosby.

Chief Cicatriz, 12 to 1, will break from the No.6 hole in the eight-horse field that includes plenty of speed in a race that could set up perfectly for a closer such as Air Strike, who finished that way to win the Grade II Triple Bend Stakes .

 

By JIM WELLS

Breeders’ Cup World Championships Sunday Odds and Ends

Compiled by Breeders’ Cup Notes Team 

Smith Extends Lead in Breeders’ Cup Victories; Velazquez Moves Into Tie for Second

Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, 52, extended his lead for all-time Breeders’ Cup World Championship victories in the 14 Hands Juvenile Fillies on Caledonia Road on Saturday to bring his total to 26.

John Velazquez was the only rider to win two races on the 13-race Championship program and those two victories gave him 15 overall to tie Jerry Bailey for the second spot behind Smith.

Velasquez won the Longines Distaff on Forever Unbridled and the Mile on World Approval.

Smith increased his record Breeders’ Cup earnings to $35,874,605, while Velazquez is a clear second with $25,570,275.

Two Jockeys Claim Initial Breeders’ Cup Victories

Jockeys William Buick and Mickael Barzalona posted their first Breeders’ Cup victories Saturday with Barlazona’s triumph on Talismanic in the Longines Turf coming on his first Breeders’ Cup mount.

Buick, who was riding in his sixth Championships, won the Filly & Mare Turf on Wuheida. She was his 12th Breeders’ Cup mount.

Three Trainers Get First Breeders’ Cup Win

Three trainers won their first Breeders’ Cup races over the weekend with one doubling up.

Peter Miller struck in Saturday’s second Breeders’ Cup race in the Turf Sprint when Stormy Liberal ran down stablemate Richard’s Boy to complete a 1-2 finish for Miller. Three races later in the TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint, Roy H gave Miller a second victory of the afternoon.

The other first-time winners were Ralph Nicks (Caledonia Road – 14 Hands Winery Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies), and John Kimmel (Bar of Gold – Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint).

Aidan O’Brien notched his 12th Championships victory with Mendelssohn (Juvenile Turf) to stand third all-time among Breeders’ Cup trainers behind only D. Wayne Lukas (20) and Bob Baffert (14).

Chad Brown, who joined Miller as the only trainer to win two races, moved into fourth all-time with 10 victories. Brown, who won the Juvenile Fillies Turf with Rushing Fall and the Sentient Jet Juvenile with Good Magic, leap-frogged Hall of Famers Shug McGaughey, Bill Mott and Richard Mandella plus Todd Pletcher, all with nine Breeders’ Cup victories.

O’Brien, Brown Add to Grass Dominance

Trainer Aidan O’Brien added to his dominance in the Breeders’ Cup grass races by winning the Juvenile Turf with Mendelssohn. Overall, 10 of his 12 Breeders’ Cup winners have come in turf races with four victories in the Juvenile Turf.

Chad Brown, who opened the Championship weekend with a victory by Rushing Fall in the Juvenile Fillies Turf, has sent out eight of his 10 Breeders’ Cup winners in grass races.

World Approval, Mendelssohn Only Favorites to Win Over the Weekend

Only two favorites prevailed in the 13 Breeders’ Cup races over the weekend and they were World Approval in the Mile and Mendelssohn in the Juvenile Turf.

Only two other favorites hit the board: Bolt d’Oro (third in the Sentient Jet Juvenile) and defending champion Highland Reel (third in the Turf).

The highest price winner this year was Bar of Gold ($66.70-1) in the Filly & Mare Sprint.

No Repeat Winners from 2016 Championships

Five horses were attempting to defend their titles in the same race in which they prevailed in 2016 at Santa Anita and none was successful.

Highland Reel (Turf) finished third, Arrogate (Classic) dead-heated for fifth, Queen’s Trust (Filly & Mare Turf) finished fifth, Drefong (TwinSpires Sprint) finished sixth and Finest City (Filly & Mare Sprint) finished eighth.

Stormy Liberal Sets Record for Longest Layoff

Rockingham Ranch’s Stormy Liberal came off the longest layoff of any Breeders’ Cup winner in the 34-year history of the World Championships. It had been 147 days since his last race when he finished eighth in the Jaipur Stakes at Belmont Park. The previous longest layoff was 137 days before Magician won the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Turf. Prior to his victory at Santa Anita, he had last raced June 18 at Ascot. Precisionist, winner of the 1985 Sprint at Aqueduct and Calidoscopio, winner of the 2012 Marathon at Santa Anita, both had been off 132 days before their wins.

Winners Came From All Over the Map to Triumph at Del Mar

Regional winners were well balanced at the 34rd Breeders’ Cup World Championships Friday and Saturday at Del Mar racetrack.

Horses based primarily in California, New York, Kentucky and Europe won three races with Florida-based Caledonia Road prevailing in the 14 Hands Winery Juvenile Fillies.

The California-based contingent was led by trainer Peter Miller’s two winners: Roy H in the TwinSpires Sprint and Stormy Liberal in the Turf Sprint. The other California-based winner was Battle of Midway in the Dirt Mile.

New York-based stables produced three winners, including two from the barn of trainer Chad Brown in Rushing Fall (Juvenile Fillies Turf) and Good Magic (Sentient Jet Juvenile). The John Kimmel-trained Bar of Gold won the Filly & Mare Sprint.

Kentucky was represented by winners Gun Runner (Classic), Forever Unbridled (Longines Distaff) and World Approval (Mile).

The European contingent grabbed three victories with Mendelssohn (Juvenile Turf) on Friday and Wuheida (Filly & Mare Turf) and Talismanic (Turf) on Saturday.

DEL MAR, CA – NOVEMBER 03: The pack of horses take on the first stretch on Day 1 of the 2017 Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Del Mar Thoroughbred Club on November 3, 2017 in Del Mar, California. (Photo by Alex Evers/Eclipse Sportswire/Breeders Cup)

 

photos courtesy of Breeders’ Cup Ltd.

General Jack in With Anticipation

General Jack - Shakopee Juvenile Stakes - 08-03-13 - R07 - CBY - Inside FinishGeneral Jack, winner of the inaugural Shakopee Juvenile Stakes – a part of of the 2013 Mystic Lake Derby card – is favored on the morning line in Thursday’s Grade II With Anticipation Stakes at Saratoga Race Course in upstate New York. Trained by Michael Maker, General Jack will be ridden by Rosie Napravnik – unquestionably the top female jockey in North America.

General Jack shipped into Canterbury following a tough-luck second place finish in a Maiden Special Weight at Belmont on July 12 as the prohibitive favorite. The public took notice of his horrific trip in Elmont, NY and sent him to the post at 3/5 in the $100,000 Shakopee Juvenile. Under a patient ride by Victor Lebron, he left no doubt about his superiority drawing away to win by a widening three lengths.

Installed as the 5/2 favorite by NYRA morning line maker Eric Donovan, General Jack will be hooking up with a duo that he already ran against in his maiden race in 3rd place finisher Bashart (4-1 third choice) and winner Tiger Bourbon (3-1 second choice). It is evident that Donovan feels strongly about the group that finished 1-2-3 in that July 12 Maiden Special Weight at Belmont as they are the top three choices here. That trio was 7-lengths clear of the rest of the field back on July 12.

The 81 Beyer Speed Figure run by General Jack in the Shakopee Juvenile is 7 points superior to any other runner in the With Anticipation. Out of the multiple graded stakes winner J’Ray who did her best work at 9 furlongs and by Giant’s Causeway, General Jack’s pedigree suggests that he should thrive in the 8.5 furlong With Anticipation.

One tip for the live racing fans, take a good look at this race and note how General Jack performs. Chairman Crooks, the runner-up in the Shakopee Juvenile, comes back to the races in an allowance race on Friday night and is likely to be prohibitively favored. General Jack’s performance could give you a good indication as to Chairman Crook’s chances.

TWO GRADED STAKES WINNERS AT SARATOGA?

General Jack will attempt to become the second horse with Canterbury connections to win a graded race at Saratoga during the 2013 meet. Designer Legs, who broke her maiden at Canterbury for Gary Scherer on June 28, went on to win the Grade II Adirondack Stakes on August 11. Owned by Valene Farms, Designer Legs was placed first following a disqualification in the Adirondack.

Designer Legs is working toward the Grade I Spinaway Stakes which will be held this Sunday at Saratoga Race Course. Entries for the Spinaway will be taken tomorrow.

Canterbury horses have shipped around the country with success in the past; however, two graded stakes victories at one of – if not the – best race meets in North America would be unprecedented.

CONNECTIONS ON BOTH COASTS

Canterbury connections haven’t been restricted to the east coast this summer. Delegation, runner-up in the 2012 Mystic Lake Derby, ran sixth in last Saturday’s Grade I Pacific Classic at Del Mar beaten only a length for second behind runaway winner and current top handicap horse in North America Game On Dude.

Additionally, the two-year-old daughter of Canterbury Hall of Famer Glitter Star, debuted at Del Mar on August 18 running a solid third.

UPDATE (8/29 – 10:15AM): General Jack was scratched from the race this morning. No word yet as to the reason.

Identifying a Track Bias

Opening DayIdentifying track bias is a very tricky thing. Deciding if a low-priced, inside-traveling, wire-to-wire winner benefited from a rail bias can be very subjective. To get to the heart of it, you really need to have handicapped the race and determined the likely pace scenario. If you are able to identify a trend or bias, it can be very lucrative. This was the case when spotting Sputey’s Cabin as the live longshot of the day on June 2nd.

Sputey’s Cabin had run against an inside bias on opening night. The track was sloppy and no one was doing much on the inside. While some of the winners had won near the lead, they were low priced and were likely to have won from anywhere. The exotics fillers were all coming from far back and on the outside part of the track. Sputey’s Cabin pressed a difficult pace from the rail and hung in until very late and faded slightly to finish 4th beaten only 7 lengths at 50-1 in the Lady Slipper. She was deserving of a big chance when she came back on June 2nd when she drew an inside post on a day that saw the first four races won by rail speed. She went wire-to-wire and hung in gamely to win at nearly 11-1.

There are a couple of runners who ran well against the bias that are running back on Thursday. Al Musaddad in the 8th race is coming off a race in which he closed right up the rail. While closers fared decently on that day, the rail was absolutely dead. He deserves a bump up. Jantzesfancyfriend was 5 wide the entire race on a day that the inside part of the track was golden. He is 4-1 in the 9th race. Ridgeofstone, in race 10, is 6-1 and might deserve a look after she set the pace on a turf course that was heavily slanted towards deep, outside closers. None of these runners should be played solely on the fact that they ran against a bias last time out, but be given additional credit for their effort.

Below is the track bias chart (click to enlarge) from the eyes of this handicapper. It might be worthwhile to refer to this chart this weekend as we are starting to see runners come back from race days where the bias was significant.

Track Bias

This blog was written by Track Phantom, a contributing handicapper for the Del Mar and Santa Anita websites. He has offered public analysis for Canterbury for 15 years and has closely followed Minnesota racing since he first visited the track in 1986. He was in person for most live races from 1986 through 2003 (when he relocated to Austin, TX). His analysis, information and blog can be found at www.trackphantom.com.

Agent & Rider Make a Team

Juan Ochoa 5-24-13Susie McBrayer had her jacket wrapped tightly around her against the spring cold as she walked the stable area Friday morning. A native of Southern California who arrived in Shakopee by way of Phoenix, McBrayer is still trying to acclimate herself to these new chilly surroundings.

“I wear a jacket with a hood so I suppose people think I’m crazy,” she said. “You people who live here probably think this is nice, but I’m freezing.”

McBrayer is a rider agent who arrived from Turf Paradise with Juan Ochoa, for whom she has hustled book the last seven years, ever since they hooked up during his bug year.

They are in new surroundings this spring, where many riders are clearly established, in tight with barns for the last several years, so McBrayer knew it might be a tough start.

“Sometimes you get to a new meet and nobody knows you,” she said. “Juan could be the best rider in the world and it wouldn’t make much difference if nobody knows him. Most of these people have their riders, so it’s tough to break in.”

Nonetheless, McBrayer is a track savvy woman who grew up in the Southern California Racing circuit, on the backsides of Santa Anita Park, Hollywood Park and Del Mar, where her father, C.H. McBrayer trained for 50 years.

“I used to get up early and go to the track a lot with my dad,” she said. “I’d help around the barn, do whatever I could, raked, held horses as I got older. I started training some of my own. I also owned a few.”

C.H. was influenced as a youngster, too, growing up around horses but left Ethan, S.D., as a young man to join the Navy. He wound up in California after his stint in the service and opened a television business near Hollywood Park. He had ridden a horse to school as a youngster… the rest is easy to envision.

And Susie grew up in the environment of racing.

“I’ve been around the track all my life,” she added.

McBrayer broke into the agent game in 2004, keeping book for Canadian rider Emille Ramsammy. “He came to Santa Anita and I had him for just one winter. Then he went back to Woodbine,” she said. “But without him I probably never would have started doing this. He taught me the ropes.”

McBrayer and Ochoa hooked up in 2006 at Santa Anita when he had the bug and spent much of the next few seasons and meets in Northern and Southern California and New Mexico. They were at Turf Paradise for the first time last winter, which led to their first trip to Minnesota after they began hearing trainers talking about the welcoming conditions and improved purses at Canterbury Park.

The presence of stables belonging to Dan McFarlane in particular as well as Miguel Angel Silva assured Ochoa and McBrayer of collecting some paychecks in Minnesota.

It was another Phoenix-based trainer, Don Schnell, who provided Ochoa with his first win of the Canterbury meet, however. Ochoa was aboard Tempe, the winner of Friday night’s third race.

Ochoa, like McBrayer, grew up around the racetrack. He is a native of Los Angeles. His parents both worked for Jerry Fanning at Santa Anita. As a boy, Ochoa wanted nothing more than to become a rider.

“I went to college for a year but when all you’ve wanted is to be a jockey… it only gets worse the older you get.”

In regard to the decision to come north, so far, so good.

“I like it,” Ochoa said. “They treat you well here. They act like they want you. It makes it feel like home.”

Ochoa considers Canterbury Park a “very friendly place. Everything about the place,” he said.

Neither rider nor agent had ever been to Minnesota before but have settled in comfortably in their new locale… “I like the people here. They’re friendly,” Ochoa said. “The city is nice, very clean, so are the barns, the backside… everything.”

What is already very clear to Ochoa and McBrayer is that Canterbury Park exists for and is all about racing, nothing more.

“We need more people (like the Sampsons),” McBrayer said, “and they’re just not out there. People like (the Sampsons) will keep racing alive, keep it going because they love it.”

It is quite clear that although McBrayer and Ochoa like the Minnesota racing scene, they are not smitten beyond reason, to the point of, say, putting down roots.

“Minnesota? No. I wouldn’t be able to handle the winters here,” she said.

Special Attraction on Hand for Monday’s Holiday Racing

The Human Cannonball is coming to Canterbury Park as part of the track’s Memorial Day Celebration. David “The Bullet” Smith, Jr., who appeared on America’s Got Talent, will be shot out of a cannon as part of the festivities. Paul Allen found out a little more about the act on Friday afternoon. Check out the video:

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.

Agent & Rider Make a Team

Juan Ochoa 5-24-13Susie McBrayer had her jacket wrapped tightly around her against the spring cold as she walked the stable area Friday morning. A native of Southern California who arrived in Shakopee by way of Phoenix, McBrayer is still trying to acclimate herself to these new chilly surroundings.

“I wear a jacket with a hood so I suppose people think I’m crazy,” she said. “You people who live here probably think this is nice, but I’m freezing.”

McBrayer is a rider agent who arrived from Turf Paradise with Juan Ochoa, for whom she has hustled book the last seven years, ever since they hooked up during his bug year.

They are in new surroundings this spring, where many riders are clearly established, in tight with barns for the last several years, so McBrayer knew it might be a tough start.

“Sometimes you get to a new meet and nobody knows you,” she said. “Juan could be the best rider in the world and it wouldn’t make much difference if nobody knows him. Most of these people have their riders, so it’s tough to break in.”

Nonetheless, McBrayer is a track savvy woman who grew up in the Southern California Racing circuit, on the backsides of Santa Anita Park, Hollywood Park and Del Mar, where her father, C.H. McBrayer trained for 50 years.

“I used to get up early and go to the track a lot with my dad,” she said. “I’d help around the barn, do whatever I could, raked, held horses as I got older. I started training some of my own. I also owned a few.”

C.H. was influenced as a youngster, too, growing up around horses but left Ethan, S.D., as a young man to join the Navy. He wound up in California after his stint in the service and opened a television business near Hollywood Park. He had ridden a horse to school as a youngster… the rest is easy to envision.

And Susie grew up in the environment of racing.

“I’ve been around the track all my life,” she added.

McBrayer broke into the agent game in 2004, keeping book for Canadian rider Emille Ramsammy. “He came to Santa Anita and I had him for just one winter. Then he went back to Woodbine,” she said. “But without him I probably never would have started doing this. He taught me the ropes.”

McBrayer and Ochoa hooked up in 2006 at Santa Anita when he had the bug and spent much of the next few seasons and meets in Northern and Southern California and New Mexico. They were at Turf Paradise for the first time last winter, which led to their first trip to Minnesota after they began hearing trainers talking about the welcoming conditions and improved purses at Canterbury Park.

The presence of stables belonging to Dan McFarlane in particular as well as Miguel Angel Silva assured Ochoa and McBrayer of collecting some paychecks in Minnesota.

It was another Phoenix-based trainer, Don Schnell, who provided Ochoa with his first win of the Canterbury meet, however. Ochoa was aboard Tempe, the winner of Friday night’s third race.

Ochoa, like McBrayer, grew up around the racetrack. He is a native of Los Angeles. His parents both worked for Jerry Fanning at Santa Anita. As a boy, Ochoa wanted nothing more than to become a rider.

“I went to college for a year but when all you’ve wanted is to be a jockey… it only gets worse the older you get.”

In regard to the decision to come north, so far, so good.

“I like it,” Ochoa said. “They treat you well here. They act like they want you. It makes it feel like home.”

Ochoa considers Canterbury Park a “very friendly place. Everything about the place,” he said.

Neither rider nor agent had ever been to Minnesota before but have settled in comfortably in their new locale… “I like the people here. They’re friendly,” Ochoa said. “The city is nice, very clean, so are the barns, the backside… everything.”

What is already very clear to Ochoa and McBrayer is that Canterbury Park exists for and is all about racing, nothing more.

“We need more people (like the Sampsons),” McBrayer said, “and they’re just not out there. People like (the Sampsons) will keep racing alive, keep it going because they love it.”

It is quite clear that although McBrayer and Ochoa like the Minnesota racing scene, they are not smitten beyond reason, to the point of, say, putting down roots.

“Minnesota? No. I wouldn’t be able to handle the winters here,” she said.

Special Attraction on Hand for Monday’s Holiday Racing

The Human Cannonball is coming to Canterbury Park as part of the track’s Memorial Day Celebration. David “The Bullet” Smith, Jr., who appeared on America’s Got Talent, will be shot out of a cannon as part of the festivities. Paul Allen found out a little more about the act on Friday afternoon. Check out the video:

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.

Dieguez Joins the Fold

Who knows! Maybe it was the respite from racing last summer on top of the countless suggestions from colleagues over the few years.

The words from other riders who left Phoenix spring after spring and headed north to Canterbury Park. “Give it a try, give it a try. You’ll like it,” he heard countless times.

He decided as long ago as 2005 that he would indeed give the racetrack in Minnesota a shot, once everything fell into place.

He needed a break from racing so he took it last summer, working horses at his sister-in-law’s place in California instead. He was prepared to race in Colorado at the current Arapahoe meet but once again those Phoenix colleagues began talking up Canterbury Park. On two days notice, he made the decision.

Meet Wilson Omar Dieguez, born in Guatemala, raised in Southern California, educated at the same high school he was told Bill Shoemaker attended, and, like several riders in Shakopee, a regular at Turf Paradise. For Dieguez, Turf Paradise has been his winter home since 2000, and for nearly that long he had heard good things about Canterbury Park.

So far, so good.

It’s a long way from Central America, to be sure, but Dieguez, 36, has been in the United States since he was four years old. Anyplace he races is home to him now and that just happens to be Shakopee for the first time this summer.

“We love it here. We really do,” Dieguez said. He was speaking not only for himself but for his wife, Amy, and 8-year-old daughter, Mae. “I’m hoping to make a name for myself here,” he added.

That sounds pretty much like a commitment. Now all he needs are plenty of winning mounts and the case is closed.

Dieguez was a high school wrestler, weight lifter and even played football a couple of seasons at Rosemead High School, graduating in 1995. “I was athletic,” he said. “So I always thought I could be a jockey.”

That idea might or might not have been inspired by Dieguez’s belief that Shoemaker had attended Rosemead, too. A few notables did, including Vicki Carr and former Detroit Lions head coach Rod Marinelli. The school also served as the set for filming of the Wonder Years, but does not include Shoemaker as one of its dropouts. El Monte High School claims that distinction.

Nonetheless, the Shoe and Dieguez do share a common trait. Dieguez is 4-foot-11 just as the Shoe was.

Dieguez comes in around 115 pounds, about 17 more than Shoemaker during much of his career.

Dieguez has two riding titles in his resume, one at Turf Paradise in 2004 and a second at Arapahoe Park in 2005.

He got his rider’s license at Del Mar Thoroughbred Club but began riding at Portland Meadows an Emerald Downs. He rode at Hollywood Park in the late 1990s and spent several meets in Northern California, where he met his wife.

Amy Goda was an assistant trainer to her sister Marie at Bay Meadows. The team included a third sister, Lori.

“They were known as the Goda girls or the Backside Babes,” Wilson recalled.

Wilson began riding for the Godas and a relationship developed with Amy.

That union is even stronger this summer.

“I got here, promised I would have no trouble getting an agent,” Dieguez said.

“There wasn’t one to be had.”

His daughter was still in school so she and his wife couldn’t join him in Minnesota for the first two weeks of the meet.

“I can’t find an agent,” he lamented to Amy during a phone call. Enter Mrs. Dieguez, Amy Goda, who has worked the industry inside out in jobs from California to Dubai to Ireland but had never before been an agent. “She was stressed out at first because she’s not a big talker,” Dieguez said.

It was another issue completely once he brought in a couple of winners. The riding requests began coming in right and left.

He had seven on Tuesday’s sweltering card. He rode six straight on Friday’s card.

He’s won 12 races form 96 mounts. “It’s getting better all the time,” he said.

HBPA DOINGS GALORE 

The annual horsemen’s meeting and brunch is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Saturday in Longshot’s. Nominations for a trainer and two owners to the HBPA will be accepted.

The annual golf tournament is scheduled at Dahlgreen Golf Club with a 10:30 a.m. shotgun start on Monday. The $55 fee includes a round of golf, the card and a lunch.

The Groom Elite program will graduate 17 students on Wednesday. Tuesday is scheduled on Monday and Tuesday.

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

Dieguez Joins the Fold

Who knows! Maybe it was the respite from racing last summer on top of the countless suggestions from colleagues over the few years.

The words from other riders who left Phoenix spring after spring and headed north to Canterbury Park. “Give it a try, give it a try. You’ll like it,” he heard countless times.

He decided as long ago as 2005 that he would indeed give the racetrack in Minnesota a shot, once everything fell into place.

He needed a break from racing so he took it last summer, working horses at his sister-in-law’s place in California instead. He was prepared to race in Colorado at the current Arapahoe meet but once again those Phoenix colleagues began talking up Canterbury Park. On two days notice, he made the decision.

Meet Wilson Omar Dieguez, born in Guatemala, raised in Southern California, educated at the same high school he was told Bill Shoemaker attended, and, like several riders in Shakopee, a regular at Turf Paradise. For Dieguez, Turf Paradise has been his winter home since 2000, and for nearly that long he had heard good things about Canterbury Park.

So far, so good.

It’s a long way from Central America, to be sure, but Dieguez, 36, has been in the United States since he was four years old. Anyplace he races is home to him now and that just happens to be Shakopee for the first time this summer.

“We love it here. We really do,” Dieguez said. He was speaking not only for himself but for his wife, Amy, and 8-year-old daughter, Mae. “I’m hoping to make a name for myself here,” he added.

That sounds pretty much like a commitment. Now all he needs are plenty of winning mounts and the case is closed.

Dieguez was a high school wrestler, weight lifter and even played football a couple of seasons at Rosemead High School, graduating in 1995. “I was athletic,” he said. “So I always thought I could be a jockey.”

That idea might or might not have been inspired by Dieguez’s belief that Shoemaker had attended Rosemead, too. A few notables did, including Vicki Carr and former Detroit Lions head coach Rod Marinelli. The school also served as the set for filming of the Wonder Years, but does not include Shoemaker as one of its dropouts. El Monte High School claims that distinction.

Nonetheless, the Shoe and Dieguez do share a common trait. Dieguez is 4-foot-11 just as the Shoe was.

Dieguez comes in around 115 pounds, about 17 more than Shoemaker during much of his career.

Dieguez has two riding titles in his resume, one at Turf Paradise in 2004 and a second at Arapahoe Park in 2005.

He got his rider’s license at Del Mar Thoroughbred Club but began riding at Portland Meadows an Emerald Downs. He rode at Hollywood Park in the late 1990s and spent several meets in Northern California, where he met his wife.

Amy Goda was an assistant trainer to her sister Marie at Bay Meadows. The team included a third sister, Lori.

“They were known as the Goda girls or the Backside Babes,” Wilson recalled.

Wilson began riding for the Godas and a relationship developed with Amy.

That union is even stronger this summer.

“I got here, promised I would have no trouble getting an agent,” Dieguez said.

“There wasn’t one to be had.”

His daughter was still in school so she and his wife couldn’t join him in Minnesota for the first two weeks of the meet.

“I can’t find an agent,” he lamented to Amy during a phone call. Enter Mrs. Dieguez, Amy Goda, who has worked the industry inside out in jobs from California to Dubai to Ireland but had never before been an agent. “She was stressed out at first because she’s not a big talker,” Dieguez said.

It was another issue completely once he brought in a couple of winners. The riding requests began coming in right and left.

He had seven on Tuesday’s sweltering card. He rode six straight on Friday’s card.

He’s won 12 races form 96 mounts. “It’s getting better all the time,” he said.

HBPA DOINGS GALORE 

The annual horsemen’s meeting and brunch is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Saturday in Longshot’s. Nominations for a trainer and two owners to the HBPA will be accepted.

The annual golf tournament is scheduled at Dahlgreen Golf Club with a 10:30 a.m. shotgun start on Monday. The $55 fee includes a round of golf, the card and a lunch.

The Groom Elite program will graduate 17 students on Wednesday. Tuesday is scheduled on Monday and Tuesday.

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