By Jim Wells
With the number of big, silver belt buckles and Resistol hats on display Sunday, it might resemble Las Vegas during National Finals Rodeo week to a number of folks, yet not much else will suggest that the proceedings under way belong at the Thomas & Mack Center.
Jim Olson, a former president and current board member of the Minnesota Quarter Horse Racing Assn., chuckled a bit while considering some of the imagery.
“Oh, yes, there could be a whole lot of cowboys out there,” he said.
The richest if not the biggest day of quarter horse racing in Minnesota is scheduled, highlighted by the $100,000 Mystic Lake Northlands Futurity, a designation that riles the track’s leading quarter horse trainer, Jason Olmstead, a bit. “It’s worth a heck of a lot more than that,” he said.
And he’s right.
The pot, with all of the fees considered, is worth $165,600, the most lucrative in Minnesota quarter horse racing history. With a total of $327,850 on the line for six quarter horse races, it is the richest quarter horse card ever assembled.
Olmstead will saddle five horses in the 350-yard futurity, half the field. Do such numbers elicit confidence? “It’s not my five I’m concerned about,” he said. “It’s the other five.”
Yet, Olmstead will saddle the presumptive favorite, Pyc Jess Bite Mydust, the top qualifier and also a Minnesota-bred, from Lunderborg Llc. “That’s kind of neat,” he said. “You don’t see something like this very often.”
Olmstead did allow that qualifying five horses for the biggest race of the season is something worthy of note. “It’s not an easy thing to do and it’s very nice to qualify five to a race like this,” he said. “At the same time, it’s more pressure. ”
And he knows quite well that in quarter horse racing a mistake of any kind can make the difference between winning and losing, between hitting the board and finishing an also-ran. Nonetheless, he does have a resume in this particular race that includes a win with Eagles Span last year when the purse was worth $141,100.
Olmstead will saddle a total of 13 horses on the card, three in the $68,250 Canterbury Park Quarter Horse Derby at 400 yards, a field that includes Eagles Span. The likely favorite in this one is Jess Paint Your Lips, the top qualifier, from the barn of Stacy Charette-Hill.
Jerry Livingston, who saddled a 46-1 winner named Nightlinger Blurr on Friday night’s card, has been training regularly in Minnesota since 1987 and doesn’t recall a card quite like this one at any point since, certainly not in terms of purse money.
He, too, allowed that there might be a large number of Resistols on the grounds for Sunday’s card. During that part of the discussion a story was exchanged regarding a trip to the NFR several years ago
It seems that a patron of the rodeo and participant in the accompanying country western dancing activities became embroiled in an intense argument with his female traveling companion. The two of them parted ways a mere day or two into the festivities, not to see one another again until their departure day at the airport.
In a peace-making attempt the offending fellow reached over the shoulder of his former companion, seated with her back to him at the gate, and placed a stunning gold buckle (with her initials) on her lap.
The woman instantly tossed the buckle as if it were a Frisbee and it went clanging across the terminal floor as she bounded from her seat and headed for a nearby coffee stand. As the fellow bent over to retrieve the buckle he looked up and spotted four cowboys seated across the way with wide grins on their faces.
“I guess she’s still mad,” he said, making the best of an uncomfortable situation.
The MQHRA will use today’s card to present the annual awards reserved for its champion horses from the previous year.
Olson is certain that most of the winners undoubtedly have all of the buckles they can use in one lifetime but will have their choice of a number of other items recognizing the champion horses in various divisions.