Right place at the right time. An urban myth, pure fantasy, akin to a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow?

Try telling that to jockey Nik Goodwin or Jim Western, a contractor from Sanger, California. They aren’t apt to buy it, not after what happened on Sunday.

Goodwin was in his truck on the phone with his father Sunday morning when trainer/owner/breeder Dean Frey approached him. Western so happens to be working in Woodbury this summer, building a new Costco store.

Sunday afternoon  they were both part of the Canterbury Park Quarter Horse Derby because of their specific circumstances, both enjoying a victory by a horse name Kowboy Jim.

First some details. Goodwin is having the summer of his career and it just keeps on giving. He was in his truck in the right place at the right time. Frey saw him and approached with an offer. “He asked if I wanted to ride his horse in the Derby,” Goodwin said. Of course, he did.

The Derby was worth $81,125, the richest purse in the race’s history. “I knew his horse had the fastest qualifying time,” Goodwin added.

Frey originally intended to use Berkley Packer who was unavailable at the last moment. No explanation was offered so it is possible he: A. Was having a late breakfast. B. Missed his flight. C. Was abducted by aliens.

Goodwin didn’t have a mount in the race, despite the fact he has more wins than any other rider in track quarter horse annals. Of course he was willing to ride

Now, for Jim Western’s part. He is a neighbor to Frey in California and the two are close enough that Frey named the horse for him: Kowboy Jim.

Kowboy Jim won the race easily, finishing 1 ¼ lengths in front of Pyc Jess Bite Mydust with Bout Tree Fiddy a head out of second in a time of 19:78, matching the time he posted in the trials on July 2 under Packer.

Western recalled that Kowboy Jim was a “slow developer” but had certainly improved from what he observed on Sunday. “He came across the line so easily,” he said.

It was obvious from paddock to track to gate that Kowboy Jim was quite comfortable in his own skin, calm, relaxed and comfortable with his surroundings.

“He’s all class,” said Frey. “In the morning when the chores are done, he lays down in the stall. Seems to know what it’s all about.”

Kowboy Jim went across the line easily, proving at the same time that right place, right time are akin to clean break, no interference.

The second place horse in the race got a poor break and was steamrolling at the end, closing ground like a cheetah on steroids.  Would Pyc Jess Bite Mydust have won with a clean break?

Rider Bryan Velazquez thought so. Velazquez said the horse throws its head in the stall, interfering with the timing of his break. “He had to go around several horses and still finished second,” said Velazquez. “With a clean break, he would have won.”

That sometimes is the only difference in quarter horse racing, a small break means the difference between winning and running second. Just as it was right place at the right time for Kowboy Jim and his connections, PYC Jess’s head was in the wrong place at the wrong time for his chances on Sunday.


Two large pizzas arrived in the pressbox on Sunday, one of them inscribed with a note of thanks to everyone who had backed her on Thursday night. Sent by a horse!!!

Here is the note that accompanied a large pepperoni:

To Jeff + the Boys…

Thanks so much for rooting so hard for me on Thursday!

Couldn’t have done it without ya!!!!

Love, Annoy

Annoy is a six-year-old mare bred in Kentucky and a winner of its 10th career race on last Thursday night’s card. Owned by Nichole Helen Biebighauser, trained by Eric Heitzmann and ridden by Alex Canchari, Annoy has earnings of $190,000 after winning Thursday’s race, certainly enough to keep sending those pizzas each time she wins.

Eric Heitzmann

Eric Heitzmann

By Kristin Bechthold

Hailing from New Orleans, Louisiana, Eric Heitzmann made his first appearance at Canterbury Park last year. With the help of his wife Carmel as stable manager and eight employees, he currently trains 22 horses at Canterbury.  “We had a great time here last year,” Heitzmann said. “We love Minnesota, the people are nice. It’s a pleasure to come back.”

Prior to racing at Canterbury, Heitzmann trained at Louisiana Downs. The switch was due to the incentive of better opportunities, including increased purses and cooler weather for the summer meet. He trains at Fair Grounds Race Course in New Orleans in the winter.

Heitzmann started in the racing industry as a boy since his father raced horses from the 1950’s to 1970’s. When he wasn’t in school, he was at the racetrack working on the backside. “I loved it from the beginning,” Heitzmann said. “The horses, all the track personalities, things like that. It’s easy to fall in love with.”

Heitzmann’s wife, Carmel, is a large contributor in the operation of the Heitzmann training barn. Although she is a stable manager and works in the barn seven days a week, she wasn’t always a horse person. Originally from England, she was a flight attendant in Dubai for eight years. After marrying Eric, they began a life in America where Eric could start training horses. However, much like her husband, she quickly fell in love with working around the horses and decided to leave her career with the airlines. “I would say I’m the real boss now,” she joked in an interview last year.

Although Heitzmann is a busy person, he would like to travel with Carmel if he were to have time away from the horse racing business. If he were to choose another career, he would like to make a career out of helping abused and abandoned animals. He has a soft spot for dogs and even rescued his own dog from the streets.

When he’s not focusing on racing, Heitzmann’s hobbies include playing golf and cards. In addition to the competitive nature of his career, Heitzmann enjoys any sort of hobby or activity as long as it is competitive. “It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as somebody is keeping score,” he said.

Though Heitzmann doesn’t have a plan for retiring from racing and hopes to keep doing it for as long as he can. “If I were to get a peak position to where I thought at the end of the day, ‘Man, it just doesn’t get better than that and everything else might be a let-down,’ then I would think of it,” he said.