Canterbury Connections – October 18-19

Crowd Shot 6-16-13_2Friday, October 18: Canterbury Connections

Hawthorne – Race 8 – Princess Dinah – We only saw one race out of this filly in Minnesota, but her first career start was a doozy for Clay Brinson. She beat a highly-regarded (and heavily bet) Mac Robertson firster named Where’s Alayna after breaking slowly from her rail draw. She wasn’t threatening any track records with the final time, but it was the way she did it that catches the eye. Israel Hernandez, the pilot aboard that day returns in the saddle in Chicago for try number two. The favorite, Maria Maria, does exit the Grade 1 Alcibiades but she only beat two horses home that day in a race that came back too weak to be true in the figure department.

Jimmy DiVito is off to an outstanding start at the fall meet as well, equating to even money or lower on the favorite. Her maiden breaker was a four horse affair; even though two that followed her to the wire won next out, six furlongs may not be her absolute cup of tea. Princess will be a decent price and with her passing ability already confirmed improvement is the next requirement. Her morning works are already a bit better than those leading up to her first start, and she looked green as grass down the stretch despite drawing off.

Lone Star – Race 5 – Sooner Country Babe – How could I not jump at the chance to catch Stacy Charette-Hill at 8-1?! She obviously had her share of issues at two but has grown into a very nice filly in her three year old campaign for Canterbury’s runaway leading quarter horse trainer. She is maybe a little distance challenged but we’ve seen this barn win with horses stretching their limits before. She is SO fleet of foot out of the gate that shorter distances have been no problem, but the extra forty yards will be very telling with this one. She unloaded TOO nice of a race in her trial for the Grade 3 Prairie Meadows Derby Challenge, setting a track record for 400 yards while beating the winner of the final. Still, the price should be there with the horse just to her inside present.

Meadowlands – Race 5 – Stoupinator – This year’s Northbound Pride winner tries stakes company again after a third place finish in at a mile at Delaware. She drew the far outside post but her stalking speed should get her in the thick of things throughout. There is plenty of blazing pace for her to chase and the cutback should have a little extra air in her lungs when the running starts. Traffic has been one of her enemies all year long, and from the outside that should at least be avoidable.

Jose Ferrer & Mac Robertson have been a solid combo in the last five years, winning with 9 of their 33 charges together and hitting the board with over half of them. To be even more exact with that potency, they’ve only put five turf sprinters on the track and only one missed the board… that horse is 0-6 on the grass. Mac just doesn’t send them to the Meadowlands if they don’t have a big shot… and despite the classy lineup to her inside she definitely has one.

 

Saturday, October 19: Canterbury Connections

Turf Paradise – Race 7/Race 8 – ATBA Fall Sales Stakes – Saturday’s late double has combatants from Canterbury in both legs, with Dan McFarlane’s Deadly Black Eagle the lukewarm favorite in the boys division (race 8). In the first half though, recent victress My Fine Lady sits at a fair 3-1 morning line. The favorite in this one won the co-ed spring version of this race at five furlongs in May, but has not entered the starting gate since. Molly Pearson obviously has a talented filly on her hands but with the seasoning in the corner of Doug Oliver’s filly, she stands a very good chance to upset the favorite. The rail draw fits this one perfectly as well, with the strategy very apparent in her past performances. She takes them as far as she can as fast as she can, and now hot-riding Scott Stevens (nearly 30% at this juncture in the meet) will take the call. She can’t string them along for a very long distance, but six furlongs hopefully isn’t too much to ask.

The colts & geldings finish the card up with their turn at the sale stakes. The two qualifying races for this final were pretty straightforward and the winners are the favorites as a result. Deadly Black Eagle is slightly favored though, and deservedly so off his effort in said race. Though the time came back slower, his professional effort was one in a long string, unlike most of his inexperienced competition. His stablemate, Southern Chatter, was a speedy maiden winner up here as well and didn’t run an awful race in defeat behind DBE. He appeared to be making a move on that one around the turn and flattened out in the stretch, somewhat in similar fashion to his first start where he ran second to Tiz Happens. He has some greenness issues to work out but both young ones have ability and McFarlane knows what to do with a good two year old. The price will be a lot better on one that the other…

Remington Park – Race 1 – Waronthehomefront/Oughterson – An uncoupled attack from the Mike Biehler barn shows up for the lid lifter at Remington, and both are at appealing prices. Waronthehomefront, in particular, is set at 8-1 in a relatively paceless field. He was one of the more popular claims this summer but shows up in a nice spot at 1 1/8 miles on the turf. He was only a length behind wire-to-wire winner Nic a Jack at 1 3/8 miles, so the distance shouldn’t be a problem. If all entered hold to form he really shouldn’t have any company up front. Alex Birzer is named to ride, and as of Thursday was riding a 7/24 streak. He seems to be one of those that has a little extra when he inherits a lonely lead. Oughterson is no slouch, but is a bit lighter on the win end when it comes to grass. He’s won the majority of his races on dirt but would be just as happy to see this race come off as stay on the turf. He won’t be too far behind and should be the one to get the first crack at his stablemate in the stretch. There are some game old closers lined up including Canterbury regular Little Wagon, but with so many runners dependent on pace it could end up being a rather slowly run first race with the Ulwellings posing for pictures.

This blog was written by Canterbury Paddock Analyst Angela Hermann. Angela just completed her third year as Canterbury Park’s Analyst.

Canterbury Connections – October 18-19

Crowd Shot 6-16-13_2Friday, October 18: Canterbury Connections

Hawthorne – Race 8 – Princess Dinah – We only saw one race out of this filly in Minnesota, but her first career start was a doozy for Clay Brinson. She beat a highly-regarded (and heavily bet) Mac Robertson firster named Where’s Alayna after breaking slowly from her rail draw. She wasn’t threatening any track records with the final time, but it was the way she did it that catches the eye. Israel Hernandez, the pilot aboard that day returns in the saddle in Chicago for try number two. The favorite, Maria Maria, does exit the Grade 1 Alcibiades but she only beat two horses home that day in a race that came back too weak to be true in the figure department.

Jimmy DiVito is off to an outstanding start at the fall meet as well, equating to even money or lower on the favorite. Her maiden breaker was a four horse affair; even though two that followed her to the wire won next out, six furlongs may not be her absolute cup of tea. Princess will be a decent price and with her passing ability already confirmed improvement is the next requirement. Her morning works are already a bit better than those leading up to her first start, and she looked green as grass down the stretch despite drawing off.

Lone Star – Race 5 – Sooner Country Babe – How could I not jump at the chance to catch Stacy Charette-Hill at 8-1?! She obviously had her share of issues at two but has grown into a very nice filly in her three year old campaign for Canterbury’s runaway leading quarter horse trainer. She is maybe a little distance challenged but we’ve seen this barn win with horses stretching their limits before. She is SO fleet of foot out of the gate that shorter distances have been no problem, but the extra forty yards will be very telling with this one. She unloaded TOO nice of a race in her trial for the Grade 3 Prairie Meadows Derby Challenge, setting a track record for 400 yards while beating the winner of the final. Still, the price should be there with the horse just to her inside present.

Meadowlands – Race 5 – Stoupinator – This year’s Northbound Pride winner tries stakes company again after a third place finish in at a mile at Delaware. She drew the far outside post but her stalking speed should get her in the thick of things throughout. There is plenty of blazing pace for her to chase and the cutback should have a little extra air in her lungs when the running starts. Traffic has been one of her enemies all year long, and from the outside that should at least be avoidable.

Jose Ferrer & Mac Robertson have been a solid combo in the last five years, winning with 9 of their 33 charges together and hitting the board with over half of them. To be even more exact with that potency, they’ve only put five turf sprinters on the track and only one missed the board… that horse is 0-6 on the grass. Mac just doesn’t send them to the Meadowlands if they don’t have a big shot… and despite the classy lineup to her inside she definitely has one.

 

Saturday, October 19: Canterbury Connections

Turf Paradise – Race 7/Race 8 – ATBA Fall Sales Stakes – Saturday’s late double has combatants from Canterbury in both legs, with Dan McFarlane’s Deadly Black Eagle the lukewarm favorite in the boys division (race 8). In the first half though, recent victress My Fine Lady sits at a fair 3-1 morning line. The favorite in this one won the co-ed spring version of this race at five furlongs in May, but has not entered the starting gate since. Molly Pearson obviously has a talented filly on her hands but with the seasoning in the corner of Doug Oliver’s filly, she stands a very good chance to upset the favorite. The rail draw fits this one perfectly as well, with the strategy very apparent in her past performances. She takes them as far as she can as fast as she can, and now hot-riding Scott Stevens (nearly 30% at this juncture in the meet) will take the call. She can’t string them along for a very long distance, but six furlongs hopefully isn’t too much to ask.

The colts & geldings finish the card up with their turn at the sale stakes. The two qualifying races for this final were pretty straightforward and the winners are the favorites as a result. Deadly Black Eagle is slightly favored though, and deservedly so off his effort in said race. Though the time came back slower, his professional effort was one in a long string, unlike most of his inexperienced competition. His stablemate, Southern Chatter, was a speedy maiden winner up here as well and didn’t run an awful race in defeat behind DBE. He appeared to be making a move on that one around the turn and flattened out in the stretch, somewhat in similar fashion to his first start where he ran second to Tiz Happens. He has some greenness issues to work out but both young ones have ability and McFarlane knows what to do with a good two year old. The price will be a lot better on one that the other…

Remington Park – Race 1 – Waronthehomefront/Oughterson – An uncoupled attack from the Mike Biehler barn shows up for the lid lifter at Remington, and both are at appealing prices. Waronthehomefront, in particular, is set at 8-1 in a relatively paceless field. He was one of the more popular claims this summer but shows up in a nice spot at 1 1/8 miles on the turf. He was only a length behind wire-to-wire winner Nic a Jack at 1 3/8 miles, so the distance shouldn’t be a problem. If all entered hold to form he really shouldn’t have any company up front. Alex Birzer is named to ride, and as of Thursday was riding a 7/24 streak. He seems to be one of those that has a little extra when he inherits a lonely lead. Oughterson is no slouch, but is a bit lighter on the win end when it comes to grass. He’s won the majority of his races on dirt but would be just as happy to see this race come off as stay on the turf. He won’t be too far behind and should be the one to get the first crack at his stablemate in the stretch. There are some game old closers lined up including Canterbury regular Little Wagon, but with so many runners dependent on pace it could end up being a rather slowly run first race with the Ulwellings posing for pictures.

This blog was written by Canterbury Paddock Analyst Angela Hermann. Angela just completed her third year as Canterbury Park’s Analyst.

If the Glove Fits…

Contrary to what you’ve heard previously, you can go home again. Not only that, but you can arrive on a triumphant note with everything just short of blaring trumpets.

Alex Canchari did just that Friday night. He came home and rode the winning horse in the fifth race, at the same racetrack where his father rode, at the same racetrack where he worked the concession stands from the time he was 14 years of age, selling tacos and making friends of just about everyone who knew him.

“All the kids loved him,” said track president/CEO Randy Sampson. “He has a smile a mile wide whenever you see him.”

Sampson began receiving text messages and phone calls shortly after Canchari brought in Rack Daddy for leading trainer Mac Robertson.

“We’re happy as can be to see him here, someone who started out here as a kid working the concession stands and now he has come back as a rider,” Sampson continued.

Alex used to accompany his dad, Luis ‘The Glove’ Canchari, to Canterbury Downs, watching the races, hanging out on the backside, dreaming a boy’s dreams.

He grew up in the shadow of the race track, in Shakopee, attended high school there through his sophomore year and then graduated with online courses while galloping horses for Moises Yanez and Brian Williamson in Chicago.

His riding career got under way there, then shifted to East Coast tracks, then to the south, at Oaklawn Park, then back East.

But yes indeed that was Canchari, now 18, on Friday night steering an erratic Rack Daddy across the finish line, just a couple of miles from where he grew up dreaming of becoming a jockey one day, seeing the racetrack lights at night as he fell asleep.

“I wanted to become a jockey from the time I was a little boy,” he said in the jockeys lounge afterward. So, he practiced every chance he got. He had a practice horse at home, on which he learned the rudiments of the trade before going to the real thing.

“My dad helped me a lot. I was about 13 years old and he would tell me how to relax a horse. He told me to watch the New York and the California riders for tips on what to do.”

On June 2 this year Canchari amazed himself with a win at Belmont Park on a horse named Dr. Wesley.

“I couldn’t believe it,” he recalled. “I was riding in a race against all my idols – Javier Castellano, John Velasquez, Ramon Dominguez, David Cohen, Eddie Castro and Rosie Naprovnik, all in the same race.”

He rode against his idols and he won the race.

Canchari arrived home five days ago, having driven from New Jersey with his mother, Ann. He had planned to come home all along to visit his sister, Ashley, who was pregnant and about to give birth, but the details of the trip changed suddenly three weeks ago.

He had been riding at Belmont and Monmouth parks and drove to Delaware Park to work a horse, a single horse, but he was injured during the work, breaking a bone and tearing a ligament in his left shoulder.

“It was next to the growth plate and the orthopedic surgeon told me no horses for two weeks,” Canchari related. “I started working some here five days ago.”

Canchari left Chicago for the East early this year after making contact with a stable that put him on mounts in Philadelphia, Monmouth and Belmont Park and also worked some horses at Saratoga.

Alex left New York to give Oaklawn Park a try in January, second guessing himself the entire way. “I didn’t know if I was doing the right thing,” he said. “I took a big risk going there.”

He didn’t second guess the decision long. Canchari rode winners on his first two mounts in Arkansas, on opening day, Jan. 13.

There wasn’t much risk coming home, to where he is known so well. He had four mounts, although one scratched, on Friday’s card, has mounts in the Princess Elaine and Hoist Her Flag stakes today for Robertson and has mounts in every race on Sunday.

His Chicago connections obviously stretch all the way to Shakopee. “I rode in Chicago for Mac’s dad,” Canchari explained. “I rode before for Charlie Smith, too.”

About that time, Adolfo Morales stepped into the silks room where Canchari was carrying on his conversation and gave him a congratulatory fist bump, recognition of the bugboy’s first win on the home turf.

Canchari’s first professional mount came last Dec. 26 in Chicago and through Friday night’s card he has won 30 races from 319 mounts. His bug will be extended by three weeks, because of his injury, to next March.

And now that he’s here, Canchari’s plans are to stay through the end of the meet. He has an agent, Jodie Sinclair, and, of course, there is a very recently arrived niece, Nova Ley.

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

If the Glove Fits…

Contrary to what you’ve heard previously, you can go home again. Not only that, but you can arrive on a triumphant note with everything just short of blaring trumpets.

Alex Canchari did just that Friday night. He came home and rode the winning horse in the fifth race, at the same racetrack where his father rode, at the same racetrack where he worked the concession stands from the time he was 14 years of age, selling tacos and making friends of just about everyone who knew him.

“All the kids loved him,” said track president/CEO Randy Sampson. “He has a smile a mile wide whenever you see him.”

Sampson began receiving text messages and phone calls shortly after Canchari brought in Rack Daddy for leading trainer Mac Robertson.

“We’re happy as can be to see him here, someone who started out here as a kid working the concession stands and now he has come back as a rider,” Sampson continued.

Alex used to accompany his dad, Luis ‘The Glove’ Canchari, to Canterbury Downs, watching the races, hanging out on the backside, dreaming a boy’s dreams.

He grew up in the shadow of the race track, in Shakopee, attended high school there through his sophomore year and then graduated with online courses while galloping horses for Moises Yanez and Brian Williamson in Chicago.

His riding career got under way there, then shifted to East Coast tracks, then to the south, at Oaklawn Park, then back East.

But yes indeed that was Canchari, now 18, on Friday night steering an erratic Rack Daddy across the finish line, just a couple of miles from where he grew up dreaming of becoming a jockey one day, seeing the racetrack lights at night as he fell asleep.

“I wanted to become a jockey from the time I was a little boy,” he said in the jockeys lounge afterward. So, he practiced every chance he got. He had a practice horse at home, on which he learned the rudiments of the trade before going to the real thing.

“My dad helped me a lot. I was about 13 years old and he would tell me how to relax a horse. He told me to watch the New York and the California riders for tips on what to do.”

On June 2 this year Canchari amazed himself with a win at Belmont Park on a horse named Dr. Wesley.

“I couldn’t believe it,” he recalled. “I was riding in a race against all my idols – Javier Castellano, John Velasquez, Ramon Dominguez, David Cohen, Eddie Castro and Rosie Naprovnik, all in the same race.”

He rode against his idols and he won the race.

Canchari arrived home five days ago, having driven from New Jersey with his mother, Ann. He had planned to come home all along to visit his sister, Ashley, who was pregnant and about to give birth, but the details of the trip changed suddenly three weeks ago.

He had been riding at Belmont and Monmouth parks and drove to Delaware Park to work a horse, a single horse, but he was injured during the work, breaking a bone and tearing a ligament in his left shoulder.

“It was next to the growth plate and the orthopedic surgeon told me no horses for two weeks,” Canchari related. “I started working some here five days ago.”

Canchari left Chicago for the East early this year after making contact with a stable that put him on mounts in Philadelphia, Monmouth and Belmont Park and also worked some horses at Saratoga.

Alex left New York to give Oaklawn Park a try in January, second guessing himself the entire way. “I didn’t know if I was doing the right thing,” he said. “I took a big risk going there.”

He didn’t second guess the decision long. Canchari rode winners on his first two mounts in Arkansas, on opening day, Jan. 13.

There wasn’t much risk coming home, to where he is known so well. He had four mounts, although one scratched, on Friday’s card, has mounts in the Princess Elaine and Hoist Her Flag stakes today for Robertson and has mounts in every race on Sunday.

His Chicago connections obviously stretch all the way to Shakopee. “I rode in Chicago for Mac’s dad,” Canchari explained. “I rode before for Charlie Smith, too.”

About that time, Adolfo Morales stepped into the silks room where Canchari was carrying on his conversation and gave him a congratulatory fist bump, recognition of the bugboy’s first win on the home turf.

Canchari’s first professional mount came last Dec. 26 in Chicago and through Friday night’s card he has won 30 races from 319 mounts. His bug will be extended by three weeks, because of his injury, to next March.

And now that he’s here, Canchari’s plans are to stay through the end of the meet. He has an agent, Jodie Sinclair, and, of course, there is a very recently arrived niece, Nova Ley.

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

It Most Certainly Is Tanner Time

Sitting tall in the saddle takes on more than a single meaning when the subject matter is Tanner Riggs. Granted, Riggs is tall, very tall for a jockey. Granted, his demeanor and behavior alone might warrant the description. His probity and bearing are of professional standards at all times. And, granted, right now there is no one riding any better in Shakopee than the 23-year-old native of Mitchell, S.D.

Yet, it is that long, lanky figure of his, bent over a horse’s neck, that truly grabs a fan’s attention while watching him switch sticks in the stretch run as if he’s juggling a baton, one hand to the other – whack, whack! – just like that.

“He reminds me a lot of a young Jack Kaenel,” said Riggs’s agent, Richard Grunder.

Riggs appears to be at least six feet tall, but has recent evidence it is just that thin, strong frame of his that presents the deception. “I was measured at 5-foot-10 in the doctor’s office the other day,” he said.

He’s a better rider now than he was six years ago when he had the bug in Shakopee. Some things about him haven’t changed, however, and trainer Phil Hartman, for one, says that’s what he likes about him.

“He grew up in South Dakota,” Hartman said. “He’s an honest, hard-working kid and none of that’s changed.”

Hartman also likes the way that Riggs can follow instructions and make it pay off.

Friday night, for example, Riggs brought in a mare named Havasu in the second race. “I told him that we had the 3-5 horse in the race but that the mare might not be tight enough after running on the hard track in Phoenix,” Hartman said. “He saved just enough horse to get there. A picture-perfect ride.”

Hartman also perceives a “down-home” characteristic that he likes about Riggs. “He’s always willing to work hard,” he said. “We don’t have showroom Cadillacs here, and he seems to like riding VWs.”

Riggs had the bug here in 2006 and rode in Shakopee in 2007 as well before heading to Columbus, Neb., and then Chicago, where he won riding titles three times at Hawthorne Race Course and was in the top five riders year round at the Chicago tracks the last four years.

Riggs competed in barrels and poles at local timed events as a kid. Otherwise there was not much in his background to suggest he might one day become a rider. He recalls two or three events that today he thinks opened the door to this career choice,.

There was a trip at about age six to the Chicago tracks with his father, Ron. That planted the first seed.

“There were some races at Fort Pierre and Aberdeen but they weren’t really even tracks, more like rodeo arenas,” Riggs recalled. “I was terrible, losing my stirrups and my goggles. I was a real mess at first and people told me I wasn’t going to make it.”

There was also the time that trainer Mac Robertson paid a visit to Bun Colvin’s farm when Riggs was a youngster.

“Bun and Marlene had a farm five miles from where we live,” Riggs recalled.

“We grew up on a farm with mostly quarter horses, but my sister would ride thoroughbreds for the Colvins before they were brought to the track. I went with her one day, because they had cinnamon rolls. Mac was there and said I could ride some thoroughbreds.”

It is his work ethic that helped Riggs to an early lead in the riding standings in Shakopee. He’s on the backside working horses, pitching in, selling himself by his mere presence and dedication.

“He’s unbelievably disciplined,” said Grunder. “And trainers like him because he can come back from a work and tell him something about the horse.”

A drawback, of course, is Riggs’ constant battle with weight although he is disciplined about that facet of his life, too.

“I try to walk a lot on days off,” he said. “I drink a lot of water, eat yogurt after a meal.”

He’ll also use the treadmill or, like a fighter, jog in a sweat suit. “Then, if that’s not working, I’ll use the sweatbox,” he said.

Even there his job is more difficult than that of his smaller colleagues. “They’ll spend an hour in there and lose four pounds. I’ll lose two,” he said.

Much of the time, Riggs tacks around 121 or 122 pounds. During the summer months he might be able to make 120.

It doesn’t get any easier. “No, it gets tougher all the time,” he said.

Riggs feels more at home working out of the Canterbury stables. “Chicago has a lot of hustle and bustle,” he said. “Here, the horses might not be as good but the people are friendly and treat you well. ”

Sitting tall in the saddle after a race or working a horse in the morning, Riggs displays an easy-going, hard-working feature that everyone seems to like.

“He’s like a Beaver Cleaver, very polite,” said Grunder. “He’s one of those guys who’s so nice that it makes you a little nervous.”

He’s riding well enough right now to make the competition nervous, too.

A WET DREARY DAY

Saturday’s card was conducted on a sloppy and then muddy track that produced a few surprises, certainly influenced in part by the wet conditions.

Riggs rode two winners on Saturday’s card, including the 7-1 long-shot Lady Beryl in the fourth race. At card’s end he had eight winners for the season, two more than Juan Rivera, who also had a winner Saturday and three more than defending riding champ Dean Butler and Bobby Walker, jr., who each had a winner on the card and have five for the season.

Butler’s win came aboard Gold Brew in the seventh race, moved from the turf to the main track. The win was Gold Brew’s sixth straight.

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

It Most Certainly Is Tanner Time

Sitting tall in the saddle takes on more than a single meaning when the subject matter is Tanner Riggs. Granted, Riggs is tall, very tall for a jockey. Granted, his demeanor and behavior alone might warrant the description. His probity and bearing are of professional standards at all times. And, granted, right now there is no one riding any better in Shakopee than the 23-year-old native of Mitchell, S.D.

Yet, it is that long, lanky figure of his, bent over a horse’s neck, that truly grabs a fan’s attention while watching him switch sticks in the stretch run as if he’s juggling a baton, one hand to the other – whack, whack! – just like that.

“He reminds me a lot of a young Jack Kaenel,” said Riggs’s agent, Richard Grunder.

Riggs appears to be at least six feet tall, but has recent evidence it is just that thin, strong frame of his that presents the deception. “I was measured at 5-foot-10 in the doctor’s office the other day,” he said.

He’s a better rider now than he was six years ago when he had the bug in Shakopee. Some things about him haven’t changed, however, and trainer Phil Hartman, for one, says that’s what he likes about him.

“He grew up in South Dakota,” Hartman said. “He’s an honest, hard-working kid and none of that’s changed.”

Hartman also likes the way that Riggs can follow instructions and make it pay off.

Friday night, for example, Riggs brought in a mare named Havasu in the second race. “I told him that we had the 3-5 horse in the race but that the mare might not be tight enough after running on the hard track in Phoenix,” Hartman said. “He saved just enough horse to get there. A picture-perfect ride.”

Hartman also perceives a “down-home” characteristic that he likes about Riggs. “He’s always willing to work hard,” he said. “We don’t have showroom Cadillacs here, and he seems to like riding VWs.”

Riggs had the bug here in 2006 and rode in Shakopee in 2007 as well before heading to Columbus, Neb., and then Chicago, where he won riding titles three times at Hawthorne Race Course and was in the top five riders year round at the Chicago tracks the last four years.

Riggs competed in barrels and poles at local timed events as a kid. Otherwise there was not much in his background to suggest he might one day become a rider. He recalls two or three events that today he thinks opened the door to this career choice,.

There was a trip at about age six to the Chicago tracks with his father, Ron. That planted the first seed.

“There were some races at Fort Pierre and Aberdeen but they weren’t really even tracks, more like rodeo arenas,” Riggs recalled. “I was terrible, losing my stirrups and my goggles. I was a real mess at first and people told me I wasn’t going to make it.”

There was also the time that trainer Mac Robertson paid a visit to Bun Colvin’s farm when Riggs was a youngster.

“Bun and Marlene had a farm five miles from where we live,” Riggs recalled.

“We grew up on a farm with mostly quarter horses, but my sister would ride thoroughbreds for the Colvins before they were brought to the track. I went with her one day, because they had cinnamon rolls. Mac was there and said I could ride some thoroughbreds.”

It is his work ethic that helped Riggs to an early lead in the riding standings in Shakopee. He’s on the backside working horses, pitching in, selling himself by his mere presence and dedication.

“He’s unbelievably disciplined,” said Grunder. “And trainers like him because he can come back from a work and tell him something about the horse.”

A drawback, of course, is Riggs’ constant battle with weight although he is disciplined about that facet of his life, too.

“I try to walk a lot on days off,” he said. “I drink a lot of water, eat yogurt after a meal.”

He’ll also use the treadmill or, like a fighter, jog in a sweat suit. “Then, if that’s not working, I’ll use the sweatbox,” he said.

Even there his job is more difficult than that of his smaller colleagues. “They’ll spend an hour in there and lose four pounds. I’ll lose two,” he said.

Much of the time, Riggs tacks around 121 or 122 pounds. During the summer months he might be able to make 120.

It doesn’t get any easier. “No, it gets tougher all the time,” he said.

Riggs feels more at home working out of the Canterbury stables. “Chicago has a lot of hustle and bustle,” he said. “Here, the horses might not be as good but the people are friendly and treat you well. ”

Sitting tall in the saddle after a race or working a horse in the morning, Riggs displays an easy-going, hard-working feature that everyone seems to like.

“He’s like a Beaver Cleaver, very polite,” said Grunder. “He’s one of those guys who’s so nice that it makes you a little nervous.”

He’s riding well enough right now to make the competition nervous, too.

A WET DREARY DAY

Saturday’s card was conducted on a sloppy and then muddy track that produced a few surprises, certainly influenced in part by the wet conditions.

Riggs rode two winners on Saturday’s card, including the 7-1 long-shot Lady Beryl in the fourth race. At card’s end he had eight winners for the season, two more than Juan Rivera, who also had a winner Saturday and three more than defending riding champ Dean Butler and Bobby Walker, jr., who each had a winner on the card and have five for the season.

Butler’s win came aboard Gold Brew in the seventh race, moved from the turf to the main track. The win was Gold Brew’s sixth straight.

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

Week 1 in Review (Stats & Trends)

If you were able to attend the races on Friday and Saturday, you saw a series of front running winners over a fast track which is not unusual early in the meet. After the storms moved through on Saturday night, the track played a bit more evenly on Sunday as off-the-pace runners held their own.

Opening night produced a wide variance in Pick 4 payoffs, as the early Pick 4 returned a chalky $37.55 for 50-cents and the late Pick 4 was a pool sweeping $8,237.90 for 50-cents. Thanks to the reduced takeout on the Pick 4 this year, that lucky winner received an additional $862.10 over what it would have paid last year! More good news for Pick 4 players: all six Pick 4 payoffs were overlays compared to the win parlays of the sequence. The overlays ranged from 9% to 93% above the win parlays. Keep playing that Pick 4 at Canterbury Park!

Jockeys Juan Rivera (Rivera aboard Bet Your Boots in the 10,000 Lakes Stakes above) and Dean Butler led all riders with 4 winners. Trainer Tony Rengstorf saddled three winners to get off to a nice start.

I talked about Post 1 in my Canterbury preview last week. The rail post got off to a bit of a slow start the first weekend with only three winners, but they were all good prices and produced a break even ROI for the three days.

Here’s another angle that might be worth following, and a few facts and figures from opening weekend…

The Beaten Favorite Angle

This is an angle that involves wagering on any runner who was a beaten favorite in their last start. There were 14 such runners over the weekend at Canterbury and seven of them were victorious. That’s a 50% strike rate and the angle returned $2.29 for every dollar wagered.

Winners Previous Start

Horses shipped to Canterbury Park from across the country. Here’s a breakdown of the major tracks horses shipped from, and how they fared on opening weekend:

Prairie Meadows: 5 winners from 28 starters. ROI 0.89

Hawthorne: 3 winners from 15 starters. ROI 0.55

Canterbury (2011 meet) : 3 winners from 51 starters. ROI 0.63

Oaklawn Park: 2 winners from 11 starters. ROI 1.96

Turf Paradise: 2 winners from 19 starters. ROI 0.26

Fonner Park: 2 winners from 21 starters. ROI 0.86

Slow Starting Stats

First time starters went 0 for 13 on opening weekend. Related to that, horses running on Lasix for the first time went 0 for 15. And horses with Morning Line odds of 10-1 and higher were only 1 for 50 during the first three days. Things to keep in mind…

This blog was written by Canterbury Regular “The Oracle”. The Oracle is a longtime Minnesota race fan that has handicapped Canterbury’s races religiously for more than 20 years. He writes about handicapping and statistical trends in Canterbury’s races.

Photo Credit: Coady Photography