Y2 Claim

By Noah Joseph

1999: a year in pop culture that soon led to reality. From the song by Prince 17 years before the event itself to the Y2K bug scare leading up to it, 1999 was a year thought about before it happened. The year was also a banner one for thoroughbred racing. From the heartwarming story of Charismatic to the super filly Silverbulletday, 1999 was an unforgettable year for the sport of kings. That same year, Canterbury Park introduced an event that still exists to this day and is a major part of the racing year.

Canterbury Park, along with TOBA and the National HBPA came up with the Claiming Crown, a day like the Breeders’ Cup, but for claimers. Claimers are horses that can be entered in a race and be purchased for a certain price before the race runs. They are the backbone of the sport, and without them, racing would not exist. Canterbury decided to have a day to honor them. On August 7th, 1999, the first Claiming Crown was held at Canterbury. Talented horses and jockeys, both local and national, took part. The first race was the Claiming Crown Iron Horse which was won by A Point Well Made. Canterbury Hall of Fame jockey Derek Bell rode the winner for trainer Kelly Von Hemel. Pioneer Spirit then won the Claiming Crown Express under Willie Martinez, but only by a head over Satchmo. Martinez then went back-to-back, guiding You’re a Lady to victory in the Claiming Crown Glass Slipper.

The following race, the Claiming Crown Rapid Transit, was a special treat. Legendary jockey Laffit Pincay Jr. came to Shakopee from California to ride for the day. Pincay guided Aplomado

Aplomado

to victory for trainer Vladimir Cerin in a fast closing finish that fans had grown accustomed to seeing Pincay do so many times.

Despite this incredible moment, there was still more racing to take place. Taffy took the Claiming Crown Tiara with Tim Doocy aboard. And then came the featured race of the day. That was the Claiming Crown Jewel, and it was won by One Brick Shy with current Canterbury jockey Eddie Martin Jr. aboard in a 12-1 upset to cap off an inaugural Claiming Crown.

The Claiming Crown continues to this day at Gulfstream Park, even though Canterbury hasn’t hosted the event since 2010, yet its origins in Minnesota aren’t forgotten. One of the stakes now held is called the Canterbury, named after the track that started this event 20 years ago. In the end, Canterbury was at the forefront of one of horse racing’s most popular days.

Canterbury Loses A Friend

His hip was broken in a fall earlier in the day, so he was unable to attend an induction ceremony that night he never expected to be part of and wondered why he was.

Perhaps because selflessness was so ingrained in him it seemed part of his DNA.

“You girls should really go to the Hall of Fame,” he told his four daughters from his hospital bed that day. “I think it is going to be a nice party.”

Jack Walsh genuinely thought of others first, in ways small and large.

“He would always cut off the best part of a steak he was eating and give it to us,” said his daughter Kathy. “The best part of the t-bone was for us.”

He gave freely and easily, of his time, his work, his hobbies, himself…to the countless individuals he defended as a public attorney working out of Stillwater, to the many horseman and stable help he represented on the backside at Canterbury Park, frequently if not almost always without charge.

“He represented more than 100 horsemen before the (Minnesota Racing) commission,” said long-time friend and horse breeder Jeff Hilger. “He was a very humble man, the most honest one I’ve known.”

That was Walsh’s reputation, not only in his profession but throughout the horse racing scene in Minnesota and beyond. He was tireless in his advocacy of the down and the out, the individual without the background or finances to defend himself.

“That was his whole life, as a public defender, as a dad, as a neighbor,” Kathy said. “He was so many things__ lawyer, farmer, horseman, father, grandfather.

Walsh’s daughters _ Laura, Julie, Jackie and Kathy _ stood in for their father during his induction into the  Canterbury Park Hall of Fame the night of September 1. He did not make it that night or thereafter to Canterbury Park, a place he was part of, originally as a horse owner, since it opened as Canterbury Downs in 1985. He died on September 27 at age 86.

Walsh’s selection to the Canterbury Park Hall of Fame puzzled him. He did not understand why he would be chosen to join so many others he thought “truly deserving” of induction.

“He was so surprised and honored,” Kathy said. “He couldn’t believe it, that ‘these people chose me.’ ”

His family and friends knew better, including the people who came to count him as a friend after he offered them support in any of various matters that came before the racing commission or in a court of law.

Walsh had just finished his term as president of the Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Assn., a role he stepped into in August of 2016 upon the death of Tom Metzen, a man he counted as a friend.

“Jack was very professional,” said trainer Bernell Rhone, a member of the HBPA board. “He was always willing to help the underdog. He was not looking for publicity or high profile clients. He did things to help people out. He donated a lot of his time, and he didn’t charge for it.”

Walsh announced that he would not seek re-election to the position after battling a number of health issues in the previous year and was replaced as president this autumn by horse owner/breeder Scott Rake.

Yet he will be missed in many other ways. “He would fight for the guy without much money. He wasn’t after the big money cases like a lot of lawyers,” Rhone added.

Walsh stayed involved from the start, in numerous ways. He served on the board of the Minnesota Thoroughbred Association for several years and the local chapter of the HBPA.

Randy Sampson, the CEO of Canterbury, dealt with Walsh on numerous occasions, in meetings regarding contracts, purses or other horsemen’s issues and was frequently on the other side of a subject.

“I never heard one person say a bad word about Jack,” Sampson said. “Even on the opposite side of an issue. He had a very diplomatic way of handling things. Even if he disagreed with you, he said it in a way that was respectful and usually with a twinkle in his eye.”

Walsh was always on top of issues and understood them fully before he spoke. “He was very smart,” Sampson added, “and knew what was going on.  He could get right to the heart of an issue. He was a gentleman in such a way that is a lost art today. He was fun to be around.”

His friends appreciated his marvelous sense of humor. He loved telling the latest joke to them and any acquaintances who happened to step into his inner circle, particularly at the table he occupied on the first level whenever he was at Canterbury.

The horsemen with whom he connected appreciated his sincere interest in their welfare. He dealt with them openly, without the slightest suggestion of an ulterior motive.

“He got kind of thrown into a hot spot when we lost Tom,” said HBPA board member and trainer Tony Rengstorf. “But he took over and did an awesome job. He had a heart of gold and was such an amazing ambassador for racing.”

The backside understood that. “Absolutely,” Rengstorf added. “He cared about the people, the children.”

At one time Walsh had as many as twenty quarter horse broodmares on his property outside Somerset, Wisconsin. He sold off some sixty head of quarter horses when Canterbury Downs opened in 1985 and turned to thoroughbreds. Those he bred himself usually carried “Somerset” as part of their names, so it was easy to identify one of his runners in a lineup.

Father Paul Malone paid tribute to Walsh’s long affiliation with horses during his funeral services with the following story:

“What is the difference between praying in church and praying at the racetrack? ” he asked the congregation.  “When you pray at the racetrack,”

Malone said, “you mean it.”

Jack Walsh would have loved it.

 

JIM WELLS

 

 

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