Stakes Races, Indian Relay Highlight Card

BY JIM WELLS

Sometimes the name game works as well as more time honored methods for handicapping a race. Other times, turns of phrase are required, too.

Saturday, for instance: A horse named Beach Flower demonstrated she is no wall flower, another named Giant Payday didn’t live up to his name but was a winner just the same and nothing but sunshine and happiness have followed a third named Satellite Storm in the past few weeks.

In addition to the championship round of the Indian relay competition, three stakes races were part of Saturday’s card.

$50,000 MINNESOTA HBPA DISTAFF

Beach Flower, with Dean Butler in the irons, held off a stretch long challenge from Dontmesswithjoanne and Orlando Mojica, with nothing definitive until Beach Flower’s head finished in front of her pursuers.

Those two were head to head several times from the sixteenth pole to the wire. “Looks like Butler outrode Mojica to me,” said winning trainer Mac Robertson.

The official margin was a head with a winning time of 1:35.68 after a mile on the turf. Third place went to Tiz Little Bull, with Stormy Music next

Beach Flower became a two-time winner of this race, having won it in 2017 also. She is owned by Hugh Robertson, John Mentz and Jeff Larson.

.                       $50,000 BROOKS FIELDS STAKES

This race is named in honor of the man largely responsible for bringing horse racing to Minnesota and for the construction of what was previously known as Canterbury Downs.

Giant Payday, with his rider changing strategy from their previous two races, was a clear winner this time, with plenty left in the tank for the stretch drive. Giant Payday’s return was anything but. He was sent off at 7/2.

            Leandro Goncalves, riding Giant for the third consecutive time, asked trainer Joel Berndt to let him take the horse back a bit instead of running close to the lead.

“When we ran too close to the lead, he didn’t seem to have any kick for the drive,” Goncalves said. “Joel told me he had complete confidence in me to do what was needed.”

“Sometimes, if you run a horse like that close to the lead, it takes the finish out of them,” said Berndt.

Not this time.

Goncalves kept his horse at midpack in the field of seven. He was running third at the stretch call, three lengths off the lead when Payday began his move, finishing 1 ¼ lengths in front of Majestic Pride and another ¾ length in front of Nobrag Justfact, the 7/5 favorite. The winning time for the mile on grass was 1:34.85.

The trophy for this race was presented by Sarah Nessen, the daughter of Brooks Fields. It was mentioned to her afterwards that her father, in view of wonderful weather throughout this week, might have described such good fortune by saying “we’ve been kissed by an angel.”

“That’s exactly what he would have said,” she said.

MYSTIC LAKE TURF SPRINT

Satellite Storm was a $12,500 claim at Turf Paradise in Phoenix in April and has won his last three starts, including this one, worth, oh, $30,000.

His last three races have been on the turf. Trainer Valorie Lund was asked what she saw that precipitated the switch.

“Well, he doesn’t like the dirt track here,” she said.  “Maybe, we just got lucky.”

“Not likely,” was the consensus.

After all, she looked for sometime before putting in a claim on the horse for her owners, Julie Welle, John Miller and Peter Seals, who race under the name “Grace and Gamblers, LLC.”

Goncalves was once again on the winner, finishing 2 ¾ lengths in front of Win Lion Win, with Luvin Bullies next, another half length back, in :55.43

Lund said that after the claim she noticed a nervous streak in the horse. ‘He was 100 pounds lighter then,” she said.

His heavier and wealthier now.

.                       INDIAN RELAY RACES

Little Badger claimed the title with a late stretch run, overtaking Tissidimit, a two-time winner of the Canterbury relays.

Chris Carlson put his horse into a stretch sprint to overtake Dallon Race Horse, rider for the second-place team.

Little Badger recently won the relays at Fort Hall, Idaho, as well. “They’re just like the Lakers in the 80s,” a sideline supporter commented.

Loren Croff, mugger, Andy Whiteman, back holder and Jostin Lawrence, set-up and owner, complete the winning team.

     The consolation championship was decided in similar fashion. Nolan Werk put on a late rush, inside the last 16th, to overtake Awa Daa Hey, for Mountain River of Montana

The women’s race, conducted at Canterbury for the first time, was won by Tia Tiger of the Standing Rock tribe in South Dakota. Tiger, 19, has been riding for three years. She rode Saturday in honor of her father, Jeffrey Cadotte, 39 years old when he was killed in July.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Relay Team Bears A Strong Message

BY JIM WELLS

Everybody at the table had seen the movie, Wind River, a murder mystery that takes place on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming, a production of what is happening with shameful and painful regularity across the nation.

The conversation had started with a discussion of the top hat Jesse James White had worn around Canterbury Park since arriving, but had just abandoned.

“Too many people didn’t like it,” he explained.

The lead rider for the Bad Nation Relay team was assured it was a stylish looking headgear, accompanied by a feather as it was, and that people were probably a bit envious.

Whatever the case, White did not abandon the breechcloth bearing the team logo that includes the acronym, MMIW, which stands for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. Other members of the team bear the same message on their racing gear.

White, his father, James, and Michael Coleman, the team captain and set-up man, dedicated themselves to this cause in an attempt to bring awareness wherever they can.

The acronym is there to draw attention to an often overlooked and ongoing tragedy. In the United States, 84 percent of Native American women experience violence of one kind or another during their lifetimes. The murder rate of Indigenous women is 10 times that of the rest of American society. Homelessness, poverty and addiction are contributing factors. The murders and abductions, unlike Canada, are committed primarily by non-Indian men.

States such as Washington, Minnesota and Arizona are beginning to address the issues, but without the necessary urgency. Thus, the Bad Nation team, began dedicating themselves two years ago to spreading the word, following the death of Olivia Lone Bear, a woman in her thirties. “She was discovered in her car in a lake,” White said, his father, James White, nodding in agreement.

Lone Bear,32, was from the MHA (Three Affiliated Tribes) at Fort Berthold, N.D., and was the mother of five.

“Women are sacred in our society. They are the givers of life,” said Coleman. And tribal nations are losing them at an alarming rate. “Our sisters need a voice,” he added.

Coleman, the team captain and set-up man, won an Upper Midwest Golden Gloves heavyweight title in Minneapolis thirty-odd years ago. His team also participates in the annual Big Foot honorary march, a 352 mile trip from home to the Wounded Knee cemetery. Big Foot and his band, men, women and children, were traveling peacefully north in South Dakota when they were massacred by the Seventh Calvary at Wounded Knee in 1890. His great grandfather, 16 at the time, was kidnapped and became part of the Buffalo Bill wild west show that toured the country and even made appearances in Europe.

The Bad Nation team represents the Hunkpati tribe of Crow Creek whose people are related to the Mdewakanton people of Mystic Lake and elsewhere in Minnesota. They were driven out of the state and moved to Crow Creek after the 1862 war here.

FRIDAY RELAY RACES

The Bad Nation team has generally done well in Shakopee, but is having a hard time this year. James White had his son, Jesse, riding by the time he was a year and one-half old. Later, he bought him a pony on the order of a Shetland that Jesse rode until he reached high school age.

Bad Nation finished out of the top two in the first of two relay heats on Friday’s card.  Tissidimit, a Shoshone Bannock team from Idaho and two-time winner of the Canterbury Park relay races, won the first heat. Brew Crew, representing the Oglala Sioux from South Dakota, was second.

Young Bear Express won the second heat behind an expressive ride from Tyray Cadotte. The team represents MHA, the Three Affiliated Tribes from Fort Berthold, N.D. Second was Mountain River from Fort Belknap, Montana.

The championship rounds of the relay racing competition will be staged on Saturday night’s card, which includes, for the first time at Canterbury, a women’s race.

He Dreams of Horses, in Lakota

BY JIM WELLS

His dreams have always been about horses.  As a young boy, that is what filled his head as he slept. The affinity he found in sleep for horses shaped his manner of handling them during his waking hours

He always uses his voice and hands, never an instrument of pain to communicate with horses, to elicit the responses he wants from them. A soft hand and soothing voice are all he has ever needed.

He cautions that he is not a whisperer, simply a man following the edicts of his dreams.

His rider, who happens to be his son Jace,  uses no whip, only the encouragement of his legs, hands and voice to guide his horse during relay events, for the Long Feather team.

Richard Long Feather, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, is the captain of of the Long Feather team competing in Canterbury Park’s Indian Relay Races this week, and a man who stills sees horses as he sleeps.

He has a special way with them, as did many of his ancestors with whom he shares other similarities. He is fluent in Lakota, the language of his grandparents, who raised him, and others whose names are still spoken with respect and reverence in his villages.

He was born not far from what once was Sitting Bull’s camp. The Hunkpapa chief spoke Long Feather’s language as did another famous Lakota leader, Crazy Horse, from the neighboring Oglala tribe on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

The language has not changed, and he would easily talk with those famous Lakota leaders if they still walked the earth. Lakota does not differ much from Dakota, the dialect spoken in Minnesota, or the third branch of the Sioux language, Nakota.

“For example,” Long feather said. “The name Luke (if it existed) in the Lakota language would be spoken as Duke in Dakota.”

L for Lakota, D for Dakota, N for Nakota. The three dialects of the Great Sioux Nation.

Relay racing got under way with Thursday night’s card and will continue Friday night with the finals on Saturday evening.

Canterbury Hall of Fame rider Derek Bell after watching the first heat on Thursday had a terse remark on what he had just witnessed. “Those guys are amazingly fit,” he said, shaking his head. Three times around the track on three different horses, three miles in total.

The Abrahamson team from the Colville Confederation in Washington state won the first heat, in which Long Feather competed, finishing in front of Young Bear Express, the leader for a mile or more of the three-mile chase.

The second heat went to Little Badger, captained by Jostin Lawrence. The rider, Chris Carlson, celebrated afterwards in the winner’s circle, reaching down to take his month and one-half old daughter, Alani, onto the horse with him as his three-year-old daughter Alaysia looked on.

Little Badger, from the Blackfeet Nation in Montana, outdueled two-time Canterbury champion Tissidimit, from the Shoshone Bannock tribe in Idaho.

Long Feather, 54, rode himself as a younger man and has competed in races for older racers as well.  He is every bit as ready now to convey stories about his culture and its language as he is to discuss the racing that occupies him and his two sons, Jace and Jestin, the team’s set-up man. Tylee Cadotte, girlfriend to Jace, is the team’s back holder.

He tells the story, for example, about the tribal member generations ago who heard singing that drew him into the Valley of the Mountain, where he expected to find a melodic human being but instead discovered that an Eagle was doing the singing. The song was a message to Long Feather’s people that the eagle and the Indian would one day become symbols on American money and elsewhere in that culture.

Long Feather enjoys traveling with his family to races at various locations in the West and, now, in the Upper Midwest, in Shakopee. He participated at one time in the compilation of a dictionary of the Lakota language, a reference guide still in use.

He occasionally gets upset with some of his friends. He will begin a discussion in Lakota, only to have them switch to English.

Still, he is dedicated to preserving the language of his people, and the treatment of horses, as he learned to handle them at night, while he sleeps.

…………………………..

Indian Horse Relay continues Friday and Saturday at Canterbury Park.

Three $50,000 Turf Stake Races Saturday at Canterbury Park

Indian Horse Relay Championship also on 5:00 p.m. racing program

Three $50,000 turf stakes, the Minnesota HBPA Distaff, the Brooks Fields Stakes, and the Mystic Lake Turf Sprint, will be co-features on Saturday’s thoroughbred race card that begins at 5:00 p.m. at Canterbury Park. The stakes will be run as races three through five on the nine-race program, which also includes the Indian Horse Relay Championship.

The Turf Sprint, at five furlongs on the grass course, drew a field of eight including 5 to 2 morning line favorite Satellite Storm, trained by Valorie Lund and ridden by Leandro Goncalves. The locally-based 5-year-old found his best form since racing twice, and winning both times, on the turf course this meet. Kentucky shipper Angaston, 7 to 2, will be ridden by Eddie Martin, Jr.

The Brooks Fields, at a distance of one mile on the turf, is headed by Nobrag Justfact for trainer Eric Heitzmann. The 4-year-old colt won the $100,000 Mystic Lake Mile locally before finishing ninth in the Grade 3 Arlington Handicap at Arlington Park in suburban Chicago. Martin, Jr. has the mount.  The race is named in honor of the late Brooks Fields, CEO of the Shakopee, Minn. racetrack when it originally opened in 1985.

Seven entered the Minnesota HBPA Distaff, at one mile on the turf, including defending champion Molecules, trained by Brian House and ridden by Martin, Jr. Also in the field is 5 to 2 morning line favorite Beach Flower, winner of the $100,000 Lady Canterbury on June 22. She is trained by Hall of Famer Mac Robertson and will be ridden by Dean Butler. A $25,000 guaranteed Pick Four pool that includes the three stakes races, will begin with the second race.

Indian Horse Relay, North America’s first ‘extreme’ sport, involves teams of four Native American riders dressed in colorful regalia racing bareback around the track on a series of three horses, exchanging them at high speed in front of the grandstand. Presented at Canterbury Park by the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community each summer since 2013, this sport dates back more than 400 years. Horses were traditionally very important in Native American culture, and relay racing was an activity to test the horse, rider and team. Fourteen teams representing various tribes from Montana, Wyoming, the Dakotas, Washington and Idaho, will compete for prize money. The Championship will feature the seven qualifying teams from heats held during racing Thursday and Friday evenings.

Bushrod Wins 1st Mystic Lake Turf Express

By Jim Wells

Only in horse racing do the storylines sometimes seem to come out of a children’s storybook, heroes emerging from unlikely places under unusual circumstance;  little guys being lifted to the level of those who dominate the world up above; heartwarming tales of the men and women who keep the world turning but are seldom given a share of the spotlight.

It happens, though, on the racetrack and the biggest race of the night Saturday, the first running of the $100,000 Mystic Lake Turf Express at five furlongs, is a first-hand example.

The winner, Bushrod, wasn’t overlooked at 7/2. He was given his share of respect in a contentious field of seven. Yet, you can’t help a slight grin, a positive nod of the head when you consider his story.

Originally handled by Canterbury Park Hall of Fame trainer Doug Oliver, Bushrod was claimed by Hall of Fame conditioner Mac Robertson and then by Judd Becker for $18,000 on May 11 at Arlington Park.

Becker trains a handful of horses at his farm outside Pardeeville, Wisconsin, 30 miles north of Madison. He races largely in Chicago but likes taking the 4 ½-hour trip to Canterbury Park on occasion, as he did for Saturday’s race.

He arrived with this thought in mind. “We thought we had a chance.”

With good reason. Bushrod beat a horse named Good By Greg _ a real monster, Becker said _ on August 12 in a 5 1/2 furlong race in Chicago.

“That horse would have been the favorite if he had run here in this race,” he added.

Saturday’s race was a half-furlong shorter, and Bushrod loved it. Although he was slowed in tight quarters leaving the gate, he essentially went gate-to-wire under Quincy Hamilton, holding off a late bid from Show Bound (5/2) under Francisco Arrieta to win by  three-quarter lengths in 56.20.  Fireman Oscar (16-1) was next, three-quarter lengths out of second.

Creative Art, the leading thoroughbred at Canterbury throughout much of the meet, had won four straight races this summer on the dirt, but is now 0-5 on the turf after finishing in front of only Sky T on Saturday.

 

    $50,000 BROOKS FIELDS STAKES

Gate to wire under the leading rider in Shakopee in what is being called perhaps the best race of the 2018 meet.

Ibaka

.           That sizes up the effort of Ibaka and the ride given him by Ry Eikleberry in a a thrilling four-horse finish that drew a collective gasp from the enthusiastic crowd.

Here is what it looked like at the wire:

Ibaka, in 1:35.27,  a head in front of Majestic Pride, a half length in front of Hay Dakota, who had a head on Patriots Rule.

“One of the best races of the meet,” said director of racing Andrew Offerman.

“Yeah, it was a good one,” said Eikleberry. “I knew there was a ton of them together at the wire.”

Most of the fans in attendance needed the results of the photo to determine if they should celebrate or moan, but Scott Garrison, assistant to trainer Francisco Bravo did not.

“I thought his head was there first,” he said. “He’s a very big hearted horse and Ry gave him such a good ride.”

The horses around him were closing hard, but Ibaka had enough, just enough, to hold them off in a scintillating finish.

           $50,000 MINNESOTA HBPA DISTAFF

Late to the paddock but not to the wire.

That sums up jockey Leslie Mawing’s itinerary before and during this race for three-year-old and older fillies and mares.

Mawing’s arrival in the paddock was delayed _ for a call of nature _ but there was nothing late about the wire-to-wire effort of Molecules. The three-year-old filly angled inside from the break and stayed there until the wire, holding off a late, hard charging effort from defending champion Beach Flower to win by a head, with a time of 1:35.63. In third, another 1 ½ lengths out of second was Some Say So, the Princes Elaine winner.

This was a family enterprise. The owner, Morgan Thilo, was home in Indiana with sick children, so her mother, Dawn Fontenot, who once trained the horse, took over in her absence, with her mother Jackie Todhunter along for support.

And best yet, the winning horse was a gift, from the former owner who became ill, to Fontenot, who gave up training because of a conflict of interest; her boyfriend is the starter on the gate back in Indiana.

“It really is a family effort,” said Fontenot, who got the horse last October.

       INDIAN RACES ALL IN THE FAMILY

An accident on the racetrack sidelined Brew Crew rider Brian Beetum in Friday night’s semifinal round of competition.

So, 18-year-old Sylvan Brown took over in Saturday’s championship round and wound up a winner.

Brown, it so happens, is a nephew to Beetum.

In what was perhaps the best Relay Race competition in its six years, Brew Crew brought home another title, and the team stood in the winner’s circle afterward, posing for pictures while admiring the buckles awarded them for the championship.

How long has Brown been competing? He wasn’t certain. “I’ve been doing this, riding, since I was very young,” he said.

Brew Crew represents the Oglala band of the Sioux Nation on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota.

Brew Crew and Little Badger, a Blackfeet team, battled it out over the final mile of the three-mile race.

The win should make the 10-hour drive home a bit easier to take for Brown and the rest of the Oglala crew: mugger Will Brewer, back holder Steve Brewer, Jr., and team captain and set-up man Stanley Brewer, Jr.

RELAY CONSOLATION CHAMPIONSHIP

Riley Prescott was beaming afterward.

He had just wrapped up the consolation for Omak Express, beating out the Long Feather team from Standing Rock and rider Jace Long Feather.

Prescott overtook Long Feather during the final mile, letting him take the lead by design.

“I knew he was going to blow out his horse, so I just let him go past me,” Prescott said.

Winning Rider Raises Tribal Issues

By Jim Wells

It is a simple matter to misinterpret the title for the entry song that preceded Friday’s Indian Relay Races, “Every time I bring a horse into the arena, I give it away.”

At first thought, we’re talking claiming horses, are we not?

We are not. The song which preceded the first Indian relay race on Friday meant something altogether different.

As did winning the first race of the night to the rider for the Bad Nation team, Jesse James White, a Hunkpapa/Lakota.

“Give me a minute to catch my breath,” he said, clearly winded after guiding his team’s three mounts to a clear victory after exchanging leads with Brew Crew, an Oglala team, for much of the three-mile race.

There is something equally or even more important to White than racing, and he carries the message on the back of his shirt, proclaiming clearly about the need to address the issue of murdered and missing Indian women on reservations across the nation, an epidemic rarely mentioned in the popular press. “That and the genocide we suffer,” he said. “All of it is important.”

Thus, White will do his part wherever and whenever he races, talking about the issues, giving them added life. Indigenous issues are not only largely ignored by the mainstream media but by the U.S. government as well.  If he can help even a bit, he intends to do so whenever the opportunity is there.

Athletically, he devotes himself to relay racing at this point of his life, although bull riding has intervened from time to time.  It was different previously, in high school, when he competed in track. He believes that jumping events played a role in the ease today with which he makes his exchanges, from one horse to another.

Having caught his breath after winning the first relay race on Friday, he explained that he always starts a race with a well out-lined strategy that often changes, requires adjustments, as the event unfolds. “I set a strategy every time,” he said. “Then it sometimes becomes a matter of play by play.”

Not much altered during this particular race, as White, if not on the lead, was never far back, and he put on a closing rush to become a clear winner, hooting and hollering as he rolled past the finish line.

The second relay event of the night appeared to have a winner, too, as Brian Beetem, who was the winning rider in the 2016 event at Canterbury, appeared destined for a second consecutive heat win, in addition to Thursday’s.

Riding for the Cheyenne River Sioux Dolphus team, Beetem hit the ground with a thud while attempting to change mounts after the second lap, and the  horse he was trying to dismount bolted away. Nearly trampled in the incident, Beetem was knocked out of contention.

That opened the door for the veteran Chris Carlson, riding for the Blackfeet Nation’s Little Badger team. Carlson was unaware of Beetem’s misfortune, but understood that his own fortunes had shifted suddenly while sprinting easily to the front.

Chris Carlson

He looked back occasionally on the final lap. “I just wanted to make sure nobody was trying to catch me,” he said. His lead was substantial at that point. All he had to do was stay aboard.

There were people awaiting him in the winner’s circle with congratulatory appreciation afterward, his girlfriend, Marci, and two-year-old daughter, Alaysia.

They were not present for his opening round win on Thursday night. They arrived from Great Falls, Montana around midnight, and he picked them up at St Paul-Minneapolis International, arriving back in Shakopee around 1 a.m.

Yes, he responded, even in an unfamiliar location he had no trouble negotiating the trip to and from the airport. “Google did its job,” he said.

Tribal Racing Once Again A Hit

By JIM WELLS

The song was beat out on the drums and accompanied by the old lyrical ululations that brought it all to life, an appropriate accompaniment to what was about to take place.

Lakota Sioux singers introduced Thursday night’s opening Indian relay races, the first of three such evenings, with a song entitled, “We are the horse Nation and We Are Coming.”

Indeed they were, in all of their tribal splendor and ceremonial dress, celebrating the animal that changed life for their ancestors and is still a part of their cultural traditions. A large turnout for the races responded enthusiastically, especially during some of the dramatic exchanges from one horse to another directly in front of the grandstand.

It was not necessary to look any further than the winner of the first relay race  for corroborating evidence of the riders familiarity with the horse.

Chris Carlson, a 28-year-old, eleven-year veteran of relay racing representing the Blackfeet Nation, parlayed his wealth of savvy and experience into well-timed rides aboard his three mounts to win the first of two relay races on the card for the Little Badger team.

For the first two and one-half laps of the three-mile race, it appeared the team of Mountain Crow, with Zack Rock, Sr. the rider, would easily win the opening relay, leading as he did at some stages of the first two laps by as many as 12 lengths and more.

Carlson kept his eye on the leader and when he spotted the horse starting to back up, made his move. “I could see him tiring,” Carlson said, “and I made my move between the third and fourth turns.”

Carlson’s first of three horses he uses is a quarter horse, reliable most of the time, but unwilling to slow down so he can mount his second horse for the night  on some occasions. He was in near perfect form on Thursday.

Carlson has been doing this for a long time and it took a few moments for him to recall how many times he has won relay races. “Four, maybe five,” he said.

He did not need that long to recall what time his next assignment was for the evening. His girlfriend, Marci, and two-year-old daughter, Alaysia, were flying in from Great Falls, Montana, and he needed to pick them up at 11:30 p.m.

Did he know the way from Canterbury to the airport?

“Google knows the way,” he responded.

The second relay race was a one-team show with Brian Beetem an easy winner for the Cheyenne River Sioux tribe’s Dolphus team, gliding home many lengths the best.

Beetem said he was surprised at the response he got from his horses, particularly the third, who displayed unexpected speed despite running on reserve. “I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “He was tired and yet when I got after him turning for home and picked it up even more.”

He used no special strategy or game plan for the convincing victory. “I just go out and ride he said. “That’s what I did tonight. Ride and see what happens.”

Apparently that is a strategy. It worked in 2016 when Beetem was the winning rider overall.

“This is my favorite track,” he said.  “I really like it here.”

Why wouldn’t he.

Horse Racing Ancient Indian Tradition

By Jim Wells

Outside, over 150 horses grazed under the watchful eye of White Man’s Dog….It seemed odd that two sleeps ago these horses were content to belong to the Crow. Now they were Pikuni (Blackfeet) horses and seemed equally content.
FOOLS CROW BY JAMES WELCH

By some accounts, the first sport in the American West was horse stealing, by one Indian nation from another. It was a method by which young warriors and hunters sharpened the requisite skills for living in nature, for survival against the beasts of the forests and the plains and against other human beings.

By other accounts the first sport was horse racing, among the various nations that gathered to celebrate the coming of spring each year, and the hibernation of Cold Maker as the Pikuni might have described it, the time when Cold Maker called off the snows and winds in an annual truce.

The nations would gather in the valleys for food and games. Horse racing ruled one nation against the other. In the melting snows and warming suns of those faraway times the Crow, Shoshone, Blackfeet, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho presented a harbinger of what would become Indian Relay Racing.

Horses were necessary, magical and spiritual in the lives of those First Nation peoples. They transformed them from trudging tribes, traipsing from the winter camps to their summer lodges, into the masters of the plains, disappearing like the wind when necessary into the surrounding hills and hunting the sacred buffalo from the backs of the descendants of animals Cortez and his Spanish forces brought to the Americas centuries earlier.

The horse and the First Nation peoples were allies in daily life among untamed hills, mountains and valleys, where animal and man in this instance became partners in a ritual nearly as old as Cold Maker himself.

Come with us into the valleys of those long ago times for a look at what was _ altered, of course, by the immense change over the years, change that seemed imminent from the time the Pikuni first spotted the endless floods of Napikwans and the iron horses they called trains, and began to see the buffalo disappearing before their very eyes.

Indian Relay is sport popular mostly in the northwestern United States.

Nonetheless, the Sioux peoples had racing of their own as well and it is at the behest of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, in cooperation with Canterbury Park, that Indian relay racing has been part of the season here the past five years.

Today’s form of relay racing, by some accounts is 100 years old or older and is a means today for young Indians to connect with their tribal heritage and customs. It is also an astonishing sport, viewed by the participants themselves as something akin to “organized mayhem,” particularly during exchanges, when a rider changes horses and is assisted by a mugger, who stops the horse, a setup man and a holder in charge of the rider’s next horse _ three horse exchanges to a race, all ridden bareback.

The exchanges sometimes result in a chaotic scene immediately in front of the grandstand where the races start and end. Relay racing has become a popular part of many rodeos and pow wows in the northwestern states.

Sixteen teams will compete this week at Canterbury, including representatives of the Sioux and the Blackfeet. Two races are scheduled each night on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

The word for describing this type of racing might differ in the tongue of the Sioux, the Blackfeet, the Crow or the Sho-ban, but it means much the same as it does in English.

Thrilling.

Indian Horse Relay events will be held between the horse races Thursday and Friday nights. On Saturday there is a special 6pm first post with the Indian Horse Relay Championship being run that evening. Find information HERE.

DERBY TITLE STAYS IN MINNESOTA

BY JIM WELLS

The $200,000 Mystic Lake Derby is the crown jewel of the racing season at Canterbury Park, an annual race for 3-year-olds that creates a certain type of anticipation and excitement. Wet, chilly weather threatened to dampen much of that anticipation when it moved into the area late this week.

Yet, as if on cue, the rains retreated Saturday and the signature race of the season was run without a hitch.

The Derby is fast acquiring a distinctive Minnesota flavor, a certain Wayzata flair that has played out in two of the last three editions of the race.

The connection, of course, is Bob Lothenbach, whose Nun the Less won the 2015 Derby. Saturday night, he made it two winners after Giant Payday made a giant move in the stretch drive to claim the star blanket, annually awarded by the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community to the winner of the race.

Trainer Ian Wilkes was at Saratoga where he saddled McCracken on Saturday in the Travers Stakes. Told a day earlier in a telephone call that Giant Payday was the morning line favorite, Wilkes responded, “does that make us a winner.”

Well, it is now possible to respond with an emphatic “yes.”  Wilkes, in fact, was on the phone moments after the Derby with Lothenbach in the winner’s circle to talk about the race. The conversation was short and sweet with a triumphant undertone.

It was evident earlier on the card that late-running horses seemed to be in favor, on the main track. As it turned out that trend translated onto the turf.

Giant Payday, a son of Giant’s Causeway, was last out of the gate in the 10-horse field and was chasing five horses at the top of the stretch. He went six horses wide under Chris Landeros to begin his drive and reached the wire a length in front of My Bariley and another half length in front of Sakonnet. The winning time was 1:40.39 after fractions of 24.68, 49.12 and 1:14.48.

“He wants to run late. You can’t push him too early,” Lothenbach said. “We’ve learned that about him.”

Landeros said he picked up that cue in the Arlington Classic when he pushed Giant Payday early and the colt simply ran out of gas. “When I let him run like he did tonight, when I let him dictate what he wants, he settles, he relaxes and runs his best race,” Landeros said.

The prerace conversation on Friday was mostly concerned with the weather. Would the race stay on the turf and be washed out and run on the dirt, a factor that possibly would have included some horses scratching from the lineup.

Although two earlier stakes on the card, the $50,000 Brooks Fields Stakes and the $50,000 HBPA Distaff, were moved to the dirt, the Derby stayed put and was run on a yielding course.

No Minnesota-bred has won this race, although there was one entered on Saturday for the first time in three years. Hot Shot Kid, ridden by Alex Canchari, drew the outside post in the 10-horse field. He did not hit the board, although he was among the leaders until flattening out in the stretch drive.

Lothenbach joined Terry Hamilton as the only other two-time winner of the race. Hamilton owned the first two winners of the Derby, Hammers Terror and Dorsett.

During that brief telephone conversation in the winner’s circle Saturday, Lothenbach summed up his feelings as he talked with Wilkes. “That was awesome,” he said. “Chris rode a great race. Just awesome.”

$50,000  BROOKS FIELDS STAKES

Andrew Ramgeet shook hands with a connection to the winning horse he had just dismounted. “Send him the dry cleaning bill,” a bystander shouted.

The reference was to Ramgeet’s rather muddy appearance after guiding his horse from last to first in the six-horse field, picked up considerable layers of mud in the process.

“Hey, what did you do, plan your move with the third change of goggles,” he was asked.

Not exactly, but the picture fit, as Patriots Rule circled the field five wide on the turn and inched his way to the front, finishing 1/2 length in front of second-choice Way Striking and two lengths ahead of (12/1) Malibu Pro.

Patriots Rule

Trainer Robertino Diodoro said the horse appeared to be in decline running on the West Coast, but closer examination told him that racing conditions and luck were largely responsible.

“He had a number of bad trips,” he said. “He needs to run back, but with a horse like this you need a pace and everything else has to be right, too.”

It went just as hoped, if not planned, on Saturday.

$50,000 HBPA DISTAFF

Few expected this outcome, not at 11-1, not in this field, but there she was in the winner’s circle, a longshot named Beach Flower who was certainly no wall flower when it came to performing on a muddy but, for her, favoring track.

“Moving to the dirt helped,” said winning rider Martin Escobar, whose victory was applauded by most of his colleagues as well as trainer Mac Robertson.

Beach Flower

“He’s worked hard for me all the time I’ve known him,” said Robertson. “I’m happy for him.”

Beach Flower worked her way from the back of the 10 horse field and made her bid at the top of the stretch and reached the wire ¾ length in front of Seeking Paradise with Landeros up another 1 ¼ lengths ahead of Kera Kera.

 

INDIAN RELAY RACING

The best races yet in this annual tradition:

Championship: They don’t come any more exciting than this one.

In a thrilling race to the wire, Brew Crew, from the Oglala Sioux Tribe, claimed the title by a nostril or less with a late charge to catch Tissidimit.

But wait a minute. Brew Crew’s rider Sylvan Brown was charged with grabbing the inside rein of his competitor in the stretch drive and was disqualified.

Brown got a late charge from his third runner in the race to catch the Tissidimit horse and rider Jared Cerino, who won this race two years ago.

But the infraction was upheld and Cerino and Tissidimit, representing the Sho-Ban tribe of Fort Hall, Idaho, claimed the crown and a first place prize of $10,000.

 

A purse of $2,000 went to second place.

Consolation Title: C/M Warparty reached the wire first but was later disqualified because one of the team’s horses had escaped the clutches of the mugger and had run off. The title was subsequently awarded to Dolphus Racing and rider Jo Jo Yellowfat.

The one consolation in the reversal of winners? Both teams are from the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe.

RELAY RACING A CULTURAL TRADITION FOR LAKOTA

BY JIM WELLS

The Great Sioux Nation once spread over what became five states and more, encompassing what the Oyate – the people –  called the Ocheti Sakowin, the seven council fires, a tribe that spoke the same language with three distinct dialects – Dakota, Lakota and Nakota.

For hundreds of years, dating to the time Spanish horses made their way north to the American Great Plains, a horse culture became embodied in their culture and spirituality. They also knew how to socialize and celebrated racing their horses against one another.

The stories have been passed down over the generations in the oral history of the Oyate, keeping alive an ancient sport and pastime – Indian relay racing.

The sport is alive and well in the family of Richard Longfeather, a man steeped in the history of the Lakota culture, its oral history and its connection to the horse.

More significantly, Longfeather is a first language speaker of Lakota, raised by his grandparents in an environment that didn’t include English. He switches easily from one tongue to the next, pointing out the differences in meaning and significance between the two languages.

His family is from the Standing Rock Reservation, most recently newsworthy for its stand against the Dakota Pipeline access.

The Longfeathers arrived in Shakopee this week for the annual Indian relay races at Canterbury Park, three days of races culminating with a championship staged in conjunction with Saturday’s  $200,000 Mystic Lake Derby, the richest race of the season.

It is Richard Longfeather’s belief that keeping his sons active in the sport is a proven deterrent to the destructive elements that plague many reservations, drugs and the crime related to them.

And keeping Lakota alive in the family is a necessary means of preserving their Indian culture and identity. “Without the language, you don’t have the culture,” he explained.

There are words in Lakota, for example, that explain things about the culture, but without English equivalents. There are ideas in Lakota for which there are none in English.

Some Lakota laughed when they watched the movie Dancing With Wolves. The language was correct, but in some cases female expressions were used by men.

Longfeather grew up with horses and cattle. The boys engaged in team roping, the girls in barrel racing. “At the end of each rodeo, we had relay racing,” he added.

Horses were a cultural aspect once his people acquired them, courtesy of the wild Spanish offspring that migrated north from South America, enabling the Lakota to widen their hunt for food, in particular for bison. “The Lakota always like to be identified with horses,” Longfeather said.

Now, Richard and Virginia Longfellow’s son Jace,19, is a bull rider and a relay racer. Jestin, 17, is a holder for the team, and their cousin Justin Fox, 18, is a setup man. The Longfellows have a daughter, Samantha, and two granddaughters in Texas.

Richard grew up living life in the “old” way, with the customs, traditions and what became the “poverty” of his culture. “We lived in a log cabin with no electricity or running water,” he said. After the death of his grandfather, his grandmother would send the 5-year-old Richard out to fetch water, instructing him what to do in Lakota.

“My grandparents used ice and straw to keep certain foods cold or frozen during the winter months. In the summer months we had fresh vegetables.”

Longfeather has been used at times to serve as an interpreter when elders in the tribe have been ill, or at other times to pass on the wishes of a family after they’ve lost a relative.

Longfeather is the only fluent speaker of Lakota in his family, although Virginia says she understands the language when her husband speaks it. Their sons do too, it seems.

Whenever he wants to make an important point, Longfellow asks for their attention in Lakota. “They stop and listen,” he said. “If I asked it in English, they wouldn’t pay any attention.”

The culture and its language clearly run deep.

RELAY RESULTS ON THURSDAY

Two heats were run on Thursday’s card and two more will accompany the Friday night card. The final and third place races will be run on Saturday.

Thursday’s winners were: Tissidimit, a Sho-Ban team from Fort Hall, Idaho. The winning rider was Jared Cerino, who won this competition two years ago.

Also, Scott Abrahamson won the second heat for the Abrahamson Relay team for the Colville tribe from Washington state.