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

 

 

A HORSEMAN IN MANY, MANY WAYS

by Jim Wells

When you ask him a question, be prepared for an answer that is not black and white or yes or no, that is somewhat involved and complex yet easy to track nonetheless.

Then again, portraying a lifetime in the horse business is not a simple task, and it might help to know that Jack Walsh was first and foremost a highly respected defense attorney during a long and distinguished career. When is the last time you got a simple answer from an attorney?

Walsh comes closer than any, although there are plenty of detours and excursions along the way that prevent an absolutely clean, straight story line. Still, the motives in his life narrative are of the purest and simplest form, beginning with the love of his children Laura, Julie, Jackie, and Kathy, his grandchildren, and of the equine world itself.

The start was basic, a Shetland pony in 1965 for three-year-old Laura, the first of the four daughters. By the time she turned eleven, their farm between Stillwater and Somerset included an indoor riding arena, 180 by 60 feet in size, a fixture still standing on the property, and Laura was riding in quarter horse shows.

Let’s skip ahead a few years to when twenty or more quarter horse broodmares occupied the premises _ a spendy venture, Walsh called it, and an enterprise that ended in 1979, when he sold the mares and auctioned sixty head of quarter horses he bred.

He also lectured on Equine Law at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls for some seventeen years. Somewhere along that timeline a fellow named D. Wayne Lukas, who once trained quarter horses near Rochester while teaching in LaCrosse, gave a talk at the University and paid a visit to the Walsh farm afterward. Walsh’s enterprise was well known to the serious practitioners of quarter horse racing in the area. Lukas was also in the midst of making the switch to thoroughbreds around that time, and Walsh would follow suit with the opening of Canterbury Downs in 1985, running a horse named Una’s Friend, his first thoroughbred, trained by Dave Crandall of White Bear Lake.

“The first time we ran, I got a check,” Walsh, 86, recalled, “and I remember thinking, how easy is this?”

Time would disabuse him of such notions but not deter him from the business of racing or his whole-hearted involvement in the industry. He tried cases before the American Quarter Horse Racing Association in Amarillo, Texas, and represented more than 100 horsemen before the Minnesota Racing Commission.

The best thoroughbred he bred? “Maybe Shot of Somerset,” he said. “A pretty nice horse.”

The thoroughbreds he bred all carried the name of Somerset, homage, of course, to the nearby Wisconsin village. “There was a period of time when Jeff Hilger, Curt Sampson, Dennis Strohkirch and myself were some of the biggest breeders in the state, but not anymore,” he said.

Times change and people change, but Walsh has stayed involved from the start, in many ways. He served on the board of the Minnesota Thoroughbred Association for several years and the local chapter of the HBPA as well, a body of which he is currently serving out his term as president.

Hilger, a retired breeder, HBPA president and member of Canterbury Park’s Hall of Fame, attests to the respect Walsh has in the legal field with the following story:

Hilger was on jury duty in Washington County in the early 1990s and overheard two men debating a point when one of them bellowed, ‘who do you think you are, Jack Walsh?’

Walsh’s easy-going style during conversation betrays the hypnotic effect he must have had on the men and women in the jury box with his sonorous, baritone voice. Yet the more salient point is that he comes across as a good-natured, honorable person seeking only justice, and people who know him well say he is absolutely that. “In the thirty years I’ve known Jack, I have not heard a person say a bad word about him,” Hilger added.

Raised on the East Side of St. Paul, he attended Cretin High School, the College of St. Thomas and then the William Mitchell College of Law.

He was also a skater, for the St Paul, Minneapolis and University Club figure skating organizations from 1951 to 1954.

Walsh, at one time, had a pasture full of cattle at his farm, too, but it is his annual bison feed the Saturday after Thanksgiving for which he is noted, with more than 100 invitees often attending.

He was absolutely dumbstruck upon hearing he would be included as one of this year’s Canterbury Hall of Fame inductees. “It was the furthest thing from my mind,” he said, “to be included alongside people like the Sampsons, and the Schenians and so many others.”

Then again, if more supporting evidence is necessary, there is this comment Hilger once made to Walsh: “I’ve never known anyone who spent more money in horse racing and made less than you.”

 

Canterbury Park Hall of Fame to Add Four Members

The Canterbury Park Hall of Fame Committee today announced the Class of 2018 inductees. The four newest members, who will be honored in a Sept. 1 ceremony, include jockey Dean Butler; Minnesota HBPA President and racehorse owner and breeder Jack Walsh; quarter horse breeders Rodney and Sylvia Von Ohlen; and retired Minnesota-bred racehorse Heliskier. These inductees join a group of more than 40 individuals and horses that comprise the best of Minnesota racing.

Butler is a five-time champion jockey at Canterbury Park and is the third winningest jockey at the Shakopee, Minn. racetrack. Growing up just two miles from Saratoga Race Course in Saratoga Springs, NY, Butler got his start in the industry attending races with his father. After high school he went on to work for Hall of Fame trainer Jack Van Berg.  As he learned, he received advice from other trainers and riders like Mike Smith and Richard Migliore. Butler began riding at Canterbury Park in 2007.  He has ridden for numerous trainers over the years, accumulating 790 wins and earning purses in excess of $13.8 million for his connections at Canterbury.  “A lot of people have helped me,” Butler said. “I’ve ridden for good trainers and been very fortunate to have done as well as I have.”

Walsh has been associated with Minnesota racing for decades as both an owner and breeder. He was breeding quarter horses in the 70s and 80s but switched to thoroughbreds when Canterbury opened in 1985. Also an astute attorney, Walsh taught Equine Law for years. He has been a Minnesota Thoroughbred Association board member, Minnesota Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association vice president, and is now HBPA president. Walsh has tried cases before the American Quarter Horse Racing Association in Amarillo, Texas, and represented more than 100 horsemen before the Minnesota Racing Commission.

The Von Ohlens are accomplished quarter horse owners and breeders. Rodney and his wife Sylvia, who passed away last May, built a successful breeding operation in Alpha, Minn. prior to Canterbury opening. The Von Ohlens are the second-leading quarter horse owners in Minnesota Festival of Champions history with six winners.  They started the season as second-leading owners in earnings and third in career winners at Canterbury.

Heliskier is a retired thoroughbred that earned many accolades during his racing career including champion two-year-old in 2011; two-time champion sprinter; champion three-year-old colt; and champion older horse. Heliskier is one of only two horses to be named Horse of the Year twice at Canterbury Park, earning that title in 2012 and again in 2013.  The gelding was bred and raised in Minnesota by the late Robert Colvin and is owned by his wife Marlene Colvin. Heliskier retired in 2016 with a career record of 9-2-2 from 19 starts with earnings of $277,918.

The Canterbury Park Hall of Fame was founded in 1995 to recognize people and horses that have made important and lasting contributions to the racing industry within the state. The selection committee consists of representatives of local horsemen organizations, local media, and Canterbury Park.

Royal Birth Touches Canterbury

Canterbury%20Park%207-25-13Superstitions abound around any racetrack, among the riders, the trainers and the public as well.

So wrap your belief in signs, omens, precursors and presentiments around this tidbit: birthdays were being celebrated along with actual births at Canterbury Park on Thursday and some of the results were eye-opening.

Lori Keith, Canterbury’s third leading rider at the moment, was talking with her father very recently, as she does most days. Keep in mind, Ms. Keith is English and her parents, English as well, of course, own a restaurant in the South of France.

Naturally, phone conversations take place via long distance.

The subject of the recent royal birth came up the last time father and daughter talked. Ms. Keith was reminded by her father that she celebrated her 31st birthday on the very day George Alexander Louis, son to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, was born.

Furthermore:

“He was born at St. Mary’s Hospital, the same place I was born,” said Ms. Keith.

Read what you may or must into that bit of information. It is interesting under any conditions, perhaps even fortuitous. At least the Ulwellings, Al and Bill, hoped as much after receiving the news about the royal connection to the woman riding their horse.

“You can’t make up stuff like that,” said Al.

“Maybe that means good luck. I hope so,” said Bill.

After all, Keith had mounts on Ulwelling horses in the sixth and seventh races. She finished out of the money on the Ulwellings’ Gilden Quest in race six. Then the belief in lucky charms proved reliable as Keith won the seventh aboard Sheisinittowinit, surviving a stewards’ inquiry in the process.

For her part, Keith had different notions entirely about the fact that the new English prince and she were born on the same date, at the same hospital.

“It’s pretty cool,” she said.

So, there you have it. A prince of England born at St. Mary’s Hospital in London at the same location and on the same date as the third-leading rider at Canterbury – I say Canterbury – Park in Shakopee.

It doesn’t end there. As Minnesota Twins fans and anyone able to read well know, the team’s catcher from St. Paul and his wife are the proud parents of fraternal twin girls.

Identical twin boys, Colton and Cooper, were born the same day to the grandson and significant other of Tom and Karen Metzen. So the Metzens are great grandparents and celebrated the occasion on Thursday evening with the winning horse, Awesome year, in race six. The trainer? David Van Winkle, who was celebrating his 50th birthday. It didn’t end there. The Van Winkle-trained Jantzesfancyfriend won the ninth race, too.

Rebecca Ramm, who handles the main phone line to Canterbury among other duties, including coffee making, was also celebrating. Her friend Shahara is the mother to the twin boys.

Maybe there is something to this omen thing, after all.

HBPA GOLF TOURNAMENT

Jack Walsh, the preeminent horse owner from Somerset, Wis., oversaw the HBPA Golf Tournament Monday for the third consecutive year and reported that 86 signed up for the tournament and 85 showed up.

“That’s unusual,” Walsh said.

The tournament was won, incidentally, by the team of Chad and Mark Anderson, Mike Chambers and Todd Rarick.

They finished at 14 under par.

“Chambers eagled the ninth hole, I think it was,” said Mark Anderson. “That sort of pumped up the team from there.”

THURSDAY TIDBITS

Alex Canchari strolled into the jockeys room after winning the third race aboard Wilhelmina, blood running from one of his hands. What happened? he was asked.

“The band aid came off,” he said. Canchari, who once made tacos in the taco stand at the track, cut the hand while preparing a meal for his parents. “I was opening a can,” he said.

Race four was won by Larren Delorme on Premodixon, sent off at 13-1, a complete surprise to the rider.

“I figured I had a good shot,” said Delorme. “He was legitimate. More consistent (than 13-1).”

Race five went to Hakuchi, trained by Robertino Diodoro and ridden to a second straight win by Scott Stevens. “Only two mounts I’ve had for him,” said Stevens.

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.

Streak Begins? (Heliskier Update)

Blues Edge - Fast Forward Medical Derby - 06-29-13 - R03 - CBY - FinishTrainer Bernell Rhone was asked about a horse he handled last year named Gold Brew, the first horse in his career to win six consecutive races.

“I’ve stopped some winning streaks,” Rhone quipped Saturday afternoon, “but, yes, that was the first horse to win that many in a row for me.”

Gold Brew was back in Rhone’s barn to start the meet this spring, but is now in a Hugo pasture owned by Wayne Scanlan.

Rhone has six of Scanlan’s horses this meet but Gold Brew is not among them. “We brought him back this year but he has a hot tendon,” Rhone explained.

Rhone didn’t end any streaks on Saturday but he started a new one with a horse named Blues Edge, sired by Scanlan’s stallion Obstacle from his mare Auser Blue.

Scanlan is a North Dakota native with horse racing in the family bloodlines. His grandfather, Wayne D. Branch, was a trainer of note in the West, at Long Acres, Golden Gate, Turf Paradise and such and recently elected to the Washington Hall of Fame.

Scanlan’s mother kept those bloodlines going by marrying his father, a cowboy from Miles City, Montana, and they wound up in North Dakota.

“A native of North Dakota just like Bernell,” Scanlan of himself Saturday after the third race.

When Canterbury Downs opened in 1985 Scanlan’s father, Joe, pointed the way if horses were to be a part of his future, getting a piece of land north of Hugo. Wayne was introduced to the state at the University of Minnesota, where he studied veterinary medicine. “They don’t have (a veterinary school) in North Dakota,” said Scanlan.

Scanlan has 25 or more horses on his place in Hugo, including his sire and mares. He once raced a horse at Canterbury called The Pilot. His mares have included Play N Fare, by The Pilot, and Desert Star. If asked how many horses exactly, Scanlan shakes his head and says “too many. You’ll have to ask my wife.”

The Scanlans lost Play N Fare three years ago, a blow to future plans. She was not only a favorite but “she was going to become the foundation mare for our next generation,” he said.

Play N Truth, her last foal, ran well out of the money on last Thursday’s card.

There was some satisfaction nonetheless after Blues Edge (above), with Dean Butler up, recorded the second win of the meet for Scanlan, finishing in front of Somerset Ballerina in the third race.

Scanlan is a practicing veterinarian but other than his own horses he restricts his business to dogs and cats.

“Not other people’s horses,” he said. “I want to continue being able to walk upright, to have the use of all my limbs. Caring for other people’s horses is an accident waiting to happen.”

THE WET SUMMER NO LONGER DRY FOR THIS OWNER

Jack Walsh was lamenting the long, dry meet he has experienced this wet, wet summer during Saturday’s card. “I haven’t won a race the entire meet,” he said.

He made the statement after the third race on the card in which his Somerset Ballerina finished three lengths behind Blues Edge in the claiming sprint.

Lo and behold, the skies parted, the sun shone forth and Silver Somerset, with Brandon Meier up, ended the dry spell in race No. 8…at 20-1 odds nonetheless.

HELISKIER DOING JUST FINE

Canterbury Park’s 2012 Horse of the Year is back in training and appears fine, but no decision has been made regarding his next start.

“I think he is all right,” said owner Marlene Colvin. “He’s back in training.”

We’re going to take our time with him just to make sure everything is all right. That’s what (trainer) Mac Robertson said we should do. He said that’s what Bun would do and I agree.”

Heliskier

Bun Colvin is Marlene’s late husband and Heliskier is the last horse he broke for the track

Marlene said that Heliskier has stood in the gate and has been galloping after losing for the first time in his career last time out. Heliskier was racing against open company for the first time but was out of the race at the break when he went head first into the dirt, scraping his nose and head badly.

“Bun always said to do what is best for the horse. He was walked a few days (after the accident) to make sure there was nothing serious wrong. So far, everything sounds all right,” Marlene said.

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.