Esqueda Wins 1st, Undergoes The “Hazing”

BY JIM WELLS

He was almost certain that he had gotten to the wire first and then came the only confirmation he needed.

“I could hear the boys yelling behind me and then I knew,” he said. “I was sure then that we won.”

It is a milestone in a jockey’s career, that first win, the start of what he or she hopes is a long and successful career, the first trip of many that culminate with a picture afterward in front of the grandstand.

For Erik Esqueda, it came Thursday night in the second race aboard a longshot named Full Power Eagle, surprising not only the rider but the trainer as well.

In fact, Erik’s brother Cristian was on the favorite, a horse named One Famous Ocean, but it was Eagle at 21.6-1 that sailed past the wire first.

Trainer Jason Olmstead was expecting a different result himself but was pleased nonetheless. “She had a real rough fall and winter,” he said, “but (this time) she fell out of there running and didn’t weaken.”

Erik, 18, was fully aware that there is a price to pay after a rider’s first career win, a process that takes many forms but is never pleasant regardless of the manner in which it occurs __the hazing.
He knew it was coming. “Oh, yes,” he said. “I’ve seen it many times.”

That’s part of growing up around the racetrack, particularly with an older brother who is a jockey, too.

Esqueda was doused with buckets of water for starters and there was more to come when he reached the jockey’s lounge. One of the veteran riders was prepared to remove his eyebrows with a hair trimmer but was stopped by colleagues after a brief trim.

“I wish I could have gotten off that easy,” said Josh Romero, who rode his first winner in 1996 at Delta Downs. “I needed to call the paramedics when they got through with me.” He was painted up with a variety of hot substances applied to various “tender” areas of the body. “I started to blister up,” he recalled. “They used hot sauce, Tabasco, you name it.”

Hall of Fame rider Dean Butler suffered an even more ignominious fate after his first winner at Suffolk Downs in 1993.

He was not only painted in similar fashion to what Romero underwent, but was then thrown into the female riders’ dressing quarters.

“Buck naked,” he said.

Mark Anderson recalled his ordeal at Fonner Park, in 1998.

“Oh, yeah,” he said. “Shoe polish. Pants down.”

And so it goes, each time a rider brings in that first winner, although the consequences have lessened considerably from the days of yore.

Esqueda, understandably, is quite pleased to have the ordeal behind him, and like other riders before him will recite the date, place and name of his first winner.

Esqueda rode for the first time on June 28 in Shakopee, and brought in his first winner on the 22nd mount of his career with a 3-year-old filly owned by Thomas J. Scheckel.

Some day, maybe 10 or 15 years from now, he will tell someone, somewhere:
“Oh, yeah, ”it was August 1, 2019 at Canterbury Park in Shakopee, Minnesota. The horse’s name was Full Power Eagle.”

MAWING MOVING ON
Leslie Mawing rode what was likely his final race of the season at Canterbury Park Friday night.

He is headed to Colonial Downs for the meet that runs there August 8 through September 7.
For anyone thinking they had seen the last of him, Mawing had this rejoinder:
“I have to come home,” he said. “I do live in Prior Lake.”

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.

Simran, Speeding Kid Win Stakes

BY JIM WELLS

Simran was already back in the barn and enjoying a fresh stall, perhaps even lying down by that point, when her owners finished dinner Friday evening.

The special  on Friday was crab legs and shrimp, and  Gaitri and Roopishwar Rampadarat had made their way up the escalator to the clubhouse after the second race, the $45,000 Minnesota Made Distaff Sprint. They were eagerly ready for a meal after a long afternoon.

Their 3-year-old filly had flashed her winning style for the third consecutive time, whipping five rivals for a second consecutive stakes victory.

She won the $50,000 Frances Genter Stakes on the Fourth of July after a resounding win in allowance company just five day earlier, and on Friday night she was simply the best once again, finishing 3 ¼ lengths in front of Ta Kela Warming, to whom she was a slight second favorite. Miss Jane was third by a neck to the runnerup.

Simran stalked the leaders, Ta Kela Warning, Ryan and Madison and Miss Jane in the early stages and began her challenge in the upper stretch, taking command in the stretch drive, finishing in 1:12.24.

Simran always greets her owners when they pay her a visit and there was no reason to think she would not again when they checked on her after dinner Friday night.

“She always comes out to see us,” said Roopishwar. “A very easy horse to be around. A lot of the time, she’s lying down in her stall.”

And very easy to ride according to her jockey. “She’s a very kind and gentle horse,” said winning rider Leslie Mawing. “But when you ask her, she responds. I think I can place her just about anywhere and she’ll be fine..”

Mawing, who also won a second $45,000 stakes Friday night, has been the Rampadarats’ rider of choice for some time.  “He rode Bassant for us, too,” Gaitri recalled. And, before that, Mawing’s brother Anthony rode for them.

Bassant, who earned $129,000, competed during a specific frame of reference for his owners.  “He won the Blair’s Cove Stakes (2003),” Gaitri said. “And he ran against Wally’s Choice (Canterbury’s champion three-year-old in 2004).”

Bassant’s name was dusted off because of Simran’s win on Friday. Asked if the filly was the best they’ve had, the Rampadarats instantly included his name.

They began racing in 1992 and at one time kept a stable of 17 horses. “That was a full time job,” Roopishwar said. “But I was a young man then.”

They also included Florida on their racing itinerary at one time as well, but then returned exclusively to Minnesota. Their once-loaded stable is down to two horses in 2018, Simran and her 2-year-old full sister, Ishwarie.

The young sister might have some of Simran’s racing talent, but the fillies are unalike in other ways. The two-year-old has an aggressive side and is more animated than her older sister. She is also blind in her left eye.

Simran’s success, according to her rider and owners, is the consequence of the teamwork they had structured this season. Everything from the exercise rider, Enrique Chuquiray, to Mawing, his agent, Troy Banum, and the the horse’s owners.

“We have a good team,” Gaitri said.

Then, the Rampadarats left their dinner table and headed to the barn, where Simran awaited their arrival.

$45,000 MINNESOTA MADE SPRINT

Speeding Kid’s name alone sounds like he’s prone to a traffic ticket, but he picked up only a winning ticket in this race, running easily to a two-length victory over Vow of Francis, with Fireman Oscar a neck out of second.

The 3/5 favorite, Speeding Kid cruised to the winner’ circle in 1:10.98 under Mawing. Not a bad night, eh, Leslie.

“Yeah, it was a good night. I’ll take it,” he responded.

The victory was the first for Speeding Kid under his new ownership, Lori and William Townsend, who purchased the horse from her father, Jim Zahler.

Townsend said the purchase has changed his life in several ways. He no longer fishes or plays sudoku; he watches morning workouts instead.

“Yeah, fishing is very relaxing, and this is just the opposite,” he said, making it clear he was not complaining.

Nor was Mawing, who spent several weeks sidelined by injury this summer, He regained a chunk of that lost revenue Friday night by winning both stakes races on the card.

Leslie Mawing Is Back In The Saddle Sooner Than Expected

By Rebecca Roush

Returning to the saddle just last Thursday after suffering a back injury during training in late May, jockey Leslie Mawing says he is recovered and ready for more racing.

Growing up in South Africa on a racehorse ranch, Mawing watched his father train, his older brother ride, and his cousin have a successful racing career. When he was a teen, Mawing says he would often “joy ride” on the ponies that were at the ranch. “I was always an adrenaline junkie and I loved animals, so naturally I became a jockey,” he recalled.

At just 19 years old, Mawing made the move to the United States, where he made his professional debut on June 26, 1994 at Les Bois Park in Idaho. Since then, the 5-foot-3 inch rider has raced at tracks “all across the country.” Mawing has racked up just under 2,600 wins from his nearly 18,800 career starts and has earned more than $29.5 million for his connections.

After racing at Canterbury Park in 2001 and 2002, Mawing moved back to Idaho to race at tracks that were closer to his wife Caty to help raise their children, Aidan (14), Dominic (12), and Jade (8). He returned to Minnesota in 2017 to race at Canterbury Park and decided to make the move with his family to Prior Lake. “We really like it here,” he said. “Besides the beauty of the state, the comradery and the atmosphere at the track are beyond anything I have experienced anywhere else,” Mawing added.

After his recent fall, Mawing is reminded of just how dangerous the sport of horse racing can be, but says that it won’t stop him from getting back out there. “I live by the motto ‘seize the day.’ We only have so much time in this world and it is important to live each day like it is our last, which means spending it doing something you love,” he commented.

“The first couple weeks of recovery were tough,” Mawing said. “But I am blessed that it was only a hairline fracture and I didn’t need to have surgery,” he added. “The doctors initially gave me a recovery time of two to three months, but my good health allowed my body to heal much faster.”

When Mawing began racing he set a goal to win three thousand races. As he approaches that goal he hopes to become a racing official when his riding career ends. “It would be too hard to cut racing out completely when I retire, so I hope to stay involved in any way that I can,” he said.

It did not take long for Mawing to find the winner’s circle. He won two races on Friday evening.

A CIRCUITOUS TRIP FROM ONE CONTINENT TO ANOTHER

By JIM WELLS

Wanted: A three- or four- bedroom, two-, possibly three-bath home in Prior Lake or Lakeville with easy access to Shakopee, specifically Canterbury Park, close to good schools, big enough to accommodate tall young men, projected tall enough to play a forward or certainly a guard position on the prep basketball team, although the youngest seems more interested right now in soccer.

And, no more than, say, a half acre that requires care, specifically regular mowing, and yet the space necessary to accommodate two dogs and three cats.

Contact Leslie Mawing, jockeys’ lounge at Canterbury with specifics.  The Mawings have already sold the 10-acre homestead in Idaho and are ready to relocate at earliest notice “I had a very nice John Deere riding lawnmower but I sold it,” Mawing said. “No more acreage.”

Mawing, his wife, Caty, and three children are ready to plant new roots. There is, of course, employment for dad at Canterbury, riding horses for whatever barns are willing to give him work. There are trainers here who undoubtedly recall him from the past. He spent the 2001, 2002 and 2003 meets in Shakopee, and has returned now to a state he and his wife value for its education system.

“That’s the reason we want to move here,” Mawing said. “It’s a good place for kids. They’ll get a good education here.”

More immediate, however, is a paycheck. “I’m still trying to re-establish relationships with trainers who know me,” he said. “Some of them have regular riders so it will take some time, but I like it here. It’s a good place to raise a family.”

A native of South Africa, Mawing, lost his parents as a youngster, his mother when he was nine, his father at 16.  Race-riding was in the family. He has a cousin prominent among South African jockeys and his father had always been fond of racing.  As he gravitated toward the sport his inclinations also included the United States and he landed here at age 19.  The change of venue includes some adjustments as well. “We race in South Africa in the other directions and primarily on turf,” he explained, “although that is changing now somewhat.”

As are the Mawing’s life plans.

Mawing’s career has been centered largely in California and Washington, although he has ridden in the East as well and in the Southwest, at Turf Paradise in Phoenix.  “I’ve ridden in up-state New York, in Philly, too,” he said.

Now 43 years of age, Mawing knows that his health is paramount to uninterrupted employment, and he does his best to say fit, running 5 to 10k six times a week with trips to the health club as well, swimming and engaging in other fitness routines.

“You a jockey?” a regular at the club asked him recently. “Yeah, I have three mounts on today’s card,” Mawing responded. “What are you, in your twenties?” the fellow continued. “No, I’m 43,” he said. “Boy, you jockeys age well,” the fellow added.

Mawing chuckled while relating the comment. But his attention to health is sincere.  His biggest concern right now is his family. He has to stay healthy to ride, to make money and support them. Ten-year-old Dominic is trying out for the Minnesota Youth Soccer league. There is also 13-year-old Aidan and seven-year-old Jade, who was considerably upset when the family had to part with their horses to relocate in Minnesota.

According to their father, the boys are projected to produce frames of six-feet-four and six-feet-two, so it goes without saying that they inherited certain genetics from their mother, who is 5-foot-10, and not dad at five-five. In addition, they might have inherited a writing ability of some kind. Caty publishes horse-racing fiction she writes on the internet.

Mawing will have to consider a new winter-time site at which to race, one that aligns with summers at Canterbury, something such as Turf Paradise where he is already familiar. “I could still fly up and spend time with the family,” he said, “and not worry about taking care of acreage while I’m here. The main reason we’re here is the education system.”

The Mawings have their priorities outlined and they include a permanent home in Minnesota. There is the school system here, although Caty also has relatives in Red Wing and a close friend in Rosemount.

And a husband who was displaying a sense of humor at Canterbury on Saturday.  After losing the second race on Back Alley Warrior, by perhaps the width of a nostril to Justcallme Charlie and rider Jareth Loveberry,  Mawing walked into the Coady Photo Studio near the jockeys lounge at Canterbury. “Hey, let me see that photo,” he said.

The photo revealed just how close the race had been. To the naked eye it might have gone either way.

“C’mon you guys,” give a brother a break,” he said. “I got three kids to feed. The other guy doesn’t have any.”