Nolan Cheers On Vikes In Opener


Sunday arrived with an immediate question _  which jersey for the  Minnesota Vikings season opener:

Brad Johnson, Jared Allen or Adrian Peterson ?

As it turned out, No. 14, the Johnson pullover, seemed right.

The choice of ball cap was simple, ….plain, with the Vikings logo on the front.

Paul Nolan, former champion rider at Canterbury Park, a native of England and long-time favorite among Shakopee fans, arrived in plenty of time to take in the season-opener with friends in the track’s pressbox, wearing colors appropriate to the occasion.

Nolan won the riding title in Shakopee in 2006 and was known as the sod surgeon for the rides he gave horses on the turf course, for his ability to negotiate the lawn with finesse and precision. He could easily have been referred to as something such as “Big Money” also, for his ability to bring home the high-priced winners.

Nolan’s success at Canterbury is reflected yet in the all-time rider standings. At the start of the meet that will end with cards on Friday and Saturday, he was fourth in all-time earnings with $8,553,829, second in all-time starts with 5,515, and fourth in all time wins with 685.

He was injured in a riding accident at Will Rogers Downs in April, 2017, and has been confined to a wheelchair since. The Vikings opener gave him the opportunity to leave behind for a few hours some of the drudgery, mental anguish and physical discomfort that accompanies his daily life. And it provided his wife, Sherry, with a rare respite, too.

Sunday was dedicated to tales of yore and, of stories about the episodes in a rider’s life, Nolan’s in particular, and friends arrived sporadically to share the afternoon: Steve and Dorothy Erban, the Star-Tribune’s Rachel Blount, Hall of Fame rider Scott Stevens, jockey Patrick Canchari, press box magistrate Jeff Maday, Canterbury blogger Jim Wells

Story number one involved the Erbans, who were on the backside when they heard of Nolan’s confab in the pressbox. They arrived with tales of their own, since Nolan rode for them at one time.

The horse in particular was Chasin Mason, named for their daughter, Mason, and winner of the 2006 Minnesota Oaks. Owned by the Erbans and Marion Davidson, Dorothy’s father, Chasin went 1:44.24 under Nolan that afternoon.

Nolan asked the owners after his first work aboard Chasin Mason not to let anyone else ride the horse. “You know, training a racehorse is an easy thing to do if you have someone galloping her who knows what he’s doing,” Erban said.

Chasin was/is not without her foibles either. A fussy eater, her owners gathered up the best they could find of nearby grasses and made what they came to refer to as a Mason Salad for the Oaks winner.

“The development of that horse was all Paul Nolan, Erban added.

Of course, the day would not have been complete without reference to Nolan’s greatest Canterbury triumph, aboard K Z Bay in the 1997 Lady Canterbury, worth $150,000 that year. She paid $67.80 as a winner and claimed a spot among the track’s legends.

Nolan chuckled when reminded of the scene at the local hangout in Wood, S.D., trainer/owner Bob Ryno’s hometown. A fellow in a local bistro, among those watching the race, put a hole in the ceiling with his head while jumping up and down on a table.

Oh, but more enjoyable yet was the boxing contest in which Nolan participated at Beulah Park one year.

The participants shared headgear used in previous bouts as well as boxing gloves. “It was terrible,” Nolan recalled, “the headgear were all sweaty from the previous user, and the boxing gloves were soaked, too.”

Then, of course, those punches to the noggin…..

“My head was ringing all night long,” Nolan added.

He won his first bout, then lost on points to the fellow who made it to the finals. “”I was so glad I didn’t win,” Nolan said. “That head ringing was awful.”

And how about the the Fourth of July celebration in Denver, where Nolan spent several weeks at the Craig Hospital after his accident.  As an Englishman, he thought a little ribbing of the U.S. lads was in order. “He wore an English Cap with Union Jack and attached a small flag to his electric wheelchair that said, “Happy Treason Day, peasants.”

And so it went, on and on throughout an afternoon of cheer and reminiscence.

And a Vikings victory….

Patrick Canchari has roots at Canterbury

Patrick Canchari is a popular figure at Canterbury Park.

He grew up at the races in Shakopee. His father Luis was a rider in the Downs days of the late ’80s and early ’90s. Luis now trains and Patrick can be found riding many of the Canchari horses. His brother Alex is also a jockey. Patrick serves on the Leg Up Fund advisory board.

In this video he shares memories of his childhood as well as details of his career.


Ulwellings Mount Final Charge

UlwellingsCanterbury Park’s leading owners, referred to as Champion Owners in the official lexicon of the racetrack, were Al and Bill Ulwelling in 2010 and in 2011.

There was an interloper last year by the name of Ruben Martinez, but with time running down in the 2013 meet, the Ulwellings are fully a part of the race, firmly in second place, trailing Midwest Thoroughbreds powerhouse by three wins. In third place, eight behind the Ulwellings, is the Miguel Angel Silva barn, despite the loss this year of the powerful Martinez stable. Curtis Sampson moved into a tie for third on Sunday with his 15th winner of the meet.

The Ulwellings increased their investment substantially this season in response to purse increases. The results are demonstrable. “We beefed up this year,” said Bill. “We had 62 starts last year. “Our goal this year was 125.”

With four starters on Sunday’s card, the Ulwelling barn has now sent out 118 starters for the meet and will exceed their goal in the final days.

“We intend to keep firing,” said Bill. “It’s tough. I tell you that Midwest is firing bullets. We win two and they come back and win two. We win one and they win one. They got one yesterday and we didn’t.”

Bill had hope for something out of Sunday’s card as a catapult in the final 11 days of racing. “If we could get two today it would still be an interesting race,”he said. “It’s hard to beat them, running 20 horses for $4,000.”

This much is certain said Ulwelling, who once tested the odds by claiming horses from this adversary. “Everything we ever claimed from them never hit the board for us. They taught us a lesson,” said Bill.

The Ulwellings do have this for consolation:

Midwest Thoroughbreds horses had earnings of $343,180 heading into Sunday’s card. The Ulwelling horses had collected $422,270.


The stakes winners get the headlines. The attention declines from there in the sport of racing, downward to the point that a horse at the bottom of racing’s pecking order is routinely ignored, his or her name rarely if ever spoken, unless in contempt.

It can be a long climb into some sort of positive recognition. Many horses never get even a nod in that arena. A horse in Sunday’s second race got a small one.

Smart Masterpiece proved to be a smart bet for anyone who liked him, and the Canchari connection came through for those who did.

Trained by Luis Canchari and ridden by his son, Patrick, Smart Balance took a stunningly close win from Sal ‘Z Romeo in a true photo finish.

Thus, Smart Masterpiece divested himself of maiden status in his 19th start, picking up $10,000, twice the sum of his previous total earnings and just more than 10 percent of his original purchase price.

The original owner of Smart Masterpiece had a positive hunch about the 4-year-old gelding when a yearling and laid down $95,000 at a Keeneland sale for the son of Smart Strike from Showpiece and the grandson of Mr. Prospector and Holy Bull. Whatever promise that buyer saw translated into a mere $17,578 in earnings and maiden status before Sunday’s race.

The horse wound up in the Canchari barn in an undisclosed acquisition and ran his first race for them on June 14.

Here’s a look at the horse’s PPs over the course of his drop from $12,500 to $6,250 company with Canchari: 6th, 5th, 4th, 4th, 2nd, 1st.

That’s called progress, just enough to earn recognition among racing’s daily occurrences, in the small agate type of the sport.

And for those who believed…

Recognition in the form of $19.80 for a $2 ticket.

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.