The Road That Always Led Home

BY JIM WELLS

Sometimes it is difficult to overlook certain details of a race, whether they provide handicapping information or something altogether different.

Every so often elements emerge that are somehow hard to dismiss without at least a remark or two, for whatever they might be worth.

Take the fourth race on Saturday when a trio of  priests appeared in the winner’s circle afterwards. “Just say Father Eric and Father Paul were here from St. Joachim and Anne Parish in Shakopee, ” one of this particular trinity proclaimed.

There is more:

One of the trio had just bet on the winner:

A horse named Memorable Angel.

“You have to be kidding me,” said winning rider Quincy Hamilton. “That’s pretty neat. That really is. ”

Hamilton knows whereof he speaks. A few days ago he rode a winner for trainer Wade Rarick, who also trains Memorable Angel.

In that case, the winner’s name was Pine Grove Road.

It so happens that Pine Grove Road has a special place in Hamilton family history and most assuredly in Quincy’s memories about childhood on a 5,000-acre  ranch in Texas and the road that ran past it:

Pine Grove Road.

This is where an early affinity for horses was born and nourished, where his grandparents lived in a house near the road and his parents in another one right behind. This was home his first six years.

And here he was, riding a horse with a name he heard countless times as a  boy,  the name of a road that always led to home.

“Oh, it brought back a lot of memories,” Hamilton said.

Special memories.

Pine Grove itself has a population of perhaps 50. Nearby Newton is not more than 2,500.

And it all ended at first grade, when his family relocated to Houston.

His dad, John, was the leading quarter horse rider in Louisiana several times. “He won a lot of races,” Quincy said. And had a profound influence on his son.

Hamilton has two brothers and two sisters but is the only one of the five in racing. His parents divorced and have been remarried for many years and he himself has a wife, Mandy, and four children _ Emma, Carter, Carsyn and Carbyn. “The same initials,” he says now, “was not the best idea.”

Ocala, Fla., is home to Quincy and his family as he pursues his occupation around the country.

He has ridden in Texas, Oklahoma and Chicago, and arrived at Canterbury for the first time in 2014. He missed the 2015 meet in Shakopee but has been part of the jockey colony since. He will head to Delta Downs when the Canterbury meet concludes. He picked up his 16th winner of the meet with Memorable Angel on Saturday.

And maybe, every so often over the winter, he will recall his ride aboard a horse named Pine Grove Road, and think of the place where his father and four brothers were born and where his grandfather lived until his death.

Where he lived as a boy, and where one particular road there always meant home.

Sweet Music at Canterbury

Gypsy Melody - Lady Slipper Stakes - 05-17-14 - R08 - CBY - Action Finish600x300

by Jim Wells

Down one day, up the next. In the pits one moment, on top of the world an instant later. All is lost in the morning, the cosmos at your feet that afternoon.

            Ah, yes, the wonderful, wacky, sometimes very weird world of horse racing. Just ask Marlene Colvin.

            Friday, her beloved Heliskier, two-time Horse of the Year in Shakopee, was expected to win for fun in the opening stakes of the season, the 10,000 Lakes Stakes. Afterward, after Heliskier beat only one horse in the four-horse field, Colvin consoled herself with whatever she could pluck out of thin air. “Well, at least people will quit asking to take their picture with me now, or asking me questions about the horse,” she said.

            Well, how’s that going for you, Marlene?

 The respite lasted only until Saturday’s feature race, when a new star emerged, a 6-year-old named Gypsy Melody, a 4-1 selection, after she ran down 3/2 favorite Polar Plunge in the final strides to win the $60,000-guaranteed Lady Slipper Stakes.

            And Marlene was all for keeping it going as long as possible. Hugh Robertson had the horse in Chicago and shipped her in for the race with this caveat: “He wants to give her 30 days off after this race,” Marlene said. “But (her late husband) Bun always said, ‘run them while they’re runnin’.”

            Simple but sage advice in the world of thoroughbred racing. In other words, don’t put them out to pasture while they’re making hay, or something like that.

            Or as winning rider Quincy Hamilton put it, after winning his first career race at Canterbury, “Nice way to break the ice, huh!”

Indeed, indeed.

            Winning trainer Mac Robertson also saddled Somerset Swinger, the third place horse, and Happy Hour Honey, who didn’t hit the board.

            The opening night crowd, certainly reduced by the March air, was a mere five thousand and change.  Not the case on Saturday when a  crowd  more than twice as large turned out, many of them to wager and watch California Chrome win the Preakness Stakes and set up the possibility of the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.

TV SHOW ON STEVENS BROTHERS

            Got some time to kill tonight? Tune into HR TV’s Inside Information at 7:30 p.m.  for a special on Scott and Gary Stevens. The TV crew visited with Scott three times in Phoenix for the episode. “They even showed up at my grandkid’s birthday party,” Scott said. The special will include segments on the Stevens family, including one that focuses on Gary learning to ride at the hand of his older brother, Scott. This Sunday night special will be repeated later in the evening.

RIDING TITLE AT STAKE HERE ?

            Alex Canchari, the Minnesota Kid, born and raised in Shakopee, a one-time employee at the track’s taco stand, made a run at the riding title last year but a suspension cost him several wins and he wound up second, two wins behind Dean Butler. Clearly, he wants another shot. He introduced himself once again on Saturday’s card with three wins. Ry Eikleberry, who had a win opening day, is right there with him after winning twice Saturday.