Richard Grunder To Retire From Race Calling

Richard Grunder still remembers his first race call at a track in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada on August 4, 1973. He has had many stops since then, opening the microphone at ovals all around North America. “I called for 48 years, 37 at Tampa,” he said.

It was announced Friday that Grunder would step away from the mic when Tampa Bay Downs concludes its season May 2.  For the complete Richard Grunder story including a chronological list of all of his horse racing gigs check out this story by Mike Henry on the Tampa Bay Downs website. 

“It’s amazing how time gets away,” Grunder said as he reflected on calling a season at Arapahoe Park in the 1984 as though it was only yesterday. “What a beautiful place.” Other stops include Aksarben in Omaha, Assiniboia Downs in Winnipeg, and Portland Meadows. Grunder also called races in 1990 at what was then Canterbury Downs.

His voice is distinct. It is old school. Any fan of racing has run across a Grunder call and encountered a “Grunderism” such as ‘set down for the drive’ or perhaps ‘strictly the one to catch.’ And of course ‘good luck and good racing’ following the daily changes.

Richard Grunder knows people. He has connections. A lot of them. He is a racetracker through and through. He has been in the game for six decades in one form or another as a groom, a hot walker, race office clerk and a jockey agent. Ask Grunder how he became an agent and you often will get a version of this answer —“You only need two things to be an agent: a pencil and a condition book. They give you the condition book for free.”

He might be leaving the announcer’s booth but not the sport. Grunder remains a jockey agent and will return to Canterbury this summer to represent Alonso Quinonez and Izzy Hernandez. He has been an agent for many years guiding Derek Bell to six Canterbury riding titles and a place in the Canterbury Hall of Fame and also handled the book for Ry Eikleberry and Jareth Loveberry when they were leading riders in Shakopee.

With some free time in the winter Grunder might travel a bit. “I haven’t been to Oaklawn since 1974,” he said. “I was rubbing horses and living in a tack room. When I go back this time I will have better accommodations.”

Intel From Richard Grunder

Grunder predicts a full jockeys’ room when the Canterbury meet begins May 18. Much of last year’s colony is likely to return as well as several new faces. Lindey Wade and Ty Kennedy are expected to ride here for the first time.  Several New Mexico riders are also considering Canterbury for a summer stay.

Orlando Mojica could return to Shakopee after riding in Indiana last year. Mojica is eighth in all-time earnings at Canterbury and second in all-time in the money percentage.

There is also a rumor that Eddie Martin, Jr. will be back this summer as well.

Multiple sources indicate that trainer Justin Evans will ship up from Phoenix with a full barn. He has not trained at Canterbury since 2008 when he finished second in the standings behind Mac Robertson. Evans is currently eighth in the nation in wins with 56 victories and a 32% hit rate.

As with all rumors this time of the year, you won’t know who really will be here until they pull through the stable gate but when the source is Richard Grunder, it is pretty close to a done deal.

Grunder does not fret about the depth of the rider colony. He has his connections and “two no-drama jockeys” in Quinonez and Hernandez.  Grunder will arrive in Shakopee the first week of May and get to work.

Good luck and good racing, Richard.

The Quinonez Name Means Success At Canterbury

The Quinonez name is synonymous with success in the early days of Canterbury Park.  Jockey Luis Quinonez won the riding title five times here, from 1995 to 1999. He is sixth in all-time wins at the track with 548. This season his younger brother Alonso Quinonez is carrying on that tradition of success.

“My brother did so well here,” Alonso said. “That opened a lot of doors for me because they already know him and my entire family. So that makes it a lot easier for me but of course I’ve got to get the job done.”

And that he has.

Alonso did not arrive with only a connection to the past. He came with legit credentials, even if he was an unknown quantity to many of the trainers that make Shakopee their summer home.  This is a multiple graded stakes winning rider. A veteran of the game.  Alonso has won 11 graded stakes in a career that began in 2006. That includes five Grade 1s . He had an incredible journey aboard a filly names Intangaroo in 2008 winning the G1 Santa Monica, G1 Humana Distaff and G1 Ballerina, eventually finishing sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint that fall.

Minnesota Oaks winner Hotasapistol

Last Wednesday Alonso had a mount in the $100,000 Minnesota Oaks aboard Hotasapistol. The Oaks was dominated by brother Luis from ’95 – ’97 and again in ’99. It did, but maybe should not have, come as a surprise to many bettors when Hotasapistol won the Oaks and paid $22.60. The ride was a masterpiece of patience. In four days of racing, Alonso had won 10 races including the MTA Sales Graduate Futurity.

“He’s in the zone,” jockey agent Richard Grunder, who sees jockeys in the same light as any athlete, said. “The only sport I ever played was basketball. If you shoot from the outside and you have confidence, it goes in. If you hesitate, it’s an air ball.”  Alonso is not shooting air balls. He had a difficult 2019 but now is back in the groove. “His confidence is up,” Grunder said. “He can ride with any of them.”

Luis had a certain flair about him. A cool confidence. He exuded class and grace in interactions with owners and trainers. Everyone wanted Luis to ride for them.  Alonso has that same panache. And if you don’t want Alonso to ride for you, then you are not paying attention.

Grunder The Agent Always In The Mix

Richard Grunder has been a fixture at Canterbury Park since 1985. Many know him as the race calling voice of Tampa Bay Downs, others as an extraordinary jockey agent in Shakopee. A race meet here would not be the same without him. Grunder has been involved in racing his entire life, calling races, grooming horses and booking mounts.  His quote about falling into the jockey agent business goes something like this: “I found out you only needed two things to be an agent, a condition book and a pencil. And the condition book was free.”

People across the country know Grunder. Racing is a tightly-knit community. He has done much good here over the years, handling business for six-time leading rider Derek Bell in the first decade of this century and also winning titles with Tanner Riggs in 2012 and Jareth Loveberry in 2017.

Grunder plans to return this summer to Shakopee as an agent, balancing his duties at the now extended Tampa Bay Downs meet. He will have two riders new to him and for the most part to trainers here. A challenge however has never deterred the veteran race caller who has many connections and always finds a way into the major races at Canterbury. To that end will handle the business of jockey Alonso Quinonez.

The Quinonez surname is familiar to longtime fans of Canterbury as his older brother Luis won five consecutive riding titles here beginning in 1995 and was inducted into the Canterbury Hall of Fame. But Alonso, whose career began in 2006, won’t need to trade on his brother’s name. He is an accomplished journeyman, winner of 11 graded races including five Grades 1s. He had an incredible run, when based in Southern California, aboard Intangaroo, winning the Santa Monica Handicap, Humana Distaff, and Ballerina, all G1 races, before finishing sixth in the 2006 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint.

“His credentials speak for themselves,” Grunder said. “Alonso handles himself professionally on and off the track.”  Not unlike brother Luis who was a fan and owner favorite. “He’s a very, very good grass rider as well,” Grunder said.

Grunder also will have the book of apprentice Miguel Arroyo who has won 9 of 132 career starts and most recently rode at Gulfstream Park. “He’s a good kid, just starting,” Grunder said. “He can get the job done. It’s just a matter of getting a shot.” Arroyo arrived in Minnesota Tuesday, with Quinonez expected shortly.

Richard Grunder is a cool cat. A cat that always lands on his feet. He has lost riders, gained riders, fired riders and been fired. This season will be another fresh start. “I’m just thrilled that we will be racing,” he said.  Will Quinonez find the winner’s circle quickly when action begins June 10? You can put a Q around it.

Horse Racing At Canterbury Park One Stride Closer Following Executive Order

Racetracks allowed to conduct races with no spectators; MRC Expected To Act June 8

The reality of a racing season at Canterbury Park beginning June 10 received a crucial consent Wednesday when Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz issued Emergency Executive Order 20-63 allowing racetracks to conduct horse races, without spectators, under the regulation of the Minnesota Racing Commission. The MRC is expected to approve Canterbury’s amended schedule request at a June 8 meeting. The season would commence June 10 and run 52 race dates through Sept. 16.

The order also states that tracks must adhere to various requirements including development and implementation of a COVID-19 Preparedness Plan. Canterbury officials implemented such a plan when opening the horse stabling area on May 8 and have developed additional plans, meeting all requirements, for the running of a race day.

The order in part reads as follows:

Class A and B licensed racetracks, subject to regulation by the Minnesota Racing Commission, may open their licensed facilities for the running of regulated horse races on which legal pari-mutuel wagering is allowed. Other commercial racetracks may open their facilities to run auto, motorcycle, or other similar races otherwise permitted by law. Nothing in this Executive Order should be construed to allow for patrons or spectators at a racetrack. Facilities must adhere to the following:

A. All establishments must adhere to the requirements set forth in paragraph 7.e of this order, including development and implementation of a COVID-19 Preparedness Plan in accordance with applicable guidance available at DEED’s guidance website (

B. The total number of workers facilitating the event (including all persons licensed by the Minnesota Racing Commission, owners, drivers, pit crews, or other support personnel) must not exceed 250 persons in single self-contained space.

Elvin Gonzalez Joins the Jockey Colony

If you are not familiar with jockey Elvin Gonzalez, just hang around the winner’s circle and you will be sure to find him. New to Canterbury this season, Elvin has ridden four of the first six days. He skipped opening weekend here to remain in New Mexico, honoring a commitment, so he could win a $150,000 futurity at Sunland Park.

In Shakopee, the young jockey has four wins from nine starts, with three additional in-the-money- finishes.

“He is a very good rider,” legendary jockey agent Richard Grunder said. “An agent friend put me on to him. I found he rode first call for top trainer Bart Hone so I knew he could ride.  I made some phone calls and checked with other riders like Scott Stevens. Elvin is a quiet kid, a good kid, and works hard.”

Gonzalez, from Darien, Panama, began riding in his native land in 2009. He has also ridden in Mexico City and Puerto Rico where he won a Grade 1 stakes at Camarero. He raced throughout the southwest in recent years. In 2014 Gonzalez was ranked 38th in the nation by wins.

While he says he “got lucky” thus far, watching Gonzalez on the track belies that modesty. He has ability. He decided to take the leap to Minnesota because he too did his research on Grunder. “I have a good agent with good connections,” he said. “I think we will win.”

It did not take long as Gonzalez won with his first mount at Canterbury on May 11, Girls a Bullet for trainer Mike Biehler, returning $13 on a $2 win wager. He was back in the winner’s circle later that day for trainer Tim Padilla. This time on Why God who paid $7.80. His third winner paid $14.80. Last Saturday, again riding for Padilla, Gonzalez brought in Purple Monster at 9 to 1 odds. The Minnesota-bred first time starter looked beaten at the top of the stretch but Gonzalez persisted and got up him at the wire.

Gonzalez acknowledges he will need to continue to work hard to get mounts in a very deep jockey colony.  “There are so many good riders here,” he said. “But I am happy to be here.”  Early on, he has already proven he belongs.

Jockey Colony Coming Together for 2019

Tampa Bay Downs race caller Richard Grunder was enjoying a beautiful April afternoon…… Tampa, when he answered the phone.

“I saw you on the news but it can’t be as bad as they say. How’s the weather up there?” he asked.

Paul Allen, the Grunder equivalent at Canterbury, was on the other end. “It’s a disaster.” The truth, which does include snow, sleet, rain, thunder, ice and wind, likely is somewhere between but what is fact is that live racing in Shakopee begins 22 days from now on May 3.

When Grunder heads north he transforms into a jockey agent, one of the most successful in Canterbury history. He was agent for HOF rider Derek Bell during his best seasons.  This summer he will have the book for Jareth Loveberry, as he has the past two meets including his championship season in ’17.

Grunder will introduce a new face to the colony in Elvin Gonzalez, an 18 percent career winner who currently is at Sunland Park. “He is excited to get up there,” Grunder said. “It’ll be a tough meet with many very good riders but Elvin will do well.”

Last year’s top jock Ry Eikleberry will return as will Dean Butler. Eddie Martin Jr. and another new face Donnie Meche should both be here with agent Chuck Costanzo.  Others include Orlando Mojica, David Lopez, Quincy Hamilton, Leandro Goncalves, Leslie Mawing, Izzy Hernandez, Nik Goodwin, Lori Keith, and Kat Bedford. The Shakopee Kid Alex Canchari also intends to make a return after spending a season away.

That’s a deep colony competing for the best mounts. Don’t miss out when a Grunder rider brings in a big number!

Bozo’s Place In Racing

From the time Canterbury Downs opened in 1985, a man who goes by the name of Bozo has been attending the track to place bets and make new friends “nearly every weekend” since, he says.  After first getting a glimpse of the Triple Crown races in his childhood, then discovering live racing, Bozo says he eventually got into simulcast betting and the “rest is history.”

While Bozo may spend many of his weekend afternoons at the track, he is often busy with the bar he owns in downtown Shakopee, The Pullman Club. After frequenting the bar for years, he learned that it was going to be for sale. Bozo, whose real name is Bret Hoffman, purchased the bar in 1988, when he was just 26-years-old. He has not only seen many horsemen walk through the doors, but has also “made many friends along the way,” he said. Richard Grunder, now Tampa Bay Downs track announcer and a jockey agent at Canterbury, happened to be one of the first people he met at the track. “Bozo is one of those people who really loves racing,” Grunder commented. “It is hard to find someone who lives and breathes the sport like he does.”

The Pullman has long been a refuge for racetrackers, a place to spend an afternoon or evening, away from the hard work at the track. Grooms, trainers, jockeys, many with familiar names like Mike Smith and Bill Mott, would visit in the early days of racing in Minnesota and many continue to do so today. Now one finds TVG on a television screen somewhere, and if Saratoga is running, like it is currently, you can bet Bozo is watching and likely has a wager.

While Bozo was working at the bar one summer day in ’91, two people in their early twenties, one an exercise rider and the other a hot walker, came through his doors. The pair worked for Mott and were sent to town to tend to Richman who was racing in the $250,000 Grade 2 Minnesota Derby, but didn’t have any money. In need of cash to make it through the week, Mott sent them to Bozo knowing he would help them out. Sure enough Bozo pulled out two one-hundred dollar bills for each of them and Mott paid him back a week later. “I had to laugh at these two young kids coming into the bar and asking a complete stranger to lend them money,” Bozo said. “It’s moments like that, that come out of nowhere, that make my life exciting,” he added.

During the summer months, when live racing at Canterbury Park is in full swing, Bozo says that business picks up and local patrons often come to The Pullman to meet with the horsemen for a pre-race drink and to ask for tips on how to bet on that given race day. “Some of my customers really get into it and think of the jockeys and trainers as celebrities,” said Bozo.

After owning The Pullman Club for 30 years, Bozo explained that racing at Canterbury has brought a unique crowd of people from all walks of life into the bar. “I have had the chance to meet so many amazing people over the years and I think part of that is thanks to the racetrack,” he said.

Bozo says his favorite part about horse racing is the people that he gets to be around. “Most of the time when I am at the track I already have all of my bets placed for the day and I just sit and spend time with people.” He says that being around the horsemen and getting to know everyone is a unique experience.

Even though Bozo now visits the track as a fan, he has his fair share of stories from the backside. He got his first glimpse of the stables when he began hot-walking for Larry Boyle years ago. “I love the horses,” Bozo said. “I gained a huge amount of respect for the animals after working with them.”

Though Bozo has never owned a racehorse of his own, he came close when he and his brother thought about purchasing a horse named Grass Powered for just $3,000. After giving the investment a lot of thought, the two decided not to go for it. “Of course, after we turned down the offer, the horse turned around and won the next four races it ran,” he recalled.

After working on the backside, almost buying a horse, and becoming a regular at the wagering windows, naturally the only thing left for Bozo to do was to become a jockey. In 1991 he did just that. After a month of having his racetrack friends try to talk him into climbing onto a horse for the first time, Bozo finally agreed. One morning, when no one was around, the group called him down to get saddled up to race two of his friends. After winning the ‘race’, which his friends made sure he did, Bozo made his way to the winner’s circle where the track photographer was waiting to get a photo. “I finally got my four minutes of fame,” he said. The horse was named Bozo’s Fantasy, for obvious reasons, and the legendary story went down in history. The winning photo still hangs in Bozo’s office and reminds him of “the glory days.”

Now on race days you can often find Bozo “hanging out” at the Budweiser Beer Gardens on track level with his close friends.

One of those friends, horse owner Tony Didier, finds Bozo to be “such a genuine person.” Didier, often in town from Nebraska to watch his horses race, never fails to stop downtown. “We always have a lot of fun at The Pullman. The atmosphere is always really upbeat and enjoyable there.”

Hugo Sanchez Follows A Family Tradition

By Rebecca Roush

Family tradition and passion are what jockey Hugo Sanchez credits to guiding him into the world of racing. Growing up in Peru, he was introduced to the sport by his father, brother, and uncle, who were all jockeys. “I knew right away that I wanted to follow in their footsteps,” Sanchez recalls.

Although he did try out different sports in grade school, the 5-foot-2-inch rider says he was too short for many of them. “I loved soccer and baseball, but it was basketball and football I just couldn’t play because of my height,” he said with a laugh. Nevertheless, he still tried his best to stay active and participate in anything he could. “If there were any activities or games being played in my town, I was almost always there,” he recalled.

Sanchez was 10-years-old when his father took a job as an exercise rider and his family moved to Florida. He began his professional riding career at Gulfstream Park in 2012 and won his first race months later on a horse named Alejandro at Calder Race Corse in Miam. He continued to race in the area for four years before making his way to Canterbury Park in 2015 with agent Richard Grunder.

Nearly a year later, Sanchez fell from a horse, breaking the tibia and fibula in his left leg. His eight-month recovery was a “long process,” Sanchez recalled, but sure enough he was back in the saddle on opening day the following meet at Canterbury. “Even though it was a tough battle to get better, it was all worth it to be able to get back out there,” he said.

Now, two years after the injury, Sanchez is winning at a steady clip, adding to his more than 2,400 career starts and nearly 400 wins. He has also earned more than $6.4 million for his connections over the years.

Sanchez says that his main goal for his career in riding is to “stay healthy and have fun.”

“Not very many people can say that they love their job as much as I do,” Sanchez said. “I can’t see myself doing anything else but racing.”

When Sanchez is not busy getting prepared for his races by going through the details of each of them, he enjoys fishing and spending time with his family back home when he can. “My family is very important to me,” he said. “We are all very close and they are my biggest fans.”

Thanksgiving Action at Canterbury Park

There is plenty going on at Canterbury Park  this long holiday weekend. The Racebook and Card Casino are open on Thanksgiving Day.

Then comes the annual Black Friday Giveaway in the Racebook & Card Casino

Why wake up before dawn to stand in the cold and battle the mall crowds when you can get the hottest items of the season in the warmth and comfort of the Canterbury Park.  Don’t buy it…Win it!




 Prize List

50″ Flat Screen Smart TV
Amazon Kindle Fire
Amazon Echo Dots
Pebble Classic Smart Watch
Amazon Fire TV
Swing Caddie Portable Golf Launch Monitor
Apple Watch
Apple iPads
ASUS Chromebook Flip
Beats by Dre Headphones Solo
Bose Soundlink Bluetooth Headphones
Fitbit Blaze
Keurig K45 Elite Brewer
Samsung Gear VR Headset
IRobot Roomba Robotic Vacuum
Apple TV
Best Buy Gift Cards
Target Gift Cards
Home Depot Gift Cards
Mystic Resort Cards
Turtles Gift Cards
Cash & Betting Vouchers

 *Some Giveaway Items are only available in the Racebook or in the Card Casino. 

 Prizes subject to change


To Enter the Black Friday Giveaway…

Racebook: Players can swipes their MVP Card at our free-to-enter kiosk located in the 3rd Floor Racebook.

Card Casino: Simply be logged into any Table Game or live Poker Game and you are entered to win or swipe your card at the free-to-enter MVP Rewards Kiosk located in the Card Casino.

Names will be drawn from each location every 30 minutes from 12:00pm to 5:30pm!


Players have 2 minutes to claim prize. Players ARE eligible to win more than once throughout the day. However, players may NOT win more than once in any given drawing time period. If prize is unclaimed after 2 minutes, that prize will go into the Unclaimed prizes drawing at 6:00 PM. Number of winners will be based off of number of unclaimed prizes left.


It’s not too early to start thinking Kentucky Derby. Wagering on Pool 1 of the Future Wager begins Thursday at 11a.m. and runs through 5 p.m. Sunday.  For more information on the wager and which horses are offered look HERE. Over that same time period wagering on the Derby-winning Sire is also available. Find the details and some potentially helpful facts HERE.

A Kentucky Derby Future Wager makes a great stocking stuffer !!

In The Money Contest

Black Friday In The Money features eight races at Del Mar.  $10 entry fee gives you a shot at $200 prize.  Here are the details.

Also Thursday through Saturday is the weekly Horse Player World Series Super Satellite Contest.  A $10 entry fee combined with a good score is the first step to a trip to Vegas this winter.

Tampa Bay Downs begins Saturday

A sure sign of winter is the opening of Tampa Bay Downs and the dulcet tones of race caller Richard Grunder. Look for Canterbury runners to show up there all winter. Trainers Bernell Rhone and Red Rarick along with jockey Dean Butler are in the mix Saturday when racing begins at 11:10 a.m.