Goodwin Makes the Right Call

Nik Goodwin (pictured on Huckleberry Mojito) was making the rounds of the barns with his agent, Jesse Lomelli, a week or so before the meet got under way in May. They were trying to scare up business, but that immediate business was interrupted by a phone call.

The Ed Ross Hardy barn was on the line and wanted to know if Goodwin was willing to ride first call for them during the upcoming meet.

How long did it take did him to make up his mind?

“Instantly,” he said. “I didn’t even need to think about it.”

Goodwin had second call, behind Tad Leggett, for the Hardys in 2007 and wound up sharing the riding title with Jennifer Schmidt.

The Hardy barn has won 11 training titles since 2000, including this year’s, and Goodwin liked working with them; the decision was an easy matter.

“They have nice horses. They’re nice people. I didn’t have to think about it all,” Goodwin said. “I decided instantly.”

An excellent gut response.

Goodwin surged to the lead in the riding standings early this summer and wound up winning the title without so much as a threat, finishing nine wins in front of Clyde Henry Smith.

Goodwin rode 56 quarter horses during the meet for a 21-19-6 record and earnings of $172,505.

The other day, Goodwin was recalling that May morning when Lomelli got the call from the Hardy barn and informed him of the details at the end of the call. “Do you want to ride first call for the Hardys?” Lomelli asked.

“Absolutely,” Goodwin recalled. “That’s what I said.”

Goodwin has had a good meet on thoroughbreds as well, with 27 wins. He is currently in sixth place, with total earnings of more than $375,000.

He came to Canterbury with the thoroughbred meet uppermost in mind this season, but has had solid quarter horse meets in the past and didn’t hesitate to jump at the opportunity provided him by the Hardys.

If he doesn’t win another race this season, it has been a decided improvement over the 2010 meet when he spent seven weeks on the sidelines with a broken collarbone.

In addition to the other riding title at Canterbury, Goodwin was the leading rider at Assiniboia Downs in 1997. He is a native of the Minnesota’s White Earth Ojibway reservation and graduated from Bemidji High School, where he was on the wrestling team.

Maybe there is a certain karma to the fact that the only horse in the Goodwin barn the summer of 1986 was a quarter horse.

Nik’s father, Duane, trained that single horse during the first quarter horse race meet at Canterbury Park. Now this many years later, Nik is Canterbury’s quarter horse champ once again.

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.

Photo Credit: Coady Photography

Riggs Chases Riding Title

Tanner Riggs left the track late Friday night after a busy, productive evening. He had mounts in seven races and won five of them.

Not bad for this 23-year-old kid who had five consecutive winners on a card in June. Two five-baggers in the same meet, at the place he considers his home track. You might have thought that sleep would have been difficult under such circumstances, but that was not the case.

“No I slept pretty well,” he said. “I was tired.”

Easy to understand with the way Riggs works not only to get the most out of his horses but to keep his weight in check so he get mounts in the first place.

When you’re 5-10, weight is bound to be a problem. The cooler weather has not helped matters in the least. “It’s harder now with this kind of weather,” he said.

Warmer weather means more perspiration and water loss. Riggs also runs a lot, around the track itself an hour or so before first post, but even that he has to do with moderation. “I have to save some energy for the races,” he said.

So he often walks instead, trying to coax off extra ounces whenever he can.

There is no doubt after Friday night that he is indeed back, after a suspension that cost him four racing days and opened the door for three-time defending riding champion Dean Butler to take the lead from Riggs, who had led virtually throughout the meet.

The five wins on Friday put Riggs back in front by a single win, but that lasted only shortly into Saturday’s card. Butler brought in the daily double, winning the first two races, to pull in front again by one. That’s the way the day ended.

Only those two have a shot at the title. Butler has 59 wins and Riggs 58. Derek Bell is third with 29.

Riggs admits that winning the riding crown would be nice, but also points out that under any circumstances his first meet at Canterbury Park has been a good one.

Friday night alone. “It hasn’t really sunk in,” he said Saturday afternoon. “But when I take time to think about it, two times with five wins in a meet, that’s pretty cool.”

Just as stimulating is the support he has gotten from fans much of the summer, strangers greeting him on the backside, asking how things are going, inquiring about the jockey race.

“Everything at this place from the fans, the trainers and management are absolutely great,” he said. “Lot of good people.” Good enough for him to return for the next meet?

“We’ll see what happens,” he said, “but I really like it here. Everything is great.”

For starters, it depends on the business he can count on, his weight, which hovers around 122 or 123 with hard work, among other factors.

All things being equal, he would like to be back in Shakopee next summer.

“There are a lot of ups and downs as you know,” he said.

Business this summer, his first at Canterbury Park, has been nothing short of superb. Through Saturday’s card he has had 289 mounts 30 more than his closest rival, Butler.

“I definitely would like to come back,” he said. “But (as he said earlier) there are lots of ups and downs. If all is OK, if I’m healthy.”

Meanwhile, there is the immediate business at hand, which includes the possibility of a riding title.

And only two weekends left in which to do it.

Update: Riggs added a victory to his win total on Sunday to tie Butler with 59 wins at the top of the leaderboard.

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.

Photo Credit: Coady Photography