Sixteen-year-old Scott Bethke, the youngest jockey at Canterbury, made his professional riding debut this spring at Fonner Park in Nebraska. “I have been riding at the Carlton County Fair in Barnum, Minn. since I was 10 and a few guys helped me there,” Scott said.
From New Germany, Minn, Scott has grown up around horses with the influence from his father, Troy Bethke, a trainer at Canterbury since the ’80s. Scott has been breaking horses at the farm since he was 11-years-old and he started galloping at Canterbury a few years ago. He also has some friends that ride that have helped him get started in racing.
The transition from helping his dad train horses to riding in races has been smooth Scott says. “It’s been a really good experience and I like it a lot.” In preparation for the races, Scott looks at the racing form and figures out if he should go up front or come from behind with the horse.
“Being the youngest jockey has been good,” he said. “They’re all good guys and there really doesn’t seem to be a difference between us.”
Scott has been lucky enough to have many memories at Canterbury but one of his favorites was when they had a horse run and win a major stakes race. “When we had Bet Your Boots win in the Northern Lights Futurity in 2009, that was really cool,” Scott said.
Scott’s future plans for his career includes riding as many races he can, in hopes of some wins along the way. He won his first race at Canterbury on June 10 while riding 2-year-old Little Timmy, a horse he broke as a yearling. Little Timmy is owned and trained by his father, Troy Bethke. Scott followed that up Saturday with a turf win on 10-1 Sweet Tango.
He was there the day the horse was foaled, watched him grow from a splay-legged newborn through his weanling stages into a growing, active playful yearling.
And when the time came, he was ready and waiting, dedicated to breaking this son of Magic Cat.
Then, on Friday night, 16-year-old Scott Bethke got a leg up from his father, Troy, onto the back of the first-time starter, now bearing the name Little Timmy. The story-line of this particular union of horse and rider was not lost upon anyone familiar with the Bethke family and their farm in New Germany. A first time starter owned and bred by the family, ridden by a family member
Numerous horsemen have watched over the years as Scott stood at the side of his father, a trainer at Canterbury since its opening days. “It’s hard to believe,” said trainer Jerry Livingston. “It seems like yesterday when he was about this high,” he added, placing his hand about three feet off the ground.
In a scenario you won’t even find in a farfetched Hollywood script, Scott Bethke felt about 10 feet tall after winning his first race at Canterbury Park…and it came aboard Little Timmy.
Could it have been any better? First win at the local racetrack, aboard a horse the rider not only broke but was present for at its arrival into the world, a horse owned and trained by his father.
“That was pretty cool,” Bethke offered after taking Little Timmy gate to wire, firing him out of the gate and straight to a four-length lead that carried him to a 2 ¼ length victory over He’s A Talker, with Socrates Creation next in the 3 ½-furlong sprint for two-year-old maidens.
So what did the owner/trainer say to his son in the paddock, what instructions did he give him as he gave him a leg up in the paddock before the race?
“I told him to ride him like a quarter horse and that’s pretty much what he did,” Bethke said.
It was Scott Bethke’s first win at a track he has been around since his early boyhood. “He’s been coming out here since he was five or six years old,” Troy said. “He’s pretty quiet but we’ve known he wanted to be a rider for a long time.”
That was pretty much determined in this particular case years ago. “He’s been riding since he was two or three years old,” Troy said. “If you’re exposed to horses when you’re young you either like it or you don’t. He did.”
Not even the heavy chores of horse ownership deterred him. “Oh, he helped in the barn, cleaning stalls and all the stuff you do on a farm,” Troy said. “Cleaning stalls, putting hay out, taking horses in from the paddock, all of it.”
Bethke first became aware of his son’s intense interest in racing years ago. “He’s been talking about being a jockey since he was 12 or 13,” Troy said.
His interest in racing was evident even before that. “He’s been reading the Racing Form for years,” Troy said. And then, when he was about 10 years of age, his grandmother gave him a subscription to the Blood Horse.
The groundwork was laid throughout his boyhood in various ways. Last winter, it came to fruition when Scott got his jockey license at Fonner Park, where he won six races.
His first win at his home-state racetrack came in his 110th mount on horse that just so happens to be a homebred. “I remember him telling me when this colt was a baby that one day he was going to ride him,” Troy added.
Friday night Scott Bethke did just that…straight to the winner’s circle.
Scott Bethke, son of long-time Canterbury Park trainer Troy Bethke, began his career as a jockey Friday at Fonner Park in Grand Island, Neb.
Scott turned 16 last week, received his jockey license, and was on the overnight shortly thereafter.
It took only three mounts for Scott to get his first win. He rode favored Spring to the Wire to victory in race five for trainer Les Gaede.
On Extreme Day 2015, Scott (pictured above) won the camel race and made an unpaid appearance in the Canterbury Park winners’ circle. Expect to see him there this meet on horseback getting paid for his efforts.