Fountain of Youth Saturday as R2K Handicapping Contest Continues

Week seven of the free-to-enter Road to Kentucky Handicapping Contest continues Saturday in the Canterbury Racebook.  The feature track is Gulfstream Park. Those hoping to enter the contest should note the 10:30 a.m. start time and contest entry deadline. Post times at Gulfstream can be a moving target and this extra-early start is no exception. Early birds enter the contest!  Action in the Racebook starts at 7 a.m. anyway with the Saudi Cup card getting underway. See below for details on that event. Contest entry cards will be available at 10 a.m.

The $400,000 Fountain of Youth, an important stepping stone to the Kentucky Derby that almost assuredly places the winner in the Derby field of 20, has attracted 12 three-year-olds including the 2-1 morning line favorite Dennis’ Moment, unseen since stumbling and finishing last as the betting choice in the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita. The Fountain of Youth is race 14 on a 14 race program. For R2K contest purposes, the Derby prep provides double points in the mythical $20 WPS scoring system.

Check out the weekly winners and overall contest leaders by clicking here.

2020 Canterbury Park Handicapper of the Year

One expects to see the surname Meyer in the top 10 of the Handicapper of the Year standings but it has for years been associated with the given name Bruce, six-time winner of HOY honors. Bruce Meyer is currently off the board but Adam Meyer, via second and third place finishes in weekly R2K contests, is tied for second with three points, just one behind Ron Hafner, the 2010 winner.

Handicapper of the Year points are awarded weekly in various contests. More information can be found HERE.

Stevens Nears 5,000th Win

Jockey Scott Stevens, a longtime member of the Canterbury Park Hall of Fame, is approaching his 5,000th career thoroughbred victory. Stevens, 59, is currently riding at Turf Paradise in Phoenix where he is second in the standings. He has 4,995 career thoroughbred wins and is named on two horses Saturday and three on Sunday.

Stevens’ overall win total, adding in recognized quarter horse, Arabian, and mixed breed races is 5,160, not including the countless times he out rode brother Gary in the backyard of their Idaho home in his youth.  Scott recorded his first thoroughbred win at Les Bois Park in 1976.

Racing from Saudi Arabia Friday and Saturday

Two days of racing, Feb. 28 and 29, from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia will be simulcast in the Racebook with the line-up listed below. Saturday is the $29.2 million Saudi Cup Day with $20m alone the purse for the Saudi Cup. Midnight Bisou will take on the boys, including 3-year-old Maximum Security, in the 1800 meter race that also attracted McKinzie and Mucho Gusto. Daily Racing Form has been providing extensive coverage of the Saudi Cup including THIS STORY by correspondent Brad Free.

 

Stevens to Get Woolf Award

BY JIM WELLS

The text messages poured in from tracks around the nation, from riders, trainers and friends, congratulating him on an award given to a single jockey in the country, once in a lifetime, each year.

Scott Stevens, a Hall of Fame rider at Canterbury Park and in Idaho, will receive the 2019 George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award, given annually at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif., on Sunday.

The winner is determined by a nation-wide vote of riders and, as such, is a bow from men and women, the competition, whose honor and respect are not always easy to obtain.

The award is named for Hall of Fame rider George Woolf, who died after a spill on the clubhouse turn at Santa Anita in early January, 1946. Among his many achievements in racing, Woolf is also recalled for having ridden Seabiscuit in a match race victory over War Admiral, the 1937 Triple Crown winner and reigning horse of the year. Woolf was popular enough at the time of his death that Western movie and singing star Gene Autry sang at his funeral.

The award is additional confirmation of the respect Stevens attracts whenever and wherever he puts on a set of silks.  That includes Canterbury Park, where he still holds a number of records and is a three-time riding champion.

“It’s a long time coming and very much deserved,” said Canterbury HOF rider Dean Butler.

“Yeah, it’s about time,” added Canterbury’s defending riding champ, Ry Eikleberry.

Stevens is the second member of his family and the fourth Hall of Fame rider at Canterbury Park to receive the award. His brother Gary was the George Woolf Award winner in 1996; he and Scott are the only brothers to do so.

The other Canterbury HOF riders who won the award include Sandy Hawley in 1976, ten years before he won the riding title in Shakopee;  Mike Smith, the leading rider at Canterbury in 1985, in 2000. Dean Kutz was awarded the George Woolf award the very next year.

Stevens has won more than 4,800 races during a 43-year career, in which he has had more than 32,400 mounts.

He won riding titles in Shakopee three straight years, starting in 1990, and still holds the record for all-time starts with 6,570. He holds the record and is also second on the all time list for starts in a season, with 833 in 1990 and 784 in 1991. He is second all time in total wins in Shakopee with 999, 62 fewer than Derek Bell. He has the second-most wins in a season, riding 151 in 1990, seven fewer than Kutz in 1987. Stevens is also third on the all time earnings list with $11,131,281.

Stevens, 58, rides during the winter months at Turf Paradise in Phoenix, where he has won nine titles overall and finished third in the meet that ended the first week of May. He has won six titles at Les Bois track in Idaho. He has ridden primarily at small tracks but has left a large and lasting memory at all of them.

“That’s something,” said trainer Robertino Diodoro, for whom Stevens has ridden extensively in the past at the Phoenix track. “Usually an award like that (the Woolf) goes to someone from a big race track, not the smaller ones.”

Yet, it is not only his skill in the saddle for which Stevens won the award, but also his demeanor in jockeys lounges wherever he races. He is always cool and calm in stressful situations, and always willing to assist new riders learning the craft.

“A class act. He’s a class act,” Butler said.

Most of Stevens family will attend the ceremony, which takes place in the winner’s circle at Santa Anita, and the cocktail party that follows at the Derby Restaurant in Arcadia, once owned by Woolf himself.

Stevens is looking forward to that part of the induction. “There are a lot of interesting items at the restaurant, things like Phar Lap’s saddle,” he said. “And Woolf had an apartment upstairs.”

He is also pleased to be one half of the only brother combination honored with the award. “I guess my parents did something right,” he said. “They are our biggest fans.”

And they provided the background that eventually turned to racing. “They had horses and we worked hard in the barns as kids,” Stevens said, “and we liked it.”

Gary Stevens has altered his plans for the day so he won’t miss the ceremony at Santa Anita.

“He’s actually not going to work the Preakness Stakes on radio or TV,” Scott said. “He stayed in California because he was afraid he wouldn’t make it back in time for the ceremony.”

Nolan Cheers On Vikes In Opener

BY JIM WELLS

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….

Stevens Returns To Canterbury Park

BY JIM WELLS

Racing fans exasperated by the weather this summer might benefit from a chat with Canterbury Park Hall of Fame rider Scott Stevens.

Stevens had mounts Saturday and Sunday at Arapaho Park in Colorado  and planned to point his motor home eastward on Sunday night. The three-time riding champion at Canterbury Park will finish out the meet here, starting with mounts he is named on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

His presence will enhance an already strong jockey colony that includes  four former riding champions: Jareth Loveberry, Dean Butler, Leandro Goncalves and Ry Eikleberry.

Stevens, 57, has developed a plan for riding that best suits his longevity in the saddle. He rides annually at Turf Paradise in Phoenix, an eight-month meet that takes a toll on much younger riders yet did not prevent him from winning another riding title last season.

Careful attention to his body and the demands of his sport enable him to compete successfully against riders half his age and younger. The past couple of years he has taken only select assignments during the summer months, to stay in condition and yet reduce the toll on his body.

He’ll continue that regimen while returning to the track this week where he won titles in 1990, 1991 and 1992. He rode 151 winners to earn his first riding title in Shakopee, in 1990. He was on 108 winners the next year and 101, one win in front of Vicky Warhol, the next season.

Stevens is third on Canterbury’s all-time list of top money-earners, riding mounts whose earnings reached $10,942684.  He still leads riders at Canterbury in total starts here with 6,492 and is second to Derek Bell in all-time wins with 991. His 151 wins in 1990 are second to only Dean Kutz, who had 158 in 1987.

Stevens had a mount on Saturday at Arapahoe Park he believed had no chance, yet he brought him in a winner just the same.  “I thought it might be the slowest horse I’d ridden all year,” he said. I didn’t think it had a chance.”

He was wrong.

“It was a $57 horse,” he said.

He rode at Arapahoe Park on Saturday and Sunday after leaving Phoenix last week. He got only as far as Flagstaff, Ariz.,  when a blowout on his travel home delayed him briefly.

He was happy to get a respite from the  Phoenix valley under any conditions. Minnesota weather sounds amiable after an Arizona summer that has been oppressively warm and destructive. The annual monsoons have brought heavy rain, flooding, dangerously high winds and humidity in addition to large dust storms.

Stevens spent many summers in Minnesota until the last few years, so his familiarity with the desert during those months is somewhat limited. He has gotten familiar quickly in 2018.

His significant other, Pam, experienced a frightening and dangerous incident in July during a storm that included winds reaching 65 miles an hour. They had talked previously about the ability of trees near the training track at Turf Paradise to have withstood storms and high winds over the years.

Not this time.

She was in the car with her daughter when the wind toppled a tree near the training track, taking down a power line that fell on them. The electric charge left marks resembling something that had been welded onto the car and blew out the windows.

It understandably left some emotional marks on the car’s occupants as well. “She was going to come for dinner but skipped it,” Stevens said.

There is an atmospheric change also that Stevens was anticipating as he left Colorado.

“We’re over 7,000 feet here,” he added.  “It will be good to be in Minnesota.”

Stevens stays in touch with racing news so he is aware of what transpires at Canterbury Park, regardless where he is riding.

Mr. Jagermeister’s dominating win on Saturday in the Minnesota Derby was mentioned to him, and he had a reaction, based on his long history with racing in Shakopee.

“He might be the best Minnesota-bred ever, right there with (Hall of Fame horse) Blair’s Cove (winner of the 1988 Derby),” Stevens said.

Of course, that bit of Canterbury history didn’t require research. Stevens rode Blair’s Cove more than once, including his 58th and final start in the 1992 Minnesota Classic Championship.

 

 

In August 2009 at Canterbury Park, Scott Stevens won his 4,000th race.

 

Belmont’s Size Makes It A Rider’s Race

BY JIM WELLS

It is one-of-a-kind, the only racetrack in the United States with such vast dimensions, awe-inspiring if not intimidating to anyone who has not dealt with its sweeping turns and long straightaways.

Its forbidding size can swallow a horse and rider whole if he’s not prepared, doesn’t calculate its differences and transfer them to what he asks of his mount.

It is the Green Monster of racetracks and has brought great horses and riders to their knees when they haven’t understood its idiosyncrasies.

Belmont Park.

Differences? A mile and 1/8 is a one-turn race at Belmont. A mile race begins in front of the grandstand on Canterbury Park’s mile oval. It begins near the start of the backstretch at Belmont.

“The turns are so big, way bigger than on a mile track,” said former Canterbury riding champion Scott Stevens, who has raced there. “The half mile pole sits where the 3/8ths is on a normal (mile) track.”

Thus, the Belmont Stakes is often referred to as a rider’s race and Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith, of course, finds himself the center of attention in that regard, paired as he is with Justify and a chance at the Triple Crown.

Smith won the first riding title at Canterbury Downs in 1985 while serving out his apprenticeship, was second to Sandy Hawley in 1986 and rode only half of the meet the following year, when he began testing other, larger venues on the East and West Coasts.

He has won the most Breeders’ Cup races (26) in history and has two wins in each of the Triple Crown races, among countless other achievements.

“Mike Smith is a real pro, one of the best if not the best,” said five-time Canterbury riding champ Dean Butler. “I’ve always admired him.”

That was Butler’s way of saying that Smith’s talent and experience will serve him well, enable him to deal with whatever challenges he encounters.

At a 1 ½ miles, a sense of pace is crucial. “You have to know how much horse you have under you and how much you have left,” Butler added. “And if you go too slow, there’s a good chance your horse won’t come back to you. You have to be aggressive and patient at the same time.”

Canterbury champ Ry Eikleberry sizes up the race and sees the possibility of what is sometimes known as paralysis through analysis, creating too many scenarios for yourself.

“You don’t want to overthink it too much,” he said. “Obviously, this horse (Justify) has a lot of speed and I don’t think you can change his running style,” Eikleberry said.

Eikleberry’s thought is to let the horse run his race, to do what he’s good at. “Don’t take his tactical speed away,” he explained. The best approach, he says, is simply to let Justify do his thing. There are scenarios, of course, that might take this Triple Crown contender out of contention __ say, if he gets trapped in a speed duel.

Stevens hadn’t seen the past performances but offered this thought on that possibility:

“My concern is that they might send someone out there to kill him off,” he said. “I think he’s the best horse and I don’t know that he has to be on the lead, though.”

Too fast, too early and the long stretch drive might become insurmountable for the frontrunners as they give way to horses closing from behind.

There is another scenario, Stevens points out, should no one challenge Justify and give him early ground.

“He’s the kind of horse that if he gets a big lead we just might have another Secretariat,” he added. (Secretariat won by a record 31 lengths in record time on the dirt of 2:24.) “He might open up so far that nobody can catch him.”

Everything points to a Justify win, his heritage, speed, toughness, heart, talent…so much so that a countervailing axiom has taken hold in some racing minds:

He looks like a sure winner, so he’s bound to lose.  What seems more likely is that Belmont itself will play a role in the outcome.

Turf Paradise Meet Begins Saturday; Canterbury Horses Prominent

Turf Paradise begins a 132-day meet Saturday with a nine race program where 93 horses have been entered, no fewer than 20 last raced at Canterbury Park.

This will be the 62nd season at the Phoenix-area racetrack.

Trainer Robertino Diodoro, who has won the trainer title the past four seasons, has 11 horses entered Saturday, two on Sunday, and five on Monday which means he may have the title wrapped up when the three-day race week ends. Diodoro’s 125 wins in the 2013-2014 season is a record for Turf Paradise.

Many familiar Canterbury faces have again settled in at Turf Paradise. Jockeys include Patrick Canchari, Andrew Ramgeet, Leslie Mawing, Israel Hernandez, Justine Klaiber, Frankie Johnson and others. Canterbury Hall of Famer Scott Stevens, who appeared in Shakopee just once in 2017, is also back in Phoenix where he has won many races and seven riding titles. In addition to Diodoro, trainers include Valorie Lund, Ariel Gordon, Dan McFarlane, Jeff Metz, Miguel Silva, and Dave Van Winkle.

Saturday’s feature race, the 6 ½ furlong $30,000 Bienvenidos, is headlined by Shrewd Move, winner of the Paul Bunyan Stakes on Canterbury’s opening weekend. The 5-year-old is trained by McFarlane and will be ridden by Mawing.

Canterbury Racebook will offer wagering on Turf Paradise each day. Once the meet gets in full swing racing programs will be conducted five days per week, Sundays through Wednesdays.

Mr. Jagermeister Earned A Break

The Minnesota bred 2-year-old Mr. Jagermeister returned to Arizona with trainer Valorie Lund and has been turned out for the time being. “It was a tough decision,” Lund said from her Turf Paradise winter headquarters. “He’s a very sound colt. He came out of the race [on Canterbury’s closing day Sept. 16] in perfect shape. But he earned a rest. I’ll be on pins and needles until i get him back though.”

Mr. Jagermeister won twice at Canterbury this season including a romp in the Northern Lights Futurity. He met filly phenom Amy’s Challenge in the Shakopee Juvenile and battled all the way to the wire, losing by 3/4 of a length, in the fastest six furlongs of the meet.

Lund visited Mr. Jagermeister yesterday at a ranch near Carefree, AZ to deliver and bag of carrots and say hello.

“He has a lot of growing left to do.  He will be a much improved 3-year-old.  So he’s on vacation!” Lund reported.

HILGERS, STEVENS HOOK UP ONE LAST TIME

BY JIM WELLS

What does a Hall of Fame breeder do when he wants the best available to ride his horse?

He calls a Hall of Fame rider.

Jeff Hilger picked up his phone a couple of weeks ago and contacted Scott Stevens, hoping the veteran rider was available for Sunday’s Festival of Champions.

Hilger, his wife, Deb, and Rockin the Bleu’s are retiring from racing, and he wanted someone to ride her one last time, someone he trusted on a mare of her sort, someone with whom he had a long association, a relationship spanning four decades, to the late 1980s.

“I need some help, someone to ride Rockin the Blue’s for me in her final race. Can you come up and ride her for me?” Hilger asked.

“I’d be happy to,” Stevens said.

That simple exchange covered a lot of ground and included the unspoken history of a long relationship, about trust and understanding.

“Scott was our first jockey,” Hilger said. “He rode a lot of races for us in Phoenix, too.” There was more than mere sentiment associated with Hilger’s request, however. He wanted someone familiar with his horse, someone who understood the horse’s pedigree.

“Nothing against other riders,” Hilger said, “but Scott is the only rider I know who really understands the Blue Turquoise bloodline. You don’t tell these horses to do anything. You get on them, ride, and let them make the decisions. You let her do her thing and Scott knows that.”

Now six, Rockin the Bleu’s is entered in the Bella Notte Distaff Sprint, a race she won two years ago and finished as runnerup in 2016.

Hilger said nostalgia was indeed a factor in his decision to use Stevens. “I came into racing with him and I wanted to go out with him,” he said.

Yet the practicality of the business applied its weight as well.

“I think he has a shot on her,” he said. “If anybody is going to win with her, he can,” Hilger said.

Hilger and his wife, Deb, own Bleu Valley Farm in Grant Township and were inducted into the Canterbury Hall of Fame in 2011. As champion breeders in Minnesota, winning a final stakes race written for Minnesota-bred fillies and mares would be a perfect closing note.

And Stevens would be an ideal rider to share the distinction with them. The leading rider at Canterbury Downs three times, in 1990, 1991 and 1992, he is the winner of 991 races and more than $9.5 million in Shakopee.

There is a chance he might finish the meet at Canterbury this summer, as he did last year, although he has not made that decision. He has three mounts on Sunday’s Festival card will and return home to Phoenix on Monday.

Stevens will ride The Great Casby for trainer Dave Van Winkle in an allowance race and Shooters Alley in the Minnesota Classic for trainer Nevada Liftin.

Stevens rides regularly during the autumn and winter months at Turf Paradise and then picks and chooses his spots during the summer months. He finished out the last few cards of the meet in Shakopee last year, but has restricted himself to primarily stakes races in California, Colorado, Iowa and Canada this summer, running his own book.

Having long since established himself as a sought-after rider, just how good has he been as an agent, representing only himself?

“Darn good,” he said. “Very good.”

Although he has not ridden regularly at Canterbury for the last few years, Stevens’ mark on local racing is very much part of the track’s record books. He is the leading rider in all time starts and twice for most starts in a season. He is second all time in most wins in a season with 151, third in all time earnings and second in all time wins. A stakes win on Sunday would fit quite nicely into what he has done this summer. “I think he’s won eight of the last 10 stakes he has ridden,” Hilger said.

Which is all part of the carefully thought out plan, as Stevens put it, of a good agent, then excusing himself during a conversation to seek out information in answer to a question. “A good agent should have this stuff available,” he said.

The Hilgers have not abandoned horses altogether. They have converted their thoroughbred farm into a riding stable, with access to numerous trails in the area and now have someone to help out in the barn.

Yet, at the conclusion of their racing career, there is nothing that that would wrap it up any better than one last trip to the winner’s circle on Sunday. Hilger said he will know how good their chances are in the paddock before the race when he greets Stevens.

“Scott always tells me how he feels by saying ‘we’re going to get our picture taken today,’ ” Hilger said.

Under any circumstances, Rockin the Bleu’s will get another opportunity in the racing business. Win or not on Sunday, Hilger plans to send her to Kentucky with the hope of producing one more Minnesota bred.

Santa Anita Announces 2017 George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award Finalists

Canterbury Hall of Fame rider Scott Stevens one of five finalists

(Santa Anita press release) ARCADIA, Calif. (Dec. 7, 2016)-Santa Anita Park has announced five finalists for the 2017 Santa Anita George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award, with the winner to be announced in February following a vote of jockeys nationwide.

Veteran jockeys Kerwin Clark, Stewart Elliott, Julien Leparoux, Glen Murphy and Scott Stevens are the finalists for the prestigious trophy that has been presented annually by Santa Anita since 1950.

One of the most coveted awards in all of racing, the Woolf Award, which can only be won once, is presented to a different jockey each year and it recognizes those riders whose careers and personal character earn esteem for the individual and the sport of Thoroughbred racing. The trophy is a replica of the life-sized statue of legendary jockey George Woolf, which adorns Santa Anita’s Paddock Gardens area.

Woolf, who died following a spill on Santa Anita’s Club House turn on Jan. 3, 1946, was regarded as one of the top big-money riders of his era. Known affectionately as “The Iceman,” he was revered by his colleagues, members of the media and fans across America as a fierce competitor and consummate professional who was at his best when the stakes were high.

The 2017 Woolf ballot, which will be distributed to active jockeys across the country, features five highly regarded riders who have plied their trade with honor and distinction.

A Louisiana native who catapulted to national fame by winning the 2015 Kentucky Oaks at the age of 56, Kerwin Clark has long been respected by fans, horsemen and his fellow jockeys as a rock-solid rider who has conducted himself with a quiet distinction for more than 40 years.

The son of a jockey who started at bush tracks in his native Louisiana, Kerwin Clark rode his first winner at Fairgrounds in New Orleans on Jan. 3, 1976. When asked about his Oaks victory, which came some 39 years later, he simply responded, “Best day of my life.”

Through Dec. 2, Clark has 2,997 career wins.

Born in Toronto, Canada and best known for his Kentucky Derby and Preakness victories aboard Smarty Jones in 2004, Stewart Elliott shows no signs of slowing down at age 51. Through Dec. 2, Elliott has amassed 4,707 wins. Regarded as a strong finisher who is also an outstanding judge of pace, Elliott shifted his tack on a full-time basis to Southern California in 2015 and has quickly established himself as one of the circuit’s top riders.

The son of a jockey-turned trainer, French-born Julien Leparoux is a 10-time leading rider at Keeneland and is regarded as one of America’s elite young riders at age 33. Known as a “finesse” rider who enjoys tremendous success on turf, Leparoux, in a 2012 interview, said “I just try not to fight so much with my horses. I try to be gentle around their mouths.”

Married to the late trainer Mike Mitchell’s daughter, Shea, Leparoux ranked 12th nationally by money-won last year and appears poised for superstardom at this stage of his career. A winner of seven Breeders’ Cup races, his most recent BC triumph came at Santa Anita on Nov. 5, when he won the Juvenile with trainer Mark Casse’s Classic Empire. Through Dec. 2, Leparoux had won 2,329 career races.

An iconic figure at Sunland Park near El Paso, Glen Murphy broke his maiden at Sunland on Oct. 28, 1984, and he notched his 3,000th career victory at Zia Park on Dec. 18, 2015. Sidelined due to a fractured pelvis incurred in a paddock mishap in February, 2015, he rebounded quickly and enjoyed a fine year.

A model of consistency, Murphy, 50, who is a graduate of Coronado High School in El Paso, has been among the nation’s top 100 jockeys by money-won every year since 2012. Through Dec. 2, he has 3,047 career wins.

Long active in the support of his fellow riders, Scott Stevens has overcome life-threatening injuries to become one of America’s most highly respected jockeys in every respect. A member of the Canterbury Park and Idaho Racing Halls of Fame, Stevens is now within striking distance of 5,000 career wins, as he has amassed 4,616 victories through Dec. 2.

At age 55, Stevens is currently based in Phoenix, Az., and he’s showing no signs of slowing down at Turf Paradise, as he booted home 118 winners over the 2015-16 meeting, good for his eighth “Turf” riding title.

The older brother of Hall of Fame jockey Gary, Scott Stevens broke his maiden on May 30, 1976, at Le Bois Park in Boise, Idaho.

For more information on the Santa Anita George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award, please visit santaanita.com .

STEVENS RIGHT AT HOME IN SHAKOPEE

Scott Stevens

BY JIM WELLS

The old saw that there’s no place like home might have an entirely different meaning to Scott Stevens.

Particularly after the Idaho Cup races at Sandy Downs this summer.

Stevens won all three of the races in which he had mounts, something he can certainly recall with pleasure, if not the conditions under which they occurred.

With the closing of Les Bois racetrack, the Idaho Cup races were moved to Sandy Downs, creating an experience Stevens and perhaps other riders might not forget any time soon.

Let’s just say the facilities there are somewhat different than those, say, at Turf Paradise in Phoenix or certainly Canterbury Park in Shakopee.

“I had never ridden at that racetrack (before),” Stevens said. “It was a little track, very interesting.”

Interesting indeed.

As Stevens described it, the jockeys’ room was like a large storage shed that had to accommodate 24 riders. “There was no water,” he explained “and there was a porta-potty…..outdoors.”

That was only the start.

“It was a seven-furlong racetrack with half mile turns,” he added. “It was like taking the turns on the Canterbury training track and adding them to the regular track. Long stretches and sharp turns.”

There was some respite from those conditions for Stevens, who at least could return to the comfort of his motor home in the evening.

In fact, the Canterbury Park Hall of Fame rider will be pulling into Shakopee sometime Monday in his Winnebago and intends to finish out the meet. He will ride in the Minnesota Festival of Champions on Aug. 21 and hopes also to secure mounts on other cards next week.

The Canterbury meet will finish off an interesting four months for Stevens, who has ridden in a variety of places the last two summers as opposed to racing in a single location.

He left Phoenix earlier this week in his motor home and is in Des Moines where he has mounts in three stakes races today at Prairie Meadows, one of them for Robertino Diodoro and a second for his nephew Satchel.

Satchel, 19, is the owner and trainer of the horse Stevens will ride. “He started training about a year ago,” Scott said. “He’s done very well with what he’s had. He claimed the filly I’m going to ride and she’s made just under $60,000 since the beginning of the year. He’s claimed a couple in Iowa too and came back to win with them.”

Then, on Sunday, Stevens will fly to Denver where he has a mount in a $100,000 Gold Rush stakes race at Arapahoe Park and will return to Des Moines Sunday night.

After winning a second consecutive riding title, eighth overall, at Turf Paradise last winter, Stevens has ridden at a number of venues in addition to taking an eight-day vacation in Alaska.

“I’ve been everywhere,” he said, taking note of each place he’s ridden since the meet at Turf Paradise ended last May.

“I’ve ridden 23 races since that meet was over,” he said, “at Santa Anita, Winnipeg, (earlier at) Prairie Meadows and (now) Arapahoe.”

Originally, he had a mount in the Canadian Derby on Aug. 20 but had to forego that opportunity because of flight difficulties that would have given him not more than an hour or two of sleep before riding in the Festival on Aug. 21.

Previously, his summers were not as varied. He rode the fall and winter meets in Phoenix, where he lives, and then rode at Canterbury Park from May to September.

Stevens began racing regularly in Shakopee in1989 and won riding titles at Canterbury in 1990-91-92. He recorded 151 wins in 1990, 108 in 1991 and 101 in 1992.

Canterbury has been like a second home during many of the summers since.

A 26-foot Winnebago will serve as an actual home for him and his two dogs while in Minnesota and offers adequate accouterments for a comfortable retreat at day’s end.

“It has a bedroom, a regular bathroom, a generator, and satellite,” he said.

Nothing to gripe about there. After all, he’s undergone worse some places this summer.

 

STEVENS GIVES JUNK GLOWING ENDORSEMENT

Racing Secretary Rob Junk

Racing Secretary Rob Junk

BY JIM WELLS

There is much to learn certainly, starting with the lay of the land, the ins and outs of this particular racing domain, who to call when a stall needs preparation or a leaky faucet needs fixing, what trainers truly need the number of stalls they’ve requested and, perhaps the largest question of all, what horses are available and what races to write for them.

That’s merely scratching the surface, of course, for there are countless other matters to consider.

Yet, Rob Junk has been through all of this before, countless times, just in different locations. Some of the people he sees daily in the racing office at Canterbury Park he already knows and has for years. Others he will meet and get to know just as he has at other race tracks.

Junk, 55, replaced Doug Schoepf, who retired last winter after 20 years as racing secretary at Canterbury Park and brings with him 30 years of experience in racing. He is the racing secretary at Sunland Park Racetrack in Sunland Park. N.M., and also held that position at Ruidoso Downs in addition to being the assistant racing secretary at Turf Paradise in Phoenix.

He had never set foot in Minnesota, however, before arriving here on May 1. Yet, there have been plenty of invitations over the years for Junk to give Canterbury a try. “I’ve been hearing about how good this place is for years, from trainers and others in the business,” he said.

Including a certain Canterbury Park Hall of Fame rider.

Junk was a jockey agent seven years for Scott Stevens at Turf Paradise, when six of those seasons produced riding titles.

“Oh, I’ve been working on him for years to give Canterbury a try,” said Stevens, who is now involved in a role reversal of sorts. Junk now encourages Stevens to return to Canterbury for the summer meet, something the two-time riding champ here is resisting but hasn’t ruled out altogether.

Scott Stevens
Scott Stevens

Stevens typically rode at Turf Paradise during the fall and winters meets and then at Canterbury, but took last summer off and is doing the same this year except for select riding assignments at basically Southern California sites, Santa Anita and Del Mar.

He is scheduled to ride a horse for his nephew, Satchel, at Prairie Meadows on May 17.

Satchel Stevens, 18, got his training license in Phoenix last winter when he stayed at his uncle’s home.

Scott, meanwhile, stays in condition when he’s not riding through religious use of his new bowflex machine and by riding the wooden exercise horse at his Phoenix home. “I ride it every day,” he said. So, that is the schedule Stevens plans to keep….unless. “Who knows,” he said. “I might get bored.” At the very least his Minnesota fans could get a chance to see him the last couple of weeks of the current meet if he does as he did last summer when he dropped in and won a dozen races the last few racing days that made the journey well worthwhile.

Stevens is certain that Junk will excel at his new job in Minnesota just as he did for him as an agent at Turf Paradise and at the other racetracks where he has been racing secretary. “He was an amazing agent,” Stevens said. “I might have won a seventh title with him but I got hurt that year. He truly knows the horses in every barn, and he has a photographic memory.” Stevens, meanwhile, has won consecutive riding titles at Turf Paradise the last two years for his seventh and eighth titles there.

Junk continues to study the stock he has on hand and is expecting more horses as other meets finish and horsemen begin making the transition from other locales to Shakopee. The arrival of some horses was delayed by matters out of his control.

Horses at Fonner Park were in quarantine throughout May due to an outbreak of equine herpes. “That delayed a number of horses we expected from them,” Junk said.

The underlying reason that Junk resisted previous opportunities or invitations to Minnesota in the past is now resolved. He has wanted to be no more than a three or four -hour’s drive from his son and daughter, Kyle and Jordan while they were in school. The Junk twins graduated from Paradise Honors High School in Surprise, Ariz., this spring.

Junk’s impressions of Minnesota in the last month have been largely positive. “I love the area,” he said. “The track is beautiful. The people are very friendly. It’s very nice to be someplace where everyone makes you feel like you belong.”

He is overwhelmed by the size of Canterbury crowds, describing some of them as larger in a single day than other tracks attract for an entire season.

Still, he understands there are barriers to surmount and relationships to establish.

Although he met Schoepf briefly only twice in the past, he knows this much:

“When a guy was in a job as many years as Doug was you know he was probably doing a lot of things right. What I need to do is make improvements where I can and continue doing other things that have been done right all along.”

Part of that self-made assignment includes taking in the local culture when he can. He has already checked out Running Aces harness racing in Forest Lake and next week “I hope to venture downtown (Minneapolis) and maybe even go to a ball game.”

Watching the Twins, he’ll likely discover, will make his job seem a piece of cake.