Canterbury Park Live Racing Season Concludes Friday and Saturday

Purses and handle reach record numbers

Canterbury Park’s 2018 live racing season concludes with 13 races Friday and 14 on Saturday. In all, 318 horses have been entered for the final two days where more than $660,000 in purses will be awarded, bringing total purse disbursement during the 70-day season to record heights of more than $15.2 million, an average of approximately $220,000 per day.

Total handle, the amount of money bet on each live program, will also reach a new high. Through last Saturday, nearly $45 million, including on and off track dollars, has been wagered on Canterbury’s races, a jump of 9.4 percent compared to last season.

“We have had a very good summer of racing with solid attendance and wagering,” Canterbury President Randy Sampson said. “The month of May was difficult due to weather but we quickly hit our stride and made great gains in June, July, August, and September. We will conclude the meet with an exceptional two days of racing.”

Increases in purse payments is a direct result of a 2012 cooperative purse enhancement and marketing agreement between Canterbury and the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community which owns and operates Mystic Lake Casino Hotel, located just three miles south of the racetrack. The agreement, which calls for $75 million to be added to purses over 10 years, immediately drew the attention of racehorse owners and bolstered the state breeding program.

The increase in the quality of racing at the Shakopee, Minn. racetrack produced a rise in handle as more horseplayers took notice locally and nationally. Total handle has more than doubled since 2010, the last full racing season prior to the SMSC agreement, with revenues from the increased wagering also helping to grow purses.

“Our partnership with SMSC has been tremendous for the racing industry in Minnesota,” Sampson said. “Racing and breeding in the state can be done with confidence.”

Friday’s program begins at 5:00 p.m. and Saturday’s at 12:45 p.m. General admission is $7 for adults. Children 17 and younger are admitted free. Additional information is available at www.canterburypark.com .

Jockey Ry Eikleberry, with 83 victories, enters the final weekend with a 10-win lead over Orlando Mojica. Eikleberry last won the riding title in 2014.

Mac Robertson, who has won 11 training titles at Canterbury, leads Robertino Diodoro by three wins, 53 to 50. Robertson has entered 29 horses for the final two days while Diodoro, who has twice been top trainer, has 28.

2013 Meet Closes with Significant Increases

Turf ChuteCanterbury Park’s 69-day racing season, the longest since 2006, concluded on September 14 with gains in average handle and attendance. Off-track wagering, dollars bet on Canterbury races at other tracks and through internet sites, increased by 46.7 percent while average daily on-track wagering was up 4.8 percent. Average daily attendance was 6,656, a Canterbury Park record.

“We set a couple of goals this season,” Canterbury Park CEO Randy Sampson said. “First, we wanted to improve the quality of our racing product by attracting new stables and more horses. We knew if that happened we could accomplish our second goal which was to increase our national exposure and wagering handle.”

Canterbury’s races were broadcast by TVG, a national horse racing television network, on Thursdays and Fridays. Total off-track wagering on those nights increased by 80.3 percent.

Average field size, 8.36 starters per race, was up this season from 7.83 in 2012 which aided the wagering increase. The quality and depth of those fields also improved, witnessed by favorites winning at a 35 percent rate compared to 45 percent last year.

For the first time since 1991, Canterbury’s 1,600 stalls were filled by racehorses as several new trainers tried the Shakopee, MN racetrack for the first time. Purses this season were more than double what they were in 2011 due to a joint purse enhancement and marketing agreement signed in June of 2012 with the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community. The agreement will add $75 million to horsemen purses over the life of the 10-year deal. A record of $12,453,268 in purse money was paid this season.

The increased purses attracted Midwest Thoroughbreds Inc., the leading owners in the nation for the past three years, to Canterbury for the first time. Their stable was handled by trainer Roger Brueggemann who won 28 races making Midwest Thoroughbreds the meet’s leading owner.

“This year was a great step toward what we hope to accomplish with our live racing,” Sampson said. “Prominent horsemen find our purse structure attractive and horseplayers across the country are taking notice as well.”

Mac Robertson won his ninth consecutive training title with 51 victories. He set a single-season earnings record of $1,340,429.

Dean Butler won the riding title for the fourth time. He finished the season with 67 wins, two more than Alex Canchari.

Heliskier was voted Horse of the Year for the second consecutive season. The 4-year-old Minnesota-bred gelding won three of five starts including the $50,000 10,000 Lakes Stakes and the $55,000 Crocrock Minnesota Sprint Championship. Heliskier is owned by Marlene Colvin of Ethan, SD and is trained by Robertson. Heliskier also earned divisional titles in the categories of Sprinter and Older Horse.

Stacy Charette-Hill won the quarter horse training title with 19 wins from 37 starts. Her starters finished in the top three at a 92 percent rate. Charette-Hill won Canterbury’s two most prestigious quarter horse races, the $54,100 Canterbury Park Quarter Horse Derby and the $133,525 Mystic Lake Northlands Futurity. Jorge Torres was the leading quarter horse jockey with 20 wins. Brenda Reiswig of Bismarck, N.D. repeated as leading quarter horse owner with eight wins. Stone Cottrell, winner of the Skip Zimmerman and Dash In A Flash Stakes, was named quarter horse of the meet. He is trained by Charette-Hill.

2013 Champions Determined

Sleep%20Walking%20-%20Senator%20Howe%27s%20Run%20for%20the%20Red%20Wing%20Roses%20-%2009-14-13%20-%20R04%20-%20CBY%20-%20Inside%20FinishThe skies were forbidding and dark much of the day, but the finish was one of the most colorful in Canterbury Park history as the 2013 race meet came to a stirring conclusion.

The weather was really not a factor until light rain began falling midway through the card. It was somewhat heavier by the eighth race.

The card included perhaps the most colorful and athletic promotion ever conducted on the premises, the championship race of the three-day Indian Relay Races.

An impressive turnout of 12,160 bid adieu to the season and reacted enthusiastically to the excitement of the relay races, won by a 23-year-old rider from the Shoshoni-Bannock Nation in Fort Hall, Idaho.

Most of them were gone by the time the trophy was presented to the leading rider this summer, Dean Butler.

The riding title for the meet came down to race four, in which Sleep Walking, ridden by Butler, held off Dakota Dusty and Alex Canchari. That increased his lead over Canchari to four at the time.

Canchari kept it interesting, nonetheless, hand-riding Theatre of Dreams to an easy win in race five to pull once again to within three and punctuating that with a win in the 10th race. Canchari and Butler were the only two riders to finish with total earnings of more than $1 million each. Butler’s total heading into Saturday’s card was $1,267,955. Canchari’s was $1,248,479.

Butler intends to take a couple of months off and then head to home to Tampa. Canchari intends to drops his tack at Hawthorne Race Course in suburban Chicago.

Mac Robertson had an 18-win lead over Bernell Rhone and Mike Biehler heading into the final card, his ninth consecutive training title safely in the bag. He added Saturday’s fifth and 10th races to increase his total wins for the meet to 51.

Lori Keith, who wound up as the meet’s fourth-leading rider, won her 41st race of the meet aboard Cap and Trade in the sixth. She intends to head to Oklahoma and then Arkansas and is sure to recall Canterbury 2013 as the meet in which she won a second consecutive Mystic Lake Derby, the biggest race of the summer.

Eddie Martin, Jr., had a solid meet, winning 37 races, as did Canterbury Hall of Fame rider Scott Stevens, who won the seventh race, a $35,000 overnight stake, aboard National, trained by Miguel Angel Silva. Stevens concluded the meet with 34 wins and will return to Phoenix for the meet that begins on Oct. 5 at Turf Paradise. Martin was undecided about his next stop.

For 23-year-old rider Jerrad Serino the next stop is home. Serino was a convincing winner of the relay races, due largely to near perfect horse exchanges during both pit stops of the three-mile race. Three miles, three horses for each of the nine riders in the final, and the importance of the exchange after each mile became obvious as miscues during dismounting and engaging an awaiting exchange horse proved to be the difference.

“That was the most important,” said Serino, who stressed the importance of training and staying fit for these grueling races, all conducted bareback.

The win was the third of his career for Serino, whose twin brother got him interested in the sport three years ago. His entire family, everyone but Jerrad, has been involved with horses. “I didn’t like them as a kid. I wanted to play basketball,” said the 5-7, 145-pound Serino. What he did mostly was boxed, throughout his youth.

Riders frequently train for these races, not only by riding and conditioning their horses, but by using small trampolines, a foot or two off the ground, to strengthen their lower legs for bounding from one horse and onto another during exchanges.

Second place went to the His Bad Horse team and rider Lynwood His Bad Horse, Jr., a mere-16-year-old from the Northern Cheyenne Tribe.

Third was Holds The Enemy, a Crow team, and rider Ferlin Blacksmith, who won two heats preceding the final.

In the first race of the last day of racing, Jake Barton picked up a check for the return trip to Phoenix aboard Smarty Gras, winning by two-plus lengths. Barton was a new addition to the jockey colony late in the season and intends to return again for the 2014 meet.

Until then, he will ride at Turf Paradise and, in his spare time, hunt the arroyos and washes of the Arizona desert for quail, his chief devotion outside of racing.

Martin Escobar brought in Lady Ban Shee in race two, rallying in the final 16th to shade Santa Fe Sue and Butler by a solid neck.

Strange things happen on closing day, such as…

Hi Prim, under Ken Shino, got up in the final jump to provide trainer Nancy Sheehan her first win of the meet, in her 51st try, and at 38-1 in race three. There was not much more than a half-length separating the top four finishers in that thrilling finish.

Immediately thereafter, paddock analyst Angela Hermann and track president/CEO Randy Sampson presented trainer Cory Jensen with the award for his leading owners of the meet, Midwest Thoroughbreds.

There were, of course, additional awards for the stars of the summer show – the horses.

Heliskier, owned by Marlene Colvin and trained by Robertson, was named Horse of the Year for the second straight meet, joining Hoist Her Flag as the only other horse in Canterbury history to win the title twice.

His dominance at Canterbury was demonstrated by two additional awards. Heliskier was named sprinter of the meet as well as the champion Older Horse.

Dorsett, trained by Michael Stidham and owned by Terry Hamilton, was selected champion Three-year-old Colt or Gelding on the strength of his Mystic Lake Derby win.

Badge of Glory, owned by Richard Bremer and Cheryl Sprick and trained by Rhone was selected champion Three-year-Old Filly, and Dontrattlemycage, owned by Nicholas Raver and trained by Nevada Litfin, was voted Grass Horse of the meet. Second Street City, owned by Al and Bill Ulwelling, second in the owner standings, was voted champion Older Filly or Mare.

Wayne Simon owned and Robert Johnson trained Appeal to the King is the champion Two Year Old. Machorina, owned by Emerald Bay Stables and trained by Mike Biehler, is the Claimer of the meet, and Stone Cottrell, owned by Terry Riddle and trained by champion conditioner Stacy Charette-Hill, is Champion Quarter Horse.

Still competitive despite his near miss at a title, Canchari brought in Grizzled Robert, the final winner of the 2013 season. That cut Butler’s final margin to two. The horse is trained by, who else, Robertson.

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.

Relays & Riding Title Drama

Indian Relay_17 9-13-13 BLOGThe spectacle is every bit as good the second time around, although a miscue before the first heat of Friday night’s Indian relay racing shortened the field to three teams.

A horse reared up while his rider attempted to mount and then disappeared into the gloaming of the overhead lights with an outrider in hot pursuit and the rejected rider limping toward the sidelines.

The winning rider put on a show as he strode toward the wire, galloping home easily in front of his two opponents, his back straight as a pillar, his seat a picture of riding precision and unity with the horse.

The winner was LeGrand Coby, a Sho-Ban from Fort Hall, Idaho, riding for the Coby team.

Eliminated was Lynwood His Bad Horse, Jr. from Lame Deer, Mont., a member of the Northern Cheyenne Nation. Second was Miles Murray, of the Blackfeet tribe from Browning, Mont. Third was Lil Muncie, also of the Browning Blackfeet.

The second heat of the night went to a repeat winner. Ferlin Blacksmith of the Montana Crow Agency, riding for the Holds The Enemy team, won a heat on Thursday night’s card also.

Second in that heat was Ashton Old Elk, a Crow from Lodge Grass, Mont, and third was Josh Osborn of the Tissidimit team from Fort Hall, Idaho, a Sho-Ban.

Looking ahead to today’s nine-team championship race, Blacksmith, 21, anticipated a competitive finish. “It’s going to be pretty tough out there tomorrow,” he predicted. He expected the Tissidimit, Coby and White Calf teams to present the biggest challenges.

“This will probably end the relays this year for us,” he added with a trace of sadness.

He plans to return home following today’s championship race and then, perhaps, return to the North Dakota oil fields, where he worked last year.

“I can make some pretty good money there,” Blacksmith said, “working the oil rigs. I’ll do that if I can.”

The relay races, as on Thursday’s card, were conducted after the third and sixth races on the card, which presented an interesting sidebar to the season. As recently as a week ago, Dean Butler, the Canterbury riding champion three consecutive years starting in 2009, had a seven-win lead over Alex Canchari, who was serving a suspension at the time.

Just like that, Canchari came roaring back and with a win aboard Russian Dancer in Friday’s first race cut the margin to one.

Butler wasn’t prepared to stand still with his young rival breathing down his neck and claimed that win back in race four with B J’s Angel. Then he added what might have been the coup de grace, winning the final race on the card with L G Suprem, nipping Lookin at Larry and Canchari at the wire.

Butler and Canchari have mounts in each of Saturday’s 10 races.

And so it went, right into the final day of the 2013 racing season, the 69th day of racing.

Mac Robertson claimed another training title, his ninth straight, the most dominating streak in track history. Midwest Thoroughbreds went into the final day of racing with a four-win lead on Al and Bill Ulwelling, who have no horses running on the final card of the season.

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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.

Indian Relays Impress

Indian Relay_1 9-12-13This much is clear if you’ve ever ridden a horse.

You probably can’t ride one, dismount one and literally jump on another with the nimbleness of a Blackfoot, a Sioux, a Sho-Ban or a Crow.

Even these daredevils frequently overshoot their intended targets and wind up on the other side of a moving, rearing or prancing horse – on the ground.

Nonetheless, they awed even the regular riders at Canterbury Park Thursday night, the jockeys, who en masse crowed the winner’s circle to watch the first of two heats in the Indian Relay Championships.

The winner of heat one was Josh Osborn, a member of the Sho-Ban Nation from Fort Hall, Idaho.

The awestruck were some of Canterbury’s regular riders. Who better than a jockey to appreciate bareback riders who appear part of their animals as they run.

“It’s cool. It’s entertaining,” said jockey Nik Goodwin, an Ojibwe from Bemidji.

Patrice Trimble had a somewhat different set of premises but a similar conclusion. “It’s nuts, it’s crazy. I love it,” she said.

Dressed in tribal regalia, their bodies and faces painted and their horses, too, the Indian riders in heat one hailed from Garry Owen, Mont., Eagle Butte, S.D., Browning, Mont. And, of course, Fort Hall.

“This was really cool,” said Scott Stevens. I was impressed at how fit the horses were, too.”

Cool?

“Yeah, it really was,” said rider Jake Barton. Those guys can ride.”

Jockey Lori Keith got caught up in the action, too.

“That was really different. It was exciting,” she said.

Before each race, a group of Crow singers sang a tribal song, one of them an ancient, sacred tribute to young men.

“That was appropriate,” said Corky Oldhorn, a member of the group. “It was to honor young men as they give their all.” An ancient Crow song, Oldhorn could not prescribe years to it. “It has been with us from time immemorial,” he said.

That song preceded the second heat of the night, won by 21-year-old Ferlin Blacksmith, the rider for the Holds the Enemy team from the Crow Agency in Montana.

One of the group’s songs before the first race was an honor song as well. “It basically said that nothing lasts forever,” Oldhorn explained. “So make something happen with your generosity.”

A second song followed the first heat. “That was basically a pow wow song,” Oldhorn said. It was written about 30 years ago by Oldhorn’s brother, Sarge Oldhorn.

Blacksmith is competing for the first year, but has previous experience in another arena that has prepared him for the rodeo aspects of Indian Relay Racing.

“I rode bulls until I was 18,” he said. “Yes, that helps (with relay racing) some.”

He was encouraged to ride this year by his brothers, he said. “Well, they are actually my cousins,” Blacksmith added, “but they are my brothers, now.”

Canterbury Park Hall of Fame horseman Dan Mjolsness was impressed with Canterbury’s first presentation of relay racing.

“It’s exciting,” he said. “Those kids are really good riders.”

Jockey Pat Canchari enjoyed the presentation as well.

“It was a really good show. I like it,” he said.

His brother, Alex, who pulled within two wins of Dean Butler in the rider standings with wins in Thursday’s eighth and ninth races, had a succinct but apt appraisal of the show, the riders in particular:

“I’ll tell you what,” he said. “Those guys really have balls.”

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THE MEET IS CLOSING FAST

Only two cards remain to the 2013 season, but the meet is coming to a close on an impressive note. Rusty Shaw rode a 50-1 winner in the sixth race, Clever Endeaver for trainer Red Rarick, a return of $109.40 on a two-dollar ticket. Israel Hernandez rode the winner of race five, Mischief Mo, who paid $89 to win.

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.

Indian Relays Impress

Indian Relay_1 9-12-13This much is clear if you’ve ever ridden a horse.

You probably can’t ride one, dismount one and literally jump on another with the nimbleness of a Blackfoot, a Sioux, a Sho-Ban or a Crow.

Even these daredevils frequently overshoot their intended targets and wind up on the other side of a moving, rearing or prancing horse – on the ground.

Nonetheless, they awed even the regular riders at Canterbury Park Thursday night, the jockeys, who en masse crowed the winner’s circle to watch the first of two heats in the Indian Relay Championships.

The winner of heat one was Josh Osborn, a member of the Sho-Ban Nation from Fort Hall, Idaho.

The awestruck were some of Canterbury’s regular riders. Who better than a jockey to appreciate bareback riders who appear part of their animals as they run.

“It’s cool. It’s entertaining,” said jockey Nik Goodwin, an Ojibwe from Bemidji.

Patrice Trimble had a somewhat different set of premises but a similar conclusion. “It’s nuts, it’s crazy. I love it,” she said.

Dressed in tribal regalia, their bodies and faces painted and their horses, too, the Indian riders in heat one hailed from Garry Owen, Mont., Eagle Butte, S.D., Browning, Mont. And, of course, Fort Hall.

“This was really cool,” said Scott Stevens. I was impressed at how fit the horses were, too.”

Cool?

“Yeah, it really was,” said rider Jake Barton. Those guys can ride.”

Jockey Lori Keith got caught up in the action, too.

“That was really different. It was exciting,” she said.

Before each race, a group of Crow singers sang a tribal song, one of them an ancient, sacred tribute to young men.

“That was appropriate,” said Corky Oldhorn, a member of the group. “It was to honor young men as they give their all.” An ancient Crow song, Oldhorn could not prescribe years to it. “It has been with us from time immemorial,” he said.

That song preceded the second heat of the night, won by 21-year-old Ferlin Blacksmith, the rider for the Holds the Enemy team from the Crow Agency in Montana.

One of the group’s songs before the first race was an honor song as well. “It basically said that nothing lasts forever,” Oldhorn explained. “So make something happen with your generosity.”

A second song followed the first heat. “That was basically a pow wow song,” Oldhorn said. It was written about 30 years ago by Oldhorn’s brother, Sarge Oldhorn.

Blacksmith is competing for the first year, but has previous experience in another arena that has prepared him for the rodeo aspects of Indian Relay Racing.

“I rode bulls until I was 18,” he said. “Yes, that helps (with relay racing) some.”

He was encouraged to ride this year by his brothers, he said. “Well, they are actually my cousins,” Blacksmith added, “but they are my brothers, now.”

Canterbury Park Hall of Fame horseman Dan Mjolsness was impressed with Canterbury’s first presentation of relay racing.

“It’s exciting,” he said. “Those kids are really good riders.”

Jockey Pat Canchari enjoyed the presentation as well.

“It was a really good show. I like it,” he said.

His brother, Alex, who pulled within two wins of Dean Butler in the rider standings with wins in Thursday’s eighth and ninth races, had a succinct but apt appraisal of the show, the riders in particular:

“I’ll tell you what,” he said. “Those guys really have balls.”

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THE MEET IS CLOSING FAST

Only two cards remain to the 2013 season, but the meet is coming to a close on an impressive note. Rusty Shaw rode a 50-1 winner in the sixth race, Clever Endeaver for trainer Red Rarick, a return of $109.40 on a two-dollar ticket. Israel Hernandez rode the winner of race five, Mischief Mo, who paid $89 to win.

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.

Indian Relay Racing on Tap

Indian Relay 3Outside, over 150 horses grazed under the watchful eye of White Man’s Dog… It seemed odd that two sleeps ago these horses were content to belong to the Crow. Now they were Pikuni (Blackfeet) horses and seemed equally content.

-FOOLS CROW BY JAMES WELCH

By some accounts, the first sport in the American West was horse stealing, by one Indian nation from another. It was a method by which young warriors and hunters sharpened the requisite skills for living in nature, for survival against the beasts of the forests and the plains and against other human beings.

By other accounts the first sport was horse racing, among the various nations that gathered to celebrate the coming of spring each year, and the hibernation of Cold Maker as the Pikuni might have described it, the time when Cold Maker called off the snows and winds in an annual truce.

The nations would gather in the valleys for food and games. Horse racing ruled, one nation against the other. In the melting snows and warming suns of those faraway times the Crow, Shoshone, Blackfeet, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho presented a harbinger of what would become Indian Relay Racing.

Horses were necessary, magical and spiritual in the lives of those First Nation peoples. They transformed them from trudging tribes, traipsing from the winter camps to their summer lodges, into the masters of the plains, disappearing like the wind when necessary into the surrounding hills and hunting the sacred buffalo from the backs of the descendants of animals Cortez and his Spanish forces brought to the Americas centuries earlier.

The horse and the First Nation peoples were allies in daily life among untamed hills, mountains and valleys, where animal and man in this instance became partners in a ritual nearly as old as Cold Maker himself.

Come with us into the valleys of those long ago times for a look at what was – altered, of course, by the immense change over the years, change that seemed imminent from the time the Pikuni first spotted the endless floods of Napikwans and the iron horses they called trains, and began to see the buffalo disappearing before their very eyes.

“Indian Relay is sport done mostly by Indians who live in northwestern United States,” says the Professional Indian Horse Racing Association.

Nonetheless, the Sioux peoples had racing of their own as well and it is at the behest of the Mdewakanton community of Mystic Lake, in cooperation with Canterbury Park, that Indian relay racing is being included as part of the final three racing cards of the season this week.

Today’s form of relay racing by some accounts is 100 years old or older and is a means today for young Indians to connect with their tribal heritage and customs. It is also an astonishing sport, viewed by the participants themselves as something akin to “organized mayhem,” particularly during exchanges, when a rider changes horses and is assisted by a mugger, who stops the horse, a setup man and a holder in charge of the rider’s next horse – three horse exchanges to a race, all ridden bareback.

The exchanges sometimes result in a chaotic scene immediately in front of the grandstand where the races start and end. Relay racing has become a popular part of many rodeos and pow wows in the northwestern states.

Nine teams will compete this week at Canterbury, including representatives of the Sioux and the Sho-ban. Two races are scheduled each day on Thursday and Friday. One race, with all nine teams competing, will be conducted for the championship on Saturday.

Most of the teams are Crow: Black Eagle, Charges Strong, G Town Boys, Holds the Enemy, MM Express, Old Elk Relay, Plain Feather, War Man and White Buffalo among them.

Kendall Oldhorn, a Crow from Two Leggins, Mont., once competed himself and has handled just about every job associated with relay racing in the years since. Now he is the head of race management and team relations for the PIHRA.

“You will see just about everything out there,” he predicted.”Horses rear up, try to get away. Riders fall off, get back on. I’ve seen it all.”

Seeing it all includes a five-year stint in the U.S. Marines for Oldhorn, who will alternate between his native tongue and English during conversations with anyone who converses in both.

The word for describing this type of racing might differ in the tongue of the Sioux, the Blackfeet, the Crow or the Sho-ban, but it means much the same as it does in English.

Thrilling.

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.

Indian Relay Racing on Tap

Indian Relay 3Outside, over 150 horses grazed under the watchful eye of White Man’s Dog… It seemed odd that two sleeps ago these horses were content to belong to the Crow. Now they were Pikuni (Blackfeet) horses and seemed equally content.

-FOOLS CROW BY JAMES WELCH

By some accounts, the first sport in the American West was horse stealing, by one Indian nation from another. It was a method by which young warriors and hunters sharpened the requisite skills for living in nature, for survival against the beasts of the forests and the plains and against other human beings.

By other accounts the first sport was horse racing, among the various nations that gathered to celebrate the coming of spring each year, and the hibernation of Cold Maker as the Pikuni might have described it, the time when Cold Maker called off the snows and winds in an annual truce.

The nations would gather in the valleys for food and games. Horse racing ruled, one nation against the other. In the melting snows and warming suns of those faraway times the Crow, Shoshone, Blackfeet, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho presented a harbinger of what would become Indian Relay Racing.

Horses were necessary, magical and spiritual in the lives of those First Nation peoples. They transformed them from trudging tribes, traipsing from the winter camps to their summer lodges, into the masters of the plains, disappearing like the wind when necessary into the surrounding hills and hunting the sacred buffalo from the backs of the descendants of animals Cortez and his Spanish forces brought to the Americas centuries earlier.

The horse and the First Nation peoples were allies in daily life among untamed hills, mountains and valleys, where animal and man in this instance became partners in a ritual nearly as old as Cold Maker himself.

Come with us into the valleys of those long ago times for a look at what was – altered, of course, by the immense change over the years, change that seemed imminent from the time the Pikuni first spotted the endless floods of Napikwans and the iron horses they called trains, and began to see the buffalo disappearing before their very eyes.

“Indian Relay is sport done mostly by Indians who live in northwestern United States,” says the Professional Indian Horse Racing Association.

Nonetheless, the Sioux peoples had racing of their own as well and it is at the behest of the Mdewakanton community of Mystic Lake, in cooperation with Canterbury Park, that Indian relay racing is being included as part of the final three racing cards of the season this week.

Today’s form of relay racing by some accounts is 100 years old or older and is a means today for young Indians to connect with their tribal heritage and customs. It is also an astonishing sport, viewed by the participants themselves as something akin to “organized mayhem,” particularly during exchanges, when a rider changes horses and is assisted by a mugger, who stops the horse, a setup man and a holder in charge of the rider’s next horse – three horse exchanges to a race, all ridden bareback.

The exchanges sometimes result in a chaotic scene immediately in front of the grandstand where the races start and end. Relay racing has become a popular part of many rodeos and pow wows in the northwestern states.

Nine teams will compete this week at Canterbury, including representatives of the Sioux and the Sho-ban. Two races are scheduled each day on Thursday and Friday. One race, with all nine teams competing, will be conducted for the championship on Saturday.

Most of the teams are Crow: Black Eagle, Charges Strong, G Town Boys, Holds the Enemy, MM Express, Old Elk Relay, Plain Feather, War Man and White Buffalo among them.

Kendall Oldhorn, a Crow from Two Leggins, Mont., once competed himself and has handled just about every job associated with relay racing in the years since. Now he is the head of race management and team relations for the PIHRA.

“You will see just about everything out there,” he predicted.”Horses rear up, try to get away. Riders fall off, get back on. I’ve seen it all.”

Seeing it all includes a five-year stint in the U.S. Marines for Oldhorn, who will alternate between his native tongue and English during conversations with anyone who converses in both.

The word for describing this type of racing might differ in the tongue of the Sioux, the Blackfeet, the Crow or the Sho-ban, but it means much the same as it does in English.

Thrilling.

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.

A Slight Canadian Detour

Jake%20Barton%208-16-13The last time Jake Barton spent any time in Shakopee, the racetrack was called Canterbury Downs and he was called every other hour by an agent in Canada who wanted him there.

Long story short. Barton left Shakopee for a weekend trip to Assiniboia Downs, wound up falling in love, getting married and now, 24 years later, is back in Shakopee.

The story began unfolding in 1989. Barton spent 1 ½ months in Shakopee riding for Doug Oliver among others. He couldn’t seem to shake an agent named Roger Oleksiw, encouraged to call the rider by the owners of Assiniboia Downs, who knew Barton from trips to Turf Paradise in Phoenix.

“He’d call me at 1 a.m., 2 a.m., constantly. Basically, I went up there to get the guy off my back,” Barton recalled with a chuckle. Barton met the agent’s daughter, Cheryl, the day he arrived, dated her the next day and wound up marrying her a year later. And the guy he wanted off his back became his father-in-law.

Barton In the meantime had to do some shopping after leaving Canterbury in 1989. He brought only enough clothes for the weekend.

In the last two decades, Barton has raced throughout Canada and the Southwest, settling at Prairie Meadows for recent summers after the Phoenix meet.

He decided to try Canterbury Park after the purses were increased through the partnership with the Mdewakanton Sioux Community of Mystic Lake.

“It fits better with the meet in Phoenix, too,” he said.

For the record, Barton did return to Canterbury two years ago to ride in a stake race.

He displays two of his life’s loves on his shoulders – the Browning logo tattooed on one, his wife’s name on the other.

People who know him say he disappears immediately whenever he’s done riding for the day at Turf Paradise. “Yeah, if I don’t ride the last race I can still get in an hour of hunting when I get home,” he said.

His residence in Surprise is near a patch of state land that offers ample opportunity for bird hunting, quail and dove.

“Every chance I get,” he said.

His weapon of choice is a Browning 12-guage, and it has been useful in various ways over the years.

“I always wear snake boots when I’m out,” he explained. “I’ve stepped on rattlers more than once.”

On one occasion, traipsing through desert shrubs and grass the barrel head of his Browning came in direct contact with a rattler. “That snake was about 6 ½ feet long,” he said. “He was traveling through the grass so he wasn’t coiled and couldn’t strike.”

Nonetheless, the Browning was put into service on the spot.

The Bartons have two children, Jessica who is on a full ride soccer scholarship at Grand Canyon University, and Justin, a senior at Willow Canyon High School in Surprise.

There is one other love that Jake and Cheryl share – dancing. Two-step, swing, you name it. “I can hunt in the daylight and dance when it gets dark,” Jake said.

As Barton carried on a conversation Friday night, young Alex Canchari, hoping to overtake Dean Butler for the riding title this summer, stopped momentarily to discuss a race with the veteran rider.

Barton has won titles in the past in Canada but such pursuits are not part of his goals at age 46. “I’m more of a money rider now,” he said.

Making a living.

The purses at Prairie Meadows provided that opportunity, yet there is another factor today not present during Barton’s trip to Canterbury Downs in 1989.

“This just fits better,” he said. “You only have to move once if you come here after the Phoenix meet,” he said. “And then you go back when Canterbury is done.”

Shakopee in the summer. Phoenix all winter.

Hard to beat.

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.

Sunday Racing Musings

FuturityOnce the obligations of winning such a race were attended to, once the handshakes, backslaps, hugs and nods of congratulation had been received, the interviews conducted and the rush of adrenaline subsided, there was time for family, close friends and the owners of the horse.

Yes, there are duties concomitant with riding the winning horses in significant races and for a second consecutive year they were assumed by Lori Keith.

In those heady moments of semi-solitude in the jockeys lounge after Saturday’s $200,000 Mystic Lake Derby, Keith was on the phone with the owners of Dorsett, who had simply run away from seven rivals as if they were disgraced defensive backs trying to grab the churning legs of the horse’s Dallas Cowboys’ namesake during his prime.

Yes, Dorsett was named for Cowboys running back Tony Dorsett who, you might recall, set an NFL record of 99 yards for the longest run from scrimmage against the Minnesota Vikings on a Monday night in 1983.

In any event, Dorset’s owner and Dallas fan Terry Hamilton was on the phone with Ms Keith after the Derby, having watched the race at home in Canada. Keith was wrapped up in a stunning Star blanket, presented to her by Keith Anderson, vice chairman of the Mdewakanton Sioux Community of Mystic Lake, the sponsors of the race and the Mystic Lake Purse Enhancement program.

Mrs. Hamilton had spotted the blanket on the television screen and fallen in love with it immediately. “Here, my wife wants to talk to you,” said her husband.

Within a matter of moments the two women, Mrs. Hamilton and Ms. Keith conducted their exchange of gifts. Mrs. Hamilton got the blanket. Ms. Keith got the Mystic Lake Derby trophy.

“What, you gave away my trophy,” lamented Mr. Hamilton.

In typical Sioux tradition, Mrs. Hamilton had presented a gift of the trophy to Ms. Keith, who in turn, presented the blanket to Mrs. Hamilton.

Ms. Keith, of course, also talked with her parents, owners of a bistro in the South of France, who watched the race at 12:30 a.m., their time, down the street from the restaurant. Lori imagined her father shooing patrons out of the bistro. “They had to be out by 11,” she said.

“They were happy and proud,” Lori said Sunday. “They were so pleased that I had mentioned them.”

As she does quite often.

The Hamiltons couldn’t have been happier, either. After all, Keith had ridden a Hamilton horse, Hammers Terror, to victory in the first Derby, last year, although she had to withstand a stewards inquiry in that one.

That’s what made Sunday’s victory even more enjoyable. No inquiry. A nice clean trip.

“I beat myself up for weeks after (the 2012 Derby),” Lori said. “So, this one probably was a little more enjoyable.”

Dorsett was simply much the best on Saturday, sweeping past seven rivals as if they were weanlings in the pasture for a three-length win. Vikings defenders clutching at his ankles.

Everyone, rider, owners and trainer, Michael Stidham, were pleased with the win.

“The horse continues to get better, and the rider did a great job,” said Stidham after the race.

Will there be a second encore?

“Well, a lot can happen with a two-year-old,” said Ms. Keith

“Between now and the three-year-old season.” Of course, but if anyone is curious, the two-year-old Hamilton has in mind for next year’s race is Heart to Heart.

By the way, long-suffering fans, the Vikings won that game in spite of Dorsett, 31-27.

Oh, and Hamilton ordered a second trophy – for himself.

CANCHARI TOO BUSY TO CELEBRATE

Luis Canchari and family were standing outside the winner’s circle Sunday afternoon, clearly still pleased with what their son, Alex, accomplished on Saturday.

Alex Canchari, the Minnesota Kid, in the biggest win of his brief career, won the $100,000 Northbound Pride Oaks aboard Stoupinator for trainer Mac Robertson and owner Joseph Novogratz, a head in front of Kipling’s Joy.

There was no time for celebration on Saturday night. “I had to be back at Mac’s barn at 5 a.m.” said Alex.

His family members were clearly delighted with his effort.

Alex’s mother gave him a kiss after the race. His dad was still beaming on Sunday.

“We are proud of him,” said Luis, who rode at Canterbury in the 1980s, having moved to Shakopee from Peru. “It would be nice to see a Minnesota kid win the riding title.”

Alex is doing what he can. He has 35 wins for the second, one behind Ry Eikleberry and six behind Dean Butler, the leaders.

CASH BEGETS MORE CASH

The Reiswigs of Bismarck, N.D. have a fond spot for the two-year-old filly Seis The Royal Cash, a daughter of Royal Cash Dawn.

Mom and daughter were purchased as a package. “We bought the mare in foal,” explained Brenda Reiswig. “We lost the mother a year ago, so this one has had a hard time. She has a special place in our hearts.”

Even more special now.

Seis The Royal Cash was sent off at 16-1 in Sunday’s North Central Quarter Horse Futurity, a bit of a shock to Reiswig. “I thought ‘oh, oh,'” said Reiswig.

All was well nonetheless.

Seis the Royal Cash, with Ismael Suarez Ricardo up, stunned nine rivals, taking the inside path to victory in front of Sportwagon and Engine Number Nine.

Trainer Vic Hanson summed up the victory succinctly.

“We drew well,” he said.

Indeed. The inside has been a boon of late.

“It evened out for a while there,” said Hanson. “Now it’s a little more to the inside, again.”

Nonetheless, Seis The Royal Cash claimed the winner’s share of the $45,050 purse for her connections, paying $35.20, $16.20 and $5.80 across the board.

Hanson handles the Reiswig horses at Canterbury, 20-some in all.

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.