Why The Name?

Captain Steve, Fireman Oscar, Lakeville, Boozin At Bozos. Racehorse names are derived in many ways. Often times an owner names a horse for a friend or relative, a location, or even an experience. Owner and breeder Tony Didier has named many over the years and several achieved great success. When he visits, which is often each summer, from his home in David City, Nebraska, there is one stop in Shakopee he is certain to make before or after the races at Canterbury Park. Thus the name of his 3-year-old filly Boozin At Bozos.

Canterbury Stalwart Bruce Riecken

By Katie Merritt

Trainer Bruce Riecken grew up in Nebraska where he began his career training race horses, but he’s been bringing his string here to Canterbury Park since Ak-Sar-Ben Racecourse in Nebraska closed in 1995. Both Bruce’s father and his uncle were trainers, so Bruce grew up going to the track and learning the ropes from them.

“I always knew I wanted to train,” he said, “Either that or be a teacher and track coach,” he added, having been a competitive and successful runner as a teenager.

Riecken got his trainer’s license in 1984 and bought a couple of his own horses to get started. As is often the case, success was not immediate and he briefly debated getting his jockey’s license. “I wasn’t doing that well, and I was only about 120 pounds and galloping a lot of horses at the time,” he explained, “So I was trying to get my weight down and try to ride but I would jump off a horse and get a little dizzy, so I said the heck with it!” Fortunately, Bruce persevered with his training career, and it wasn’t long before his uncle sent Tony Didier, a new owner that was looking to get into the game, his way.

Over the years, Bruce has been very successful as a trainer, and much of that success has come with Didier, who he still trains for almost 30 years later. When asked who his favorites are, Bruce immediately responds with Rock N’ Fire, who won a couple stakes at Canterbury as well as an allowance at the prestigious Keeneland Racecourse, and Nomorewineforeddie, a five time stakes winner at the Shakopee track, including wins in the Minnesota Sprint Championship for three consecutive years; both horses were owned by Didier. Another less-obvious favorite that Riecken trained was a horse named Frostee that Didier purchased from a bottom-level claiming race at Ak-Sar-Ben. When they claimed him, the horse had a bowed tendon, so Bruce gave the horse close to a year off.

“We got probably 50 more starts out of him and he won like 12 races for us,” Bruce remembered with a smile, adding, “We got lucky and never lost him. He did quite well for us!” Clearly it doesn’t matter if it’s a stake horse or a claiming horse in the Riecken barn – he loves them all.

Bruce’s barn usually consists of about 15-20 runners, and this summer is no different, with 17. At the conclusion of Canterbury’s summer meet, he will pack up his stable and head to Kentucky for the fall meets at Keeneland and Churchill before heading to Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, his winter home for the last 12 years. Before he began spending his winters there, he would stay in Kentucky until it was time to return to Canterbury, running his horses at Turfway Park.

Even though Bruce has been training for decades, he is still always learning, and can still say that he loves what he does. “My favorite part about training is probably working with the young ones and watching them develop, trying to keep them under control, keep their minds good,” he said with a smile. But like most horsemen, Bruce will tell you it’s really the animals that keep him happy at his job – “It’s just the horses themselves,” he explained, “I just love the animals.”

Tony Didier Has Had Some Runners

By Katie Merritt

Owner Anthony Didier, a Nebraska native, has been a fan of horse racing his whole life. He grew up in Davidson, Nebraska, about 30 miles from Columbus and 70 miles from Omaha, so he frequented the racetracks there as often as he could. He saved up money for years, and in 1989, he decided he wanted to use that money to buy a racehorse.

Didier approached trainer Herb Riecken at Ak-Sar-Ben Racecourse to find out how to get involved.  “I went to him for advice to get started in racing and he said, ‘Well I have a horse for you that I’ll sell you that will be a good start for you,'” Didier explained. “I said will ‘you train him’ and he said ‘No, but I have a nephew that’s just starting and he’s going to be really good.'” The horse’s name was Dr. Ralph, the nephews name was Bruce Riecken. Didier bought the horse, put him in Bruce’s shedrow, and Dr. Ralph won his first two starts for him. “I was hooked!” Didier laughed.

Almost thirty years later, Didier still sends all of his horses to Bruce Riecken to train and the pair have had quite a bit of success together. Coming here for the last 20 years, since Ak-Sar-Ben closed, they have racked up several stakes victories. Didier’s homebred, Rock ‘N Fire, won the Minnesota Classic Championship Stakes and the Victor S. Myers Jr. Stakes in 2006, and Cubfanbudman won the Minnesota Derby in 2008. The best horse Didier has had thus far is the sprinting superstar Nomorewineforeddie. ‘Eddie’ won five stakes here at Canterbury Park, including wins in the Minnesota Sprint Championship for three consecutive years.

Didier loves the thrill that being an owner and watching his horses run gives him, and he’s been fortunate to have some horses that have provided many exciting moments over the years. “When you win, there’s not another feeling like that,” he said. After the Canterbury meet, his horses go to Churchill, then Keeneland, before they spend the winter at Oaklawn. Though he still lives in Nebraska, Didier comes to Shakopee every couple weeks to watch his horses race and hopefully get a picture taken in the winner’s circle. “Canterbury is like my second summer home,” he beamed, “I love it here, it’s a great place!”