BY JIM WELLS
It is 1973; you are 13 years old and climb aboard a bus to take in the last day of racing at the local racetrack. You pocket 13 bucks for your efforts, a more enjoyable and much easier way to earn money than, say, snow shoveling or grass cutting.
“Well, I was the first guy in line when Northlands Park opened the next year,” said Charles Garvey, a native of Edmonton, Alberta.
Clearly that teenage impression had a lasting effect, because once he had earned more than $13 bucks for his efforts, Garvey bought a racehorse named Highland Leader.
The timing is coincidental but couldn’t lay the groundwork any better for a story today, since that purchase occurred in 1985, the same year that horse racing arrived in Minnesota with the opening of Canterbury Downs. And, yes, Garvey keeps a string with trainer Robertino Diodoro in Shakopee that is producing quite well to start the current meet.
Not only is Diodoro the leading trainer at this juncture of the meet, Garvey is the leading owner. They have had similar success in Phoenix where they’ve teamed up to win a number of owner/trainer titles. Garvey was the leading owner three straight seasons, “but we got dethroned this year,” he said. Diodoro has led all trainers five straight years.
It was a simple matter of having downsized the barn and …
“We got behind and couldn’t catch the leader, didn’t have deep enough pockets to catch up this time,” said Garvey.
They’ve done all right as a duo at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark., too.
“We’ve had a good percentage just about everywhere we’ve been,” said Garvey. “We’ve knocked them dead a couple of times at Oaklawn with a 35 (win) percentage a couple of times.”
They’ve started out the 2018 meet at Canterbury Park in similar fashion. Prior to Thursday racing, Garvey-owned horses are 6-3-3 from 17 starts, a 35 win percentage. They’ve been in the money 71 percent of the time with earnings of $95, 041. Tied in second place with four wins apiece are Silva Racing and Barry and Joni Butzow. Silva horses have earned $37,083, the Butzows, $85,630.
Diodoro, meanwhile, has saddled 15 winners from 60 starters, for a 25 win percentage and earnings of $260,235. His horses have been in the money 62 percent of the time. Trailing him are fellow Phoenix trainer Miguel Angel Silva with 13 winners and a 27 percent win percentage, Joel Berndt with 12 wins and Franciso Bravo with 11 winners.
Diodoro and Garvey were introduced by Canadian trainer Dale Saunders and teamed up seven years ago in Phoenix. The partnership has reaped rewards and this spring the owner has 32 or 33 horses in training, 20 of them in the United States and 12 or 13 in Canada. Diodoro has 15 of them in his barn.
Garvey has been to Canterbury Park a few times and intended to be here again on June 23 for the track’s biggest day of racing that includes the Mystic Lake Derby , running Patriots Rule and Fight to Glory in two stakes, the Hoist Her Flag and Dark Star.
“I had hoped to be there but some family matters have come up,” he said, “so it will have to be another time. I truly like it there. Fight to Glory gets better every time out and Patriots Rule, that’s the first horse we had success with in California. That kind of set the tone for us.”
Garvey’s intentions after high school, after those early days at Northlands Park, was a college education, but he got sidetracked by the oil business. Nice diversion. He ended up with his own business, sold it and formed another business with factories in Canada and in Houston, where they make drill pipe for the oil industry.
He keeps a home in Scottsdale, Ariz., where he can retreat to when he wants to spend time at Turf Paradise or replace the humidity with some dry heat.
He won’t be present on the 23rd, but his horses will and so, too, will a number of other associates to the Diodoro barn.
“I have 17 or 18 people coming,” he said. “I’ve rented a cabana on the tarmac. It should be a great day.”