Atmosphere, environment, ambience, milieu… whatever your choice of words to describe it, the air is definitely lighter these days, and nights, at Canterbury Park. It has everything to do with the certainty of a job down the road and a paycheck to go with it.
Ask any trainer on the grounds and the response is almost identical. The racing at Canterbury Park, with the support of their new partners at Mystic Lake, is going to thrive over the next decade, even during this time of widespread uncertainty and decline in the industry nationwide.
There is a lot to be gleeful about, and veteran Hall of Fame rider Scott Stevens, counted out by even close friends after a devastating injury last year, summed it up best, for himself and everyone else at the Shakopee track Friday night.
Stevens, 51, is riding as if he’s 31 and moved into third place in the rider standings with a scintillating victory aboard longshot Hurricane Houston in the fourth race, a mile and 1/16 event on the turf.
Another jump and Aroney and Tanner Riggs would have had the winner, but the racetrack ended right there with Hurricane nosing him out.
“This is starting to get fun again,” Stevens said, bounding into the jockey lounge.
Fun for a lot of folks.
Ask Claudia Goebel. Lori Keith took her Vic Hanson-trained Speakers Action (pictured above) to a gate to wire victory in the fifth race, a six-furlong claiming event, winning with lengths to spare.
The win couldn’t have come at a more apropos time. The Goebel family has seven horses at Canterbury this summer and already has recorded five wins. Marlys Goebel, the family matriarch, is being honored this week by the Minnesota HBPA for her life-time involvement in state racing.
The Goebels lost the family patriarch, Alvin, last winter, so every win at Canterbury this summer includes a silent tribute to the father and grandfather who, with his wife, Marlys , is enshrined in the track’s Hall of Fame.
Dan and Bev Mjolsness are also Hall of Fame breeders and lifelong friends of the Goebels. They were in the winner’s circle for the family’s celebratory photo.
“That’s the only way we get there these days,” Bev quipped. “I have to hang out with winners to get there,” Dan added.
Keith and Hanson teamed up for another win in the sixth race, although she took a different route to the winner’s circle this time, guiding Gordon Drive from the back of the pack in the final furlong to catch Mogilny and Stevens at the wire.
The third race on Friday’s card was a maiden event at 7 and ½ furlongs on the grass. Newcomer Carlos Castro guided Up in Class to a gate to wire win for the Bravos, trainer Francisco and owner Lori.
“That was a nice ride,” Francisco said, somewhat baffled at the large turnout in the winners circle for the picture. Who were all those people? “Oh, I hired them,” Bravo said. “I need the friends.”
That’s the kind of fun it has become for many of the horsemen in Shakopee.
Talk to trainer Bruce Riecken or owner Anthony Didier, whose horses won the daily double. Canterbury Hall of Fame rider Derek Bell brought in Champ Laila in the first race. Adolfo Morales was on 11-1 choice Trust N You in the second race.
Or talk to Ruben Martinez, the track’s leading owner, whose Clear to Canada won race seven under Geovanni Franco.
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.