Canterbury Park, Shakopee, Minn logo

Cowboy Luke Home on the Range


Sometimes a racehorse is not merely a racehorse. Sometimes he is something more.

Much more.

Cowboy Luke is that.

At least to the family that first owned a large chunk of him, fawned over him, loved him, and agonized when his whereabouts became unknown after the hurricane in Puerto Rico last September.

First, some background on why this racehorse was so special to Larry Cronin, majority owner of the Cowboy, and other members of his family, including a great nephew named, yup….Luke.

Longtime Canterbury fans might recall the story about the youngster, three or four at the time, who dressed himself in hat, boots, all the cowboy garb, whenever he paid a visit to the barns or watched the horse, named for him, run.

The youngster was with his parents at Canterbury to watch Cowboy Luke run in his maiden race on  Father’s Day in 2011,  after mass and breakfast. It so happened that Luke’s parents had ordered a couple of drinks at brunch that day that later grabbed a mention in little Luke’s prayerful entreaty before the race.

“Bloody Mary, full of grace, help my horse win this race,” he asked.

His prayers were answered and Cowboy Luke settled in as a racehorse that Cronin describes to this day as “even more of a pet.”

“You’ve never had a dog any friendlier,” he said.

Cronin has been involved in the sport at Canterbury since its early days, buying his first horse in 1986, but has never spoken of a horse he owned as he does Cowboy Luke. “The family was a big part of this one. Everybody was here when he ran,” he explained.

Cowboy Luke won 12 times, had nine seconds and six thirds, winning $117,051, during his career; nine of those wins came when Cronin owned him. Claimed from him on January 3 of 2015 for $6,500, Cronin watched him closely while he ran in Florida. “I would have claimed him back, but they kept running him over his head and I never had a chance,” he said.

He continued to watch. “He was in Tampa for a while, then he went to Finger Lakes in May of 2016, then he was back in Tampa,” he said.

Cowboy Luke’s last race in Tampa was on Feb. 18 of 2016. Then he went to Puerto Rico to race at the Hiprodomo Camarero. On September 20, 2017 _ as we know  _ a devastating hurricane hit the island. “Many of the barns were destroyed,” Cronin said. “Many of the horses got loose and started running around the island in a herd.”

Cronin heard nothing but continued to wonder. He knew Cowboy Luke was in Puerto Rico, at the track, and that the stable area had been destroyed.

He  knew nothing else.

“A couple of times I considered just going down there to see what happened to him,” he said.

An understandable if unreasonable impulse. After all, this was the horse that had pulled the family together on so many occasions at Canterbury Park, the horse that had brought so much joy over the years, the horse named for a family member, the $5,000 horse that had earned  $117,000, more than $100,000 of that amount under Cronin’s ownership.

Then, in January, Cronin got an email from Debbie Ragsale in Oklahoma, who had a five percent stake in Cowboy Luke. There were pictures with the email, detailing Cowboy Luke’s travails and status.

“A rescue group from Kentucky went down there after hearing about what happened,” Cronin explained. “They found 17 horses and Cowboy Luke was one of them.”

So, the old Cowboy was safe and by then had been returned to Kentucky, to Darby Dan Farm, where he was foaled and is now retired.

Cowboy Luke, at long last, has returned home, and Cronin had an immediate response upon hearing the news.

“I cried like a baby,” he said.