BY JIM WELLS
There is the front or back nine on a golf course, there is ninefold to express a given quantity times, yes, nine; there is a starting lineup consisting of nine in baseball and there is a ninepin bowling designation.
The number applies with equal significance to the number of horses sired by Hes Relentless that ran in Friday night’s MQHRA Futurity trials.
As owner Tom Maher asked, of no one in particular, after the first race on Friday. “There are nine Relentless horses in (Friday’s two trial races),” he said. “Wonder how many will qualify.”
The answer, he soon discovered, was nine. Nine of the 14 horses entered in the two trials. The top 10 horses in Friday’s two trial races qualify for the final on July 7 and its $36,000 purse.
The first of the qualifiers was Maher and Paul Luedemann’s Tipsy Girl B, ridden by Cristian Esqueda, last year’s quarter horse riding champ who returned to Canterbury Park on Thursday night and has won two of the three races he has ridden. “Not bad,” he said after running second in Friday’s second qualifying race. “Two wins and a second in three races.”
Esqueda has ridden primarily for the Jason Olmstead barn since the two met in Iowa two years ago. The relationship is strong enough to hold during the meets at Remington Park, in races they qualify for or enter at Ruidoso as well as during the off months when Esqueda, his wife and son (a second son will join the ranks within the next month) call home the Olmstead ranch in Oklahoma, where Cristian breaks babies and helps train.
Esqueda, fans might recall, has been riding at Canterbury since 2017 and considers Shakopee ”home” during the summer months, Ruidoso home whenever he rides there (“it’s so beautiful,” he said ) and Remington and Oklahoma home when he is there. He is comfortable almost anywhere he lands, a consequence of loving what he does for a living.
A native of Aquascalientes, Mexico, Esqueda, now 26, was 10 years old when his family moved to Ohio, and he progressively learned the many aspects of racing at the side of his father, who raised and raced quarter horses, a distinction that still holds sway with Cristian. “I don’t care for thoroughbreds,” he said. “I am a quarter horse person.”
There were family relocations to Michigan and Indiana in the years after Ohio and Cristian ultimately found his vocation on the racetrack, where trainers and owners alike respond well to his positive demeanor and strong work ethic.
“Oh, he can ride,” said Olmstead. “And he’s a class act and a good worker.”
Tipsy Girl B was the second fastest qualifier on Friday, covering 350 yards in 18.105, outrun by only HR Storm On In, trained by Vic Hanson and ridden by Doug Frink, who won the second race in 17.978.
For the record, Cristian and his wife, Stephanie, an Indiana native, already know she is carrying a boy, a second son they will name Arley, after the Mexican singer Arley Perez.
There are already other Esquedas on the grounds in Shakopee, soon to be introduced to the racing public. Cristian’s brother Eric, 18, is galloping horses with plans to start riding here in the coming days.
The Esqueda brothers are laying for the groundwork perhaps for Cristian’s sons to one day pick up wherever they leave off. “Oh, yes,” Cristian said, “I would like for them to become riders, too. Then maybe they can accomplish things that I might not be able to.”
That might not be much if he continues to ride as he has the last two summers in Shakopee.