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Family Life At The Racetrack


There is one rule upon entering the tack room in Christine Riddle’s barn. It is imperative that a visitor acknowledge Daisy, the 2-year-old Dachshund that is easily mistaken for a Jack Terrier.
Daisy doesn’t appreciate going unnoticed and will let you know it.

Once Daisy’s gotten the obligatory attention, all is cool and a conversation may ensue.

Riddle has a string of 18 horses in her stable, not bad for someone who’s been on her own as a trainer since only last year. You get the impression after a short conversation _ with Daisy’s consent naturally _ that the stable is destined to grow with the passing of time.
Riddle, 47, finds training horses child’s play compared with raising seven children _ three of her own and four with a former boyfriend. “This is a breeze,” she said Wednesday as her morning training session wound to an end.

Maybe it seems that way since it’s so enjoyable. Riddle, who grew up in Eden Prairie, raised her children in Prior Lake, lived for a spell in New Prague and currently resides in Chanhassen, has had horses in her daily life since she was a child. “My parents put me on a horse when I was two,” she said, “and they’ve been trying to get me off since.”

They might have tried harder had they any idea what she was doing as a youngster. She was in Eden Prairie somewhere jumping horses over hay bales. She fell off the first time, got a mouthful of dirt and climbed right back into the saddle. In later years, she showed horses, rode Western Pleasure, raced some barrels.

“Out of everything I’ve done in my life with horses, I like this the best,” she said.

That became quite clear to her the other day when she and Liz Cates, girlfriend to Christine’s son Devon, were walking a horse to the receiving barn before a race. Devon, who works on the turf crew at Canterbury, rode past in a four-wheeler, and Christine found herself thinking “this is great, this is what I want.”

It seemed truly a family affair.

For 27 years, Christine and her ex-husband ran the CC Riddle Hair Company with salons in Eden Prairie, Burnsville and Bloomington. She cut and styled hair the entire time, so one might expect that the tails and manes on her charges at Canterbury would have the latest cut and style.

“Oh, they might not run so well, but they’ll look good for sure,” she said.

She found herself at one point during her salon career spending more and more time with the horses, and less time with hair. “I wasn’t doing justice to either,” she said.

So, she took a leave of absence in 2007.

She is still on leave.

Christine will gallop a horse in the morning if necessary but prefers to leave that work to the people who make it their profession. “I’ll still get on some babies here,” she said, “and I’ll ride some at the farm. But the last thing I need right now is getting dumped or run off with.”

Riddle injured some ribs a couple of years ago in an incident with a horse, badly enough that her two sons got a lesson in humility while helping mom recover. “They had to carry my purse through the shopping malls for me,” she said.

Riddle has been at Canterbury since 2006 and previously did a little of everything that needed to be done in the barn with trainer Steve Kane, her significant other.

Her daughter Hannah, 21, is a senior at the University of Minnesota and is headed to Venezuela in August as part of a study abroad program. Son Joshua, 20 is majoring in music at St. Olaf. “All my kids are smarter than I am,” she said. “Devon is the one with the street sense, a mechanical aptitude.”

He’s also hounding his mother for a car. “He’ll have to have the money,” Christine said. “There won’t be any loans given out.”

He’s saving money from his work on the turf crew, right?

“He better be,” she said.

So, family life at the racetrack sometimes doesn’t seem much different than family life in the suburbs. At Canterbury it has come to include Christine’s mom and dad, Sherry and David Anderson, still Eden Prairie residents. “They don’t miss a race any time I have a horse running,” Christine said.

Nonetheless, mom and dad are still concerned at times about their daughter making a living with racehorses. “They wonder about it,” Christine added.

Suburbs or racetrack, parental concerns are parental concerns.

Stall superintendent Mark Stancato was on the phone Wednesday morning with trainer Cecil Stewart, who was calling from Prairie Meadows. “He wanted to come here originally with five horses,” Stancato said.

With the Prairie Meadows meet ending on Aug. 7, several trainers are looking for places to send their horses between meets. It appears that Stewart is one of them and Canterbury is high on the list.

“Wouldn’t that be something if he shows up with the same five horses he submitted stall aps for this year,” Stancato said.

Trainer Tim Gleason, who has run horses at Canterbury off and on over the years, also expressed interest in heading to Canterbury for the remainder of the meet with 20 head.

Tickets are available for a fundraiser and benefit for injured quarter horse rider Tad Leggett. The benefit will be held on Sunday, Aug. 8 and is sponsored by Arizonas at the Canterbury Inn. Leggett, who has ridden frequently at Canterbury Park was seriously injured in a spill at Fair Meadows at Tulsa. He underwent a nine-hour surgery on July 2 for spinal injuries.
Leggett, 45, was riding a mount that threw and then fell on him after the wire in a race on June 30.

He suffered upper spine injuries in addition to a broken vertebra.

Tickets for the benefit are $10 and include a BBQ Pork dinner at Arizonas from 6:30 to 8 p.m. on Aug. 8. Live music by the Fanatics is included from 8 p.m. until closing.

Tickets are available from Jerry Livingston and other trainers and at various locations in the grandstand.