HORSE RACING, GOLF, VIKINGS KEEP KAPLANS YOUTHFUL
by JIM WELLS
During a race card earlier in the meet Helene Kaplan made her way to the winner’s circle using her walker, informing the other owners of Sax Notes that she’d meet them there after the race.
“She has a lot more confidence in this horse than I do,” Tom Metzen said to Helene’s husband, Sheldon.
Helene was right. Sax Notes won his third straight race of the meet.
The Kaplans were hoping that Sax Notes would make it four straight on Sunday’s card, but the race didn’t fill. Helene recommends not hitching your hopes to a single star, however. She has filled the week as a PGA volunteer in the media tent at Hazeltine where she and Sheldon are active members.
Sax Notes was claimed at Turf Paradise last spring for $10,000. He won his first race at Canterbury, but Helene hadn’t recuperated enough to attend. “She watched the race at home on her computer,” Metzen recalled.
The Kaplans, 94-year-old Sheldon and 91-year-old Helene, are active participants at Canterbury, too, and have been since the start of pari-mutuel racing in Minnesota in 1985.
Remember Cachuma ?
The Kaplans were partners in the horse with Vikings GM Mike Lynn, auto mogul Jim Lupient, eventual Minnesota Racing Commission chairman Ralph Strangis, et all.
The Kaplans have been partners in _ as they recall _ around 30 horses since those early halcyon days of Minnesota racing.
Metzen, president of the Minnesota HBPA, can count on a call each winter from Sheldon.
“He calls just about every February,” Metzen said, “always with the same question. Don’t you think we sould get a horse.” The statement doesn’t require a question mark. It is not really a question.
The Kaplans, Metzen and his wife, Karen, and Paul Strangis are partners not only in Sax Notes but also in Yappah Do.
Yappah Do finished fourth in a claiming race last Saturday. Helene was concerned with missing the race because the PGA orientation was scheduled that day but was able to work around it.
“He was right in the race and fell apart the last couple of seconds,” said Sheldon, who remains active in his ninth decade.
A law partner with Ralph Strangis, Kaplan is in the office every day. He was the original counsel for and board member of the Minnesota Vikings and remains a fan.
“I’m looking forward to Friday night,” he said.
His thoughts on the Bret Favre story?
“I thought it was an exciting possibility. It’s a little disappointing that it didn’t turn out that way, but it’s maybe good overall for the team just the same.”
Helene, meanwhile, is recuperating after breaking her spine in a fall last March and has to limit herself, if it can be referred to as such.
Her doctor told her on Wednesday to limit the time she spends on her feet each day, implying that the last place she belonged was in the PGA media facility. Helene’s response was succinct. “How many times does a person get an opportunity like this.”
If there has been one disappointment for her during the week it is this: Tiger Woods has been surrounded by so many reporters whenever he enters the media facility that she hasn’t had a chance to shake his hand.
The Kaplans have been members of Hazeltine National Golf Club since the early 70s. “We joined the year after Dave Hill said what he said (about the course being a cow pasture) and have been there ever since,” said Helene, who played regularly in an after-hours league until hurting her back.
Right now, for certain, horse racing is her favorite sport, however. “There is always something fun to see at Canterbury,” she said, “and (unlike golf) it doesn’t hurt my back.”
She has enjoyed her time at the PGA tournament nonetheless. “It’s a nice coincidence that this is the 91st PGA,” Helene said, “the same year I celebrated my 91st birthday.”
Golf, horse racing, the Vikings and fishing take up Sheldon’s time.
“I use to be able to enjoy a round of golf,” he said, “but I’ve played only once this year.”
He fishes once a week on the other hand, on lake Minnetonka, and takes a yearly fishing trip to the Northwest Territories.
He gets to Canterbury more often.
The Kaplans had a horse named Leap Frog at one time, its name taken from the business Helene founded in 1984 in partnership with Diane Page (yes, that Diane Page) and Mariam Kelen. “We do marketing and new product naming and concept writing,” Helene explained.
As for the horse: “Leap Frog won a few races,” Helene recalled, “and then was claimed and we lost track of him. That was the only horse we’ve gotten to name.”
If the Kaplans disagree on anything, it is certainly not the best horse in which they’ve been partners.
“Oh, Cachuma, for sure,” Shelly said.
“Our two favorites were Leap Frog and Cachuma,” Helene added. “Cachuma was a wonderful racehorse and definitely our favorite, but he was not a good stud. He won all the races he could here and then we sold him. He had a couple of foals that never amounted to anything.”
The Kaplans hope to continue with their horses for years to come, but Helene, for one, doesn’t want a birthday greeting similar to the one displayed on the infield tote board last year.
“We had a horse running and the message wished me a happy 90th birthday,” she said.
“Whereupon, our horse ran last.”