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John Bullit – The Fan Favorite

There are different memories and various recollections from people who knew Canterbury Hall of Fame horse John Bullit. Jeremy Trulock, John’s final owner, sized it up on the small wooden cross that has marked the gelding’s final resting place at the family farm since Oct. 22 1999 – “My best friend, never forgotten.”

“That was the worst day ever,” Trulock recalled recently.

Hall of Fame rider Scott Stevens only climbed aboard the Bullit a couple of times those many years ago but had a lasting impression just the same. “I just remember him as being a hard trier,”  he said.

Trulock, a year out of high school at the time, sobbed unabashedly the day John Bullit died, overwhelmed by grief. Lest you think disparagingly about that reaction, consider this: Jeremy, now 32 years of age, sells insurance during the week and protects fallen cowboys from angry bulls in the rodeo on weekends. Or he did at any rate, until a couple of injuries pushed him into becoming a rodeo clown, not always that safe itself.

Trainer Clayton Gray, who purchased the gelding as part of a six-horse package in New Zealand before bringing him to Canterbury Downs, has a humorous recollection of John’s method of greeting a new rider – by sending him headlong into the rafters or backwards onto his hind end.

A story about the Bullit’s induction into the Canterbury Park Hall of Fame is framed and hangs on Trulock’s office wall to this day, a reminder whenever he looks at it of the horse that dominated his life for seven years during the 1990s after the grand gelding’s racing days were over.

Certainly the many other riders who took the Bullit to the winner’s circle, Julie Krone, Chris Antley, Mike Smith and Dean Kutz among them were taken with the roguish fellow themselves.

Jeremy Trulock had seen the Bullit race at Canterbury Downs, courtesy of his uncle, Bob Miller, and was 12 years old when told the horse’s career, at age 11, was over and he needed a new home. Miller is the only surviving member of the group that owned the Bullit and intends to be at Canterbury for the $50,000 John Bullit Stakes today.

Trulock rebroke the horse, taught him to run the poles and the barrels in 4H and gentled him to the point that a youngster could climb aboard without concern. “The little kids loved him and loved to ride him,” said Jeremy’s mother, Diana, who operated a day-care center in her home for four decades.

John Bullit, the champion claimer in 1986, became a fan favorite at Canterbury Downs and is arguably the most popular claimer in track history. During his phenomenal summer of 1986 he set two records that still stand. On July 25, he covered 1 and 1/4 miles over the main track in 2:04 and 1/5. On Sept. 26, he was timed on the turf for 1 and 7/8 miles in 3:11 and 2/5. The Bullit started 31 times at Canterbury Downs and won 17 times, earning more than $125,000.

“Jeremy loved that horse. We all loved that horse, even the little kids,” Diana said. “We all cried when he died.”

Jeremy and his uncle Bob met several times at Canterbury for the running of the John Bullit Stakes. It’s a three-hour drive to Shakopee from Tracy in southwestern Minnesota and close to that from Cushing, north of Little Falls, but Jeremy will not join his uncle this year. He has another rodeo commitment to fulfill, another rodeo at which he will present his miniature horse trained to sit, roll over and do various other tricks to the delight of the youngsters and even adults in attendance.

Jeremy, a horseman in the truest sense of the word according to his uncle Bob, breaks horses, trains them and can do just about anything else you want done with them…

“He’s a horseman and a half,” said Miller.

His horse sense was evident 20 years ago when John Bullit came to him at the Trulock’s Saratoga Stables. A rougish renegade, even at 11, from the racetrack, John Bullit gave Jeremy a greeting that sent him skyward like a cannon shot the first time he climbed on him. Trulock climbed back on and the two of them became fast friends in no time at all.

“We really bonded,” Trulock recalled. “We became good friends.”

Jeremy does minor repairs when they’re needed to the wooden cross at John Bullit’s grave site, typically touch-ups needed due to the wear of time and weather.

Maybe just happenstance or maybe a sign of equine respect, but the current inhabitants of the horse pasture at the farm leave John Bullit’s memorial unmolested.

“The horses there never seem to bother it,” Jeremy said. “They leave it alone.”

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.