Call Me Mr. Nibs sounds like someone who might tell bedtime stories to the kids, but don’t be fooled by this innocuous-sounding name. He’s as mean as a junkyard dog and would just as soon kick your teeth out as look at you.
Or he might just trample you as he did nine rivals to win the $33,950-added North Central Quarter Horse Racing Assn. Futurity on Sunday.
With Tad Leggett in the Irons, this ornery two-year-old was clocked in 17.946 seconds to claim the victory for owner Rodney Von Ohlen of Alpha, Minn.
“He broke pretty good but he stumbled a little bit on his second jump,” said Leggett. “But he recovered pretty well.”
Leggett was more worried at that point with the tractors harrowing the racing surface and moving ever closer to the whip he dropped after galloping out. “They’re going to ride right over my stick,” he said.
At that moment an outrider dismounted from his horse and grabbed the stick, and Leggett relaxed. “Good, they got it,” he said.
Back to Call Me Mr. Nibs. “I’ve never had one that mean before,” said trainer Ed Ross Hardy. “He’s as mean as they come, but he learned quickly what he was supposed to do once he gets to the races.”
Canjun Eye Opener, trained by Vic Hansen was second. Eyem Corona, also from Hansen’s barn, was third.
The winner was bred by Von Ohlen, who has won a number of quarter horse stakes at Canterbury over the years. “We breed two or three colts a year,” he said. “It’s just a small operation.”
The victory was a small consolation to Von Ohlen, who has won the Bob Morehouse Memorial Stakes the last two years. It was scheduled for Sunday but cancelled when the field came up too short.
THE CHAMP WAS FEELING FINE
Justin Evans was on the phone Sunday morning while watching his big guy roll in the stall and stretch. “He ate everything right up last night and has gone back to being calm and relaxed, the way he always is in the barn,” Evans said.
The subject of attention was Eagle Storm, who ran the biggest race of his career on Saturday, to win the $75,000 Claiming Crown Rapid Transit and was the only locally based horse to hit the winner’s circle.
Eagle Storm is such a relaxed horse that Evans said his five-year-old daughter, Areanna, could graze him in the afternoon. “She could lead around the barn with no problem,” he said.
Eagle Storm takes on a different personality on the racetrack. His shed row demeanor undergoes a transformation. “He’s calm and relaxed, and then he’s like Superman in a phone booth,” Evans said. “He throws on that cape and he’s a different horse.”
Jesse Garcia put Eagle Storm on the lead and the race was virtually over. “Then he shook ’em loose at the 3/8ths pole and his heart was as big as the grandstand,” Evans added. “It gave me chills when he turned for home. I knew he had ’em them.”
Evans said Garcia apologized afterward for hitting Eagle Storm, something he hasn’t done before. “He said he didn’t want to do it,” Evans added.
Evans has no immediate plans for Eagle Storm, claimed from the Bernell Rhone barn on May 31. “I’m going to let him tell me when he’s ready to come back,” the trainer said.
If something comes up locally, Evans might give Eagle Storm another race here. It’s more likely that he’ll take the horse to Remington Park when he leaves here and give him a couple of races there in preparation for the Phoenix Gold Cup in early January.
THE HELP WAS ON TIME
Evans said the thought crossed his mind that he might arrive at the barn Sunday morning and have to do work himself. “Everybody was celebrating last night. There probably isn’t a Corona left in Shakopee,” he said.
But all the help was in the barn, on time and doing their jobs. “Wouldn’t that have been something. We get the biggest win ever and I have to clean five stalls,” Evans cracked.
“I had a bottle of Tylenol on my desk, just in case.”
CHICKSTER WAS IN TOUGH
The horse with more wins than any other in North America came up short for Evans and SEJ Stable, finishing fourth after leading the Express field to the ½-mile pole. Evans was undaunted.
“If you would have told me in May that I would be running him for $50,000 in the Claiming Crown, I would have called you a liar,” he said. “He’s been the icing on the cake to a wonderful summer.”
AN UNTIMELY SCRATCH
Global Trader was the third horse in the Evans barn entered to run in the Claiming Crown. The third SEJ entry was part of the field for the Iron Horse but was scatched after getting cut up by a loose saddle during a Friday morning workout.
“This horse has been the black cat in the barn,” said Evans. “Real bad karma. It
always something. The exercise rider fell off and the horse ran 5/8 of a mile with the saddle bouncing underneath and cut up its legs. The saddle hadn’t been tightened. One mistake ruined it all. The rider got fired.”