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News & Notes July 17



Bob Johnson can’t remember the name of his first winning quarter horse. That was more than 30 years ago.

He’ll remember the next winner he saddles, though.

That will be his 1000th.

It could happen tonight in one of the first three trial races on the Canterbury Park card, which would be OK with him.

“I was talking to (racing secretary) Doug Schoepf, and he said he’d sure like to see me do it here,” Johnson said.

“I would, too. I’ve got a lot of friends here, and there’s no racetrack I’ve been to in the U.S. that has treated me better than Canterbury Park.”

If it happens, Johnson isn’t apt to forget the name of his next winner. It might be one of two horses in the first race, either Proud Royal Shakem or Flash N Passion. It might be Smashingly Classic, a 2-1 choice in the second race or Brother Vern, a 3-1 morning line selection in the third.
Tonight is likely his last opportunity to reach the milestone in Shakopee. “This will probably be the last race day for us here,” he said.

Johnson doesn’t recall the name of his first winner but he knows where he was at the time. “Centennial Race Track in Denver,” he said. “I was 19 years old.”

Johnson is a native of Lemon, S.D., about 500 miles west of Shakopee on the North and South Dakota border.

He settled on training after learning young that riding wasn’t a likely part of his future.

“The first race I ever won was horseback,” he said. “It was at the Butte County Fair in Nisland, S.D., in 1967. I was nine years old.”

That career was short-lived. “It didn’t take me long to outgrow that habit, ” he said. “By the time was about 16, I was too big.”

Johnson’s opinion on Canterbury was developed after racing at several places in the country. “I guess it’s easier to tell you the states I have been in,” he said.

Johnson then fired off a few states: Louisiana, California, Oregon, Washington and New York.
Johnson had horses at Canterbury in 1985, the year the track opened, and has been training here regularly since 1990.

He’s had only two winners at the current meet and didn’t know he was so close to the milestone. “My dad called me (last week) and told me the AQHA had called him with the news,” Johnson said.

Johnson is apt to make the next call when an update is required.


Gary Ladd, who trained a few horses in the early years at Canterbury but is best known for his work as a farrier, died last week in Louisiana.

Trainer Bill Bethke has known Ladd for years and considered him a good friend. “He was up here a few weeks ago and I knew then he didn’t have long,” Bethke said. “He brought a horse up here for me to train. I knew when he left that I’d probably not see him again.”

Ladd originally was from Northern Colorado, but had a farm in Louisiana and had been a regular on the Canterbury backside, Bethke said, since about 1986 or 1987.

“He was a good ol’ cowboy,” Bethke said. “He was a gunsmith when he was younger and all the big companies wanted him to work for them. He trained quarter horses all over the country.”
Bethke said that Ladd left a “nondescript Louisiana thoroughbred” with him on his last trip to Minnesota but it isn’t apt to run anytime soon. “I didn’t have the heart to tell him,” Bethke said.
Bethke knew it was the last time he would see his longtime friend and struggled to keep the tears confined when Ladd left.

“I guess I’ll see you when I see you, buddy,” Bethke said.

“Those were my last words.”


Best Westerner traveled to Assiniboia Downs last weekend for the $50,000 Derby Trial , the last major prep race before the Manitoba Lotteries Derby the first week of August. Best Westerner was a decided favorite for the race. He had beaten many of the same horses in the Harry Jeffrey Stakes there earlier this year.

It appeared he would make it two in row at Assiniboia.

“He was sitting an easier winner ,” trainer Jamie Ness said. “Then he switched leads and…boom.”
Best Westerner chipped a knee and is done for the season.

“It seems it’s all hitting at once,” Ness said. “I’ve got some others hurting, too.”

Best Westerner, ridden by Assiniboia’s leading rider, Alan Cuthbertson, finished third.