One of the best weekends of horse racing in Shakopee this season concluded on Sunday after four consecutive days of glorious weather, a patriotic presentation of American war memorabilia, including a replica of the wall devoted to Viet Nam casualties, a strong showing by a veteran rider and some displays of consistency by horses stabled at Canterbury.
The weekend concluded with a couple of longshot winners as well.
There was a visit from Charley Leerhsen, the author of “Crazy Good The True Story of Dan Patch. The Most famous horse in America. Leerhsen autographed copies of his book for buyers Saturday afternoon.
Throw in a humorous event or two and that pretty much sized up a weekend of sunshine, improved fields for the races and lessons from veteran jockeys on how to get the job done.
Hall of Fame jockey Scott Stevens gave directions to the winner’s circle in three consecutive races Friday and added victories on Saturday and Sunday as well.
Track superintendent Ian Gamble gave a good ol’ boy verbal slap on the back to Stevens as the jockey headed down the stairs from the winner’s circle after recording win No. 3 on Friday.
“There he is, Hall of Fame rider Scott Stevens,” Gamble said. Stevens gave a look of mixed approval as he bounded down the steps.
Before the first race on Friday, clerk of scales Jerry Simmons got a call from paddock judge Steve Ruff.
“Hey, Jerry, there’s a Lincoln Town Car out here in the paddock with your license plate on it,” Ruff told him.
“God, I was mad,” Simmons said.
A friend was returning Simmons’ car to him after borrowing it for the day and somehow took a wrong turn and wound up in the saddling paddock.
Friday’s first race included a frightening spill on a horse ridden by young Ry Eikleberrry, who was able to roll away from trouble and ride in the second race on the card.
The highlight of Saturday’s card was a victory in the $50,000 Northbound Pride Stakes by a filly named Three Graces, owned by Carolyn Friedberg and Majestic Farms LLC of Wayzata, trained by Richie Scherer and ridden by Paul Nolan.
Thursday night provided the best turnout of the weekend. A crowd just 70 people short of 6,000 was on hand for dollar night and dined on hot dogs as if they were peanuts.
Sunday’s card had some nice payoffs for adventuresome bettors.
Fancy for Ghazi, ridden by Dean Butler, owned by Curtis Sampson and Dale Schenian and trained by Todd Hoffrogge, was a $17 dollar winner in race three.
In Heaven, owned by Tom Abrahamson and Kelly Schreurs, trained by Red Rarick and ridden by Stevens was a $16 winner in the fifth race.
But race eight provided the grand-daddy of the longshots. Our Valley Girl, owned by Barbara Nielson Swenson of Surprise, Ariz., conditioned by Hall of Fame trainer David Van Winkle and ridden by Jocelyn Kenny, was a $79 winner.
FROM THE BARN TO THE BAR
Wes Kutz was a visitor to Canterbury over the weekend. He and his brother Kenny made a career-changing decision during a visit to The Wild Mustang. a local watering hole in Sykeston, N.D., last year.
The Kutz family, including these two brothers, have been familiar names at Canterbury since the inaugural days of pari-mutuel racing in Minnesota. Kenny and Wes most recently kept a small stable on the grounds and still have a couple of horses here.
They also have three broodmares. “Two of them in foal,” Wes said. “The third one just lost a foal.”
But the Kutz brothers’ focus has changed in the last few months.
The Wild Mustang is now the Jockey Club Bar and is under new ownership.
“I stopped for a drink and the owner told me she was shutting the place down on Dec. 29,” Wes said.
Instead, there was an ownership transfer in December after the Kutz brothers took over. “It’s a big change after all these years,” Wes said. “I’ve been around horse my entire life.”
Sykeston, Wes said, has a population of around 120, so it was suggested that it might be tough making a go of it with such a small base.
That wasn’t the case during the grand opening.
“We had more than 300 people here for that,” he said. “It was on Kentucky Derby day.” The bar includes a flat screen television, tuned in mostly to horse races from around the nation.
There is also considerable memorabilia from the career of another Kutz brother, Dean, the first jockey inducted into the Hall of Fame at Canterbury. Dean died of throat cancer a couple of years ago. The chapel undergoing the final stages of construction on the backside at Canterbury is named in his honor.
How long his two brothers will stay in the bar business and away from the track is a matter of conjecture, even on their parts. The guess is NOT LONG, if they entertain too many customers like the potential patron who approached Wes outside the paddock on Sunday.
“I’d like to come up there and run a tab all night,” said jockey agent Richard Grunder. “And then run out on it.”