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News & Notes May 15 (5/15/2008)



Rolls of fresh sod were lined up outside the Dean Kutz Memorial Chapel Thursday morning. A fellow wearing a painter’s cap and white, paint-stained pants opened the door to the new facility and walked in, bucket in hand. Inside the racing office, a notice implored stable hands, jockey agents and trainers to pitch in and help lay sod that afternoon.

Around the corner, chaplain Tommy Bartram sat in his office reading a spiritual book of some kind.

Eventually, Bartram and his wife, Larissa, will have their office in the new building.
Right now, they are gearing up for the grand opening on June 2.

“We’ll have our regular Monday night service in there at 6 p.m.,” said Bartram. On the program, as a speaker, is Hall of Fame rider Pat Day, who will address the gathering, as will Bartram. Enrique Torres, the head of Racetrack Chaplains of America, also will be here.
The chapel, named for former Canterbury rider Dean Kutz, who died of cancer, will serve a variety of purposes in the stable area. Services will be conducted there on Mondays. Alcoholics Anonymous meetings will be held in the building on Tuesdays. English lessons also will be conducted in the building. The building will accommodate social gatherings. Bartram also expects to conduct some weddings and counseling services in the chapel.

“I’ve done probably 10 or 15 weddings out here,” Bartram said.

A silent auction on May 31 in the grandstand and a dinner are planned to help raise funds for the chapel.

Bartram was unable to say Thursday what his sermon will cover on opening night. “I’d tell you, but I don’t know,” he said. “It’s something I’m praying on now.”


Patrice Underwood was nursing a black eye and a swollen nose Thursday morning after a run-in with her horse the night before.

The HBPA executive director was throwing some hay into the stall for her thoroughbred, Wiley Gray, when he swung his head and caught on the face with an open mouth.

Wiley Gray, once trained by George Bango, can have a bad disposition at times. “He was a biter,” Underwood said.

Underwood, who rode at Canterbury as Patrice Finnegan, wasn’t about to let this thoroughbred get the best of her.

She did what any stable manager or rider worth her salt would do. “Once I got the bleeding stopped in my nose, I saddled him up and made him work,” she said.


The Groom Elite 101 class will begin on June 3 and be held on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons from noon to 3 p.m.

The class will cover a variety of topics including horse behavior and safety, conformation, shedrow safety, care of the legs, feeding and grooming and a variety of other issues related to the horse, its training and care.

Lunch will be served to prospective candidates who can sign up for the program in the HBPA office in the racing building.
Graduates of the program will receive a diploma and Groom Elite jacket.


The racing office has been so quiet the first couple of weeks of the meet that some horsemen have referred to it as a morgue. The stable kitchen was often packed with horsemen taking their morning coffee or grooms and hot-walkers and exercise riders eating breakfast. Trainers, jockey agents and riders used the building to congregate after morning workouts in years past, but are conspicuous by their absence this year.

Horsemen make their entries and then disappear.

One reason?

The no smoking rule that took effect in Minnesota last year.

“The racing office used to be blue with smoke,” recalled former rider and now HBPA executive director Patrice Underwood.


Management put on the finishing touches for its first Friday night card of the season.
Crowds and wagering have increased over the last three or four years following the introduction of live bands and specials for the Friday night cards. . . .

“In terms of raw attendance, Thursdays are still better (averaging around 5,000),” said Eric Halstrom, vice president of racing operations. “But we have higher per capita wagering on Friday nights with crowds hovering around 4,000.”

Friday nights feature live bands and will include something new this season. “We’re introducing 2-for-1 night,” said Halstrom.

Two can get in for the price of one. And _ to avoid discriminating against singles _ individuals will be admitted for half price, $2,50.

The Chris Hawkey band will perform as part of tonight’s card.

“The bands seem to help,” said Halstrom.