BY JIM WELLS
He was there the day the horse was foaled, watched him grow from a splay-legged newborn through his weanling stages into a growing, active playful yearling.
And when the time came, he was ready and waiting, dedicated to breaking this son of Magic Cat.
Then, on Friday night, 16-year-old Scott Bethke got a leg up from his father, Troy, onto the back of the first-time starter, now bearing the name Little Timmy. The story-line of this particular union of horse and rider was not lost upon anyone familiar with the Bethke family and their farm in New Germany. A first time starter owned and bred by the family, ridden by a family member
Numerous horsemen have watched over the years as Scott stood at the side of his father, a trainer at Canterbury since its opening days. “It’s hard to believe,” said trainer Jerry Livingston. “It seems like yesterday when he was about this high,” he added, placing his hand about three feet off the ground.
In a scenario you won’t even find in a farfetched Hollywood script, Scott Bethke felt about 10 feet tall after winning his first race at Canterbury Park…and it came aboard Little Timmy.
Could it have been any better? First win at the local racetrack, aboard a horse the rider not only broke but was present for at its arrival into the world, a horse owned and trained by his father.
“That was pretty cool,” Bethke offered after taking Little Timmy gate to wire, firing him out of the gate and straight to a four-length lead that carried him to a 2 ¼ length victory over He’s A Talker, with Socrates Creation next in the 3 ½-furlong sprint for two-year-old maidens.
So what did the owner/trainer say to his son in the paddock, what instructions did he give him as he gave him a leg up in the paddock before the race?
“I told him to ride him like a quarter horse and that’s pretty much what he did,” Bethke said.
It was Scott Bethke’s first win at a track he has been around since his early boyhood. “He’s been coming out here since he was five or six years old,” Troy said. “He’s pretty quiet but we’ve known he wanted to be a rider for a long time.”
That was pretty much determined in this particular case years ago. “He’s been riding since he was two or three years old,” Troy said. “If you’re exposed to horses when you’re young you either like it or you don’t. He did.”
Not even the heavy chores of horse ownership deterred him. “Oh, he helped in the barn, cleaning stalls and all the stuff you do on a farm,” Troy said. “Cleaning stalls, putting hay out, taking horses in from the paddock, all of it.”
Bethke first became aware of his son’s intense interest in racing years ago. “He’s been talking about being a jockey since he was 12 or 13,” Troy said.
His interest in racing was evident even before that. “He’s been reading the Racing Form for years,” Troy said. And then, when he was about 10 years of age, his grandmother gave him a subscription to the Blood Horse.
The groundwork was laid throughout his boyhood in various ways. Last winter, it came to fruition when Scott got his jockey license at Fonner Park, where he won six races.
His first win at his home-state racetrack came in his 110th mount on horse that just so happens to be a homebred. “I remember him telling me when this colt was a baby that one day he was going to ride him,” Troy added.
Friday night Scott Bethke did just that…straight to the winner’s circle.