BY JIM WELLS
Racing returned to Canterbury Park Thursday night and so did something resembling humane humidity. To celebrate the occasion, management opened the gates and let 6,504 patrons file through without charge.
There were all sorts of returns of good will, handshakes and smiles from track employees and participants in the races, 10 in all.
Among the riders extremely pleased to be back in the saddle was Nik Goodwin, who broke his right collarbone and a rib on the upper right in an accident on June 5. Goodwin spent the entire shutdown finishing his convalescence.
The state shutdown was officially over on the racetrack, and management is conferring with horsemen in an attempt to reschedule 12 racing cards lost since July 1.
Although there were indications that all of the races, including stakes, lost during the shutdown will take place through some sort of extension of the season combined with an extra day here or there, track president and CEO Randy Sampson said Thursday it was certain that at least six of the 12 days lost will be made up.
Meanwhile, racing fans were welcomed back with traditional Thursday night fare: $1 hot dogs, Pepsi and nachos with cheese.
Even more enticing were the payoffs from horses running for the first time in three weeks. Long shots ruled the day, none more enticingly than the winner of the sixth race, Alex’s Tomcat, trained by Red Rarick and ridden by Goodwin.
The gelded son of Iron Cat returned a hefty $70.80, $22.40, $5.60 across the board, the big return on a night of big returns.
How to explain it?
Lots of factors, Goodwin said.
“The horses are all fresh with a three-week layoff. We don’t know how hard some of them worked during that time. Plus there is a rhythm to training and entering horses that was interrupted. Everything is maybe out of rhythm right now.”
Well, that was one explanation anyway for an evening of nice payoffs. It started with race No. 1 Champ Laila, trained by Bruce Riecken and ridden by Luis Robletto returned
Mogilny with Anne Von Rosen up returned $19.20 in the second race. In race three, In For A Song and Derek Bell returned $17.20, followed by Samantha’s Rule, with Von Rosen up, with a $30.40 payback.
In a stretch duel between Local Big Shot and Somerset Mariton, Juan Rivera got a much needed win aboard Big Shot, owned by Tom and Karen Metzen and Gary McCloud and trained by Mike Biehler.
“I was tired,” Rivera said, referring not only to his horse.
Rivera’s winner, by Thursday’s standards, returned a modest $8.40.
Finally, in race seven, a favorite came through. Missnorasdouble, under caught Speaker’s Action, 8-1, at the wire to return $3.80.
Race eight was not much different with 3-1 favorite Stillwater Storm nipping Heart’s Of Gold, 23-1, at the wire.
Not all was peachy with the return of racing, however. Some owners were still incensed at money invested in boarding and training with no chance of a return for 12 race days.
Riders took various approaches to the shutdown. Derek Bell spent the time riding at home in Indiana and at Prairie Meadows. Other riders stayed at Canterbury, working horses in the morning, earning zip and awaiting the return of racing.
Jockey Brittany Arterburn married farrier Scott Rhone, last Sunday night at the Wilds. The wedding and reception went without a hitch. The marriage? “Check back with me in 20 years,” Rhone cracked.
Bernell Rhone, father to the groom, admitted to a hangover. Grandchildren from North Dakota arrived with a concoction made from the notorious Everclear. “It was some sort of Kickapoo juice,” Rhone said. “Very pleasant tasting and easy to drink. Then, an hour later….”
The real hangovers belonged to the riders, trainers, owners and track management still recovering from the stress and anxiety of three weeks without work.