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She’s a Horsewoman, Through and Through



In all his years of fulfilling requests from trainers, grooms and hotwalkers, stall superintendent Mark Stancato had never been asked for anything quite like it.

The newest arrival on the backside Tuesday morning needed _ he couldn’t believe his ears _ a pitchfork.

“That was absolutely a first and I told her so,” Stancato said.

Faith Taylor arrived from northern California for the Claiming Crown on July 25 in advance of four horses due to arrive on Wednesday night. “They are so strict with what you can and can’t bring on a plane now,” she said. “You can’t have anything sharp, so I assumed I couldn’t bring a pitchfork.”

Taylor learned about such restrictions long before 9-11. She was traveling from Southern California to the northern part of the state a few years ago and nearly missed her flight.”I had my riding crop and they wouldn’t let me bring it,” she said. “I don’t know who they thought I was going to whip on that plane, but I had to pack it in my suitcase and had a hard time getting it to fit. All that happened before they got so strict.”

Stancato helped Taylor with four stalls and outfitted her with a pitchfork in advance of the scheduled arrival Wednesday of four horses on a flight from San Francisco.

That Taylor needed a pitchfork was not all that Stancato learned about her. She told him that she needed new knees. Indeed she does. What she didn’t tell him was why those knees needed replacement. Galloping horses for nearly 35 years took a toll, but so did Taylor’s true passion.

She is a former world champion bareback bronc rider in the Professional Women’s Rodeo Assn. and at one time rode bulls, too.

She gave up the bulls after learning how good she was on the broncs. “I figured I was going to get hurt at some point on a bull and wouldn’t be able to ride bareback,” Taylor said.

Taylor was on the rodeo circuit for 30 years _ 40 if you count the junior circuit _ so she qualifies as a “real” cowgirl. “Oh, yeah, I’m authentic,” she said.

“Anyone can tell if they watch me walk.”

She’s also an assistant to trainer Lloyd Mason _ she’s worked for him nearly 20 years _ and will run the show in the barn and paddock through the Claiming Crown.

She’ll saddle four horses owned by Ed Denike. Stormy Surge will run in the Emerald. “Stormy’s my favorite,” Taylor said. “He always gives 110 percent and he’s a real tough bugger.”

Taylor will saddle Frisco Fox for the Glass Slipper, Bartox Bling for the Tiara and You’re My Boy Blue, a last-minute supplement, in the Rapid Transit.

Although Taylor’s knees are wearing down _ “almost bone on bone” _ she still breaks the majority of Mason’s young horses at the farm in Walnut Creek, Calif.

“About half of the horses in our barn are Ed’s,” Taylor said. “That’s about 21. He didn’t have any thoroughbreds before he met Lloyd. Just quarter horses. He still does, some very nice ones, top of the line. ”

Taylor will give a leg-up to a top-of-the-line rider on Claiming Crown day. Hall of Fame rider Russell Baze will be aboard all four Denike-owned horses.

“He’s our regular rider,” Taylor said. “He didn’t have anything else going on. He’s worked the horses and likes them all. We’re pretty excited.”

Denike and Mason won’t be in Shakopee for the Claiming Crown. “Ed’s wife, Theresa, will be flying in, though,” Taylor said. “So it will just be the girls.”

Taylor said it with a confident air. After all, who would mess with a real cowgirl, particularly one with a pitchfork.

Antrim County, the winner of the Claiming Crown Iron Horse in 2008, will return this year as a possible favorite _ for the richest race on the card, the Jewel.

And under new ownership. “He was claimed for $50,000 last Nov. 9,” said Claiming Crown coordinator Nat Wess “And he’s won three times, finished second twice, third twice and fourth once for the new owner. “

Wess reported Wednesday there were 17 pre-entries for the $100,000 Emerald, 12 for the $50,000 Express, 11 for the $50,000 Iron Horse, 10 for the $75,000 Glass Slipper, eight for the $75,000 Rapid Transit and the $100,000 Tiara and Seven for the $150,000 Jewel.

Among the pre-entries for the Emerald is a horse named Spicy Dubai, conditioned by Michael Matz, who trained Barbaro.