Canterbury Park, Shakopee, Minn logo



John Shyrock was only 10 years old and his options limited but he had a pretty good idea how to make a buck just the same.

He didn’t weigh more than 100 pounds. “Nobody was looking for somebody that size to run a jackhammer or work as a roughneck in the oil fields,” he recalled.
 “Galloping horses was a no brainer. I could get on 15 or 20 of them a day.”

Shyrock had grown up around horses in the Illinois hinterlands. “We used horses in some places more than people used tractors,” he said. “We grew up in the sticks. Everybody farmed with horses.”

Shyrock, who’ll turn 73 in December, grew up in southern Illinois and eventually he graduated from gallop-boy status to jockey, riding at the county fairs throughout the state. He could slip by at his young age galloping horses many places, but “I had to reach 16 to get my license and ride,” he recalled. That was his goal.

As time wore on, riding gave way to training and Shyrock is still at it, hunkered down this summer at Canterbury Park. He handles most of the barn himself, galloping, grooming and training the seven horses in his care. His small stable has produced a 2-6-3 record from 20 starts.

Shyrock has been training at Canterbury the past decade. Although he missed the 2010 meet here, he considers this the place to be during the summer months.

“I always do pretty well here,” he said. “I really like the place, but then I don’t know anybody who doesn’t like Canterbury. You could go through the barns and ask 100 people and 98 would give you the same answer about the place.”

There are links to stories about his past in Shakopee, too.

“Whenever you’re in this business, you’re bound to run into people you’ve known for some time,” he said.

One of them here is clerk of scales and jockey room custodian Jerry Simmons, who rode for Shyrock at Illinois fairs in the 1960s.

“I rode a horse one time for John by the name of Genial Jim. I was on him six or seven times and was never beaten,” Simmons recalled.

“And Jerry rode some of the time against (Canterbury steward) Noble Hay,” Shyrock added.

Shyrock plans on giving Turf Paradise a try once the Canterbury meet concludes, even though he has usually returned home to Illinois and Hawthorne Race Course in the past. He owns a home 11 miles from Hawthorne and has worked as an assistant there to Joel Burndt.

“We’ve been working together one way or another the past 15 years. He’s almost like a son to me,” Shyrock added.

Shyrock is Canterbury’s Trainer of the week this week, an award he’s gotten several times over the years. He has numerous stories about the racetrack and acquaintances over the years, but one of his favorites is about his two children.

His daughter, Deborah, and son, once rode as jockeys at the same time. “They were the first brother and sister to do that,” Shyrock added. “Dave didn’t ride more than a few months. He was getting too big and he knew it.”

There is also a link to racing royalty in John Shyrock’s family story. His now deceased former son-in-law, Phil Marino, was the original trainer of John Henry.


Jose Gonsalves, who handles Atta Boy Roy for trainer Valorie Lund, was honored for his work in the barn. “He’s an excellent horseman,” Lund said, “not just a groom.”
Atta Boy Roy was named best turned out horse at Saratoga , where Gonsalves accompanied the horse recently for the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Stake.

Rider Anne Von Rosen will miss the remainder of the meet after breaking a collarbone in an early morning spill during Thursday works. Dustin Dugas, injured in the paddock last week, had hoped to resume riding Thursday but is still on the mend and has decided to return home to Louisiana on Friday.