by JIM WELLS
The big barns on the grounds have gotten even bigger this spring, albeit for reasons different to each.
Some trainers took on horses due to the absence of Todd Hoffrogge, who gave up training. His local owners dispersed to other barns this spring. In other cases, owners increased their stables with a single trainer or two.
None of it escaped the ever vigilant eye of barn superintendent Mark Stancato, who allocates stall space and, naturally, noticed several increases.
“Gary Scherer went from around 20 to 38 or 40,” Stancato said. Mike Biehler went from 36 to 50. Troy Bethke is up to 45 and could bring in more. He never had more than 40 before. Bernell Rhone never had more than 54 and is up to 62 this spring.”
Other trainers have bigger barns this spring as well. “Vic Hanson went from around 18 to 25, to 33 and now is up to 50,” Stancato added.
Although Red and Wade Rarick have their own strings, Stancato chooses to count them as a tandem. “I lump that father-son team as one,” he said. “They had 23 between them last year. Now they have 35.”
Brian Porter jumped from 20 stalls to 33 this year.
Biehler attributes his increases primarily to Al and Bill Ulwelling. “They had four or five horses,” he said. “This year they have 10 to 12. That’s the biggest diff
erence for me.”
That connection has produced a significant early difference in his barn’s success.
Biehler, a former training champ at Canterbury, is on top heading into Friday’s card with six wins, five seconds and three thirds from 20 starts. He has a 30 percent win percentage, and a sizzling 70 percent figure for in the-money finishes. His barn’s total earnings are $450 short of $60,000 after two weekends.
Rhone, another Canterbury training champ, is one win behind Biehler. His barn has earned $56,460.
Clearly much of Biehler’s success has come from horses owned by the Ulwellings, whose 12 starters have produced five wins, two seconds and two thirds for an in-the-money percentage of 75 percent and earnings of $35,680. The Ulwellings have three more wins than either Miguel Silva or Charlie Smith among the owners.
Rhone’s barn isn’t complete yet.
“I don’t have them all here,” he said, “but I picked up a few new clients (this year) and a few of them have gotten a little bigger than in the past, although some have fewer horses now, too.”
Rhone has 54 horses on the grounds with a few more due to arrive soon. “Some are rehabbing with little bumps and bruises,” he explained.
He’s not complaining about the increases. “It’s a good problem to have,” he said.
“Too much beats too little.”
Many of the Canterbury regulars have barns much like previous years. “Steve Kane has 26 horses,” Stancato added. “Percy Scherbenske has 18, always does. Dave Van Winkle has 36 to 40 like always and Tim Padilla has 20 to 25 like always.”
There is one notable decline.
The barn of six-time training champ Mac Robertson is smaller than previous years. “Mac is at 53 compared to 70 last year,” Stancato explained. “He took some of his better ones to Delaware.”
Yet, nobody’s counting him out of another run at the title. The playing field has been leveled only slightly.
GROOM ELITE PROGRAM
The annual program will be conducted on 11 dates beginning on June 1 and continuing through the end of the month. Program participants will be assessed on the June 30. Canterbury Park will host a graduation party in the Ascot Lounge. Reid McLellan, the executive director of the program, will attend.
The program is conducted with a grant from the Minnesota Racing Commission,a $1,000 donation from the Minnesota Quarter Horse Racing Assn. and teaching assistance from the Minnesota Thoroughbred Assn.
CO-ED SOCCER ANYONE?
The HBPA previously sponsored baseball teams comprised of backside help, but as the response dwindled has decided to go in another direction. Soccer is the new sport du jour and co-ed at that.
A soccer league of four to five teams will be established, with games scheduled for the training track infield.
WELCOME BACK HORSEMEN
The HBPA will welcome back horsemen next Wednesday at 6 p.m. in the racing office dining room with a pizza party. Organizers are planning on a turnout of some 300 people. A girls volleyball game is scheduled that night as well, on the training track or possibly the horse path.