by JIM WELLS
There were nine races on Thursday night’s card at Canterbury Park.
There were nine different winning riders.
There were nine races on Friday night’s card, and seven different winners.
There were 10 races on Saturday’s card, and seven different winners; the seven thoroughbred races were won by six different riders
Will it continue like that throughout the meet?
It’s anybody’s guess. What seems a great deal more certain is that this meet’s jockey colony at Canterbury is one of the most competitive in many years. Certainly there are a number of factors that will play a part in who wins what, but the race for a riding title could stay fierce with this colony.
“It’s deep, deep, deep, the most competitive since I’ve been here,” said Ry Eikleberry, who’s riding for the fourth time in Shakopee.
“Derek, Scott, Dean, Eddie, me. Almost anybody can win this meet.”
And there others who will play a role in the final standings, riders such as Juan Rivera, Paul Nolan, Nik Goodwin, Jose Rivera, Dave Cardoso.
Eikleberry continued to lead the thoroughbred jockey standings after Saturday’s card with 21 wins, followed by Dean Butler with 19, Eddie Martin, Jr. with 14, Derek Bell with 13, Scott Stevens with 12 and Juan Rivera with 11.
Informed that Thursday’s card included nine different winners, Bell, a six-time riding champ at Canterbury, said,
”That doesn’t happen very often here.”
Hall of Fame rider Scott Stevens says there are factors other than talent alone accounting for the phenomenon. “That’s what happens with short fields,” he said.
“We’ve always had good riders here, but yeah (the recent trend is different).”
The trainers are not unaware of what’s happening either.
“There are five or six riders who are very, very capable,” said Francisco Bravo. “In Iowa there are two or maybe three riders like that and if you don’t get one of them, you’re screwed.”
Bravo added that many riders come to Canterbury thinking they’ll take over and become instant winners.
“Anybody who comes to Canterbury thinking they’ll have an easy time is just fooling themselves,” Bravo added.
What that means the rest of the meet remains to be seen, but one thing is apparent to defending riding champ Dean Butler.
“Oh, yeah, there are a lot of good riders here; that’s for sure,” he said. “But we always have good riders here.”
A FIRST-TIME WINNER
Denny Velasquez, 16, is an apprentice rider who hit the winner’s circle for the first time in his career in Saturday’s seventh race on Musical Shine, his 24th mount and a 30-1 longshot that paid $64..
Did he expect it?
“Not on a 30-1 horse,” he said.
But he knew what to expect afterward _ a hazing; just not everything it would include.
Clerk of scales Jerry Simmons, also the jockey lounge boss, got soaked when Derek Bell greeted Velasquez in the winner’s circle with a bucket of ice and water. Velasquez tried to escape in Simmons’ direction.
“Hey, you ran right to me like I was your dad,” Simmons said to Velasquez.
Then, Paul Nolan began dousing Velasquez with baby powder as he bounded down the steps from the winner’s circle.
It wasn’t over.
Once inside the jockey lounge, Velasquez’s colleagues waited with black shoe polish, hot sauce and pepper and a razor.
They shaved off part of Velasquez’s left eyebrow and filled in the gap with eyebrow pencil, then applied the hot sauce indiscriminately as he tried to get in the shower. Then they added the shoe polish.
“My butt is still black,” he said after emerging from the jock’s quarters clad only in a towel. “And I can’t find my clothes.”
Just then, trainer Steve Kane arrived to congratulate Velasquez for on taking his horse to the winner’s circle.
Was it worth it?
“I’m glad it’s out of the way,” Velasquez said.
ANOTHER QUARTER HORSE RECORD
Stormy Smith swept the quarter horse trials and was aboard a track record setter in the card finale.
In the card capper, he rode Mr Hempens Feature (pictured), bred and owned by Cynthia Besser of Minnesota, and the Mr. Jess gelding was clocked in :19.692 over 400 yards, eclipsing the record (:19.70) set by One Rare Bug in 2002. The trainer is Brent Clay.
Friday night, Hall of Fame jockey Scott Stevens rode Casanova Corona, trained by William Harris, to a win at 300 yards in a track record :15.37.