BY JIM WELLS
Racing fans exasperated by the weather this summer might benefit from a chat with Canterbury Park Hall of Fame rider Scott Stevens.
Stevens had mounts Saturday and Sunday at Arapaho Park in Colorado and planned to point his motor home eastward on Sunday night. The three-time riding champion at Canterbury Park will finish out the meet here, starting with mounts he is named on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
His presence will enhance an already strong jockey colony that includes four former riding champions: Jareth Loveberry, Dean Butler, Leandro Goncalves and Ry Eikleberry.
Stevens, 57, has developed a plan for riding that best suits his longevity in the saddle. He rides annually at Turf Paradise in Phoenix, an eight-month meet that takes a toll on much younger riders yet did not prevent him from winning another riding title last season.
Careful attention to his body and the demands of his sport enable him to compete successfully against riders half his age and younger. The past couple of years he has taken only select assignments during the summer months, to stay in condition and yet reduce the toll on his body.
He’ll continue that regimen while returning to the track this week where he won titles in 1990, 1991 and 1992. He rode 151 winners to earn his first riding title in Shakopee, in 1990. He was on 108 winners the next year and 101, one win in front of Vicky Warhol, the next season.
Stevens is third on Canterbury’s all-time list of top money-earners, riding mounts whose earnings reached $10,942684. He still leads riders at Canterbury in total starts here with 6,492 and is second to Derek Bell in all-time wins with 991. His 151 wins in 1990 are second to only Dean Kutz, who had 158 in 1987.
Stevens had a mount on Saturday at Arapahoe Park he believed had no chance, yet he brought him in a winner just the same. “I thought it might be the slowest horse I’d ridden all year,” he said. I didn’t think it had a chance.”
He was wrong.
“It was a $57 horse,” he said.
He rode at Arapahoe Park on Saturday and Sunday after leaving Phoenix last week. He got only as far as Flagstaff, Ariz., when a blowout on his travel home delayed him briefly.
He was happy to get a respite from the Phoenix valley under any conditions. Minnesota weather sounds amiable after an Arizona summer that has been oppressively warm and destructive. The annual monsoons have brought heavy rain, flooding, dangerously high winds and humidity in addition to large dust storms.
Stevens spent many summers in Minnesota until the last few years, so his familiarity with the desert during those months is somewhat limited. He has gotten familiar quickly in 2018.
His significant other, Pam, experienced a frightening and dangerous incident in July during a storm that included winds reaching 65 miles an hour. They had talked previously about the ability of trees near the training track at Turf Paradise to have withstood storms and high winds over the years.
Not this time.
She was in the car with her daughter when the wind toppled a tree near the training track, taking down a power line that fell on them. The electric charge left marks resembling something that had been welded onto the car and blew out the windows.
It understandably left some emotional marks on the car’s occupants as well. “She was going to come for dinner but skipped it,” Stevens said.
There is an atmospheric change also that Stevens was anticipating as he left Colorado.
“We’re over 7,000 feet here,” he added. “It will be good to be in Minnesota.”
Stevens stays in touch with racing news so he is aware of what transpires at Canterbury Park, regardless where he is riding.
Mr. Jagermeister’s dominating win on Saturday in the Minnesota Derby was mentioned to him, and he had a reaction, based on his long history with racing in Shakopee.
“He might be the best Minnesota-bred ever, right there with (Hall of Fame horse) Blair’s Cove (winner of the 1988 Derby),” Stevens said.
Of course, that bit of Canterbury history didn’t require research. Stevens rode Blair’s Cove more than once, including his 58th and final start in the 1992 Minnesota Classic Championship.