by JIM WELLS
By some accounts, it is a marriage made in heaven or, at the very least, the racetrack.
Take your pick.
Patrice Finnegan, as she was then known, was dating the man who would become her husband, Ed Underwood, and invited him to the racetrack. “If I win,” she told him. “Come on down and get in the picture.”
Patrice was riding for Tom McFadden in the race and her horse indeed won. Here’s where the question arises regarding divine intervention of some sort:
The horse’s name was Future Fling.
Ed Underwood is a minister of the Lord.
Patrice and Ed met after one of the track’s chapel services on the backside. Don Smith was the track chaplain at the time, and Ed, who serves the faithful in Shakopee, was there to help Don with music for the service.
“It was the end of July in 1990,” Patrice recalled. “Ed brought his guitar to help with the music. He asked me out a month later and we got married in December.”
Clearly, Ed and Patrice didn’t believe in long engagements.
“Best decision I ever made,” said Patrice, who long ago hung up her saddle and is the executive director of the local HPBA.
Patrice rode from 1985 to 1992, all but two of those years at Canterbury. “I went to Iowa for a couple of years,” she said, “and then came back in 1990.”
She rode in Shakopee until the track closed for two years after the 1992 meet. She rode in the last race run at Canterbury Downs and was planning on returning when the track reopened in 1995.
“I went two summers trying to get fit and be ready by the time the meet started here in 1995,” she said. “But it was real hard, trying to get fit at the racetrack.”
She was also getting educated in other lines of work. During Canterbury’s two dark years after the 1992 season, Patrice went to cabinet making school and also studied math and computers at Hennepin Technical College. She became a certified cabinet maker. She and Ed also worked in property management.
“After I quit riding, I didn’t come to the races for a couple of years,” she said. “It was real hard to be on the other side of the fence.” She started with the HBPA in 2004.
Their present jobs enable the Underwoods to see each other during the course of a day. Patrice is located at HBPA headquarters in the Racing Office. Ed is a few yards away in the Dean Kutz Memorial Chapel.
Patrice is from Burlington, Wis., the original home to the coat company that bears the city’s name and also home to the Nestle Chocolate Co. She grew up in the rural fringes of Burlington and was riding at an early age. “I had a pony when I was seven.”
But she had to work, mowing lawns and babysitting, when it came time to buy a horse. She began race riding at Woodbine in 1981 and broke her maiden there.
Ed, on the other hand, has assisted all but one of the chaplains at Canterbury since 1985, and is also pastor of River of Life Community Church in Shakopee, where he started in May of 1994.
He did para church ministry before that and was involved in jail ministry in Scott County for 15 years as well. He took over as chaplain at Canterbury this year when Tommy Bartram asked him to step in for the year.
It has been an active, busy summer.
Ed generally arrives at Canterbury at 7:30 p.m. six days a week, unlocks the chapel and, after picking up his Spanish interpreter, Rueben Rosas, from the Mike Biehler barn, delivers a positive message for the day over the backside loudspeakers that is then repeated in Spanish by Rosas.
He does prayer services with the jockeys and the gate crew before each race card and conducts a weekly service in the chapel on Tuesday evenings. A meal is provided afterward, catered by his church or the Christian Life Church of Farmington. There are generally 50 to 60 members of the backside who attend.
The chapel also conducts an English as a second language class on Monday nights. Soccer and volleyball programs are available, too.
When she rode for a living, Patrice looked forward to the warm weather tracks during the winter months. She knew she would miss that if she retired from riding. A promise from Ed helped her make the decision.
“He told me that if I quit running around to racetracks, that he would take me someplace warm and tropical every winter,” she said.
“I told him he had a deal.”