Horse racing can build bridges, create a nexus between people and their families due entirely to the horses they own or, in one particular case, want to own.
Take Lori and Harlan Walker of rural Wall, S.D., for instance. The Walkers raced horses at Canterbury Downs when it debuted in 1985, and for several years thereafter. They took a break to raise a family, a hiatus from 1990 until 2014 when they returned to Shakopee.
“The kids got into sports. We got them raised while owning several businesses,” Harlan said. “Then we went back to Canterbury in 2014.”
Harlan was a jockey in his teenage years and roomed with Bill Mott at one time. He also did his own training at Canterbury until an ankle surgery in 2016 forced him to the sidelines and he turned over the family horses to Mike Biehler.
The ankle surgery failed and Harlan was told by doctors in Rochester that he would lose his leg. He found another opinion and a doctor who agreed to reconstruct the ankle once more. The reconstruction came with a limp, yet understandably Harlan prefers that option.
With only a cane for support, he and Lori were in the Canterbury paddock before the seventh race on Saturday, hoping to reach the winner’s circle with their Minnesota-bred maiden Facing North, who failed to get them there, running off the board.
During the last couple of years, other matters transpired at home, in Wall, after the Walkers received a phone call from California.
This was the start of a somewhat circuitous chain of events that led to the maiden start of a Minnesota-bred filly last week against a field of Kentucky-breds at Del Mar.
The Walkers bought a racehorse named Pawn Shop that became part of their small broodmare band and a man from California, Joseph Menegos, was interested in buying her. The Walkers didn’t want to sell, but after later hearing Menegos’ story and the details of his interest in Pawn Shop, they began to reconsider. Menegos had owned Pawn Shop when she competed in a partnership that included his brother, Doug. Pawn Shop was claimed from her California owners who followed her thereafter but then lost track.
Later, they traced her whereabouts to Wall, S.D. and the Walkers, who were unwilling to sell Pawn Shop, now one of their broodmares, or her first foal.
Then a tragedy came into play.
“They kept calling, and then Doug was killed,” Lori said.
The Walkers, moved by the story, relented and sold the first foal of Pawn Shop, a Minnesota-bred filly they named Roses for Doug, to Menegos, who has three other partners in the deal, not unlike the partnership that originally existed with Pawn Shop. One of the partners in that ownership was Joe’s brother Doug, who was killed in a freeway crash by a wrong-way driver. Hence, Menegos’ keen interest in reacquiring Pawn Shop, a late runner his late brother used to call “ass sniffer.” Naturally, there was considerable sentiment driving his offer to buy back the mare.
Instead, a deal was struck for the mare’s first foal and on July 18 at Del Mar, Roses For Doug, a Minnesota-bred by Kela, lined up against a field of eight Kentucky-breds at five furlongs and acquitted herself well, finishing fifth after a strong late run along the rail, a finish quite pleasing to her owners who saw in it perhaps a preference to a greater distance.
“She broke well,” Menegos said and dropped back. She didn’t like dirt in her face at all. Wasn’t used to that. She has to go a mile or better.”
Roses For Doug was first handled by Jerry Hollendorfer, until his dispute with Del Mar arose when she was turned over to Art Sherman.
Menegos owns the horse in a partnership that includes his father, Mike, brother Doug’s widow, Lisa, and John McGeachy, a family friend of 30 years.
Menegos and the Walkers have not met, but have spoken several times on the phone. “Lisa called us after we sold them the filly to thank us,” Lori said.
And, of course, the Walkers tuned in to watch Roses For Doug’s maiden start.
Pawn Shop, meanwhile, has a Midshipman colt by her side and is bred back to Graydar.
BOB MOREHOUSE STAKES
Hard to imagine that twenty years have passed, two decades, but Saturday’s rendition was the 20th running of this stakes event honoring a Canterbury Hall of Fame Minnesota native.
Bob Morehouse was a quarter horse breeder and one of those he raised was Cash Caravan, the first horse inducted into the track’s Hall of Fame.
Saturday, Dickey Bob became a two-time winner of this event, defending the title he won last year, and once again he bested his full brother, PYC Jess Bite Mydust, along with Jess Doin Time in this $38,600 race.
With Julian Serrano up, Dickey Bob typically hit another gear midway through the 350-yard event and hit the wire a head in front of Jess Doin Time and another 1 ½ lengths in front of PYC Jess Bite My Dust.
The winning owner, Bruce Lunderborg, wasn’t complaining, just making an observation afterward: “PYC is the fast one,” he said, shaking his head, then pointing out that any distance over Saturday’s 350 yards would back him up.
And trainer Jason Olmstead had a minor gripe himself:
The first three horses in the race were from his barn. Not good enough.
“Ticked me off,” he said, pointing out that he wanted the first four.
Meanwhile, Bobbi Knapper, Bob’s daughter and a member of the Hall of Fame herself, had a variety of scrapbooks and memorabilia about her father to share with relatives at an annual family gathering in the Triple Crown Suite.