BY JIM WELLS
The autumnal atmosphere that settled over Shakopee on Saturday hinted at a variety of things immediately ahead, none more pressing to the riders and horsemen than closing day.
There are travel plans to be completed, respites to be taken and, for some, immediate hookups with trainers and agents where needed after the Canterbury meet concludes with cards next Friday and Saturday.
Without fear of overstatement, we can say this: It is impossible to surpass the weather that greeted race-goers on Saturday, the best of the entire meet.
How does 72 degrees, a 16 mph breeze and 39 percent humidity grab you !
It grabbed the riders, the grooms, the valets and the trainers just fine, and several small-time dramas began their final scenes under those conditions. Trainer, rider and owner championships are still on the line.
The race for leading rider is probably settled, but don’t tell Orlando Mojica, who began the day trailing Ry Eikleberry for the lead by 11 wins.
That story-line picked up an additional layer in the first race when Mojica won aboard Jonny’s Choice but then was taken down because his whip struck the second-place horse, ridden by _ yup _ Eikleberry.
Mojica shook his head afterward, saying that in his entire career _ 19 years _ he had never before been taken down for such an infraction.
“I guess there’s a first time for everything,” he said.
In the very next race, Mojica took Jack Mormon gate to wire to erase that earlier mistake, yet…had he kept better control of his whip, Eikleberry’s lead at the juncture would have been nine, and suddenly we would have had the start of a conversation, particularly because Mojica also rode the winner of the third race, Star of Kobol.
The trainer’s race is offering much more drama, with Mac Robertson starting the day with a two-win lead over Robertino Diodoro.
Diodoro would have had wins in two of the first three races, but it was his horse, Jonny’s Choice, that was taken down in the opener. Robertson put his lead back at two with a win from First Hunter in race four and increased it to three when Jareth Loveberry brought in Hurricane Force in race six.
Eikleberry’s itinerary will keep him busy in the days following the Canterbury meet. There is first a trip to Hot Springs, Ark., for his sister-in-law’s marriage. Immediately after Jenna Joubert’s marriage to Terry Thompson, he will depart for Zia Race Track and begin working horses upon his arrival.
The race for leading owner will come down to the final day as well. Joe Novogratz began the day with 14 wins, one more than Miguel Silva and two ahead of Charles Garvey.
Garvey lost a win when his Jonny’s Choice was taken down but picked one up with Star of Kobol in race three, as did Silva with Gabo in race five, to move into a tie for second place.
A FINAL WORD ON WEATHER
There is surely something unfair about the best weather of the entire meeting being analyzed in some quarters as a harbinger of unpleasant things to come, yet that is exactly how Minnesota pessimists consider it. Instead of basking in the most glorious weather of year, they think, instead, of what it precedes. “Yeah, we all know what comes next,” the perpetual grouches respond.
If anyone projected beyond Saturday’s 72 degrees, 16 mph breeze and 38 percent humidity, he should be rounded up, drawn and quartered and his severed limbs sent to the far corners of the country, just as those of Mel Gibson once were.