WEARNE “RED” CLAYTON
Red Clayton left no doubt about a couple of matters while he was a fixture in the press box for the 15 years he worked at Canterbury Downs and then Canterbury Park. He loved horses and he loved racing. Clayton, 88, left a large collection of memories among those he worked with when he died last week at a Minneapolis care facility.
Clayton is remembered by some as the man who hit three pick sixes during the first year of racing at Canterbury Downs in 1985, one of them for around $28,000. He moved about the press box silently doing his work for the media relations department, fidgeting nervously whenever he hit the first four winners on a winning ticket, or on one that came close.
His handicapping techniques were often dismissed as unorthodox by serious handicappers, but he often out-picked those with more conventional approaches to the game nonetheless _ and then chuckled appreciatively whenever he nailed a big winner and the “geniuses” of the game didn’t come close.
Red’s idiosyncrasies are what made him a memorable part of the media team that operated high above the grandstand from the debut of pari-mutuel racing in Minnesota until he quietly “retired” a few years ago.
When he wasn’t handicapping the horses in Shakopee, Red loved to golf, cook gourmet dishes, garden and dance. At one time he owned and raced a horse named Sample, Sample.
Some press box regulars still carry on a tradition that Red started following a quarter horse race.
Announcer Paul Allen would get the official time following a race from placing judge Peggy Davis and yell it out to the press box. “I don’t know why, but Red would always then yell it out himself,” said media relations direction Jeff Maday.
To this day, Maday said, someone in the press box will pick up the call from Allen and announce it, just as Red did for so many years before.
DiLaura was a portly man and consequently moved about the stable area at Canterbury deliberately but slowly while carrying on his job as the agent extraordinaire for the the most dominating rider in track history.
DiLaura moved as slowly as his star rider, Luis Quinonez, did quickly whenever he was guiding one of the many winners the agent secured for him during an unmatched run in track history. Quinonez won an unprecedented five consecutive riding titles at Canterbury Park from 1995 through 1999, and since won riding titles at Oaklawn Park one year and at Remington Park last year.
He always credited DiLaura for that success.
When Quinonez moved on to tracks with more lucrative purses _ Remington Park, Lone Star Park, Oaklawn Park _ it was as a team with DiLaura, who died at his California home home of liver cancer on Wednesday.
“We met in 1992 at Canterbury,” Quinonez said. “He was my agent for 18 years. I never had to worry about anything during that time. He always got me on the best horses he could.
”The rider and agent had absolute trust in one another. “I always told him that I didn’t want to know about the condition book. I knew he would get me the best mounts he could,” Quinonez said.
Quinonez never wanted to know about horses that DiLaura passed on, either. He didn’t want to second guess his agent. “I knew he was doing the best he could for me, so I didn’t want to know about a horse I could have ridden that beat me in a race,” Quinonez said.
DiLaura’s death this week left a big hole in the lives of the Quinonez family.
“He was like a grandfather to my four children. We will all miss him terribly,” Quinonez said.
Despite needing a walker to get about and oxygen, DiLaura worked through the final day of racing at Remington Park on Monday.
“We had a horse on the card _ Skippy Was a Hippy,” Quinonez said. “It was our horse, his and mine. I don’t know how he did it _ he was a very strong man _ but he was there to see it win. It was very emotional. The next day he got on a plane and went back to California.”
by JIM WELLS