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Vergara (Finally) Arrives in Shakopee

Daniel Vergara 6-13-13An owner once refused to let Daniel Vergara ride his horse because he found the jockey’s handshake unimpressive. A bit too lifeless.

Then again, horses seem to like Vergara’s hands because they are gentle, imbued with finesse.

Vergara, a native of Mexico City, has been in the United States for the past two decades, riding in California, north and south; in Canada, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, at Finger Lakes, and Turf Paradise the last several years.

“He has soft hands, very soft hands,” said trainer Dan McFarlane, a Phoenix regular in Shakopee for the first time.

Take that Mr. Horse Owner.

Vergara was nearly predestined to ride horses for a living, growing up as he did with an older brother, Juan, riding for a living.

After traipsing the length of California and the breadth of the U.S., Vergara has settled in Phoenix, where his wife, Lola, and children Daniel, 17, and Angie, 15, and he have a home minutes from the track.

He has ridden for several trainers in Phoenix but probably most frequently for Valorie Lund last winter and is trying Canterbury for the first time at her suggestion.

Vergara is the reason agent John Everly is back in Shakopee this summer after handling the books of Lori Keith and Geovanni Franco here last year.

Vergara and Everly have worked together several times over the past few years, primarily in Arizona.

Everly was serving as the assistant racing secretary at Turf Paradise when Vergara approached him near the end of the meet. “I knew Canterbury was in the back of his mind,” Everly said. “He had heard a lot of good things about it and the increase in pots here was the final push.”


Vergara had gotten a sales job on Canterbury some time ago.

“Scott Stevens started telling me to come here about nine years ago,” Vergara said.

Thursday night Vergara was riding a horse engaged in a duel to the wire against Eddie Martin, Jr.. Chuck Costanzo, Martin’s agent, was watching the race on the apron level of the grandstand. “That kid can ride,” he said. “He gives Eddie everything he wants all the time.”

Martin’s horse, March Twelth, won the race but Costanzo had made the point.

Everly describes his rider as a “polished veteran. That’s the term I like to use,” he said.

Watching the same race Thursday was Lund. As she watched the two horses and their riders dueling, she sized them up this way:

“Daniel prefers to sit and finish. He’s a finesse rider,” she said. “Eddie, he has that wicked stick.”

Everly, for his part, seems pleased to be back in Shakopee for the current meet.

He had been the racing secretary in Prescott, Az., at one time but attempts to reopen the track failed recently.

“The people who bought the place didn’t quite have the money to get it going,” he said. That left the summer open. Then Lund provided the business in Shakopee they needed to make the move possible.

“She’s the big reason we decided to come here,” Everly said.

Vergara’s only concern with moving his tack to Shakopee was establishing additional business in barns he had never visited before. Although Lund assured him of some mounts, he believes that a rider often needs more than one barn to make a meet productive.

“Sometimes a trainer or an owner decides not to use you for whatever reason,” he said. “A trainer might like you but the owner doesn’t.”

Sometimes for the oddest of reasons and perhaps to their own regret, over something as simple as, say, the nature of a handshake.

This blog was written by Canterbury Staff Writer Jim Wells. Wells was a longtime sportswriter at the Pioneer Press and is a member of the Canterbury Park Hall of Fame.