by JIM WELLS
The jockey’s lounge has undergone a facelift this season, a ‘Title Nine’ transformation of sorts that has caught the attention of fan and horseman alike. For the first time in years, there is not one, not two, but five female riders in the room, an unusual number not only at Canterbury Park.
“You won’t find that many at most tracks,” said Jerry Simmons, who has run a number of other jockeys’ rooms over the years in addition to Canterbury’s.
What that means locally is that Lori Keith has plenty of company this year after occupying the women’s portion of the lounge by herself for much of 2010.
“I had the whole big room to myself,” she said. “It’s pretty big, probably nine lockers in there…and the showers.
”Brittany Arterburn was here until the first week of August last season, but rode sparingly, so Keith was alone in the room on many if not most days. At any given time this year, Keith shares that space with as many as four other riders _ Arterburn, Jennifer Schmidt, Patricia Trimble and Anne Von Rosen. They are the Women of Canterbury and are highly visible in the jockey colony this summer, an appropriate addition especially on Sunday as the track kicks off its first Fillies Race for Hope, a fund-raising day for breast cancer awareness and assistance.
The track will take on a pink milieu _ pink shirts, hats, banners, even horseshoes _ for nine races, filled by only fillies and mares.
And Canterbury’s female riders will be visible, too. Three of them, Keith, Von Rosen and Schmidt, have mounts on the card.
Keith has become an established rider in Shakopee, now in her fourth and very best season. She rides winters in Phoenix and summers here and has caught fire since the reopening after the shutdown. She was fourth in the riding standings before Saturday’s card with 17 wins. All of the women, in fact, were in the top 10. Von Rosen had 11 wins, Arterburn eight and Schmidt led the quarter horse standings with nine wins. Arterburn had won six of 10 races on the grass, a phenomenal percentage.
You will find different opinions on the subject, but female riders still find it difficult to get mounts at many tracks.
“That’s why I switched to quarter horses,” said Schmidt. “I seem to get more quarter horse mounts, although I do like riding the thoroughbreds.”
Opportunity sometimes depends on the track.
“It’s opened up a bunch,” said Trimble. “It depends on where you are. It’s good in Minnesota. You just need an agent here. They ride the agents more than the riders.”
The Women of Canterbury are cutting their own swath this summer.
Two of them traveled a long distance to pursue, or acquire, their careers. Von Rosen is a native of Germany who was educated three years in England and wound up working for an equine hospital in Kentucky. She later worked for trainer Vic Hanson in Fort Pierre, S.D., learning the trade. She had a bang-up meet in Phoenix last winter and is holding her own in Shakopee as well.
Keith, of course, is from England and grew up not far from Epsom Downs. She was a show jumper as a girl. “I traveled all over with my pony.” Her roots are English, but she has come to prefer the U.S.
“I wouldn’t want to be anyplace but here,” she said. And, why not, with the success she is having in Shakopee this summer.
England can be even more difficult for a female rider. “They don’t have established meets there as they do here,” said Von Rosen. “There are fewer races. You have to do a lot of traveling. It’s tough, especially for a woman.”
Schmidt was at Remington Park for a fund-raiser similar to Sunday’s last year. “It was a tough enough to wear pink day,” she said. “But we didn’t have all fillies on the card like we do here.”
The concept isn’t foreign to Trimble, either, who was part of an all-female race card in Indiana at one time.
“There were 12 of us, all female riders,” she said. “It was a blast.”
Sunday’s card is highlighted by the $75,000 Lady Canterbury, the track’s signature race, and also includes the $50,000 Princess Elaine and the $35,000 Hoist Her Flag, races named for prominent fillies in Canterbury annals.
Keith has seven mounts on the card, Von Rosen has two and Schmidt has two after picking up one in the seventh race. Kathy Craig, who rode at Canterbury Downs in the 1980s and still gallops horses locally, was named on Natural Pearl in Sunday’s seventh race for trainer Miguel Silva but took off. Silva replaced her with Schmidt.
A silent auction is part of Sunday’s benefit, which will include a hat contest for women, a silent wall of pink horseshoes, each representing a donation to the fund, and fillies and mares anywhere you care to look.And, of course, the doughty Women of Canterbury.
JOURNEY TO THE WINNER’S CIRCLE
Quarter horse breeder Paul Knapper made a trip to Canterbury Park on Saturday to watch the two-year-olds and was rewarded for the effort.
He got to witness the passing of the generations first hand in race five, a maiden event for Minnesota-bred horses at five furlongs.
Patricia Trimble guided Uno Mos Bluff, a chestnut gelding by Sam Lord’s Castle from Sister Fox (a Pine Bluff mare), to the winner’s circle in his first start.
Knapper cared for the winner’s dam at one time, when it was still owned by Mark Allister.
The mare began to get some age on her and Allister wound up giving her to Robert Huver, who bred her to Sam’s Lord Castle.
“She died while foaling,” said Knapper.
Saturday, Uno Mas Bluff won one for mom.
Trainer Amber Blair was happy. Her husband, former rider Jason Olmstead, was happy. We can assume Huver, who wasn’t present, was, too, once he heard the news.
It’s a good bet no one was any happier than 3-year-old Kadyn Olmstead, Jason and Amber’s daughter, who was hanging out with horsemen’s bookkeeper Tiffany Leggett on Saturday.
Kadyn watched the race in Tiffany’s office and was waiting at the door moments after it concluded.
“She knew what happened,” her dad said. “She was at the door waiting to get picked up and have her picture taken.”
Jason was handling the young ones, Kadyn and one-year-old Ryder, while Amber handled the horses Saturday.
There is more to the story of Uno Mas Bluff.
“He was a no bid at the yearling sale last year,” said Jason. “Then he goes out and wins in his first out.”
Such is the stuff that horse racing stories are made of.