As the meet winds down, two of Canterbury Park’s most recognizable owners are packing up. The tack has moved on with the horses to their southern locations for the winter, so it is time, too, to pack away the shirts.
You know…the orange shirts.
All of the those shirts worn by relatives and friends every time their horses run, 200 shirts in all, designed after the stable’s silks and so identifiable in the paddock and the winner’s circle when their horses get there.
Will Carlson and Jerry Pint have been friends and business associates for 30 years or more and their partnership in horses goes back to the the 1986-87 meets at Canterbury Downs.
“We had a horse together then and after that I kind of got out of it,” said Pint, who lives in New Prague. “Will got into the breeding business but then the track closed. ”
Carlson was involved for a time in the breeding end of the business with Dale Schenian, vice chairman on Canterbury’s board of directors. “We became good friends,” said Carlson, who prefers these days to simply race a couple of horses.
Pint and Carlson joined up again about five years ago, and the horses they own now are Couple Whiles, second in the Claiming Crown Tiara, and Hes a Wild Guy.
But the horse responsible for starting it all was Cherokee Gold, back in 1986.
“We got that horse through Tom Metzen,” said Carlson. “He had Richard Grunder claim that horse and bring it back here.”
That’s when the shirt idea came about, only they were gold in those days.
Whenever Cherokee Gold ran the shirts came out of the closets and the partying started on the second floor of the grandstand. “We had trays of rum and cokes coming as fast as the waitress could bring then,” Carlson recalled.
The trainers the pair used in those days included Greg Markgraf, Mary Surrency and Cliff Darnell. The trainer they’ve had since teaming up again has been Bernell Rhone.
“You know, there were hundreds of gold shirts running around Canterbury,” Carlson said. “We lost the horse and then claimed him back. Then he got claimed for $20,000 and we knew he wasn’t worth that so we had to let him go. The shirt idea kind of fizzled then.”
Later, Carlson got involved in a partnership and blue shirts became the rage. There were six partners in on that filly, Friendly Folly, in the early 1990s.
Some of the horses the partners campaigned previously included Exclusive Drone, Stolen Chance and Cabrini’s Heir. “Those three horses never made us a bit of money,” Pint recalled. “Cabrini had won a stakes race but got to Canterbury and had stomach problems and needed an operation.”
During dinner in Florida last winter, the subject of shirts was brought up once more, shirts like the old days when Cherokee Gold was providing all the fun.
So, Carlson ordered 200 shirts in orange with the logo of his St. Paul business, Custom Drywall, on them and the idea was renewed for the 2008 meet.
Carlson and Pint had a nice horse named Eagle Storm when the meet started at Canterbury this summer, but lost him at the claim box to SEJ Stable. Eagle Storm, of course, went on to win the $75,000 Claiming Crown Rapid Transit and is the leading choice for Horse of the Year at Canterbury. “That one hurt,” said Carlson, who has missed some his stable’s biggest wins or near misses.
Take the Claiming Crown this summer, when Couple Whiles picked up a check for $20,000.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Carlson said. “I was bowhunting in Africa and just got back. We almost won that race and I didn’t think the horse had a chance.”
That wasn’t the first time.
Rhone recalled the afternoon in 2004 when Carlson decided to go fishing because he thought his horse, Pandorasconnection, didn’t stand a chance in the Princess Elaine. “He couldn’t believe it when I called him to tell him she won,” said Rhone. “He thought I was putting him on.”