Stevens Back For Another Season

ScottStevens_BadgeOfGlory01

By Jim Wells

             As winters go, it couldn’t have been better if your tack was at Turf Paradise in Phoenix. While nearly every other place in the country was stricken with cold, draught, torrential rain or mountains of snow, Phoenix experienced a balmy, blissful and beautiful stretch of weather during those same months.       

            “Yeah, it was really mild,” said veteran rider Scott Stevens, returning dean of the jockey colony at Canterbury Park.”Very mild.” 

            It was a good winter in other ways as well. The Canterbury Hall of Fame rider finished second in the rider standings with 92 trips to the winner’s circle and was first in the earnings column with $915,425.  Not bad for a 53-year-old rider some observers thought was finished four or five years ago after injuries serious enough to finish a 25-year-old much less a man approaching fifty at the time.                        

            Yet, Stevens continues to defy time and armchair predictions. He could win with talent and experience alone, yet is always among the best conditioned riders in the colony. Fifty-three? “He sure doesn’t look it,” his astonished colleagues marvel. His work ethic is found in the upper echelon of any sport you care to mention. Boxing? Floyd Mayweather. Football? Adrian Peterson. Hockey? Ryan Suter.  Ad infinitum. 

            “I had a pretty good meet in a lot of ways,” Stevens said.

He is looking forward to more of the same at Canterbury starting Friday night at 6:30 p.m., a meet that has several Turf Paradise regulars on the grounds with beefed-up stables this spring. 

            Robertino Diodoro kept between 12 and 20 horses in Shakopee last summer. “This year he has a maximum of 54 and another 14 waiting to come,” said Stevens.”Valerie Lund, the same thing. She has 50-some.”

As does Miguel Silva.           

            No one is more pleased than Mark Stancato, the track’s stall superintendent. “I have fewer people to deal with, fewer headaches,” he said.”We’ll have as many horses as we did last year but with fewer trainers and stable help.”           

            Turf Paradise sent its very best to Canterbury Park this spring: Diodoro won the training title with a record 128 wins; his rider, Jorge Carreno, claimed the riding title with 106 wins, and Silva was the leading owner for a fifth straight time. And, of course, Stevens. 

            The meet generally went well for Stevens but not without issues for the Hall of Fame rider. He bruised a shoulder when a horse stumbled one day in March and missed a couple of days on the job. He was given days for a riding infraction and missed riding a couple of winners another time. And there was the matter of the horse he cared for every day after a frightening episode in Idaho.           

            Stevens survived the winter without serious injury but his mother, who had only recently recovered from a stroke, did not. She was on her way to work one January morning and was involved in a multi-car pileup on icy roads and suffered a broken neck.

                       “A logging truck clipped a Subaru Outback and started a 44-car pileup,” Stevens said.”My mom pumped her brakes and made it to a stop, but then she was hit three times by other vehicles. The last one spun her sideways into a van. They had to cut her out of her 2004 S10 Blazer.” 

            He and his dad left Arizona for Boise but when Scott returned to Phoenix his job description had expanded.

“My dad stayed home,” he explained. That left Stevens with a horse named Lesson In Deceit to care for in addition to his daily riding duties. 

            Lesson in Deceit won twice, finished second and had two thirds. “He made $29,000 and we lost him to Justin Evans for $12,500,” Stevens added. There was about a month left in the meet at the time, but Stevens hasn’t lost track of the horse. “He’s running in an allowance race Friday night at Finger Lakes,” Stevens said. 

            Imagine that, a rider who’s been fooling armchair jockeys for years now, and a horse name Lesson in Deceit.  There’s a message of some kind in there.  You might have to dig a little, but there just has to be.

 Jim Wells is a Canterbury Park Hall of Fame member and former horse racing reporter for the St. Paul Pioneer Press. He is now lead writer for canterburylive.com .

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Comments

  1. As a Phoenix thoroughbred owner its good to keep up with the AZ trainers and jockeys during the summer, our trainer Drew Fulmer took our horses to Sunray Park in Farmington, NM. Watch for us there or follow us on my blog sunshineracing.org

  2. Eric Menge says:

    What a nice article on Scott. Thanks!

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