Belmont Day at Canterbury Park

Gold Medal Dancer - Minnesota HBPA Distaff - 06-07-14 - R08 - CBY - Inside Finish600x300


            Sometimes the past and present intersect in unexpected ways, as they did Saturday in Canterbury Park’s winner’s circle, a dominant rider from days gone by celebrating after the first of two stakes races, a reigning champion in a similar mood after the second of those events.

            Luis Quinonez won the first of five consecutive riding titles in 1995 in Shakopee and was right back where he has been countless times before after the $75,000-guaranteed Minnesota HBPA Distaff, catching second choice 5/2 Every Way by a head at the wire aboard the favorite, 6/5 Gold Medal Dancer.

            “Some things never change,’’ a bystander said to Quinonez. “I  still know how to get there,’’ he responded.  “So, does she.’’

            Quinonez said his horse didn’t break like he wanted. “I had to weave  through horses to give her a chance to win,’’ he said.

            Both stakes races were scheduled for 7 ½ furlongs on the turf but were moved to the main track because of the heavy rain. At first glance, Gold Medal Dancer appeared to benefit from the change. Quinonez wasn’t so sure.

            “She’s won on the turf (in her only start). I think she can do well anywhere she runs,’’ he said.

            Jimmy Simms, trained by two-time national champion conditioner Steve Assmussen had an easier time of it in the boys race, the $75,000 Brooks Field Stakes . With Dean Butler, champion rider in Shakopee four of the last five seasons,  in the irons, Jimmy Simms finished 3 ¾ lengths in front of Stachys.

            Butler sized up his win in succinct fashion.

            “A pretty classy nine-year-old (gelding). He knows how to win and so does the trainer,’’ Butler said.

            A crowd of 11,742 turned out hoping to see a Triple Crown champion but to no avail. California Chrome left his A game at home and finished in a dead heat for fourth.

             Quinonez,  who dominated the rider standings Canterbury Park’s first five seasons, walked into the jockey lounge Saturday and was  hit by an immediate thought.

            “I couldn’t believe how many years had gone by,’’ he said.

            Many of the faces were familiar, riders, valets, a general employee here or there. “ A familiar face stuck his head inside the silks room, where Quinonez was carrying on a conversation, with a bit of sarcasm.

            It was Nate Quinonez, Luis’s stepson.

            Racing is a small world, in many, many ways.

            Luis Quinonez ened Canterbury Park in 1995 with the first of five consecutive riding titles before moving south, eventually to Oklahoma where he has lived since.

            He spent nearly all of last summer at home healing from a broken neck at Churchill Downs, where he intended to ride for the first time but didn’t get started.

            He was in Shakopee Saturday to ride in the two stakes races on the card, and dropped a bit of news in the process.

            “I might come back for some of this meet,’’ he said. “If not, probably next summer for sure.’’

            The reason, clearly, is the stable purse structure at Canterbury. “Yes, the purses are good here,’’ he said.

            Quinonez has been riding this summer at Lone Star Park in Dallas, driving three hours from Jones, Okla., for Thursday through Sunday cards before returning home to be with his family the remainder of the week.

            He arrived in Shakopee ready to race at Canterbury Sunday, but with a minor handicap.

            He trusted his valet in Dallas before leaving home. “I asked him if I should bring my rain clothes, ‘’ he said. “He told me no.’’

by Jim Wells       


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