FINAL DAYS WILL DETERMINE RIDING CHAMP

canterburylive.com

The season is winding down, a mere 12 racing cards remain, and one of the most watched features of these final days is the race for leading rider of the year, the champion jockey of the 2014 meet.

Will it be Alex Canchari, who came close last year but was handcuffed over the final days with a riding suspension? Or will it be Ry Eilkeberry, the three-time quarter horse riding champ who cut his teeth at Canterbury and has since made his mark among the thoroughbred riders no matter where he rides?

Or might it be defending champion Dean Butler, who has won four of the last five thoroughbred riding crowns?

Eikleberry and Canchari lead the race with 50 wins apiece. Butler is four winners back, a margin made even smaller by several factors about to influence these final days.

Eikleberry will miss three potential winners or more on Saturday’s card because of riding engagements in New Mexico. Canchari again will be hampered with a riding suspension that will cost him four racing cards starting on Saturday.

For Eikleberry, who has been a star at Canterbury since his days with the bug, the crown might be made even more elusive by decisions he will have to make soon.

He will ride in the Southwest at various sites once the Canterbury Park meet concludes or maybe even sooner, depending on various factors.

He is committed to horses in a couple of stakes races in New Mexico over the coming days that might pull him away from Canterbury if the races go.

“We’ll have to wait and see on those,” he said. “I’m going to try to stay here until the end. It depends.”

On factors out of his control.

The next few months of riding assignments might depend on his availability for barns stabling horses for the aforementioned stakes events. In other words, as nice as a riding title might be, he isn’t going given up steady paychecks over the next few months simply to win a title.

Or, as he put it: “I might have done that at one time, stayed for a chance at the glory, but I have other things to consider now.”

Namely, a wife and a daughter to support.

In the meantime, Canchari and Eikleberry hope to gain some advantage on Friday night’s card. Each has six mounts. Butler, on the other hand, has four.

BY JIM WELLS

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