Two of Canterbury Park’s most prominent riders will not be part of the jockey colony in Shakopee for the upcoming meet.
Hall of Fame rider Scott Stevens and defending riding champion Ry Eikleberry have made other plans and will not be part of the established colony.
Stevens, a three-time riding champ in Shakopee and dean of the Canterbury riders, will take the summer off when the meet at Turf Paradise in Phoenix concludes the first week of May.
Stevens, 54, has demonstrated that age is no barrier during the current Phoenix meet. He took over the riding lead around Christmas and started Friday’s card with a three-win lead over another Canterbury favorite Geovanni Franco.
“It’s a fun meet and it will be a battle right down to the end,” Stevens said. “Geovanni has a lot of business too so it will be interesting.”
Stevens first rode at Canterbury during the 1989 meet when he lost the riding title by one win to the late Chris Valovich before winning the next three titles that concluded the first era of Minnesota racing at Canterbury Downs. He returned for the 1995 meet when the track reopened as Canterbury Park and then was absent until 2003 but a part of every meet since.
He recently purchased a motor home and intends to spend part of the summer traveling, spending time in Oregon visiting friends and Idaho, where his parents live.
His successful Phoenix meet is taking place despite a jockey colony of some 50 riders. “The competition (for mounts) has been intense,” Stevens said. “There are simply so many riders. I don’t think I’ve seen it like this.”
Meanwhile, Eikleberry, a three-time quarter horse riding champion in Shakopee and defending thoroughbred riding champ (his first locally), will spend the summer months riding at the various meets in New Mexico, where he has numerous business commitments.
“I’m going to miss it (in Shakopee) but I had to make a (business) decision, ” Eikleberry said. “Things can always change, but the plan right now is I’m going to stay right here and take care of business.”
Stevens plans to stay in shape aboard the mechanical horse he has used so many times while recovering from injuries. “I plan to stay active,” he said. “So if anybody calls about a stake race (in Shakopee or elsewhere) I’ll be ready.”
Sevens’ decision to skip Shakopee had his agent Chad Anderson scrambling to put together a new team a couple of weeks ago. Anderson has been Stevens’ agent in Phoenix and Shakopee for several years.
“He’s been riding really well, making very few wrong moves and a lot of right ones,” Anderson said.
Anderson has no doubts that Stevens will stay in condition and be available at a moment’s notice. “He can take some time off. He’s been off more than three or four months many times in the past because of injuries and was right back at it when he returned.”
Anderson has been at Canterbury since the track reopened in 1995. As of Thursday, he appeared to have his new team formed _ Alex Canchari, second leading rider at Canterbury last season, and Daniel Vergara, who, Anderson said, “is having one of his best meets ever (in Phoenix).”
Stevens and Eikleberry won’t be in Shakopee this spring, but Anderson clearly will. “I wouldn’t miss it,” he said.