BY JIM WELLS
Mark this down somewhere, preferably someplace you won’t forget, maybe on a slip of paper you carry in your wallet and take out from time to time, or perhaps attach it to the refrigerator with one of those clips normally used on the potato chip bag.
If you have a better idea, go with it. Just don’t forget.
You’ll want to remind yourself from time to time that it doesn’t get any better than this. Horse racing has returned to Canterbury Park along with 6,123 fans and, wow…you simply can’t keep some people down.
Certainly not one Dean Butler, Canterbury’s leading rider four times. Tied for second place, one win behind Ry Eikleberry for the riding title last year, Butler apparently has been chomping at the bit, eager to pick up where he left off, to take another shot.
Winner of the first race of 2015 aboard a 3-year-old gelding named Bold Entry Friday night, Butler was asked afterward how it felt to be Canterbury’s leading rider. Could he hold the lead?
“Hey,’’ he said. “I can’t be worried about that stuff this early.’’
Just a joke, Dean. Just a joke.
Francisco Bravo, trainer of Bold Entry, on the other hand, was absolutely delighted to be the track’s leading trainer at that juncture, even pointing out the moustache and beard he has grown while acquiring a new look for the upcoming meet. “Oh, yeah. It feels good to be on top,’’ he said. “Real good.’’
But, get this. Clearly, Butler had his mind firmly fixed on winning, to such an extent that he didn’t want to disrupt his focus. He made it two in a row aboard Bizet in race two, allowing trainer Tim Padilla to move into a tie with Bravo. Then, Butler brought home Sammie’s Touch to allow Eric Heitzmann to join the training lead, and, in race four, brought none other than trainer Mac Robertson into the fray by taking Rocknlikahurricane to the winner’s circle.
There was no reason to think that Butler couldn’t win five in a row with Baby Trump, but Heitzmann scratched the horse and Butler’s domination went on hiatus, only until the feature race on the card, the $60,000 guaranteed 10,000 Lakes Stakes. He finished out of the money in race six but was back when it counted, taking Bourbon County to an easy win in the feature.
“I’ve won five before, never to start a season,’’ said Butler. “When? I can’t remember. When you get past 40, the eyes start to go, your hair starts to turn gray and the memory’s not as good.’’
Everything was in fine fettle on Friday, though. Both Butler and owner Scott Rake talked about how Bourbon County undoubtedly benefited from a start on April 12 in Tampa. “He didn’t have one last year,’’ said Butler. Which rider and owner both thought was a factor in Bourbon County’s narrow loss (a nose) to Speakfromyourheart in last year’s 10,000 Lakes.
Butler was not on Bourbon County’s back in the Tampa sprint. Instead, he rode stablemate Sky and Sea, finishing ninth in that race to Bourbon County’s fourth place finish. He’ll pick up the connection again today aboard Sky and Sea in the $60,000 Lady Slipper Stakes with a chance to add to the quick start he had out of the gate Friday night.
Command the Land, a stablemate to Bourbon County, was a well-beaten second in the 10,000 Lakes. Lil Apollo ran third and Command the Land was next.
Trainer Bernell Rhone, like Bravo, wasn’t going to let his golden moment go unappreciated. When the night was over, Butler had a nice lead in the rider standings. Rhone was part of an eight-way tie for the training lead, a fact a nearby acquaintance pointed out to him in the winner’s circle.
“That’s something to celebrate today, though, isn’t it,’’ he said.