EIKLEBERRY  WEAVES THROUGH THE TRAFFIC

Ry Eikleberry Cokato Cartel

BY JIM WELLS

 

Patrons who contributed to the congestion that surrounded all entrances to Canterbury Park on Sunday got a rare glimpse into the past, into the halcyon days of Minnesota horse racing when such scenes were daily occurrences.

There were even “cops” directing traffic based on the destination of a vehicle’s occupants _ the concert or the race track, which included the first two quarter horse races of the season preceding the seven thoroughbred races on the day’s card.

Concert goers and horse players were mixed indiscriminately on the two main arteries to Canterbury, creating long lines at the turnoffs to Canterbury Road from Highways 169 and County Road 101.

All was handled with aplomb by the fellows assigned to directing traffic and relieving tie-ups, eliminating any waits that fell into the domain of the unbearable.

Numerous concert-goers were spotted inappropriately dressed for the damp, unseasonable weather _ shorts and tank tops in some cases_ leading to strong conjecture that some of them either would be headed home early or with medical conditions of one nature or another.

Not so with Canterbury’s jockey colony, the men and women who put on the daily show aboard the mounts their dedicated agents have secured for them. All were on hand by their assigned times for Sunday’s card, including the track’s defending thoroughbred riding champ, Ry Eikleberry, who has been what he would describe as slow out of the gate, which his first mount of the day certainly was not. Then again, his labored start is aboard the thoroughbreds and not the quarter horses, although he did pick up his second TB win on Sunday after earning his first a day earlier but trails Dean Butler, who had a triple on Sunday, by 13 wins.

“I thought I was riding the winner,’’ Eikleberry said after the first race Sunday. “But that No. 2 horse was fast, very fast.’’

Nonetheless, Eikleberry’s horse, Cokato Cartel, broke smartly and sharply. “But the No. 2 horse still had a two-length lead,’’ Eikleberry said.

The race was a 350-yard sprint for quarter horses, and Cokato finished second to the No. 2 horse, My Girls Toasted. Nonetheless, Cokato earned approximately $3,600, enough to propel Eikleberry into the all-time earnings lead for quarter horse riders at Canterbury.

The $3,600 increased Eikleberry’s career bankroll to $919,725, moving him in front of four-time riding champ Tad Leggett’s $917,981. Leggett’s career ended when he was paralyzed in a 2010 spill at Fair Meadows.

Consequently, Eikleberry took the milestone in stride. “I wouldn’t be passing him right now if what happened hadn’t happened,’’ he said.

Eikleberry has another milestone in his sights. With 95 career quarter horse wins at Canterbury, he is one behind all-time leader Scot Schindler.

And numerous chances to take the lead before the meet ends.

By the way, the concert featured a genre of music titled Hip Hop, not to be confused with Rap, as one unnamed observer so ignorantly averred.

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