BY JIM WELLS
When Dougie Huntington retired as a barber in 1985, he began working on his bucket list _ training horses, typically not more than a couple at a time, but at least on one occasion a stable of 20 or more.
Huntington never gave up cutting hair altogether. He frequently could be found outside his barn, a stable hand or trainer in need of a trim seated on a bucket in front of him.
It soon became clear that Dougie didn’t like letting horses waste away in the stall, so he frequently ran them at least once a week. “That way you don’t have to worry about training them,’’ he would say.
Recently retired stall superintendent Mark Stancato said during an interview one time that Huntington led all trainers every summer he raced in Shakopee _ in average starts per stall. “If a horse makes three or four starts during a meet that’s a pretty good average,’’ Stancato said. “Dougie might start a horse 13 times during a meet.’’
It wasn’t long before Dougie’s reputation began preceding him: “He can run your horse in a race and run him back in the time it takes to cut your hair,’’ it was said.
Dougie ran horses most summers the Shakopee racetrack was in operation, saddling his last one on Sept. 1, 2011. He didn’t make a lot of money as a trainer but it kept him going and paid the bills. He saddled 35 winners in 568 starts, earning $387,921 during his career.
Huntington, 73, died on July 15 at the Lutheran Home in Belle Plaine.
The barber turned trainer did not always employ the same training methods. Early in his career, he worked feverishly at the trade, impressing would-be clients with his work ethic.
One of them was Curt Sampson, who would one day purchase Canterbury Downs and rechristen it Canterbury Park. Sampson’s first thoroughbred was claimed for him by Huntington. The particulars have been obscured by the fog of time. The claim was made for $12,000 or perhaps $16,000. The numbers are no longer important. The claim itself was. The horse belonged to Wheelock Whitney, who had paid $50,000 for him. The Sampsons were impressed with the claim. Wheelock, reportedly, was not.
In those days, Dougie would train twice a day, morning and afternoon.
The man who ounce trained his horses twice a day would later find a way to train them not at all.
Huntington grew up in a family that included barbers and horse trainers and, in some cases, barbers turned horse trainers. He did not recall, during an interview one time, a horse trainer in the family who then became a barber.
Huntington’s mother and father were both barbers and had shops throughout southern Minnesota. Huntington’s father trained horses and so did his grandfather. And his great grandfather “was hanged for stealing a horse,’’ Huntington once quipped.
The family had barber shops in Waseca, Olivia, St. James and Madelia. Dougie himself had shops in Shakopee, Savage and Rosemount. At one time, he boasted that he used to cut Miss Minnesota’s hair as well as that of Princess Kay of the Milky Way.
Huntington is survived by wife, Kathy; son, Shane (Dawn); daughter, Heather; brother, Kent (Nancy); sister-in-law, Karen Huntington. Also, several nieces and nephews. A memorial service is scheduled July 27 at 3:30 p.m. at McNearney Funeral Home in Shakopee. Visitation is from 2 to 4 p.m.
Friends and former colleagues might recall a story or two about the former trainer/barber. Here are a couple of them: He had a horse named Laser at one time. He purchased the horse for $3,500 and made $75,000 with him over a two-year span.
His most memorable horse was probably Well What Else, the champion claimer in 1985. Mike Smith rode him to seven straight wins, Huntington recalled a few years ago. “Then he got off my horse to ride a horse from Chicago and beat me. ’’