BY JIM WELLS
The horse brought out its owners, they brought out the fans, and the fans brought out the cameras.
In a reversal of what generally takes place, the horse didn’t get his picture taken but his owners did _ again and again and again…
The subject of attention was a horse named Tiger D, purchased recently by track announcer Paul Allen, who is also the voice of the Minnesota Vikings, in a partnership with members of the team.
“I don’t know what to expect,’’ said lineman Brandon Fusco, for whom this occasion, as a horse owner, was a first. “I’m actually kind of nervous.’’
With Allen the central figure in the partnership, Fusco, former NHL goalie Alex Stalock of South St. Paul, Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner, quarterbacks coach Scott Turner and athletic trainer Eric Sugarman invested in the horse along with Allen.
Trainer Bernell Rhone claimed the horse in Florida and 30 days later Allen’s partnership, T D Group, purchased the five-year-old gelding by Grand Slam.
The owners of the horse brought out some of their friends as well, including Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway and lineman Phil Loadholt along with general manager Rick Spielman.
The picture taking began in the paddock before the race, with everyone and their sisters lining up in groups of three or four and individually with the rider, Dean Butler. “This must have been what it was like last Saturday with Nyquist and Exaggerator,’’ Rhone joked.
“See you in the winner’s circle in 12 minutes,’’ Allen said as he left the paddock for his booth at the top of the grandstand. It was wishful thinking on this occasion.
Tiger D, sent off at 9/5, prefers to stalk, three maybe four lengths off the pace. This time, he didn’t relax in the early running, fell too far off the pace and finished fourth. “He’ll be fine,’’ Rhone said. “He just needs to relax a little more.’’
Tiger D finished fourth in a race that included a reversal of fortune for the original winner. More On Tap, the winner, was placed third for interference and Charlie Again moved from second to first.
The race conjured up recollections of times past when other sports celebrities raced horses in Shakopee. Former Vikings general manager Mike Lynn was once involved in a partnership that owned a horse named Cachuma, one of the top runners and a fan favorite during the 1980s. The horse was famous for other reasons as well. He had a unique running style, with his head drooping in front as he ran.
And, of course, there was the infamous occasion when Twins manager Tom Kelly, once a regular at Canterbury Downs, was part of a partnership that had the rug pulled out from under them the first time they ran their horse. Another group intent on mischief claimed the horse from Kelly’s group the first time it ran.
“I remember that,’’ a long-time Canterbury fan recalled. “There were a lot of people really angry at the group that claimed that horse. They were yelling insults at them when they left the track that day.’’
Tiger D, meanwhile, was three for six at mile and 70 yards _ Friday’s distance _ on the turf, so Allen was understandably confident before the race. Did the wet turf make a difference.
“Nope,’’ said the trainer. “They all had to run on it.
Nonetheless, his horse was carrying the added weight of expectation on Friday. “Lot of pressure on him with the group that will be out to see him,’’ Allen said.
That kind of weight, at a mile and 70 yards, can take a toll. It didn’t stop cameras, however.
“Do you mind?’’ one mother after another asked either Loadholt or Greenway as they lined up their youngsters for photo ops with the players.
Maybe next out, it will be Tiger D’s turn.