BY JIM WELLS
It was a dark and stormy day and a fellow felt conspicuous by his presence on any level of the grandstand Saturday.
As the saying goes, you could have thrown a horseshoe in any direction and not inflicted harm. At mid morning, the skies opened in Shakopee and delivered what was described variously as torrential rains, nearly biblical, and had horsemen wondering if they would be required to travel from barn to racetrack aboard an ark.
Two of each species?
Hey, there are 1,500 stalls back here!
“We had two inches of rain this morning,’’ reported Jeff Maday, the press box centurion.
And more after that.
Oscar Quiroz, assistant to Shawn Coady in the track photo studio, put it this way as he prepared to exit the office and head to the track before the first race, tucking in his pant legs as he spoke: “I’ll just stuff these pantalones inside my boots because I can guarantee that you that someplace out there it is at least ankle deep.’’
The valets were well prepared, all of them wearing high rubber boots, designed perfectly for autumn and the duck hunting season and, in this instance, for wet, muddy days at the racetrack.
The first two races, both quarter horse sprints won by Nik Goodwin, produced an exchange of banter by the riders, quarter horse jocks on one side of the argument, thoroughbred riders on the other. “It’s really slick and greasy out there,’’ said one rider. “Hey, I love my job,’’ intoned Rusty Shaw, covered from head to foot in mud.
The prevailing theme was that quarter horse riders are tough, able to withstand gales and snowstorms and all manner of nature’s surprises as opposed to thoroughbred jocks who are a bit soft. How that storyline applies to riders who ride both breeds is left to the question. Nonetheless, all agreed because of the uncertain footing that it was absolutely foolhardy to let your mind stray for even a nano instant.
Goodwin’s two wins increased his leading total for the quarter horse meet to 13 and moved him into third-place all time, one in front of Hall of Fame rider Tad Leggett, one behind Scot Schindler and 12 behind Ry Eikleberry. He is mere dollars behind Eikleberry for the all-time lead in money earnings.
With 37 racing days now logged, the meet is past the half-way point, with 32 days remaining. , including some of the biggest days of the summer.
On the thoroughbred calendar, the Minnesota Derby, Oaks and MTA Sales Graduate Futurity are scheduled July 30. The $200,000 Mystic Lake Derby, the richest race of the meet, is scheduled on August 27, as are the HBPA Distaff and the Brooks Fields Stakes. The stakes schedule concludes with the MTA Stallion Auction Stakes on Sept. 5 and the Shakopee Juvenile Stakes on Sept 17.
The always popular Minnesota Festival of Champions will be held on Sunday, Aug. 21. The quarter horse schedule still includes the Cash Caravan Stakes on July 31, the NCQHRA Futurity on Aug. 7 and the Minnesota Derby and Futurity as part of the Festival of Champions
The Indian Relay Races, one of the most popular features in the summer racing program, is scheduled on Aug. 25-27, concluding with the Mystic Lake Derby.
There was a 20-minute rain delay between the second and third races and there were sporadic appearances of dark, ominous clouds that passed by without incident or missed the track area entirely. An occasional sprinkle throughout the afternoon did nothing to disturb the races thereafter.
The smallish crowd that braved the elements hung on throughout the card, brushing aside the damp conditions while betting correctly that the races would be run.