By Jim Wells
Jason Olmstead considered the question, rolling it across his memory without stopping anywhere specific, trying to pinpoint when his life changed so dramatically.
“I guess it was three or four years ago,’’ he said.
The query under consideration was when quarter horse training expanded for him and his wife, Amber Blair, from a daily job to something approaching corporate responsibility, from a barn with 20 horses to one with 50 or 60, from a couple of hotwalkers or grooms to an employee list. “When you have have as many horses as we do, you need a lot of help.’’
He was considering the question in context with Sunday’s $54,400 North Central Quarter Horse Racing Assn. Futurity, a race in which he will saddle six of the 10 starters.
“It’s the other four I’m worried about,’’ he said in characteristic trainer speak, in this case with good reason according to one of his competitors in the race, Bob Johnson.
“There’s not a length that separates these 10 horses,’’ Johnson said.
Nonetheless, Olmstead hopes to score well in this one. “Hopefully we can finish this thing out and get a big chuck of this futurity,’’ he said. The Futurity brings the close of the quarter horse racing season one step closer. The season concludes with racing next week and then the Derby and Futurity as part of the Minnesota Festival of Racing on Aug. 21.
Olmstead, meanwhile, is leading his colleagues in pursuit of his second consecutive training title, three in front of Johnson. “It’s been a busy summer, a pretty good summer,’’ he said. “When you get a first and a second in the Northlands and qualify six to this futurity that’s something that doesn’t happen every day. You have to enjoy it when it does.’’
As the current meet winds down, Olmstead is already making plans to begin shipping to Prairie Meadows in Iowa as he works his way south again to Oklahoma.
“We’ll puddle jump our way home,’’ he said.
The stop in Shakopee has become one he and his family anticipate each summer. “We’ve been coming to Canterbury for a long time and we’ve always held our own,’’ he said. “In the last couple of years we’ve come full circle.’’
He’d like to claim another training title, although titles don’t pay the freight. A good business takes priority over such accolades any time.
“Being leading trainer is all fine and dandy,’’ he said. “But a lot of things have to fall your way. You have to have the numbers to make a true run at leading trainer, the horses have to perform, the races have to set up your way…there are so many things.’’
His success in Shakopee is a direct result of improving the stock he needs to compete elsewhere. “We’ve been buying horses to compete in Oklahoma,’’ Olmstead said, “and we’ve bringing some of those caliber horses up here.’’
Not only has the Olmstead barn tripled in size the last few years, the season has expanded as well. “January and February were the only two months we didn’t race in the last year,’’ he said.
There are no breaks during those breaks however. “No, there are babies to break and plenty else to do,’’ Olmstead concluded.
SPRINTING FOR LOCAL RECORDS
Anticipation settled in like a low slung cloud before this race, enveloping everything beneath it. “This should be a stakes race,’’ one observer noted. “We don’t get one like this very often,’’ said another.
Bourbon County and Hold for More, two state-breds, two of Minnesota’s own. Bourbon County, sixth best in all-time earnings at Canterbury. Hold for More, the reigning horse of the year in Shakopee.
Would they fight or were they more interested in sparring, working into condition for Minnesota Festival of Champions in two weeks.
They weren’t the only runners in this one.
Hold for More was sent off at 7/2 and Bourbon County at 2-1 and Candy Ruby was an 8/5 choice. Yet it was Vestibule, ridden by Larren Delorme and trained by Tim Padilla that took this one, in very swift fashion, clocking fractions of 21:45 for the first quarter and 43:95 for the half mile, with a winning time of 1:09.39. Candy Ruby was next and Hold for More got there for show.