BY JIM WELLS
The old saw that there’s no place like home might have an entirely different meaning to Scott Stevens.
Particularly after the Idaho Cup races at Sandy Downs this summer.
Stevens won all three of the races in which he had mounts, something he can certainly recall with pleasure, if not the conditions under which they occurred.
With the closing of Les Bois racetrack, the Idaho Cup races were moved to Sandy Downs, creating an experience Stevens and perhaps other riders might not forget any time soon.
Let’s just say the facilities there are somewhat different than those, say, at Turf Paradise in Phoenix or certainly Canterbury Park in Shakopee.
“I had never ridden at that racetrack (before),” Stevens said. “It was a little track, very interesting.”
As Stevens described it, the jockeys’ room was like a large storage shed that had to accommodate 24 riders. “There was no water,” he explained “and there was a porta-potty…..outdoors.”
That was only the start.
“It was a seven-furlong racetrack with half mile turns,” he added. “It was like taking the turns on the Canterbury training track and adding them to the regular track. Long stretches and sharp turns.”
There was some respite from those conditions for Stevens, who at least could return to the comfort of his motor home in the evening.
In fact, the Canterbury Park Hall of Fame rider will be pulling into Shakopee sometime Monday in his Winnebago and intends to finish out the meet. He will ride in the Minnesota Festival of Champions on Aug. 21 and hopes also to secure mounts on other cards next week.
The Canterbury meet will finish off an interesting four months for Stevens, who has ridden in a variety of places the last two summers as opposed to racing in a single location.
He left Phoenix earlier this week in his motor home and is in Des Moines where he has mounts in three stakes races today at Prairie Meadows, one of them for Robertino Diodoro and a second for his nephew Satchel.
Satchel, 19, is the owner and trainer of the horse Stevens will ride. “He started training about a year ago,” Scott said. “He’s done very well with what he’s had. He claimed the filly I’m going to ride and she’s made just under $60,000 since the beginning of the year. He’s claimed a couple in Iowa too and came back to win with them.”
Then, on Sunday, Stevens will fly to Denver where he has a mount in a $100,000 Gold Rush stakes race at Arapahoe Park and will return to Des Moines Sunday night.
After winning a second consecutive riding title, eighth overall, at Turf Paradise last winter, Stevens has ridden at a number of venues in addition to taking an eight-day vacation in Alaska.
“I’ve been everywhere,” he said, taking note of each place he’s ridden since the meet at Turf Paradise ended last May.
“I’ve ridden 23 races since that meet was over,” he said, “at Santa Anita, Winnipeg, (earlier at) Prairie Meadows and (now) Arapahoe.”
Originally, he had a mount in the Canadian Derby on Aug. 20 but had to forego that opportunity because of flight difficulties that would have given him not more than an hour or two of sleep before riding in the Festival on Aug. 21.
Previously, his summers were not as varied. He rode the fall and winter meets in Phoenix, where he lives, and then rode at Canterbury Park from May to September.
Stevens began racing regularly in Shakopee in1989 and won riding titles at Canterbury in 1990-91-92. He recorded 151 wins in 1990, 108 in 1991 and 101 in 1992.
Canterbury has been like a second home during many of the summers since.
A 26-foot Winnebago will serve as an actual home for him and his two dogs while in Minnesota and offers adequate accouterments for a comfortable retreat at day’s end.
“It has a bedroom, a regular bathroom, a generator, and satellite,” he said.
Nothing to gripe about there. After all, he’s undergone worse some places this summer.