Spanish Jockey Finds His Way To Canterbury

By Katie Merritt

Jockey David Delgado, a native of Sanlucar de Barrameda, Spain, a city in the south of the peninsula well-known for its annual summer meet held on the beach, is riding his first meet at Canterbury Park this year. After spending the winter riding in Tampa, where he won several races, he decided that Minnesota would be a good place to call home this summer. “I decided to come here, first, because Lynn Rarick offered for me to come here. I saw the track, and thought this is a track that’s getting better all the time, and the purses are good. I figured why not give it a try,” explained Delgado.

David comes from a family that has long been involved in racing. Growing up, his parents had racehorses in Spain and his oldest brother, Tom Delgado, was a jockey. “I started riding horses when I was nine years old, and then I started galloping thoroughbreds when I was 12,” he said. By the time he was 14, Delgado was riding in amateur races. “When I first started, I was 14 and I was still in school and I never thought I was going to be a jockey. But after I finished high school, when I was 18, I was doing good and I was winning races, and I realized I could make a living doing something I really liked doing!” he said with a smile.

Through hard work and determination, Delgado managed to make his way to the top of the ranks in the Spanish jockey colony. One of the highlights in his career there was a horse named Tiffany. “He was a really special horse,” Delgado recalled. “He still holds the record in Spain for most wins by a thoroughbred foaled in Spain. He won 21 races. I rode him for 14 of those wins. To have that many wins on the same horse, that almost never happens!” David also rode in other countries around Europe, like Sweden and Norway, where he had a good deal of success. While there, he rode first call for top trainer Tommy Gustafsson, which gave him the opportunity to ride champion Scandinavian filly Novasky to victory in several stakes.

David’s decision to ride at Canterbury came too late to secure a jockey’s agent this season, but he is still holding his own in the Minnesota jockey colony. To date, he has ridden 26 horses, and is yet to sit on the back of a favorite, but has still managed three wins, two seconds and five thirds, winning on 12% of his mounts and finishing in the money on 38%. “It’s ok,” Delgado said with a shrug, “I’m used to going places where people don’t know me. It’s more difficult when you don’t have an agent, because you don’t get as many chances to show people that you know how to ride and you know how to win. But it’s all about hard work. I just keep working hard.”

Delgado is no stranger to hard work. You can find him at the track every morning, all morning long, getting on horses. After morning training, he goes for a run or to the gym. “Before I ride, I just try to make sure I feel really good, and that my weight is good. I study the form a lot before I go to the paddock because I want to know everything I can about the other jockeys and the other horses in the race.” David also likes to be familiar with his own horse, because as any rider can attest, every horse is different. “When you are close to a horse, you learn how that horse is. You learn what they like and what they don’t like,” he explained, adding, “Horses will always tell you who they are. You just have to listen.”

GOODWIN RIDES WINNER NO. 1,000

BY JIM WELLS

 

He remembers the first winner of his riding career as if it were last night, and he will remember this one too, well into whatever age his life allows.

His name is Saganaga, a 4-year-old, gelding, and he became the 1,000th  winner of Nik Goodwin’s career Thursday night.

It happened in the sixth race on this 9/5 favorite and Goodwin was beaming afterward, taking the class of this race to the winner’s circle, where the trainer, Gary  Scherer, and several family members awaited.

He needs one more win aboard a quarter horse to tie Ry Eilkleberry for the all-time lead in that category.

How appropriate someone said, outside the winner’s circle Thursday night.  A Minnesota-bred on a Minnesota-bred. A native of the White Earth Reservation and Bemidji, Goodwin  was delighted that this winner came at Canterbury Park, where he attended the card on the track’s grand opening as Canterbury Downs in 1985, as a 10-year-old.

Now he has a story to tell when Weston Goodwin, who’ll turn two in September, is old enough to appreciate the details:

You were there the night I rode No. 1,000. You were there in your stroller with your mother, Betty Jo, pushing you from paddock to grandstand and later the winner’s circle, just as you were most if not nearly every day I rode in Shakopee during the summer of 2016.

A story of achievement to pass from father to son, a small chapter of paternal family history.

A Minnesota story to be sure, since his home state is the only place Goodwin rides any longer.  All summer in Shakopee and then back to Florida during the winter months, the 2-old-in training sales, maybe even to break a few babies in the spring before returning once again to Shakopee.

There is a six-week hiatus or so after the Canterbury meet at home in Bemidji before that departure for the Southeast.

That he has reached this milestone at all, Goodwin says, is attributable to good health, the ability to avoid serious injury and the accompanying long-term recoveries. And the way he divides his year with horses now and how he benefits from a respite. . “That’s another thing, when I come up here in the spring I’m fresh and ready to go again, to hit it hard again,’’ he said. “When I rode out east there were times I was riding day and night, for weeks on end. That wears on you. It did for me.’’

 

The main thing, Goodwin says, is staying healthy, keeping his weight right and riding actively. “The lifestyle keeps you fit,’’ he said.

Granted, 1,000 winners pales in comparison to racing’s all-time leaders: Russell Baze 12,842, Lafitt Pincay, Jr. 9,530 or Bill Shoemaker 8,833. Yet, this achievement has its own place nonetheless, as a part of local racing, and an acknowledgment at the same time that the sport has changed immensely since many of its all-time greats were in their heydays.

It has changed as well for Goodwin, who once rode throughout the year, but restricts his riding any longer to the meet at Canterbury each year.

Goodwin grew up riding horses that belonged to his grandfather and fell into racing quite naturally, competing at county fairs as a youngster in northern Minnesota.

Now 41, he was a young teenager when he rode the winner in the 100th running of the Carlton County Derby at the county fair in Barnum.

He brought in his first winner as a professional on a horse named Moidre in 1993 at Assiniboia Downs in Winnipeg. The details remain clear for obvious reasons. The horse was owned by his father, Duane, and the mount was his 13th.

Goodwin rode for a decade or so in the East, primarily in Maryland, before returning home to ride at Canterbury Park in 2006.

Trainer Gary Scherer estimates that Goodwin has ridden 50 winners or more for him since he arrived in Shakopee. Scherer describes Goodwin as not only a hard worker, as a “real professional” but as a “great guy with a big heart.’’

He also recognizes Goodwin’s expertise with young horses. “He’s excellent with babies. He can give you good insight on horses.’’

There seems to be a growing belief among several trainers that Goodwin would be in the top tier of the jockey standings if he were riding the same caliber horse as frequently as those who regularly compete for the riding title.

Scherer, for one, says that Goodwin would have ridden his 1,000 winner some time ago if he didn’t restrict himself to Canterbury meets.

“I’ll bet he would have reached it five years ago,’’ Scherer said.

Five years ago, seven years ago or Thursday night, Goodwin reached this milestone right where he would have preferred, on a Minnesota-bred at the home track in his home state.

A Post for the Jockeys

by Noah Joseph

With this Sunday, June 25, being the Leg Up Fund Day, a day where Canterbury Park and the fans support the jockeys, it seemed like the perfect time to write about the brave men and women who ride the racehorses, not just at Canterbury, but around the country.

The jockeys are the true warriors of the sports world. Their ability to guide to victory an animal that is over ten times their own weight is nothing short of incredible. The jockeys are small in stature, but big in dignity. The ability to ride horses in races several times a day over the course of a few days for nearly an entire year is amazing, considering what they have to go through. The struggle to make race weight, the risk of severe injury and other dangers, the sometimes not so friendly fans, and the fact that they are just like us with families and lives to live too.

The jockeys at Canterbury are some of the best and kindest in the country. Not only do they all have amazing skills and abilities in riding, but what they do for the fans is very special. From high-fives and pictures to autographs and giving goggles to younger fans, they go out of their way more than, in my opinion, any other jockey colony in America. I started coming to Canterbury when I was three years old, and I got to experience all of that, which really inspired me to go deeper into racing, and in a way led to why I’m writing this article. All of this happened when I was a little kid, and now that I’m an adult and I see kids doing the same things that I used to do, it is a true pleasure because while the sport will change, the fans will remain and new fans will be made.

So if you’re at the track on Sunday and having a drink of any kind, raise your drink in a toast to the jockeys, who help make our sport so wonderful.  And don’t forget to make a bid in the silent auction, buy a raffle ticket, sponsor a jockey using this form, or simply drop a few bucks in one of the collection bins around the track on Sunday.

Noah Joseph is a longtime Canterbury Park and horse racing fan. He’s been attending races at Canterbury since 2000 when he was 3 years old and has enjoyed every minute of it. Noah provides a weekly piece on CanterburyLive.com.

Racehorse Owner Profile: Todd Fitch

by Katie Merritt

Owner Todd Fitch got his first taste of horse racing at Balmoral Park when he was about 10 years old. His dad would meet friends at the races and occasionally the young Fitch got to tag along. When he was 22, Todd moved to Phoenix, the place he still calls home, and began meeting his own friends at his new home track Turf Paradise. “We used to bet the horses,” he explained, “and I always said to them, ‘One day, I’m going to own one of those!’” He claimed his first horse, Pamela Denise, at Hollywood Park a few years later. Fitch, however, didn’t stop at just one. He now owns five racehorses outright, and varying percentages of 12 more.

Fitch has owned racehorses, initially under Val-U-Chem Inc. and more recently under Fitch Racing Stables, for the past 13 years. In that relatively short span of time, he has amassed over 125 victories. Though he occasionally purchases young horses at sales, most of his horses are acquired (and sometimes claimed) in claiming races. “With me, the horse racing business is kind of like the stock market,” he said. “I run my horses where they belong, where they can win. And I’m in a position where when I see a good opportunity, I do it. I’ve been very blessed, that’s what it boils down to,” he added with a smile.

Though he retired and sold his company, Val-U-Chem, three year ago, Fitch stays plenty busy keeping a watchful eye on his horses, all of which are in training with Robertino Diodoro, who has strings of horses at racetracks all over the country. “Diodoro has introduced me to a lot of opportunities. I ended up coming here to Canterbury Park with some horses, to Prairie Meadows, Southern California, Oaklawn Park, Keeneland.” For the first several years that he owned horses, Fitch primarily ran horses at Turf Paradise, but last week, he had horses running at three different tracks around the country on the same day. “It’s too bad I can’t be in three places at once!” he quipped.

Like most owners, watching his horses win is the most exciting part of ownership for Fitch, but he also enjoys the people that he’s met and gets to spend time with on a regular basis. “I’ve met so many great people. The partnerships and friendships that I’ve made being with Diodoro – they’re family now. And that’s the truth. Horsemen, horse people, they’re just so straight forward. There’s no fakeness. They’re just true people. Just hanging out with great friends and great people, having great partnerships in the industry, that’s what it’s about.”

Canterbury Park Jockey Denny Velazquez

Denny Velazquez is one of the top riders at Canterbury Park.  On Sunday he won the $100,000 Mystic Lake Mile on Hay Dakota.

Learn more about Denny in this video:

SWEET TAPPER, HAY DAKOTA SHINE IN STAKES

Hay Dakota

BY JIM WELLS

The connections in horse racing are sometimes astounding as well as confounding and on a strange afternoon at the racetrack some of that played out during a card that featured exceptional stakes racing and some mind-boggling vignettes as well.

Highlights are simple to point out: The two $100,000 stakes on the card, The Lady Canterbury and the Mystic Lake Mile, arguably the best in many years and among the best ever. Granted, the Mile was only run for the fifth time on Sunday, but the Lady Canterbury made its 25th appearance.

Mingled with heart-pounding finishes in those races and heart-warming stories to go with them were the unceremonious unseating of four riders during the card. One at the start of the fifth race resulted in a loose horse whose interference with the remaining field caused stewards to declare it a non-race.

Those episodes were balanced by some of the finest racing yet this summer in two exceptional stakes events that included parallels with the past and unexpected, much appreciated phone calls to the winner’s circle.

Sweet Tapper

$100,000 LADY CANTERBURY STAKES

Think back to 1990 and the Kentucky Derby, trainer Carl Nafzger and Minnesotan Frances Genter celebrating their Kentucky Derby winner Unbridled, trainer and owner featured in a heart-warming video that played over and over again on sports networks across the nation. It was the biggest win at that point for a woman involved in racing for decades.  Trainer and owner were later inducted into the Canterbury Park Hall of Fame.

Now, shift to the winner’s circle at Canterbury Park on Sunday and  a 4-year-old filly named Sweet Tapper, a 4-year-old daughter of Tapit owned by Lorie Michaels of Wayzata, whose celebration included a phone call from none other than Carl Nafzger.

The trainer of record for the winner is Ian Wilkes, once an understudy to Nafzger who is trying his best to retire without complete success.

Michaels and her husband, Bob, have been in racing for about a dozen years but celebrated the biggest win of their racing involvement on Sunday, their first stakes victory.

“It was absolutely wonderful. I couldn’t be any happier,’’ Lorie told Nafzger.

She gave this victory to her husband. “It’s his father’s day gift,’’ she said.

It was a victory, too, another victory, for jockey Orlando Mojica, who won two stakes races and finished second in a third last weekend.

Sweet Tapper,8-1, was hemmed in along the rail coming out of the turn, but his rider was not concerned. “I had plenty of horse and I found an opening inside.’’

Just in time. Mojica made his bid from there and caught Insta Erma, the even-money favorite, at the wire by a neck, finishing in 1:35.88. Seeking Treasure at 6-1 was next, 1 ¼ lengths further back.

 

$100,000 MYSTIC LAKE MILE

Local trainer, local rider, owner a neighbor from South Dakota.

That connection provided the winner for the fifth running of the mile, an aptly named Hay Dakota, a Kentucky-bred son of Haynesfield.

The race included 5/2 Majestic Pride, last year’s Horse of the Year and One Mean Man, winner of the 2016 Mystic Lake Derby and the 2-1 favorite.

Hay Dakota, meanwhile, was sent off by the crowd of 14,150, at 6-1. Sixth out of the gate in the eight-horse field, Hay Dakota under Denny Velazquez tracked the leaders from the second flight, came four wide on the turn and made his bid from there, finishing a head in front of Majestic Pride and another half length in front of Way Striking, finishing in 1:35.37.

Asked how his heart held up during the stretch run, winning trainer Joel Berndt seemed more concerned about his vocal cords. “It’s my voice,’’ he said. “I was riding the race from the quarter pole on. If you recall, I lost the Mystic Derby last year by a neck.’’ By that, he meant that Hay Dakota had finished third in the race, a neck out of second place and another nose from first.

Moments earlier Sunday, Canterbury Hall of Fame trainer Doug Oliver had been to the winner’s circle to visit old friends. He once trained for old friends. He once trained for Alice Mettler of Wall, S.D., owner of Hay Dakota.

$24,000 SKIP ZIMMERMAN STAKES

The Fiscal Cliff, a 4-year-old Pyc Paint Your Wagon colt, had his way with nine rivals in Sunday’s opening stakes race, named for a long-time contributor to Minnesota’s horse industry.

Bet too much against Sunday’s winner and a person might end up falling off a fiscal cliff himself.

Eighteen races. First or second seventeen times. Eleven wins. A Grade II winner and runnerup in races at Remington Park.

He could have spotted his competition a length or two and still won this race, although he needed a rare reminder from his rider after shifting his weight in the gate and not breaking cleanly.

Not that he needed the tap as everything turned out. The Fiscal Break appeared to do all that was necessary under the circumstances.

“He didn’t break real well. Couldn’t get hold of the ground,’’ said owner Thomas Lepic of Iowa City, Iowa. “We rarely touch him, but he did take hold.’’

Winning trainer Kasey Willis had even more to celebrate. He also saddled Streakin PR, the second-place horse.

Winning rider Benito Baca told Lepic afterward that his horse didn’t break in a straight line after shifting in the gate but acquired his footing and took charge of the competition, finishing in 17.75 seconds.

Lepic said he will continue training his horse here in preparation for the Bank of America Canterbury Park Challenge on July 4.

Sunday’s race is named for Skip Zimmerman, a quarter horse and thoroughbred owner and breeder who was a charter member of the Minnesota Quarter Horse Racing Association and a member of the HBPA board of directors. Zimmerman died of a heart problem on March 6, 2007.

 

Nolan Left Mark On Lady Canterbury

Paul Nolan and K Z Bay

Paul Nolan was known as the Sod Surgeon when he rode regularly at Canterbury Park, for his success on the grass, often aboard horses that were sent off at long odds. Take the most spectacular win in the history of the Lady Canterbury Stakes, the race that headlines Sunday’s card, as a prime example. Nolan rode KZ Bay to the winner’s circle in the 1997 Lady Canterbury and returned $67.80 for a $2 win wager.  He was the leading rider at Canterbury in 2006.

 

BY JIM WELLS

 

The Nolans have five cats, all but one of them rescue animals from the racetrack, and Paul and Sherry consider them family.

Squinky, Snip, Ming Li, Minnie and Rainy.

They don’t have children, so the felines have become surrogates of a sort, the next best thing, something they have shared since the beginning of their relationship.

Sherry recalled telling Paul when he first paid her a visit during their courting days years ago that she had four Persian cats and wondered how he felt about the issue. He had always been a dog lover, but said he had nothing against cats in particular.

“The next thing I knew, there was Paul holding one of the cats upside down in his arms, like a baby, rocking it,’’ Sherry recalled.

Occasionally in recent weeks, whenever they are on the phone, Sherry will hold it near one or more of the family cats so that Paul can speak to them before she ends the conversation, she from their home in Bloomington , he from the Craig Hospital in Englewood, Colorado,a center that specializes in spinal cord and traumatic brain injury.

Nolan can’t move his arms. He can’t stand or walk on his own.

Any contact with life the way it was, the people and animals, is reassuring.

“It’s going to be a long, slow process. There is no prognosis,’’ Sherry said.

He had planned to ride in the current meet at Canterbury Park, where he once was a regular and won a riding title before taking his tack to other locations during the summer months.

Then, on April 18, a horse he was riding at Will Rogers Downs threw him forward after the finish line and rolled over the top of him. The horse was fine and there was no indication why he collapsed as he did after the wire.

Nothing about that night is even slightly vague to Sherry Nolan, not even weeks later.

“I was watching the race on my laptop, the eighth race, and he wasn’t going to ride again until the 10th,’’ she said. “I didn’t watch him gallop out.’’

She went about other household chores and then tuned in again for the 10th race.

“The race had been delayed,’’ she recalled. “Then I noticed that Paul was calling me.’’

It wasn’t Paul. It was his agent, Rick Jones, with the disturbing news. At that moment Nolan was being taken to a local hospital. Details were sketchy but promising.

It became a night of confusion and unanswered questions thereafter.

Sherry was ill with a cold and the flu, had been for weeks, and had difficulty saying more than a few words without coughing. Yet, eventually she reached Paul who was able to utter only a couple of words, himself.

“Hi, dear,’’ he said.

Information was slow in coming. Sherry hung up the phone for the night around 1 a.m. after a nurse told her Paul was resting comfortably. Results of an MRI wouldn’t be available for several hours or more.

When the results of the MRI arrived, Sherry learned that there were no breaks in his spinal column; it was not comprised, but his spinal cord was severely swollen and there was a bruise at C3, the area that controls the respiratory system.

“He can feel his arms but he can’t move them,’’ Sherry added. “A lot of the ligaments in the front and back of the shoulders were severely stretched and injured.’’

It has become a matter of waiting, day after day.

Waiting and hoping.

The center plans to release Nolan toward the end of July. Even that promising news is compromised by other unfinished business and uncertainty. Their Minnesota home is not wheelchair accessible. Much moderation and updating needs to be accomplished, and even those plans are hung up by details with contractors and others.

Currently, he needs 24-hour a day care and will certainly need continued care and therapy even upon release. “We don’t know how long,’’ Sherry added.

The other night she lectured her husband after detecting that his confidence had dipped. “He was feeling a bit down,’’ she explained, “and I had to say a few things.’’

There are also the well wishes and generosity of colleagues, friends and horsemen and jockey associations. The kind of outreaching that has sustained the Nolans, financially and emotionally.

“It’s been unbelievable,’’ Sherry said. “Everyone has been so generous.’’

The jockeys at Will Rogers Downs and at Remington Park have sent checks. A person for whom Nolan once rode locally sent a check. His valet at Will Rogers tore up the checks he received from Nolan. There is insurance money, too. All of it has relieved the financial strain.

“I want to cry. Everyone has been so good, so generous,’’ she said. “I’ve been able to pay the property taxes and other bills. I can’t say enough. It takes off so much pressure.’’

One less thing to worry about in the wake of a life-changing event that continues to present new questions and uncertainties just as others are answered.

 

Results of MN Stallion Breeders Quarter Horse Futurity Trials

BS Special – Fastest Qualifier

 

Two $100,000 Turf Stakes Headline Father’s Day Racing

by Katie Merritt

Sunday’s 10-race program at Canterbury Park includes two $100,000 turf stakes, the 25th running of the Lady Canterbury will be the 7th race and the Mystic Lake Mile, now in its fifth year, will be run as the 8th race. Both stakes will be run at a distance of one mile on the turf course. Racing begins on Father’s Day at 12:45 p.m.

The Lady Canterbury dates back to the spring of 1986 when it was the first race to be run on the turf course at the Shakopee, Minn. racetrack. The inaugural Lady Canterbury was won by Sauna with jockey Chris McCarron aboard for owners Allen Paulson and Summa Stables. Over the years the race has continued to draw top connections from around the country.

The 2017 rendition is no exception as 10 fillies and mares have been entered. Several nationally-known trainers are shipping to Canterbury to compete for the $100,000 purse. Mike Maker has entered morning line favorite Gianna’s Dream, who has run 12 times, at 7 different racetracks, and has only finished off the board twice. Being the favorite in the Lady Canterbury may not be the best position to be in, however, as the favorite has only won the race three times since 1986.  This will be Gianna’s Dream’s first start since December of last year. Maker won the Lady Canterbury two years in a row in 2013 and 2014 with Awesome Flower. Bill Mott, who also won the Lady Canterbury in 2003 with Stylish, has Zayat Stables’ Insta Erma, who has a second and a third so far this year amongst tough allowance company at Keeneland and Belmont. Insta Erma will be ridden by Dean Butler. Ian Wilkes ships in with Sweet Tapper, to be ridden by Orlando Mojica, who is also looking for her first win this year after a second and a third in solid allowances at Churchill and Arlington – both races that were originally scheduled to be run on the turf, but were moved to the main track.

The morning line favorite in the Mystic Lake Mile is 2014 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) winner Hootenanny for trainer Wesley Ward. The 5 year old horse by Quality Road has hit the board 8 out of 13 times. In addition to his Breeder’s Cup win, Hootenanny is also known for being one of the few American shippers to win a stake race at Royal Ascot. Hootenanny most recently finished fourth in the Grade 3 Hanshin at Arlington Park, three lengths behind longshot winner Crewman, who he will face again Sunday in the Mystic Lake Mile. Julio Garcia has been named to ride.

Bernie Flint-trained One Mean Man, winner of the 2016 Mystic Lake Derby at Canterbury, is also entered to run, looking to win his first race since the Woodchopper Stakes at Fair Grounds in December. The four-year-old grey colt will be ridden by Orlando Mojica. Locally-stabled Hay Dakota, trained by Joel Berndt and ridden by Denny Velazquez, is another top choice in the Mystic Lake Mile. The four-year-old bay gelding has not won in three starts this year, but was the winner of the Grade 3 Commonwealth at Churchill Downs last November.

The Quarter Horses will also contest a stake race earlier in the card. The $20,000 added Skip Zimmerman Memorial Stakes will be run as the first race and has drawn a field of 10 horses. The Fiscal Cliff, trained by Kasey Willis and ridden by Benito Jude Baca, hi-lights the race. The four year old colt has 17 lifetime starts to date, with 10 wins and 6 seconds. His last race was a win in the Grade 2 Bob Moore Memorial Stakes on April 22 at Remington Park. Eagles Span, Jr Rock Star and Streakin Pr will likely by vying for second choice on the tote board. The Olmstead-trained Eagles Span enters the race off of an Allowance Optional Claimer here at Canterbury Park and will be ridden by Brayan Velazquez. Jr Rock Star, also trained by Olmstead was most recently 4th in Optional Claimer at Remington in May, but won an Allowance at Canterbury last August. Streakin Pr, trained by Kasey Willis and ridden by David Pinon was 4th last out in the Boyd Morris Memorial Handicap at Remington Park, after winning an Allowance there in his prior start.

 

Leg Up Fund Poker Tournament is Monday

Cecily Evans settles in Shakopee

By Katie Merritt

Jockey Cecily Evans is a 28-year-old native of Baltimore, Maryland. She grew up riding, but stumbled upon racehorses almost by accident. “I was riding at a barn that had steeplechasers and I started galloping them as a summer job. I thought it was like going on glorified trail rides, galloping through fields, jumping things, it was so much fun!” Cecily explained, laughing. “Then I met someone that trained thoroughbreds at the track. She could tell I loved it and was the right size, so she suggested I come down to Pimlico and learn the ways of the track.” And as they say, the rest is history.

Cecily then began galloping for Dickie Small, a trainer well-known for giving a good start to female riders, like Forest Boyce and Rosie Napravnik. “Dickie taught me so much. I learned a lot from him. When I was first starting, he set up an equicizer for me in front of a TV and had me watch race replays to learn what to do and what not to do.” Evans still watches replays today when preparing for a race. “I read the form and I watch both my horses’ replays, and replays of the other horses in the race. I want to learn as much as I can about my horse and the competition so I can ride the smartest race I can,” she explained, while also recognizing the importance and necessity of a rider’s intuition and relationship with the horse once the gates open.

While completing her college degree, Evans rode a handful of amateur races between 2009 and 2012 before starting her professional riding career in 2013. She has ridden primarily on the Mid-Atlantic circuit, but has experienced success all over the country – from Tampa Bay Downs to Monmouth Park to Santa Anita. From 808 career mounts, she has a respectable 95 wins, 88 seconds and 90 thirds. Last winter, Evans went to Turf Paradise for the first time where she won several races, many for trainers who run at Canterbury Park. “When I was in Arizona, a few of the trainers I was riding for suggested that I give Canterbury a try. I was planning on going back to Delaware Park this summer, but decided that it made sense to stay on the same circuit and build up my business. I really like Canterbury! Everyone is so friendly here!”

When Cecily isn’t riding, she likes to stay active hiking, exploring new places, and even takes aerial silk classes. In addition, in her free time she occasionally works as a Disney Princess. “In Maryland, one of my best friends started a company called the Princess Company and she does birthday parties and charity events for kids. So I help her out sometimes by ‘princessing’; being a princess for kids. It’s fun, especially when it’s for a good cause!” Evans explained. “It’s fun to be Elsa because she is a favorite with the kids, but I love the Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty costumes!”

Here in Shakopee, Evans keeps busy every morning going to the track and working horses before returning for the races in the afternoons. Her hard-work is paying off – she won her first race at Canterbury on June 3 for last year’s leading trainer Mac Robertson.