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.


Notes from the Weekend

Canterbury newcomers Cecily Evans and Justine Klaiber both rode their first winners at this track on Saturday. Klaiber got her first win in the 2nd race on the quarter horse Jess A Chance for trainer Randy Weidner. After dueling in the early parts of the Quarter Horse dash, Jess a Chance took charge late to win the race by ¾ of a length. Evans crossed the wire first later in the card, in the 8th race aboard Emily’s Entourage for last year’s leading trainer Mac Robertson. Emily’s Entourage drew clear from the rest of the field to win the race by a decisive 3 ½ lengths.

Jockey Betty Jo Williams made a return to the saddle last weekend after a 5 year hiatus. Williams has 109 wins, 131 seconds and 152 thirds from 1,070 starts. In 2011 she was a finalist for the Canadian Sovereign Award for leading apprentice rider. A couple of serious injuries and later becoming a mother have kept Williams from riding, but she has decided that she is ready to make her comeback here at Canterbury Park this summer.

Thursday night racing, more popularly known as Buck Night, returns this week with a 6:30 p.m. post.  Admission is just one dollar and there are several $1, $2 and $3 food and beverage specials throughout the facility.

Entries will be taken Wednesday for the Saturday program that will include three $50,000 stakes races. Two are new, the Minnesota Turf and the Minnesota Turf Distaff, and one, the Dark Star Cup, honors a Canterbury Hall of Famer, the late Dark Star.

Dark Star was a fixture at Canterbury beginning in the mid-eighties. He never missed an opportunity to promote Minnesota horse racing on his long running WCCO AM radio program as well as on KFAN where he worked until passing away five years ago.  He hosted the replay show, The Canterbury Report, which was the longest running sports show in the Twin Cities, for two decades.

Many friends will gather Saturday to remember Dark Star, including former Minnesota Twins manager Tom Kelly, who will present the trophy to the winning connections of the Dark Star Cup.

Post time Saturday is 1:45 p.m.

Saturday is also Belmont Stakes day. Advance wagering is available as follows for both the Friday and Saturday Belmont programs.

Available Thursday, 6/8/17:

Advance wagers for Friday’s Belmont card (race 11 is the Belmont Gold Cup)

Advance wagers for Saturday’s Belmont card (race 11 is the Belmont Stakes)

Thursday’s Belmont card

Belmont Gold Cup/Belmont Stakes Double Wager (race 11 on Friday and race 11 on Saturday)

New York Stakes/Metropolitan Handicap Double Wager (race 9 on Friday and race 9 on Saturday)


Available Friday, 6/9/17:

Advance wagers for Saturday’s Belmont card (race 11 is the Belmont Stakes)

Friday’s Belmont card (race 11 is the Belmont Gold Cup)

Belmont Gold Cup/Belmont Stakes Double Wager (race 11 on Friday and race 11 on Saturday)

New York Stakes/Metropolitan Handicap Double Wager (race 9 on Friday and race 9 on Saturday)


Available Saturday, 6/10/17:

Saturday’s Belmont card (race 11 is the Belmont Stakes)

Advance wagering on Canterbury races is always available one day in advance.

Cecily Evans – A Fresh Face In The Jockey Colony

Cecily Evans is riding at Canterbury Park for the first time.  The young jockey has traveled from coast to coast, riding 798 races in her career.

Learn more here:



video by Michelle Blasko from Canterbury’s Digital Media Department.

News and Notes after Four Race Days

by Katie Merritt

Perfection is a term rarely used in this sport. But for the moment, it fits Hall of Fame trainer Bernell Rhone who has saddled five horses thus far and each has visited the winner’s circle. Drop the Gloves won opening night. Maddymax won this past Friday and then Drive Sandy Drive, Justeveryday, and Smoltz kept the streak alive Saturday.  As would be expected, go-to jockey Dean Butler rode four of the winners and Martin Escobar, whose association with Rhone began two decades ago, was on Justeveryday.

Rhone spends the winter training at Tampa Bay Downs.

Is there a Tampa edge?   “I like coming out of Tampa,” Rhone said. “Horses from there go everywhere and run well.”

Rhone remembers winning six races on one card in 2003 and then saddling two more the next day. “I had multiple horses in a couple of those races.”  He has an opportunity to continue this current run of perfection Friday with Lucky Leroy Brown in race 2.

In June of 1995, the year Canterbury re-opened, David Van Winkle saddled seven consecutive winners over a period of several days. Van Winkle went on to be leading trainer that summer.

The battle for leading rider at Canterbury Park has already begun at the 2017 live racing meet. As expected, Alex Canchari and Dean Butler are vying for that lead, and are tied with 6 wins apiece and a 27 percent win percentage. The only thing that currently sets them apart is Canchari’s seven second-place finishes to Butler’s two, and Canchari’s earnings of $144,710 to Butler’s $88,798. Dean Butler is 3 for 3 on favorites, while Canchari is 4 for 6. With a lot of races left to run this summer, the title of leading rider will surely spend a lot of time flip-flopping between these two, as well as others. Orlando Mojica is only 2 wins behind them, with $98,007 in purses, so he is also in contention to make a bid at leading rider.

The Jockey Colony Continues To Grow

Jockey Cecily Evans, a newcomer to Canterbury Park, arrived in Shakopee this week after the completion of the Turf Paradise meet. Evans rode races primarily on the east coast before her venture to Turf Paradise last winter.

“It was my first meet at Turf Paradise and I really didn’t know that many people, so it took a little bit to get everything going. But the last couple of months, business really started picking up and I was winning races,” Evans said. “A lot of the trainers that I rode for told me that they were going to Canterbury Park for the summer, and that I should go, so here I am! I’m excited!”

She will be represented by agent Brandon O’Brien, who also has Chad Lindsay’s book.

Jockey Nik Goodwin is one win closer to 1,000 after a win on Fort Lewis Rivers on Friday night for trainer Joel Berndt. He is now only four wins away.

Stakes Races Saturday

The Lady Slipper Stakes and the 10,000 Lakes Stakes will be run Saturday. Both offer $50,000 purses and are conducted at a distance of six furlongs. Both stakes are restricted to Minnesota breds.

Bourbon County, winner of the past two 10,000 Lakes renditions, is on the nomination list. He began training this spring at Oaklawn and has continued to work forwardly at Canterbury Park. Finding his name on the entries after the draw Wednesday would be no surprise. Hold for More has also been nominated. He sprinted in the Paul Bunyan Stakes opening weekend but was never involved, finishing last in a field of six. Should trainer Francisco Bravo enter this former horse of the meet, he would be well supported by the betting public.

The Lady Slipper attracted 15 nominations including Rockin the Bleu’s who was a winner facing open company in April at Will Rogers Downs in a $50,000 sprint stakes. Last season this mare came off a layoff to finish second in the Lady Slipper. She has a pair of recorded workouts since arriving in Shakopee this spring.

Racing begins on Saturday with a later than normal post time of 1:45 p.m. to accommodate the running of the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico.

Friday racing begins at 6:30 p.m.

Rolling $1 doubles have been added to the wagering menu and will begin Friday.

Advance wagering on Preakness and Black-Eyed Susan

Available Thursday, 5/18/17:
– Advance wagers for Friday’s Pimlico card (Black Eyed Susan is race 11)
– Advance wagers for Saturday’s Pimlico card (Preakness is race 13)
– Black Eyed Susan/Preakness Double Wager (race 11 on Friday and race 13 on Saturday)

Available Friday, 5/19/17:
– Advance wagers for Saturday’s Pimlico card (Preakness is race 13)
– Friday’s Pimlico card (Black Eyed Susan is race 11)
– Black Eyed Susan/Preakness Double Wager (race 11 on Friday and race 13 on Saturday)