ALWAYS DREAMING A SLIGHT FAVORITE IN POLL OF POLLS

BY JIM WELLS

In the latest Preakness Stakes poll conducted by Canterbury Park/CNN/Fox News/ABC/MSNBC  Always Dreaming has a slight edge over Classic Empire and is the projected winner of  Saturday’s race.

There is a margin of error in this poll that will not be announced until shortly before post time, so as not to alter the usual course of wagering by people without a clue and those who think they have several.

The poll includes a sampling of both conservative and liberal bettors in equal numbers.

Fifty-one percent of those polled said that the Todd Pletcher entry in this race is a dream horse. It is considered merely coincidental that the horse’s name is Always Dreaming. The same fifty-one percent said that they picked this horse for no other reason than he won the Kentucky Derby and looked “just fine and dandy” during the past week training

Forty-nine percent of those polled say they will bet on Classic Empire to win but want Always Dreaming to win because it’s good for the sport. In contrast, the Fifty-one percent who are betting on Always Dreaming to win say they want Always Dreaming to win.

Thirty percent of those polled said that Always Dreaming has not let his sudden fame affect the way he has worked for the second leg of the Triple Crown. Asked if he might be looking past this race to the Belmont Stakes and a possible sweep of these races, Always Dreaming responded, “What’s a Triple Crown?  I just run my races one at a time.’’

Trainer Todd Pletcher was unavailable for comment. Something about his mouth being full of crab cake.

Many people think this race is wide open, not much different than the Derby, that several entries in the 10-horse field have a shot.

For those putting their money on Juvenile champion Classic  Empire, there are several issues to consider.  Is it possible that as a two-year-old champion he was simply too young, too immature to handle all that success. Were his injuries and reduced training this spring simply used as an excuse? Did success go to his head?

“I’ve always been a team player,’’ he responded. “What I do is for the barn, not myself. Everything I do is for the team.’’  Trainer Mark Caase said “we’ll see, we’ll see.’’

For an inside clue, a handicapping tip the rest of America is without, consider this behind-the scenes connection from Canterbury pressbox assistant Katie Merrit. Although she, like so many others in the business, thinks that an Always Dreaming win is good for the sport, consider this:

Katie once galloped for the Carl Nafzger barn. Nafzger is an Eclipse-Award winning, Kentucky Derby winning former trainer. He is also a member of the Canterbury Park Hall of Fame and the former trainer of Frances Genter’s Unbridled, the 1990 Kentucky Derby and Breeders  Cup Classic winner.

And guess what.

Unbridled is the grandsire of Empire Maker.

Then again, and this is what muddies the waters a bit, Unbridled also sired Unbridled Ridge, the mother of Gunnevera. There is Unbridled blood as well in Always Dreaming and a gene or two in Cloud Computing.

“He’s all over this race,’’ said pedigree specialist and Canterbury chart man Dave Miller.

Sort of like having a boxing gym full of sons, grandsons and great grandsons of, say, Muhammad Ali.

Miller, by the way, agrees with those who say that you won’t make more than a dime on Always Dreaming today, and the best way to attack this race is to back up a bob or two on the favorite with a nice trifecta on the side.

Polling on this race also depends on a person’s politics. Take Canterbury Park track announcer Paul Allen for instance. Allen was once quoted as saying that he never bets. Then there was a pressbox leak that contradicted that statement.  But we can find any number of, let’s say, politicians who say they never bet and put fifty through the window on the no. 2 horse while making the statement. Saying one thing and doing another is part of politics and horse racing.

The Big O is the righthand man in the Shawn Coady photography studio at Canterbury and had this to say about today’s Classic race:

“It’s hard to go against the (Derby) winner. I think he’ll win this one and lose the Belmont. That last one is just too far,’’ he said.

Pressbox custodian Jeff Maday has several thoughts on the race.  His company loyalty wish, like Allen’s, is for the Derby winner to win this race, too. That way the Belmont Stakes three weeks hence becomes a really big deal, in New York and in Shakopee, instead of a race marginal fans couldn’t give a hoot about.

So, there you have it. All of the inside dope available for the second leg of the Triple Crown.

And for the political elite who think that politics should never be compared to something as lowly as running animals on a race track, let’s consider this:

Before the year is out, a politician somewhere will say that this election or that is really going to be a horse race.

And you can bet on that, too.

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OPENING DAY CALM BEFORE THE STORM

BY JIM WELLS

A native son won the first race of the season Friday under sunny skies, a warm inviting breeze and before a late arriving crowd that grew slowly but only slightly as the afternoon progressed.

Alex Canchari, who grew up in Shakopee, a short gallop from Canterbury Park, had a winning hand in the mile optional claiming event, guiding Aces High to a narrow victory over Valeski and defending riding champion Dean Butler.

Butler ended the 2016 meet with a narrow victory of his own, one win in front of Canchari. This way or that, the first race of 2017 might have been a harbinger of what’s to come again this meet between the two riders. For now, with 66 racing days remaining, Canchari has the lead. He finished opening day with a riding hat trick, summing it up afterward with a time-honored sports cliché. “I really don’t (count possible wins before the card),’’ he said. “I just go out and ride.’’

Almost as an afterthought, Butler delivered a shot across the bow in the final race of opening day,, riding a horse named Drop the Gloves for his first win of the meet.

Everything pointed to a great opening to 2017. The weather couldn’t have been better, and track management expected a solid turnout, timing the first race for 4:20 p.m., as opposed to the usual 6:30 p.m. starting time. The early start gave fans a chance to wager on two live races before the simulcast of the Kentucky Oaks, the filly event that highlights the Churchill Downs card one day before the Kentucky Derby each year.

Yet, only 6,762 turned out.  Track president Randy Sampson acknowledged the small turnout and wagering handle, and said that poor communication might have played a role.

“I don’t know if people knew about the early start,’’ he said. “But we wanted to try it for a number of reasons. We wanted to give people a chance to bet on the Kentucky Oaks but for whatever reason, maybe working late or not knowing about the early start…’’

The last eight seasons Canterbury’s first race card was the night before the Preakness Stakes, two weeks later than this year’s start.. Many fans were possibly unaware of that change as well. If nothing else, Friday’s opening gave employees a “dry” run at what will probably be the largest crowd and wagering handle of the season for today’s Kentucky Derby card.

“It will be a big day tomorrow. We know that,’’ Sampson said.

The founder of Canterbury Downs had a favorite saying whenever the sun was shining, the sky was blue and everything else lined up perfectly for a successful opening to the season or any other big event.

“We were kissed by an angel,’’ Brooks Fields would say during those early years of horse racing in Minnesota.

Sometimes, however, there was a devil was in the details.

Spectacular weather didn’t sustain the crowds originally attracted by this new form of entertainment, and  seldom produced desired wagering handles. Then, competition in the form of the Minnesota lottery and later Native American casino gaming arrived, providing alternative gaming choices.

Nonetheless, horse racing found a niche in the Minnesota gaming pantheon, although it requires constant attention and experimentation to remain viable.  Racing had to undergo a tremendous change to find its niche, a change that included shutters on the racetrack for two years while an entirely new financial approach was organized.

The track reopened in 1995 with a new name, Canterbury Park, and new approach to racing. Originally run under the auspices of Santa Anita Park in California, the Shakopee racing facility was now under control of the Sampson family who would take the company public.

In the years thereafter, special promotions involving events other than horse racing were added to the racing calendar to help boost overall attendance and introduce these patrons at the same time to the sport of racing. Promotions such as Extreme Day, featuring camel and zebra races, beer promotions and Corgi and Wiener Dog races have become popular attractions.

Friday’s card featured eight races in addition to the Kentucky Oaks, won by Abel Tasman, and that result offered another Canterbury connection. The winning rider, Mike Smith, started his riding career in Shakopee and is in the track’s Hall of Fame.

Track employees, wherever encountered, were inevitably discussing the slow day they experienced as  Friday wore on, but always with the caveat that “tomorrow will be a madhouse.’’

Opening day did not draw the crowd or the handle track management expected. But they also believe that it was merely  the calm before the storm. .

A HORSE, A HORSE, OUR KINGDOM FOR….

by Jim Wells

At long last, the racing season is upon us, two weeks earlier than usual, two and half hours earlier than ordinary, and yet surely not early enough for anyone who has spent the last few months huddled indoors, handicapping races via simulcast from tracks hither and yon.

Opening day’s 4 p.m. start is an anomaly and yet welcome relief for racing fans deprived these past few months of their prerace trips to the paddock. Saturday’s card is also unusually timed to mesh with the Kentucky Derby. First post in Shakopee is 1:45 p.m., with the grand sendoff in Louisville scheduled for 5:45 p.m. The early start on opening day will allow fans to get their feet wet with a couple of live races before the simulcast of the Kentucky Oaks.

Anyone familiar with the background of horse racing the past decade is aware too of the shortage of horses that has bedeviled racetracks throughout the county, a consequence of changing economics within and outside of this expensive endeavor.

That is at least a partial explanation for the early start this season, a decision Canterbury management hopes will land some of the horses that have been departing Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark., where that meet ended mid-April.

That and, of course, the marketing angle employed in introducing fans present only because of the Derby to the concept of live racing as well.

That is part and parcel of the return to live racing on the first weekend of May.

“Combining live racing with the spectacle of the Kentucky Derby is ideal,’’ said track president Randy Sampson. “Derby Day is often the one day casual sports fans come to the racetrack, perhaps for the first time. Introducing them to live racing at the same time will enhance the experience and perhaps encourage another visit.’’

Historically, the first Saturday in May is the largest wagering day of the season at Canterbury and the local handle will likely benefit as well. Minnesotans are notoriously tight-fisted bettors, so local racing needs to take advantage of every opportunity for vigorous exchanges at the pari-mutuel windows. The Kentucky Derby is first on the list. Management expects a wagering handle on Derby Day of $1.8 million or more.

Horsemen seem generally to have accepted the idea of an earlier start to the meet, particularly in this case, associated as it is with attracting additional stables.

“I was talking about that with (Hall of Fame trainer) Bernell Rhone the other day,’’ said trainer Jerry Livingston. “Just about every track seems to have a shortage of horses except Remington Park during the quarter horse meet.’’

That does not seem to be the case in Shakopee on opening day. Stables, including a handful of new ones, have been arriving steadily with the horse population growing daily.

The HBPA, for one, is encouraged by what has taken place prior to opening day.

“It appears we have around 900 horses now and they are expecting full barns,’’ said president Jack Walsh.

There are other differences this season immediately apparent in the group that represents horsemen. Walsh pointed that out earlier in the week following an HBPA meeting. “It’s not the same without Tom here,’’ said Walsh, who took over following the death of Tom Metzen last summer. “The board members had hardly anything to do with Tom around. He had it all done. It was always so smooth.’’

Walsh said that horsemen in general understand the need for an earlier start to the 67-day season. Most of them understand the realities of an industry that struggles across the country to maintain fan bases. Full barns relate to larger fields and enhanced interest and betting in races. Competitive races are no different than any other sport. Competition drives interest and enjoyment in the product. Compare the attention devoted to the Minnesota Vikings during the first half of the 2016 season and what took place thereafter.

Mac Robertson, Canterbury’s champion trainer in 2016, says the early start is beneficial to his barn, offering as it does additional spots over a longer period of time to place his horses, as well as additional opportunities for his owners to see their horses run. “Obviously the more racing there is, the better off I am,’’ he said.

Simply stretching the season as the 2017 calendar does, from May 5 until closing day on September 16, allows trainers a wider widow in which to compete. “I don’t have to worry about running them back too soon,’’ added Robertson.

Successful trainers with large stables and owners from various parts of the country (or countries) frequently have to compete during the same period of time at more than one location. Robertson does and his toughest opponent for the training title, Robertino Diodoro, continues to expand his operation.

Robertson had won nine consecutive training titles in Shakopee before Diodoro interrupted that streak with titles in 2014 and 2015. Robertson was back on top again in 2016, and there’s no reason to think those two conditioners won’t go head-to-head again this meet.

Diodoro, however, will have stables for the first time at five locations this summer. “We’ve done four tracks before,’’ he said. “This is the first time with five.’’

Diodoro has 50 horses at Canterbury for opening day with perhaps the same number at Prairie Meadows in Des Moines, Iowa. It’s not a stretch to say that his vans will be making frequent if not perhaps weekly trips between the Iowa and Minnesota tracks this summer.

And he will help kick off the 2017 meet in grand style. He has three horses entered in the first race of the season.

What’s the Deal? Find out now…..

What'sTheDeal w Alex

 

SMITH, TORRES GOING HEAD TO HEAD

Lil Miss Party Doll

Lil Miss Party Doll

Stormy Smith reflected on the question, searching his memory as if he were rewinding an old tape recorder, trying to locate some recorded facts.

The 36-year-old rider is leading the quarter horse jockey standings, not entirely a new event to him. After all he has been the leading rider at Prairie Meadows nine of the last 10 years and was the leading rider at the Woodlands his last three or four meets there. He finished second at Remington Park a couple of years ago.          

            He is not so jaded by those events that he wouldn’t relish his first riding crown in Shakopee, however. Not by a long shot, if you’ll forgive the expression.

            Smith has a one-win lead over defending quarter horse champion Jorge Torres, who will be tough competition in the final days of the quarter horse meet, riding as he does for the loaded Stacy Charette-Hill barn.

            Smith is finishing his second complete or near complete meet at Canterbury Park but has been racing here off and on, flying in for stakes races, the past decade. “I love it here,’’ he said. “The Mystic Lake purses have made it a profitable place to race, but the big factor is that they make racing fun here with all of the people-friendly events,’’ Smith said. “I just wish they had a couple more quarter horse races each day. Otherwise, this place is just a riot.’’

            Smith grew up in racing. His father, uncles and a grandfather raced. His dad also trained. Born in New Mexico, raised largely in Louisiana, he has lived in Purcell, Okla., the last five years. “We bought a place there,’’ he said, “in Purcell, about 35 miles south of Remington Park off Interstate 35.’’

            Smith had a two-win lead before Friday’s first race, but Torres cut it to one with a win on Charette-Hill’s Lil Miss Party Doll.

            It isn’t often that a Charette-Hill charge will return $14.40 . A wager isn’t likely to return more than even money on most horses out of her barn, but Lil Miss Party Doll wouldn’t leave the gate her last time out, discouraging attention on her Friday.

            Torres wasn’t back in the jockey’s lounge but a minute or two when he was summoned to the phone for a consultation with the stewards concerning his mount’s gate behavior. According to Torres, she wanted to go before the gate opened and then backed up a step after realizing there was no place to go.

            She made good use of open space once it was presented to her. As for Torres, this is only his second year riding for the barn. Previously, he divided his time between breaking  horses primarily and working the oil fields.  After winning the title in Shakopee his first year of riding, the oil fields are far down his list of how to make a living these days. As for winning a second title….

            “I just race one day at a time,’’ Torres said.

A good plan considering the uncertainty of anything you care to name around the racetrack. Titles come and go. Take Friday’s first race, for example. Torres, the defending champion was accompanied by other Canterbury riding champs, including three-time winner Ry Eikleberry and two-time winner Nik Goodwin.

 

DISABLED RIDERS FUND DRIVE SATURDAY.

            The Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund was created in 2006 to provide financial aid to riders sidelined by injuries in their sport. Some 60 riders with permanently disabling injuries benefit on a regular basis from the fund.

            You need look no further than Canterbury to find riders who benefit from this fund _ namely four-time quarter horse riding champion Tad Leggett and quarter horse/thoroughbred jockey Anne Von Rosen, both paralyzed in racing-related incidents.

            Fans and the racing community can donate to this fund across the nation today by simply texting JOCKEY to 50555 to make a $10 donation. 

            The organization has provided more than $5 million in assistance since founded.

            A SMILE AS WIDE AS ALL OUTDOORS

 A bystander mentioned her celebratory moment from the night before, and a smile crossed the face of Chamisa Goodwin as if it had just occurred.

            “I wasn’t here for your big moment last night,’’ he said. “Must have been nice.’’

            An understatement to be sure.

            Goodwin had gone 57 races this season without a win, but put that behind her with a win aboard Shagrila Bar in Thursday’s eighth race.

            Track announcer Paul Allen immediately made it known that the win was the first for Goodwin this season.

            “Everyone in the grandstand started clapping,’’ she said. “It was great. Really great.’’

  A PARADE OF LONG SHOTS

You don’t see a parade of this sort very often, but there it was, a prominent part of Friday night’s card, one longshot after another.

            Patrick Canchari got it under way by bringing in Waytogo Trish in race four at 10-1.  Qunicy Hamilton was on a 10-1 selection named Evansville Runaway in the fifth. Jake Olesiak rode Royal Congrats at 13-1 in the following race.

But the real payoff came in the seventh. Israel Hernandez brought in the P.C. Fauchald-trained Shal Pal’s Castle at 16-1.

            HARD TO FIND A SEAT AT THIS POKER TABLE

The third race produced a winner named Ballistic Sue, with Ry Eikleberry up. Nothing all that newsworthy there. But how about the shake that took place to claim her!

Trainer Doug Oliver took the seven-year-old mare from the Robertino Diodoro barn in a six-way shake at the claiming box.

BY JIM WELLS

Broadway Empire in Mystic Lake Mile

Broadway Empire - wells

The horses had departed the paddock for the racetrack on a recent afternoon when another one seemed to appear out of nowhere, circling the oval at the hand of an assistant trainer, on his toes one minute, then back at a gentle walk whenever his handler shook the lead rope.

 The horse in question was Broadway Empire. He was being schooled, and a few remaining onlookers began paying attention.

“He just looks like a real racehorse,” said media relations director Jeff Maday.

“Sometimes they just have that appearance.”

 Broadway certainly does have a certain air about him that commands attention and respect, the suggestion that he’s the man and he knows it.

 “He acts like it’s his world and the rest of us are just living in it,” said paddock analyst Angela Hermann, one of the onlookers. “He’s certainly no cupcake.”

Not by any stretch.

 Broadway Empire is a four-year-old gelded son of Empire Maker ( a son of Unbridled, by the way) and the mare Broadway Hoofer. He has raced a mere 11 times and is 6-1-0 with total earnings of $474,491.

 He will make his first start on grass Saturday in the $100,000 Mystic Lake Mile and is favored to increase his career bank account by, oh, around $60,000, the winner’s share of the pot.

 “He’s one classy dude,” said his most recent rider, Scott Stevens, who has been on Broadway in two of his last three outs, the most recent a sixth place finish in the Metropolitan Mile against some very classy competition, including Breeders’ Cup winner Goldencents and Belmont Stakes winner Palice Malice.

 Stevens knows just what to expect from Broadway each time he hits the racetrack. “He’s a professional racehorse. He gives you everything he has and he’s just naturally fast. It’s nothing you have to make him do.”

 Broadway has some quirks but they are not evident once during a race.

 “He relaxes then,” said Stevens. “Even when he’s running fast, he’s relaxing.”

Broadway’s athletic ability has been well documented. He commands attention also for his appearance. He exceeds 16 hands in height, has solid conformation and a certain regal look in his bay coat.

 “He’s really a good looking horse,” said Hermann.

 Despite his professional attitude on the track, he gets constant attention to detail, constant schooling in the aspects of his trade, simply to keep his mind focused.

 “He was a little high strung in the paddock at Belmont (before the Met Mile) but once he reaches the track he’s all business,” Stevens added.

 Broadway came to the racetrack at age two, as part of a package sent to the Arizona desert.

Trainer Robertino Diodoro received six horses from California to evaluate and wound up keeping three. Broadway was one of them.

 “They were all decent horses,” Diodoro said. “Two of them were claimed from me.”

 As for those bad habits.

 “He’s a bit quirky,” said Diodoro. “He can be a handful in the paddock and has once or twice in the post parade. That’s one of the reasons we’ve kept him with Kent (Knudsen). He’s a good hand and has been everywhere with that horse.”

 Broadway was not destined for the claiming ranks like his two stablemates, not after breaking his maiden at first asking in impressive fashion at Turf Paradise in Phoenix.

 “He won by 16 ½ lengths,” said Kent Knudsen, assistant to Diodoro and the man in charge of Broadway’s daily care. “He won that one in 1:07, about a tenth of a second off Lost in the Fog’s track record. He won the Canadian Derby by three lengths, sitting off the pace on a deep, sloppy track. He won the Oklahoma Derby by four.”

 Knudsen has been with Broadway every step of the way and agrees that the horse is indeed full of himself. “At Santa Anita for the Breeders’ Cup he just stood in front of the cameras, in front of everybody. The photographers were trying to get shots of Game On Dude and horses like that but he just stood there and pinned his ears. He’s a real showoff.”

 Imagine his temperament before the gelding process.

“He was really green when he came to the track, a real handful,” said Knudsen. “He was a stud colt when he arrived at two and he came off that trailer bucking, kicking and squealing. The first time I worked him he was all over the track and didn’t work fast enough to get a time.”

 Broadway began to focus once he was gelded but he still requires blinkers when he works. They come off when he races. “He trains in the morning with them. Otherwise he wants to gawk and look around,” Knudsen said. “He wore them in the first time he ran in Phoenix but we took them off when he ran in Canada.”

 They will be off for his first race on the grass, as well.

He might act up a little bit in the paddock. He might prance a little in the post parade. But in his third and closing act he will run his heart out, finishing what is best described as the definitive Broadway show.

 

BY JIM WELLS

Broadway Empire back in Shakopee

Broadway Empire

The rider was back on the job locally Sunday but wiped out on Monday. The horse was back in the barn on Monday and jogged for the first time on Thursday.

The trainer?

He’ll be back on the job locally late Friday night.

All concerned agree that the experience was well worth the effort..

Broadway Empire finished sixth in the Grade I $1.25 million Metropolitan Mile on the Belmont Stakes card last weekend, and trainer Robertino Diodoro says that experience was good for the horse, for the rider, Scott Stevens, for his owners and even for the trainer himself.

“For sure,” Diodoro said. “It was a good experience for all of us.”

Now, the fans at Canterbury Park who rooted for Broadway Empire will get another opportunity, this time in person. Diodoro said he plans to run the gelded son of Empire Maker on July 12 in the $100,000 Mystic Lake Mile in Shakopee.

“He jogged for the first time on Thursday morning,” Diodoro said. “He shipped really well and came back in great shape. We’re planning next on the Mystic Lake Mile on the 12th.”

Diodoro spoke from Santa Anita where he has a stable of 25 horses and was spending a couple of days this week, but his main base this summer is Canterbury Park where he has in excess of 50 horses and plans to rejoin them Friday night.

He was the leading trainer at Turf Paradise in Phoenix last winter and vowed during that meet to make up for what he termed a terrible debut at Canterbury Park last year. “Nothing went right,” he said.”I didn’t have the right horses and those that were right got sick or weren’t ready to run.”

All of that has changed this summer. Diodoro started 46 horses at Canterbury last summer, won a mere seven races and finished in the money a total of 19 times with earnings of $106,350. He has exceeded everything but number of starters and third place finishes in the first 14 days of racing (through Sunday) this year with nine wins, six seconds, four thirds and earnings of $140,572.

Shakopee is Diodoro’s home base this year by design, and he based the decision on what he likes about Canterbury in addition to the solid purse structure guaranteed by the agreement with the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community.

“Canterbury is a good spot. The purses are good and the atmosphere is great,” Diodoro said. “You can’t beat the live attendance. It really makes you feel like you’re at the races when walking in or leaving the paddock.”

There is more.

“Paul Allen does a great job, especially, with the young crowd. And with Angela (Hermann) in the paddock, that’s a pretty darn good team to get people involved. PA gets them wound up, and Angela deals out all the information.”

Now Diodoro will get Broadway Empire back in the mix on July 12, and Stevens once again is the likely rider after a solid effort at Belmont.

“Scott did a good job. The horse ran the best he could and now I probably have to take a step down with him. Those were some really good horses he ran against.”

Without saying…

The winner was Palace Malice, a winner of well over $2 million and four graded races including the 2013 Grade I Belmont Stakes. He finished a length in front of Goldencents, the Breeders Cup Dirt Mile winner last autumn.

Stevens, for his part, would do it all over again, despite giving up what he figured were five wins at Canterbury during the trip to New York.

“I’d do it all again for that experience,” he said. “There was no embarrassment with that horse. He ran really well.”

Afterward, Stevens had a front-row seat for the Belmont Stakes _ box 1, seat 1, directly in front of the finish line, from where he watched the race with his sister-in-law Angie and five-year-old niece Maddie, wife and daughter to brother Gary.

There was a price to pay for the experience nonetheless. “It took forever to get out of there afterward,” Stevens said, “so it was a late night. And I had fly back early Sunday morning to ride on the (Canterbury) card here. Monday was all a blur.”

Still a sixth-place finish in a $1.25 million race isn’t all that bad financially. It was worth around $35,000 to Broadway’s stable. “Everybody made money but the rider,” Stevens said whimsically. “I gave up some winning mounts here, but I’d do it all again _ in a minute.”

He’ll get another shot on Broadway Empire on July 12.

 by Jim Wells

AND BABY MAKES THREE

Eikleberry Family 5-31-14_600x300

The question was meant as much as a conversation starter as an actual query, but in this particular case there was really only one way to answer.

So, what’s happened in your life since the last Canterbury Park meet, Ry Eikleberry?

“Oh, lots of things, really,” he responded. “The No. 1 thing is that we had a baby.”

When and Ry and his wife, Jilique, left Shakopee after the 2013 meet, they pulled away in the truck with their RV in tow.

When they returned for the 2014 meet it was without the RV but with a five-month old girl named Revy Dilly, and, yes, there is an explanation for the name. And, no, if you’re familiar with the Eikleberry family, it’s not what you think.

You might recall that Ry has two older brothers named Rustin and Rhett, so the natural tendency is to surmise that Revy is merely a continuation of the traditional naming pattern.

Not so, says Jilique.

“We tried to stay away from the Rs and we tried to stay away from the Js in my family,” she said.

Nonetheless, Jilique did let her French roots show in the naming process. She and Ry chose Revy as a derivation of the French word Reve, meaning dream. And the middle name _ Dilly?

That was a concession to Ry’s side of the family. His grandmother was named Dilly. Her twin sister was Dolly.

That’s not all that’s new in the Eikleberry barn, so to speak, this summer. Ry’s long-time agent in New Mexico, Stan Johnson, is making his first appearance in Shakopee this summer as well. Ry has won three consecutive riding titles at Sunland Park and Zia Park since hooking up with Johnson and wants to see if that streak can be extended to include Canterbury Park this summer. “I had an agent and was doing OK at the time,” Ry recalled. “I was finishing second, third, etc. Stan said he could get me a title.”

And that’s the way it’s been since, at Zia and Sunland.

Ry, Jilique and Revy are not the only members of the family back in Minnesota for the Canterbury meet.

Returning as well after a hiatus of a couple of years is trainer Kevin Eikleberry, Ry’s father, with a stable of around 20 horses. Ry’s been on two of them and gotten as close as a nose and a length, for second place both times.

Nonetheless, he and Eddie Martin, Jr., started the week tied for the lead in the rider standings with nine wins apiece and on Friday night’s card, Eikleberry took the lead himself.

The circuit Eikleberry rides, Zia, Sunland and Canterbury, doesn’t allow much time at home in Phoenix. “We did get about two weeks there before the Canterbury meet,” said Jilique, a native Minnesotan.

“This is like my second home,” said Ry. “But Phoenix (where he was born and reared ) will always be home-home.”

Eikleberry doesn’t need an introduction to the Canterbury trainers. He had the bug at Canterbury a few years ago and is well known among local horsemen. That should ease Johnson’s burden a bit. He won’t need the learning curve that typically accompanies an agent or rider when they are testing new ground.

“Everybody seems to like him here,” said Johnson. “If they can’t use him on one particular horse, they’ll find another one for him because they know he’ll ride hard for them. Yeah, that makes my job a little easier.”

Johnson chuckled when told that over the winter, Eikleberry seems to have traded in the RV for a new daughter, although there is more to the story.

Rather than subject young Revy to the RV for her first summer of life, the Eikleberrys are staying with Jilique’s parents. Besides, hauling that RV from El Paso to Shakopee would have taken a bite out of the gas fund. What do you get for mileage with that thing in tow, Ry?

“Oh, maybe four miles to the gallon,” he said. The decision to leave the RV in El Paso seems pretty solid. Eikleberry hopes everything else about the summer turns out the same.

by Jim Wells

Tell All You Know wins Honor the Hero

tell all you know

His owner thought he was finished at mid-stretch, his rider thought he might have been ready for bed, too, but Tell All You Know spilled it all in the final strides to win the 20th running of the $75,000 Honor the Hero Stakes on Memorial Day in a stakes record :55.85.

The race was shaken up with three scratches, including the defending champion, Bet Seattle, and that left the winner as the even-money favorite with Dylan Davis, who arrived from Churchill Down but he  surely had a better trip from Kentucky than Tell All You Know did in the five-furlong sprint. Boxed in behind horses most of the way, Tell All You Know got the opening he needed in the stretch, paused momentarily as Moses did at the parting of the waters, and then re-broke, reaching the wire ¾ length in front of 9/5 choice Castletown with El Seventyseven third at 9/2.

That didn’t appear likely with a furlong to run. “I thought he was all done right there,’’ said owner Gene Phelps of Wayzata.

“I had no place to go for so long, I  didn’t know if he had anything left,’’ said Davis.

The view in retrospect was somewhat different. “If he had had a clean trip, he would have won for fun,’’ said Phelps.

“He just exploded,’’ said Davis.

A win is a win is a win, but there are always those nagging couldhavebeens.

“It would have been fun to beat him (the defending champ),’’ said Phelps. “I don’t know if we would have, but it would have been fun.’’

 OVERHEARD ON THE TURN FOR HOME

When it was announced that Scott Stevens would ride in the $1.25 million Metropolitan Mile on the Belmont Stakes card, his brother Gary wondered if the prospect made him nervous.

“The race itself doesn’t make me nervous in the least,’’ said Scott. “Getting to the racetrack does, though.’’

Even that is no longer a concern.

Thanks to Gary.

“He’s arranged for a car to pick me up and take me where I need to go,’’ said Scott.

Stevens will ride Broadway Empire in the Met Mile for trainer Robertino Diodoro. Stevens has worked the horse for some time in Phoenix and rode him to an allowance win there.

Now the 53-year-old rider has the mount in the richest race of his career. 

A CAMERA FOR THE AGES?

There is a camera, an icon really, stationed against a wall in the press box, on which a folded placard rests with this message:

“This camera, an Ikegami HK 355A, was used to film the 1973 Belmont Stakes.  It was later purchased at auction in Schaghticoke, N.Y., and transported to Canterbury Downs.

It is a camera to be revered, approached as any sacred vessel, for, after all, it reputedly recorded one of the most magnificent events in thoroughbred racing history, Secretariat’s immortal triumph in the Belmont Stakes that wrapped up the Triple Crown.

Press box visitors have been known to touch the camera gingerly, as if it still held Big Red’s immortal strides that memorable afternoon.

Now, sadly, rumor has it that the camera will be sold to the highest bidder at an auction to be held at a later date, along with a piece of fossilized dung from the great horse himself.

by Jim Wells

Welcome to Minnesota Jorge Carreno

Jorge Carreno_5-18-14 (2)

Jorge Carreno had a message for every trainer he met.

“I’m going to win a race for you,” he’d say without a hint of cockiness.

He simply wanted the business and more often than not made good on the promise.

 That attitude is part of the reason he won his second riding title last winter at Turf Paradise in Phoenix. He also hooked up with a solid stable much of the meet. Getting most of the calls from the barn of trainer Robertino Diodoro, rider and trainer won titles together at the Arizona track.

 The Phoenix riding title, Carreno’s second in the last three years, is a really a story within the story of how he finally made it to Canterbury Park this season.

 Rewind momentarily to the start of the Turf Paradise meet last autumn and the ear-to-ear grin that lit up Carreno’s face when his agent, Chad Anderson, approached him.

“He’d been asking me to come with me to Minnesota since I got him three years ago,” said Anderson. “I can have three riders down there but only two here.” Anderson had Derek Bell and Scott Stevens, so Carreno had to wait his turn in the wings. Without Bell any longer, Anderson approached Carreno after arriving in Phoenix and told him that his time had come.

“You could see 22 white teeth,” Anderson said. “That’s how wide his smile was.”

 Carreno,31, was coming into his own when Anderson picked him up in 2012 and demonstrated that he could ride for just about anyone if they gave him the chance.”He was the leading rider that year and won a race for everybody he rode for,” said Anderson. “It was amazing. He’d tell a trainer he’d win a race for them and then he’d do it.”

 Now rewind to Carreno’s boyhood growing up in Cocula, Guerrero, a Mexican village where the means of transportation for many is on horseback ,or in Carreno’s case, donkey. “I rode my donkey everywhere I needed to go as a boy,” he said. “People would ride their horses everywhere, too, from one town to another.”

 Jorge accompanied his father, a groom, to meets at Fairmont, Hawthorne and Arlington parks as a youngster. When his father returned to Mexico after one of those meets, Jorge stayed behind, working the barns, galloping when he came up age and then riding.  He has seven siblings, including three brothers, but is the only one of them to make racing a profession. He and his wife, Maria, have three daughters.

 His first winner?  A 30-1 longshot named Never Chance, 2002 at Farimont Park. In the time since he has ridden throughout Southern California, the Pacific Northwest, Colorado, the Southwest, Canada and, now, Minnesota.

 His signature wins, all but one, have come at Turf Paradise. “I rode my first big winner there,” he said. The $75,000 Phoenix Gold Cup, for Diodoro. He also got his 1,000th win there last winter. Again, on a Diodoro horse. A win in the Canadian Derby two years ago was his biggest, although for a different trainer.

 Anderson and Diodoro are in lockstep on Carreno’s strong points. He rides as hard in claiming events as he does in stakes races, without exception.

 “He rides hard for everybody. He wants to win for everybody. He’s a strong rider and he rides that way for everyone. You can’t match his attitude,” Anderson added.

 Indeed not. Didoro had to wait until hell froze over last year to get his first win. Not the case this time around. Carreno was on a Diodoro horse in the winner’s circle following the first race of the season.

Although Carreno is among Canterbury’s early leading riders, Anderson, taking the philosophical position, figures it could still take a while for him to get acquainted locally. “It will probably take him a year to break in. I’ve already talked to him about that,” said Anderson. “Many of us havel been here since 1995. It’s not a spot where somebody jumps right in. It can take a year or so.”

 Nonetheless, Carreno’s attitude hasn’t changed. He still wants to win, for whomever he rides. An eavesdropper might even catch him telling a trainer some morning, “Hey, I will win this race for you.”

by Jim Wells