Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Look Back...Before We Forge Ahead

As the year comes to close, it’s important to look back and recognize the folks that had an impact upon the year as well as looking ahead at what I’d like to accomplish in 2014.  Today I will take a look back before taking a look forward in the next day or two.

First recognition has to go to the horses that graced the stable this past year.  The winners: Ask Eddy, Bourbonology; those that tried: Mundy, Elusive Edition; and the mother to be: Tabby Lane.  All are very special and while Mundy and Eddy have moved along and were part of the Canterbury Racing Club, Bobo and Ellie remain in our partnership stable and are wintering at Russ Rhone’s operation in Chaska, which is as good a place as any to start the human portion of the acknowledgements.

The Rhone family and extensions have been instrumental to any success we may have on the track.  From Russ breaking Ellie and getting her ready for racing (and getting Bobo ready for 2014) to Bernell and Cindy at the track getting them at the very best which helped us garner our first Maiden Special Weight victory with Bourbonology this past year to Rhone daughter LeAnn and her husband,  Dean Butler, who predominantly ride our girls in the morning and afternoons, respectively, are our most intimate connection to the equine athletes and their success in the afternoons can be attributed directly to their efforts - these folks are not only accomplished but some of the best people you’ll ever meet.

It was an honor to work with Clay Brinson for the first time.  The guy is magical and turned an overworked, undernourished horse into a multiple winner with his patience and ability.  To have a season where I was able to hang out in the Rhone and Brinson barns was an experience like no other and with Juan indulging Heather with time with Eddy (even though he got a little naughty - Eddy, not Juan), the time with the horses this season was tremendous.

At Canterbury, for me, it all starts and stops with Jeff Maday.  If Jeff didn’t indulge a goofy blogger five years ago, I’m nothing in racing today.  I owe my place at the Form to him (and David Miller) as well as my position managing the Canterbury Racing Club.  To that end, the efforts of Andrew Offerman, Michelle Benson and Jalique Eikenberry cannot be understated as they were always at the ready with help and advice.  Track President Randy Sampson’s guidance over the track operations and influence on Minnesota racing can sometimes go unnoticed – but it shouldn’t.  The guiding light for Minnesota racing may have been lit by Dale Schenian and Randy’s dad Curt, but Randy has taken that torch and held it higher than it’s nearly ever been and will continue to make history over the next several years.  In any talk of a resurgence, Randy needs to get the lion’s share of the credit – though he would never say so himself.

When discussing the resurgent Minnesota racing industry one cannot give the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community enough credit.  Their deal with Canterbury is a unique one in the United States and has led to elevated purses, full stalls and fields, better wagering opportunities, more competitive racing and a strong heartbeat for a once dying industry in Minnesota.  They are also not passive participants.  You can see members attending the races and on major race days you can see the presence of their executive team actively participating in the success of the racetrack.  I see this teamwork only getting closer as time goes by.

It’s always a pleasure sharing a pressbox with Paul Allen and my fondest wish every year is that no track takes this gem away from us.  And speaking of sharing a pressbox, the inimitable Jim Wells makes it a pleasure to go to work each race day.  Angela Hermann provided the most noteworthy event of the summer when she was the first female in North America to call an entire thoroughbred race card and I was honored enough to report on, as well as witness, history.  Inviting me into the booth for some pre-race analysis with her was a blast, as always, and my day subbing for her in the paddock made me realize (again) just how difficult a job it is.  I would judge my performance as a C with a couple of A races but a couple that were just downright awful as well.  Of course I still had a great time and really appreciate the opportunity.

All the members of the Canterbury Racing Club this season were wonderful to work for.  They were an active, animated, opinionated and passionate group that made it one of the most rewarding experiences of my professional life.  I hope that I can come back in 2014 and see if we can finish the year in the black for the first time as well as to continue to pass on my love and understanding of the business.

The Minnesota Thoroughbred Association board of directors was eventful and interesting this year as well.  Jay Dailey took over the presidential reins from Scott Rake and continued on with strong, stable leadership as the organization continues to grow and racing in Minnesota flourishes once again.  The rock beneath the occasional storminess of the Board is the miraculous Kay King, our Executive Director, who seemingly takes on task after task and makes them all look effortless. 

As we foray into breeding for the first time, Lisa Duoos and her team at Dove Hill Reproduction have been wonderful in guiding us through the breeding process and taking as good of care of Tabby Lane as could ever be expected.  It’s nice to see additional stallions come under her management, she certainly deserves it.  We used Deb and Jeff Hilger’s Storm Cat sire, Eastwood Dacat, and the patience and time that the Hilgers put into guiding me through the process before we even got started was above and beyond anything that you could expect.  This foal and any success he or she may have will be more a testament to those three than anything I have done.

Finally, I would be very remiss in not acknowledging the contributions of Heather Frisbie.  Her love, support and frank opinions are all much appreciated and sorely needed.  Her knowledge of the sport horse from her years showing horses and barrel racing is more valuable than I can express.  She brings an insight into the business that I don’t have and is a compliment to what I do know!  Add to it her eye for photography and willingness to share those gifts with the partners and Club members and I am forever grateful.  I love her dearly and glad we’re a team.  Now if I could only get her to stop falling in love with the horses…

If I inadvertently forgot anyone, I am truly sorry.  There are simply so many kind and generous folks for me to possibly be able to thank individually and I hope that if I missed you, you’ll forgive me!  In a day or two, I’ll share my goals for 2014 as we kick off another year of racing!

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