A weekend at the races

FF Editor
Farm Forum

#td_uid_1_5b5883e5409fe .td-doubleSlider-2 .td-item1 {

background: url(https://www.farmforum.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/21-80-21709585-80x60.jpg) 0 0 no-repeat;


#td_uid_1_5b5883e5409fe .td-doubleSlider-2 .td-item2 {

background: url(https://www.farmforum.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/21-22-21709502-80x60.jpg) 0 0 no-repeat;


#td_uid_1_5b5883e5409fe .td-doubleSlider-2 .td-item3 {

background: url(https://www.farmforum.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/21-89-21709500-80x60.jpg) 0 0 no-repeat;


1 of 3

By Robb Garofalo and Cuyler Meade



Editor’s note: The following is our coverage of 2018’s first weekend of Pari-Mutuel Horse Racing in Aberdeen, which took place May 19-20. The second weekend of races will take place May 26-27.

Day 1: Teen jockey performs like a veteran

By Robb Garofalo


Evan Herman, a 16-year old jockey from Belcourt, N.D., didn’t have much of a choice when he leaped off his horse, Another Story, Saturday at the Brown County Fairgrounds.

“I knew there was a pretty deep ditch and I had to bail then or it wasn’t going to be pretty,” Herman said.

Another Story took the lead out of the second turn during the Prairie Hill Farms Blanket Feature. But in the final turn that can make-or-break a race, Another Story nearly wrote a final chapter for Herman, veering off the track and hurdling the fence leading into the jockey and horse staging area.

“I grew up doing this, so I kind of knew when he started turning out,” Herman said. “I was trying to turn him back toward the gates, thinking maybe try and slow him down that way, but he didn’t want to change his mind. He was going right over the rail.”

Thankfully, both rider and horse were just fine. What was particularly bitter for Herman was coming around that final turn, he was in the lead by nearly two lengths and had won two races prior to the feature. However, that’s the beauty, and at times, the anguish of this sport. The feel of the wind and dirt whipping around you as you try to navigate through the rest of the field all the while riding a majestic animal that, if they so choose, can end your day quickly.

“Yeah, that’s the thing about racing, anything can happen,” Herman said. “You’re riding on that track, going 30 miles an hour, and you’re steering the horse as best as you can, but you really don’t have all that much control. I didn’t want to ease up on (Another Story) too much around that turn, and then he just picked up his ears and wanted to go the other way. Like I said, I didn’t have much control.”

It wasn’t an overly bad day for Herman. Herman did have two wins prior to his final race of the day. All told, Herman rode in each of the seven races, which takes a toll on a jockey physically.

“(Racing) takes a lot out of you for sure,” Herman said. “I do a lot of other sports wrestling, basketball, but there’s nothing like this. You have to use your legs, shoulders, arms, and you’re trying to get (the horse) to move with you while you’re going pretty fast. You’re constantly pushing with your legs to get the horse in the lane and keep him there, and (your legs) feel like Jell-O, but you get used to it you just race.”

If anyone can get used to the rigors of riding racehorses, it’s Herman. He’s been around grandstands and race tracks for as long as he can remember.

“I’ve been around racing pretty much all my life,” Herman said. “My dad was racing for about 10 years before I was born. I remember growing up watching him and my uncles race. My dad put me on saddle horses and let me ride in the gallup saddle as well. My family always thought I’d be a pretty good rider because I was lean and not really that tall. I don’t know, it’s just a part of my family and something I love doing.”

Herman speaks as if he’s what you would call a “seasoned veteran.” His understanding of horses and the nuances of steering them around the track coming from his background and his years involved in the sport. However, more often than not, the 16-year-old is one of the youngest competitors at each track.

Herman says he grew up around a lot of the other jockeys he races against, so he knows a fair number of the guys he will be racing against. However, Herman also knows that camaraderie off the track does not necessarily follow when each jockey lines up in the gate.

“I’ve known a lot of these guys for a while and they’d never hurt me but you know they’re here to make money too,” Herman said. “This is their job too and jockeys will do what they’ve got to do to win. I mean, some of us will argue, but we’ll walk up to each other (after) and shake hands because we all know its just part of the game.”

For Herman, the best part of that game is the feeling during the final stretch when he can quickly glance to the left then right, and doesn’t see the face of another jockey on either side.

“It’s the greatest feeling in the world,” Herman said. “When you look and don’t see anyone around you, you just push until you hit the wire. Once you cross the finish line you’re heart just starts beating faster and faster. I’ve never had so much fun in my life. I can (race) over and over and over. Believe me, I would never get tired of it.”

Follow @JRobb_AAN on Twitter.

Day 2: Estrada goes for four

By Cuyler Meade


Francisco “Kiko” Estrada had one heck of a day.

The Aberdeen-based jockey tore up the track at the Brown County Fairgrounds Sunday, winning four of the eight total races run on the second day of the Northeast Area Pari-Mutuel Horse Races.

“That is hard to manage,” Estrada said of the feat, though he’s done it at least once before. “It’s a good feeling. It’s the best feeling. That’s why we do it; we ride horses to win.”

Estrada has been riding horses all his life, he said. He started professionally when he was 16; he’s 30 now.

“Rode my first race when I was 11,” he said. “Started galloping when I was 7.”

Estrada said he had an idea he might have a strong day Sunday when he looked at his race sheet. He was racing in six of the eight races and had a good feeling about the horses he’d be riding.

“I liked my day (Sunday),” Estrada said. “I liked my day (Saturday), as well. Everything didn’t go as well (Saturday) — (Saturday) I rode seven (races), had two seconds, two thirds and two fourths, so only missed the board once.”

Estrada grew up in Colorado, but has lived in Aberdeen for the past six years, he said. He said he’s able to work with horses most of the year, aside from riding in the relatively short racing circuit season.

He said it’s gratifying, though, to have a day like Sunday, after all the work that goes into making it happen.

Victor Padilla has been around horses his whole life.

The former Aberdeen Smittys middle infielder and Aberdeen Central wrestler grew up with a dad, Sam, who was and is a jockey.

Just a year out of high school, Victor decided it was time to make a move into management.

So the son of a jockey up and bought a racehorse.

“I’ve owned him a little over a year,” Padilla said of his horse, Substraight. “We bought him down in Nebraska. That was our plan — we wanted to upgrade, do something a little different. (My dad) wanted to do a little more training. He’s here a lot, so why not get your own?”

Substraight didn’t have a great day Sunday, running toward the back of the pack in the fourth race of the day. But the 7-year-old thoroughbred took second at the Fort Pierre mile a couple weekends ago.

Sam was the first to come into contact with his son’s eventual horse.

“This guy asked me to come gallop a horse,” Sam Padilla said. “I was in Columbus, Nebraska. I loped him, galloped him. And I kind of fell in love with him the first time I rode him. He was so cool. Got some issues, needed some time off, and we gave him some time off. He’s kind of got a name for himself. But he’s been running good for us, nice and fresh … he’s fast.”

Riders aren’t allowed to own horses, Sam Padilla explained.

But riders’ children are apparently fair game to move into ownership. Sam’s daughter Veronica helps out as well.

“They were like, ‘Let’s buy some more, Dad,’” Sam Padilla said. “But they’re real expensive. A lot of people are going to that partner-ownership type of thing, though. Getting more people involved. It’s cheaper on the owners.”

Victor Padilla is working at a soybean plant right now, saving up and taking a year away from school in his first year after high school, he said.

The biggest surprise of horse ownership?

“All the fuss,” Victor Padilla joked.

Both Padillas expect good things out of the horse next weekend.

Jockey Travis Ziegler had a tough time atop Jess Streak Saturday.

Not so Sunday.

“I ran him (Saturday),” Ziegler said of the 5-year-old quarter horse. “He would’ve done a lot better (Saturday), but he had a little bobble in the gates. The trainer was upset with me, because he’s a better horse than that, but (Sunday) we came out good. And we needed it.”

Jess Streak, with Ziegler up, won the seventh race in a photo finish Sunday.

“Just had to get him straight and give him a shot,” Ziegler said. “That’s all he needed.”

The short race was as close as any race of the day. Ziegler loved it.

“It makes me ride harder with a little competition,” he said.

Ziegler, from Lower Brule, said he is the heaviest jockey among those competing at the Brown County Fairgrounds this weekend.

“I’ll do it as long as I can,” the 32-year-old said. “As long as they let me, long as I don’t get too heavy.”

Follow @CuylerMeade_aan on Twitter.

The field breaks from the gates in Saturday’s third race at the Northeast Area Horse Racing event at the Brown County Fairgrounds. From the left are: Call In with Chris Longie aboard; Missta H W with Evan Herman riding; Bonnie Bluejeans with Clyde Henry Smith up; Headofclass with Sam Padilla riding; My Fever with Cody Desjarlais riding and Rolex Bound with Francisco Estrada up. American News photo by John Davis
Missta H W with Evan Herman riding (5) leads the field as they head for home in Saturday’s third race at the Northeast Area Horse Racing event at the Brown County Fairgrounds. American News photos by John Davis
Presley Bridge (5) with Francisco Estrada up leads the field out of the final turn during the eighth race Sunday at the Northeast Area Pari-Mutuel Horse Races at the Brown County Fairgrounds. Farm Forum photo by Emily Horos