Alex Canchari has gone from selling concessions to riding winners at Canterbury Park.
Canchari immigrated to the United States in the early 1980s with the hope of making a career as a jockey. He wound up at Canterbury Downs when it opened in 1984. Luis worked on the backside of the track and started picking up a few rides in 1987.
He was a rider through 1991 and had eight winners in 142 starts. He switched to training in 1992. Through the years, he has saddled 12 winners in 215 races.
What you have a chance to hear about Luis among the Canterbury regulars is the old racetrack hymn, “If he didn’t have bad luck, he wouldn’t have any luck at all.”
Yet, Luis stuck with it. He married a Canterbury race fan, Ann, and they settled in Shakopee, and passed along a love of the racetrack to oldest sons Patrick and Alex.
Patrick and Alex are both riding the current meeting at Canterbury Park. Patrick is scuffling along, with two winners in 53 races, in the never-ending search for a quality four-legged athlete with a big chance to win.
Alex, the kid brother at 19, is pushing veteran Dean Butler for the jockey title. And the young man’s chances would be much better if he didn’t keep getting jammed up with the stewards for his riding style.
There have been four jockey suspensions for what amounts to reckless riding at Canterbury during this meeting. Alex has had three of them. He will be able to ride a full card Thursday, then he has “four days” starting Friday.
“I’m able to ride in the stakes, and there are stakes races on two of the days,” Canchari said.
Alex had his first ride at Hawthorne Park on Dec. 26, 2011. He turned 18 in early January. He went to Oaklawn Park and then wound up riding on the East Coast.
“Belmont, Monmouth, Delaware Park, Philadelphia Park … it’s kind of hard to explain, but it’s a different atmosphere there,” Canchari said. “They race close together and don’t make mistakes.
“You get used to riding in tight spots. The way I go into tight spots … the stewards might not like that here.”
Canchari’s East Coast stay ended in early July 2012 when his horse fell and Alex broke a shoulder. He came home to Shakopee, mended and rode a pair of winners for his father last August — including Ming Gio at $57.20.
The Canterbury crowd raised its collective eyebrows on that one. The kid they were buying cheeseburgers from a couple of years earlier had talent.
“I worked in concessions here for 2½ years,” Alex said. “I was going to need money to pay for equipment and for travel once I started riding. And my mom also had a rule for me: I wasn’t going to start riding until I finished high school.”
Alex finished up through an online school. Before that, he had gone through the Shakopee school system.
Once he had the degree and a few bucks, Canchari headed to Hawthorne at Christmastime 2011. He stayed only a few days. When Alex came back to Hawthorne a year later, he won the riding title.
“I learned from a lot of people — other trainers, jockeys, my agents,” Canchari said. “One person who taught me a lot on the East Coast was the great jockey, Edgar Prado. He’s Peruvian, and that gave us a connection.”
Prado’s list of important wins is endless, including the Belmont Stakes in 2002 and 2004. At 19, Canchari’s potential also seems endless.
For now, his biggest win was with Stoupinator in the $100,000 Northbound Pride Oaks on Aug. 3 at Canterbury. He got the filly home by a head over Kipling’s Joy.
His parents were standing outside the winner’s circle as spectators. Alex received a kiss from Mom and accolades from his father.
“We are proud of him,” Luis said that weekend. “It would be nice to see a Minnesota kid win the riding title.”
One obstacle to that is Butler’s advantage in winners, 47-42. The other is Canchari’s latest suspension that starts Friday.
Something has to give with Alex’s riding style, and it doesn’t appear it will be the Canterbury stewards’ opinion.
Patrick Reusse can be heard 3-6 p.m. weekdays on AM-1500. • firstname.lastname@example.org
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