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Bernell Rhone, Horse Trainer


It was two years ago today that Canterbury Park in the Twin Cities inducted horse trainer Bernell Rhone into its Hall of Fame. The press release stated, “An outstanding horseman and gentleman, Rhone scored his first victory at Canterbury with Green Meringue on July 3, 1985. Since then the North Dakota native has saddled winners in every racing season at Canterbury Downs and Park.”

Bernell Rhone was born in April 1949 in Harvey. After highschool, he earned his Masters in psychology from the University of Northern Colorado before switching to horses training.

When Canterbury Park opened in 1985, Rhone was there as trainer of the first equine to spend the night – a horse named Pure Pressure. By his 10-year anniversary at Canterbury, his horses had 1,495 starts and 167 wins, earning $1,210,932 in purses for their owners.

Rhone won the Canterbury Park training title in 1996, and some of his many champions over the years include Dot’s Moment, Tez Tarak, and Now Playing. Some of the Canterbury Stakes that Rhone has won include the Minnesota Oaks, the MTA Lassie, the MTA Stallion Laddie, Blairs Cove Stakes, the Frances Genter Stakes, the Northern Lights Futurity, the Minnesota Classics, the Minnesota Distaff Sprint Championship, the Lady Slipper Stakes, and the Minnesota Derby – many of them more than once. He led Prince Compliance to victory five times for owner Larry Cronin – a record in itself.

Last August, Rhone set a new Minnesota racing record when horses he saddled took first place in six of the nine-races on the card that day. His winning streak started with Killarney Gold, a horse owned by Grass Roots Racing, who scored a narrow victory in the second race. In the third race, Arlene London’s Mona Lisa Lady won by 3_ lengths, and Gary Chanen’s A Wheaties Girl took the fourth race. In the sixth race, Kaschmir, owned by Cindy Rhone and Jen Turk, brought Rhone’s total to five wins, and in the eighth, Belle American beat odds of almost 20-to-1 to break the record.

A little over three weeks ago, one of Rhone’s horses, One Smart Chick, was favored to win the Princess Elaine Stakes, but heavy rain the night before caused the race to be moved from turf to the main dirt track. One Smart Chick races only on turf, so she was scratched from the race.

But Rhone had another horse in that race: Pandorasconnection. Nobody thought the 13-to-1 long shot could win, not even her owner, who went boating on the St. Croix instead of attending the race. But when two other favored horses, Swasti and Nilini, also scratched from the race, the outlook changed. Shortly before post time, Rhone told the St. Paul Pioneer Press, “That makes this a wide-open race. We have a shot if everything goes just right.”

Jockey Juan Rivera said, “Bernell just told me to stay close to the (Number) 10 horse, because my filly doesn’t have a big kick. Then she got in front and started (weaving). She didn’t have any company and wasn’t sure what to do.”

Actually, Pandorasconnection had started on grass only once, so the dirt track was to her great advantage. She won by 1_ lengths, earning her surprised owner a purse worth $24,000.

As people told Rhone what a good job he had done, he shook his head and said, “I’d rather be lucky than good.”

Dakota Datebook written by Merry Helm