SHAKOPEE — Erv Kurth’s sister Florence has paid him a visit the last two summers, and each time, the two have gone to Canterbury Park to watch Kurth’s horse.
And both times, the horse has won.
“I’m afraid she’s going to start coming more often and bill me for it,” said Kurth, still smiling well after his horse Erv the Banker had won $16,000 claiming race last week at Canterbury Park.
Kurth, 91, is part owner of one of the most appropriately named horses at the Minnesota horse track, having worked for 56 years at local banks.
“I think more people know the horse than know me,” he said. “It’s amazing.”
Kurth is one of 10 owners of Erv the Banker, which got its name in a surprising move four years ago. The group bought a 2-year-old, and Kurth was eager to see its first race.
“I kept asking ‘what’s the name?’ “ he said. “Everybody kept telling me that it hadn’t been decided yet. Finally, we got to the barn, and there was the name on the plaque. It was a complete surprise. It was almost a shock.”
Kurth’s hobbies now include golfing and curling, with a little time for coin collecting, but he makes a trip to Canterbury Park as often as he can with friends, always trying to get there when Erv the Banker runs.
“I like the races,” he said. “Win or lose, I like the see the flow of energy going by.”
In the first two years of racing, Erv the Banker didn’t win, but the horse finally broke its maiden on last summer in a $25,000 claiming race that covered a mile and 70 yards. The horse finished 2011 with more than $31,000 in winnings.
The horse ran a couple of times at Remington Park in Oklahoma City in the fall and once at Prairie Meadows in Altoona, Iowa, this spring, with little success. A return to Canterbury Park in May seems to have perked up the pony, which has won more than $16,000 in six starts, including $9,576 for winning its last race.
On this perfect night at Canterbury, Erv the Banker was the morning-line favorite in the seven-horse field, and three horses scratched before post time.
Erv the Banker, a huge 5-year-old, broke fourth, though the pack was tight. By the halfway point, Erv the Banker moved within a half-length of the lead. Known as a closer, you could see some confidence in Kurth’s eyes, and his horse didn’t disappoint, taking the lead in the stretch and holding on for a one-length victory in 1:12.38, a good time for six furlongs.
Kurth and friend Jim Dailey clapped hands in the grandstand and congratulated each other before heading to the winner’s circle for the victory photo. Many from the ownership group were on hand that night, but Kurth stood in the front, smiling widely.
“It’s a lot of fun,” he said. “I really felt like he was going to do well today.”