By Arleen Bier
Tommie Brixey, owner of LaFloresta Park in Mercedes, reported that the first annual La Floresta Derby was held the first Saturday in February at La Floresta Downs. It drew quite a crowd as Winter Texans arrived in large, extravagant hats; had Mint Julep jello shots; and cheered as the horses “raced” by.
Excitement mounted during the weeks preceding the race, as teams were created to decorate the horses and choose a jockey. The six horses, among the best of the best, were all first-time participants at La Floresta Downs. The jockeys were Winter Texans who came from all over the United States and Canada to participate in this prestigious race in the Rio Grande Valley.
The horses were Star of Mercedes, Jockey Kent McVeigh of Ontario, Canada; Angel Eagle, Jockey Ginger Seurkamp of Whitney, TX; Floral Flurry, Jockey Gary Smith of Columbus, KS; Crown Royal, Jockey Hans Mohr of Manitoba, Canada; Dragon Lady, Jockey Wayne Summerly of Manitoba, Canada; and Come From Away, Jockey Monkey Bum Cheeks (Vicki Thurman) of Bonne Terre, Missouri.
It was the most exciting 45 minutes of sports racing at La Floresta Downs. Come From Away was the first horse out of the gate, and we had a photo finish as the winner, Crown Royal, won by a nose! Come From Away came in second place; and Star of Mercedes came in third. Dragon Lady won best decorated horse.
Some people were there just to see the hats. A competition was held, and much thought and hard work went into designing masterpieces for this special event. The judges were Betty Fuller of St. Charles, MO; Arlene Willis of Des Moines, IA; and Tommie Brixey of Mercedes. Karlene Weiland of Texas and Harry Seurkamp of Whitney, TX won the prize for the best and most creative hats.
The Derby was organized under the direction of Marlys St. Martin of St. Paul, MN, Bill Hocken of Ontario, Canada; and Harry Seurkamp of Whitney.
he team created an unforgettable event that celebrated the tradition of horse racing.