BY JIM WELLS
The internet was alive on Sunday with acclamations, just as various corners of Canterbury Park were on Saturday afternoon, the networks after the race and the sportscasts later that evening.
Racing had its 13th Triple Crown champion.
A moment of silence, if you will, and please remove your cap.
Justify had done it _ justified the hopes and beliefs of racing fans and his own connections that he was indeed a horse for the ages, although he has to share that distinction in this particular “age” with American Pharoah, who won the same three races in 2015.
Two champions three years apart, although there are differences that Justify shares with no others.
No other Triple Crown winner has been unraced at two years of age, for one.
As he watched the Belmont Stakes Saturday at his home in Phoenix, Canterbury Park Hall of Fame rider Scott Stevens couldn’t have been happier for the horse, the sport and rider Mike Smith.
It was Smith, after all, who sold Canterbury to Stevens in 1989. Stevens liked what he found and won three consecutive riding titles, his first in 1990. “It was Mike who talked me into going up there while we were riding at Oaklawn Park,” Stevens said.
So, on Saturday afternoon Stevens was left with a succinct impression. “It was awesome. I’m glad for Mike. It’s good for racing. It’s a good horse, for everything,” he said.
Smith was the first jockey inducted into Canterbury Park’s Hall of Fame. He won the first riding title (1985) in Shakopee, was second to Sandy Hawley the next year and rode only half of the meet in 1987, when he began riding at larger racetracks on the two coasts.
Russ Sampson watched the race Saturday in the Canterbury clubhouse with friends. He, too, was hopeful racing would take the spotlight with another champion.
“He’s for real,” Sampson said of Justify. “But I’m a clock watcher and I was keeping track. The fractions were pretty reasonable overall, and I thought it was strange no one challenged him earlier..”
Nonetheless, he and his friends were delighted at the outcome and the place it gives Justify in racing annals. “Even the non racing fans think this is pretty cool,” Sampson said.
There was another thought on his mind as he sized up Justify’s triumph:
“Isn’t it strange, though, how these things seem to come in bunches.”
There was Sir Barton in 1919, and then Gallant Fox, Omaha and War Admiral in the 1930s, before Whirlaway, Count Fleet, Assault and Citation dominated the 1940s.
A quarter of a century passed before Secretariat started a run of Triple Crown winners in 1973, followed by Seattle Slew and Affirmed. Then it was 37 years until the horse with the misspelled name, American Pharoah, ended the longest Triple Crown drought.
Clerk of scales Mark Anderson watched the race in the jockeys’ lounge, as the riders themselves did.
“I really thought someone would push him, give him some pressure,” Anderson said, “but the best horse won.” The result was applauded by the entire riding colony as Justify crossed the wire.
“Oh, everybody was rooting for him,” Anderson said. “There wasn’t a single person who wasn’t.”
Equally impressive to Anderson and the riders was in that in the midst of his grandest day in racing, Smith gave a shout out to the disabled jockeys program. “That was very classy of him,” said Anderson. “Pretty impressive.”
Rider Lori Keith watched the race at home, as impressed as any of her colleagues gathered near one of the television sets in the lounge.
“Obviously it’s hard enough to win the Triple Crown,” she said, “but to go wire to wire like that, and he looked like he was cruising. He was strong throughout and he looked strong at the end. Ten minutes after and he was still parading around, still on his toes.”
Canterbury’s director of racing Andrew Offerman was particular impressed not only with what Justify had done but with the manner in which Smith handled the moment.
“He was extremely poised in the prerace interviews and classy in the postrace,” Offerman said. “He did everything he could to savor that special moment.”
Impressive in its own right to Offerman was what Justify had done in such a short time that has been his entire racing career. From Feb. 18 at Santa Anita to June 9 at Belmont Park.
“We saw something we’ve never seem before that we will never see again,” he said. “The 111 days from his debut to the end of the Triple Crown. I appreciate it even more in that perspective. How crazy is that.”
Crazy enough to put horse racing at the top of the network broadcasts that evening and on the front pages of sports sections Sunday morning, and to start the thoroughbred world hoping for the next time.
The Notes On A Sunday compiled by Press Box Staff
Fast MN bred drills on the Main Track
Mr. Jagermeister worked five furlongs on the wet fast main track Sunday morning under rider Leandro Goncalves, recording a bullet 59.40 described by the clockers as handily.
“Looked pretty awesome,” trainer Valorie Lund said of the 3-year-old Minnesota bred.
“It looked like you put a rocket on his tail.”
Mr. Jagermeister broke off behind horses. The intent was to teach him some “life lessons” and make him “sit and eat dirt” according to Lund.
Thus far in his career Mr. Jagermeister has had good post draws or favorable trips and the connections wanted to prepare him for possibility of a stumble from the gate or meeting a faster horse. Sitting behind horses and getting dirt kicked back did not sit well with Mr. Jagermeister however. “He got real mad,” Goncalves said. When they got to the quarter pole, Goncalves let the colt out and they zipped by.
Lund was hoping to work Mr. Jagermeister six furlongs on the turf but the course was too soft following yesterday’s deluge. She needs to see how he likes the grass as she eyes the $200,000 Mystic Lake Derby on June 23. “I think he will (take to the turf),” she said. “But I’ve been wrong before and I’ll be wrong again.” Now she may have to work him short, maybe three furlongs, on the grass next weekend.
With five stakes on the card June 23, Goncalves’ agent already has calls for several races but Lund won’t make the decision on Mr. Jagermeister until she is certain. “I wish I had more to tell but I just don’t know,” she said. She will however nominate him to the race. Nominations close this Friday. If she does decide to pass on Canterbury’s richest race, the next logical spot would be the July 4 Victor Myers Stakes, where he would face other state bred 3-year-olds.
Sexy Dexy entered in $51,000 maiden race at Churchill Thursday
Two-year-old Sexy Dexy made an impressive debut on June 3, drawing off to win like a good thing by a length and a half. However, earlier in the race he had shifted out after checking in tight quarters and into the path of another horse who subsequently clipped heels with Sexy Dexy. The Congrats colt was disqualified from first to fifth.
He has been entered to race Thursday evening at Churchill Downs in a $51,000 Maiden Special Weight six furlong sprint where he will be ridden by Channing Hill and is listed at 12 to 1 on the morning line. “Here’s something funny,” Tomey Swan, whose husband Patrick Swan trains Sexy Dexy, said. “We didn’t know it but my son has a horse in the same race.” Pat stopped in Iowa and picked up Moto Moto, trained by Travis Swan Murphy. The van was expected to arrive in Louisville Sunday. “He’s been telling us how good his horse is. Now he says that our horse has proven how good he is and it is his turn to prove it.” Swan acknowledges that it will be a tough race. A glance at the trainer roster in the race reveals names like Asmussen, Casse and Romans.
Final Five Jackpot Pays $60,805
The Final Five was hit by a single ticket Sunday, returning the pool of $60,805. The wager was placed through the Maryland hub.
There will be a carryover into the late Thursday Pick Four of $3,009.
– Current leading thoroughbred jockeys for this meet include: Ry Eikleberry with a record of 24 wins for 102 starts, Orlando Mojica, 21 for 89 and Dean Butler, 13 for 64.
-Notably, Eikleberry won five out of nine mounts on Friday, June 1st.
-The leading trainers for this meet so far include: Roberto Diodoro, 15 for 59 starts, Miguel Angel Silva, 13 for 49 and Joel Berndt, 12 for 46.
-The current leading owners include: Charles Garvey, whose horses are with Diodoro, 6 for 16 starts, Silva Racing, 4 for 24 and Barry and Joni Butzow, 4 for 11.
-Buck night returned to Canterbury Park last Thursday and will continue through August 23. On Thursday nights, guests will receive $1 admission and $1 regular programs. There will also be $1, $2 , and $3 food and beverage specials throughout the building.
-Fans had the chance to view and bet on the Belmont stakes Saturday while at Canterbury Park and saw Justify win the Triple Crown title.
-The bulldogs took the field on Saturday. Bosco, Frank the Tank, Winston and Mo all won their heats and will be returning September 3 for the Bark in the Park Championship race.
-June 23 is the Mystic Lake Northern Stars Racing Festival. The day will feature five stakes races: $200,000 Mystic Lake Derby, $100,000 Mystic Lake Mile, $100,000 Lady Canterbury, $50,000 Dark Star Cup, and $50,000 Hoist Her Flag Stakes. Nominations for these races close on Friday, June 15 with entry day being Wednesday, June 20.
Plus- Jockeys and Jeans, a fundraiser benefiting the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund will also take place. Hall of Fame riders will be at the track.
Northern Stars Handicapping Contest
Canterbury’s richest night of racing deserves a handicapping contest of its own. Thus the creation of the Northern Stars Handicapping Contest.
The Canterbury Park Northern Stars Handicapping Contest is a one-day handicapping contest held at Canterbury Park, Shakopee, Minn. on Saturday, June 23, 2018.
First prize is $4,000 in cash and an entry to the Sept. 7 Ultimate NHC Qualifier ($550 value). Second through fourth place receive entry to the Sept. 7 Ultimate NHC Qualifier. The contest will not begin before 6:00 p.m.
Live Bankroll / No Entry Fee : $500 used for live betting bankroll.
Format: Entrants must wager at least one-half of existing bankroll on each of six pre-determined Canterbury Park races on June 23, 2018.
BONUS PRIZE: any MRC licensed individual, not employed by Canterbury Park, will receive a $2,000 cash bonus if they finish in first place. (Please check with contest staff in advance for eligibility)