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A History of the Lady Canterbury

By Noah Joseph

One of the oldest stakes race at Canterbury Park is also one of the most prestigious. It is the Lady Canterbury Stakes. The one mile turf race for fillies and mares ages three and up will be run for the 25th  time on Sunday as one of the day’s three stakes races. The Lady Canterbury has been able to attract some top quality in its past and still does today.

Run as the first turf race in Canterbury history on Memorial Day 1986, the first running was won by the Australian-bred Sauna, owned by Summa Stables and Allen Paulson, trained by Richard Cross, and ridden by Hall Of Fame jockey Chris McCarron.

Sauna wins inaugural Lady Canterbury

Summa Stables won the Lady Canterbury again in 1989 with Down Again. Richard Cross was the winning trainer again, and the rider was Corey Black. The year before, French-bred Balbonella, owned by Maktoum al Maktoum, trained by Neil Drysdale, and ridden by Marco Castaneda took the race, defeating future two-time Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner Bayakoa, who was making her US debut.


Run as a Grade 3 in 1990 and 1991, the race continued to thrive, despite then Canterbury Down’s financial and attendance struggle. The race was not run in 1992 and the track closed after that year’s meet and remained closed until 1994. The race returned with track’s reopening in 1995, and was won by Go Go Jack, who set a track record and stakes record in the process. K Z Bay pulled off the biggest upset in the race in 1997 for owner and trainer Bob Ryno and jockey Paul Nolan.

K Z Bay paid $67.80 to win in 1997 Lady Canterbury

After a brief hiatus after the 1998 edition, the race returned in 2003, and has been strong ever since. By far the most impressive winner of this race in recent memory is Awesome Flower, the only two-time winner of the race. She won off-the-turf editions in 2013 and 2014 for owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey and trainer Michael Maker.

Every year, the Lady Canterbury has a strong field, and this year’s running is expected to be the same. And one horse, owner, trainer, and jockey, will have their name added to the list of winners in Canterbury’s most prestigious race.