BY JIM WELLS
There is something about horses that can put a guy’s stomach right where his throat should be sometimes. Take the $50,000 Blair’s Cove Stakes Tuesday night.
It’s not just the horses, of course, it’s the connection they have to so many other elements around us, including family, memories….
The race drew a 10-horse field that had handicappers second-guessing themselves right up until post time. There was defending champion, Teddy Time, and two-time winner of the race A P Is Loose, trying to become the first horse to win the race three times.
A bystander had words of encouragement, actually sign language, for Joel Zamzow, A P’s owner, as he left the paddock. He held up three fingers and nodded affirmatively, drawing a wide smile from A P’s owner.
Fifteen minutes later, Zamzow fought his way to the winner’s circle, struggling to get through the large crowd on hand for the annual fireworks show scheduled after the races.
Under a smart ride from Jareth Loveberry, A P is Loose (5/2) cut loose inside the final 1/16 to overtake Teddy Time, who looked to everyone on hand like a repeat winner, and finished with ½ length to spare. In third, another 1 ¼ lengths back was Where’s Jordan at 12/1.
“Is that horse named after Adrian Peterson,” a railbird yelled. “Told it was, he responded, “well A P can’t do it anymore.”
But the horse can, he was told.
And he had, with a final time of 1:42.92.
“I really thought this horse could win,” said Loveberry. “Everybody was saying Hot Shot Kid, but he doesn’t like the turf.”
Hot Shot was one of three horses trained by Mac Robertson in the race. Teddy Time and A P were the others. “He was real good in the paddock with the big crowd,” said Robertson. “A good horse.”
A good horse that won this race in 2015 and 2016, drawing remarks from Zamzow afterward.
As he spoke into the winner’s circle microphone before the large crowd, he talked about his brother Mark, a part of A P Is Loose, who died a year ago.
With emotion climbing into his throat, Zamzow spoke about his brother and how his ashes were now part of the very track on which A P is Loose became the first three-time winner of the Blair’s Cove Stakes.
It had been two decades since a horse won the Princess Elaine Stakes in consecutive seasons. Plana Dance won it as a four-year-old in 1997 for Bob Colvin and again the next year for his wife, Marlene.
The jockey on both occasions, as pointed out by track announcer Paul Allen after Tuesday’s rendition, was Chad Anderson, who can be found today hustling horses for riders instead of riding them himself.
When it was mentioned to Anderson’s brother Mark, the Canterbury Park clerk of scales, moments after Allen’s announcement, he responded quickly and tersely. “I don’t pay any attention to that stuff,” he said with half a grin.
No big deal in other words, a thing of the past, except to one rider in particular, Leandro Goncalves, who was aboard Some Say So for her repeat performance Tuesday night in this race at a mile and 1/16 on the grass.
Goncalves and his mount got what amounted to an ideal trip finding unobstructed room just off the lead, perfectly situated for a run coming off the turn, after fractions (23.99, 48.78 and 1:12.95) much to their liking.
“This is great, to win it twice like this,” said Mark Kane, one of the owners of the winner. “It’s even better since we bred her.”
The seven-horse field included some Minnesota-breds of note. Some Say So was anointed favorite at 2/1, with First Hunt sent at 9/5 and Honey’s Sox Appeal and Double Bee Sting at 5/1.
Goncalves got simple instructions, according to Kane. “We wanted him to keep the leaders right there in front of him and when they turned for home to go get them.”
And that’s what Goncalves did. “When I asked her she turned it on,” he said. She took charge out of the turn and had a length on First Hunter at the wire, who was a neck in front of Honey’s Sox Appeal. The final time was 1:43.34.
Tuesday’s stakes races were named for two of Canterbury Park’s heroes of the past, both Hall of Fame horses. Blair’s Cove was Canterbury’s Horse of the Year in 1988 when he won half of his 14 starts. Princess Elaine, a Hall of Fame inductee, won eight times from 15 starts in Shakopee. She won four times, three of them in stakes races, in 1988, her best local summer. She retired 9-5-2 from 27 lifetime starts with earnings of $232,240. She broke her maiden at first asking on October 30, 1987 in Shakopee/
Both horses were Minnesota-breds who excelled during the track’s early years.
Blair’s Cove was owned and trained by Noel Hickey, who named him for the cove overlooked by his father’s farm in Ireland. Hickey bred Hey Heywhataboutme to his stallion, Bucksplasher, to produce one of the most feted state-breds of all time.
Blair’s Cove made his first appearance at Canterbury downs on July 15, 1987 after breaking his maiden in a $50,000 stakes race three weeks earlier at Churchill Downs, the Bashford Manor.
Thus, he arrived in Shakopee having achieved star status in his first out but ran second at half the price in his debut before what would become an adoring Minnesota fanbase that July day in 1987.
Blair’s Cove was 17-10-4 from 58 career starts with earnings of $533,528. He ran the last race of his career on Sept. 12, 1992 in the Minnesota Classic, finishing third. The winner was a horse named Timeless Prince, the 1990 Horse of the Year in Shakopee and a Hall of Fame inductee, too.