By Noah Joseph
This Saturday, two of the richest races for Minnesota bred thoroughbreds are being run at Canterbury Park. The Minnesota Oaks for fillies, and the Minnesota Derby for colts and geldings, are both being held for the 30th time, both with a record purse of $100,000. These races, restricted to three year old Minnesota breds, have produced some of the best horses of all time. Both races debuted with a strong start in 1988, and they have showcased the best of the breed ever since.
Princess Elaine won the inaugural Minnesota Oaks under Chris Valovich. She would later be inducted into the Canterbury Hall of Fame. The Oaks gained another Hall of Famer when Northbound Pride won the following year with Scott Stevens aboard. It’s uncommon to see jockeys win the same race three years in a row, but jockey Luis Quinonez did just that, winning the Oaks from 1995 to 1997. Susie Blues set the stakes record for the race in 2002 under jockey Derek Bell in a time of 1:41.66, and the record hasn’t been broken. Hall of Famer Glitter Star took the Oaks in 2005 with Seth Martinez, who like Quinonez, scored his third Oaks win in a row. Last year’s race was won by Double Bee Sting with jockey Jareth Loveberry.
As for the Minnesota Derby, Hall of Famer Blair’s Cove won the inaugural Minnesota Derby under Larry Melancon, in which owner Irish Acres Farm won the first two runnings, the second with A Nice Lark. Canterbury legend Crocrock took the 2000 Minnesota Derby on the road to becoming one of the greatest Minnesota breds to ever run. J.P. Jet holds the race record in a time of 1:40.26, which he set in 2002. Wally’s Choice won the 2004 Minnesota Derby, and later that year won the Grade 3 Oklahoma Derby. Last year’s Minnesota Derby was won by Hot Shot Kid and jockey Alex Canchari.
This year’s Minnesota Oaks and Derby will have strong fields, and we just may see the coronation of another legend in the history of Minnesota racing.