Eddie Martin, Jr., takes to soggy turf as naturally as an aquatic bird from one of the many wetlands that cover his home state of Louisiana.
So did the horse he was on in the $35,000 Brooks Fields Stakes on Saturday _ a four-year-old gelding named Hype, a 7-1 outsider.
Martin and Hype lay in the weeds, six lengths back, until the turn when they began their bid, passing one tiring horse on the outside,then angling back inside over on the soggy Canterbury turf.
At the wire, he was a half length in front of 4-1 choice Pursue a Dream, who had a neck on 3-1 choice Green Secret.
“Just like we drew it up in the paddock,” said winning trainer Gary Scherer with a wry grin.
Paddock analyst Kevin Gorg cornered the winning rider for an interview in the winner’s circle and pointed out that the silks he was wearing (for Al and Bill Ulwelling) might wear out with their frequent exposure to the winner’s circle.
Not close to wearing out, Martin responded.
The winning time for the 7 ½ furlong sprint on the grass was 1:35 after earlier fractions of 1:17, :52 and :26 and 2/5.
Attending the race, among others from the Fields family, were Brooks’ widow, Lucy, and his daughter, Sarah, who presented the Ulwellings with the trophy.
Someone else would have collected the trophy had the race been moved off the turf because of the sloppy conditions.
“We would have scratched our horse if the race came off the turf and taken him to Arlington,” Al Ulwelling said.
Actually what Scherer said to Martin in the paddock before was more of a concern than an instruction. “I said that I hoped he could handle the track,” Scherer said.
“He’ll run through broken glass.”
He didn’t have to, but looked like he could have run through shards of anything put in his way.
Paul Nolan, on Purse a Dream, just missed winning a record fourth Brooks Fields Stakes. Derek Bell, aboard Green Secret, had two previous wins in the race, which honors the track’s founding father and its first president/CEO.
Fields was a people person, someone who truly enjoyed the company of others, and he often stopped on his rounds of the racetrack with a comment for a maintenance man or concession employee.
No one was beneath his attention and genuine interest, despite an intellect far superior to most people with whom he dealt.
He was a Chinese interpreter during WW II in China with the U.S. Army, having graduated from Yale University. Although he threw himself heart and soul into the creation of Canterbury Downs, his only previous affiliation with horses was in the U.S. Army. He was trained in the last unit to go through cavalry school at Fort Riley, Kan.
Fields was perhaps better known for his work in the grain business. He was president at one time of the Minneapolis Grain Shippers Assn and was a chairman of the National Grain Trades Council.
It was as chairman of the board of Scottland, Inc., the company that owned the land upon which Canterbury was built, that he got involved in bringing racing to Minnesota.
Fields was given to optimism, choosing to focus on the positive side of a situation no matter how troubling. He lost a large amount of money when Canterbury Downs failed, due to a variety of factors including poor decisions and bad investments by partners. Yet in the end he blamed no one, preferring instead to remember all the good things people had done and the enjoyable things he had experienced.
“If I had lost all the money he lost, I’d still be moaning, ” said his widow, Lucy. “Not Brooks. He only remembered the good times, the celebrations. He concentrated on all the fun and the joy of bringing racing to Minnesota.”
Even on what many would call a rainy, miserable day at the racetrack, there were people enjoying that racing on Saturday.
SHOUTING FROM THE RAFTERS
There was an unconfirmed report that nearby windows were broken, plaster walls cracked and the sewers dispelled their swamp water after the Acorn Stakes at Belmont Park on Saturday.
Well, all of that was in response to the long, intense, deep-throated response to Champagne d’Oro’s victory by America’s favorite public handicapper, the man himself at Canterbury, Kevin Gorg.
“Yesssss……..,” Gorg intoned, pummeling the air with his fists.
“You don’t get a 39-1 longshot at Belmont very often.”