BIG DAY FOR EATONS, ROBERTSON, EIKLEBERRY
BY JIM WELLS
The curtain came down on the 25th anniversary of racing in Minnesota and the 2010 season at Canterbury Park Sunday with the 17th running of the Minnesota Festival of Racing.
It was a day of celebration and reflection for the card’s winners and the thoroughbred racing industry.
The Festival winners gathered for a toast after the races. Others were left to wonder if the industry will get the help it needs from the Minnesota legislature to keep their businesses alive and growing, the ability to compete with other tracks in the area and country.
For the most part, it was a day of celebration, though.
No one was any more pleased with the day’s results than Art and Gretchen Eaton, whose horses won two races on a Festival card for the first time in their many years of breeding and racing. Gretchen was celebrating her 60th birthday with a big party for friends, and had plenty to celebrate after Suddenly Silver dominated the Classic Championship and Bella Notte won the Minnesota Distaff.
“This is a first for us,” Gretchen said. “I can’t recall winning two races on Festival Day.”We’ve never had a day like this.”
Suddenly Silver’s story was particularly special. His dam, Sudden Sensation, died moments after foaling him, and so the Eatons brought in a nurse mare from Kentucky.
“He’s always been special because of that,” Grechen said.
Equally pleased was jockey Ry Eilkeberry, whose ability to ride was unclear through the first couple of races. Injured in a spill on Thursday night, he was nursing a very sore left ankle and rode for the first time since the incident.
Even the pain could not keep him from winning four stakes on the card.
“It was killing me through the first couple of races,” he said. “Then I think it stretched out and was fine the rest of the card.”
Eilkeberry had planned to meet his mother, Pam, in Hutchinson, Kan., on his ride home to Phoenix, where he’ll ride at Turf Paradise when that meet begins in October. She planned to be there visiting relatives. Instead she flew to Minnesota upon hearing of her son’s injury last week and was on hand Sunday to watch his stunning performance.
Trainer Mac Robertson had reason to celebrate, too, with another training championship capped by five victories on Sunday’s card, including four Festival stakes races.
The card and the season ended in spectacular fashion, with a three-horse photo finish.
The winner was ….Recording Contract, trained by Gary Scherer, owned and bred by Cam Casby and ridden by Derek Bell. Inches back were Go Doll and Tez Savitri.
NORTHERN LIGHTS FUTURITY
The boys weren’t as quick as the girls, they didn’t have a favorite quite as clear-cut as Esprit de Bleu and they didn’t create the same kind of anticipation.
But they did produce an upset.
Black Tie Benny, trained by Bernell Rhone, ridden by Dave Cardoso and owned by Barbara Rehbein covered the distance in 1:11 1/5.
The Rhone barn finished one-two in this race, with favored Samendra, bred and owned by Kisson Thoroughbreds and ridden by Dean Butler, taking second, 7 ¼ lengths behind the surprising winner, who was sent off at 9-2.
.”They’re both very good horses, but Black Tie Benny showed his true colors today,” said Rhone.
Those colors were worth $11.20 on a $2 bet.
The top two jockeys at Canterbury this summer were on the top two horses in this race and it ended just the way the jockey race did.
Defending champion Bizet, with Ry Eilkeberry up, and Nomorewineforeddie, with Dean Butler in the irons, went head to head to the wire with Nomorewineforeddie prevailing.
“He broke a little sharper than I wanted,” said Butler. “But I didn’t want Bizet to get away either, so I stayed with him.”
And First Captain stayed with them until they left him in the stretch duel and made it a two-horse race.
Owned by Anthony Didier and trained by Bruce Riecken, the winner covered the distance in 1:10 flat, finishing ½ length in front.
“Eddie goes all out not matter what, in the morning or in the afternoon,” said Didier.
His “all-out” effort Sunday was worth a half-length victory and a championship.
How’s this for a swan song? Bret Favre are you listening?
Sir Tricky, in the final start of his glorious career __( at age nine is about 45 in human terms __ took over in the stretch drive, made a statement inside the 16th pole and won the Turf Championship, a race he also won in 2006.
Let’s see…Favre, now 40, quarterbacked the Packers to a 1997 Super Bowl title…
Sir Tricky, owned by Barry and Joni Butzow, trained by Mac Robertson and ridden by Seth Martinez, finished a length in front of Mack’s Blackhawk and another neck in front of Beau Named Sue. The winning time was 1:12.
“He’s been a fabulous horse, from the beginning up to now,” said Joni Buetzow.
Sir Tricky, the odds-on favorite, finished his career with nearly $350,000 in earnings and a record of 13-8-9 from 44 starts. .
DISTAFF SPRINT CHAMPIONSHIP
How’s this for a birthday present, wrapped, decorated and delivered by Bella Notte, a six-year-old daughter of Quick Cut:
Gretchen Eaton, who bred and owns the mare with her husband, Art, was celebrating her 60th birthday this weekend. Art threw a party on her behalf at the track. The proverbial frosting on this cake was applied by Bella Notte herself.
Bella Notte delivered on this special day, winning the Distaff Sprint gate to wire in 1:10 under red hot rider Ry Eilkeberry, who had already ridden the winner of the quarter horse futurity and the Distaff.
Bella Notte’s win was her second straight in this race and provided trainer Mac Robertson with his fourth victory in this race.
“We’re just blessed,” said Gretchen. “To have this horse, this trainer and groom. Everything about her has been wonderful.”
The Eatons, Art added, are weighing their options with this fine mare. “She’s a very nice filly,” he said.”We don’t know if we should breed her next year or bring her back.”
NORTHERN LIGHTS DEBUTANTE
They call her Mighty Mouse in the barn she’s such a squirt, but she can run like a jackrabbit.
Esprit de Bleu, a two-year-old daughter of Littleexpectations ( maybe that’s the diminutive gene) from Bleu’s Apparition blew away a field of seven rivals to win this six-furlong stake for two-year-olds in 1:12.
Thoroughbred riding champion Dean Butler was in the saddle aboard the odds-on favorite, bred and owned by Deb and Jeff Hilger. “She’s small but she has a long stride,” Jeff said.
Long enough to finish 3 ¾ lengths in front of Congrats and Roses, who was merely the best of the rest on this day.
The victory was the third straight for the Mac Robertson barn on the card and produced one of the training champ’s best comments over the years.
Robertson won his seventh consecutive (the first was in his father’s name but the stable was handled entirely by Mac) training title.
Robertson is known for his curt, colorful comments and Sunday was no exception.
Paddock analyst Kevin Gorg complimented Robertson for numerous accomplishments, buttering him up one side and down the other in the winner’s circle interview. He ended by calling Robertson the best trainer he had seen in his 10 years at Canterbury.
“I’m glad I was able to satisfy you, Mr. Gorg,” Robertson responded.
(Mile and 1/16)
Suddenly Silver went gate to wire in this one to close out a special day for the Eatons, finishing five lengths in front of Jack and Max, ridden by Seth Martinez.
Suddenly Silver was sent off the even-money favorite and was never challenged, drawing off in the lane to his convincing victory.
Third place went to Wally’s Choice, who picked up $6,000 but still trails Blair’s Cove by some $29,000 in all-time Minnesota-bred earnings.
The win capped off an exciting day for the Eatons, who had plenty of reasons to celebrate.
MINNESOTA DISTAFF CHAMPIONSHIP
Chick Fight, the 2009 Horse of the Year and defending Distaff champion, appeared to have things her way in the early stages. Jockey champion Dean Butler put her immediately on the lead and she cruised through the first half mile in an easy :49.
By midturn she was engaged by Sasha’s Fierce with Ry Eilkeberry up. Sasha’s Fierce, owned by Astar Lindquist Stable and trained by Gary Scherer, put her head in front at the top of the lane and then drew up to a convincing, lopsided victory in 1:45 and 1/5.
“On the backside I didn’t know how much chance I had,” said Eilkeberry. But I knew I couldn’t let her (Chick Fight) simply gallop, so we went after her.”
Chick Fight couldn’t keep pace with Sasha’s Fierce, whose last two outings were at a mile or more. Chick Fight, on the other hand, hadn’t run a route of ground since July 20 when she finished third in allowance company at Prairie Meadows.
EILKEBERRY, PETERSENS WIN QH TITLES
Seis It fast started the day for the track’s champion quarter horse trainers, Bob and Julie Petersen, by winning his fifth race in five starts over the Canterbury racing strip this season.
A two-year-old gelded son of Tres Seis from Chic N Traffic, Seis It Fast covered the 350-yard Minnesota Futurity distance in :18.52.
That added one more win to the ledger of trainer Ed Ross Harding and wife Kari who won a ninth straight and 10th overall quarter horse training title.
Ry Eilkeberry, who won a third straight Quarter Horse riding title, was aboard the winner. He was still nursing a sore left ankle from Thursday night’s spill. “I loaded up on ibuprofen and put a (poltice) on it all night. But I’m riding nine straight. I’m ready to go. We’ll see….”
Next up for Seis It Fast?
“We’ll lay him up and come back with him next year,” Kari said.
The Minnesota Quarter Horse Derby went to another Tres Seis offspring, Six It Up, bred by E.D. Calvert, owned by Steve Pribyl and trained by Brent Clay.
On this time is was a filly who won, against colts and geldings. She finished in :20.68. Ridden by Thomas Wellington, she did not need to go all out to win this one.
“Tom said he didn’t have to ride that hard,” Clay said. “She’s nominated to the Distaff at Lone Star Park. We’ll see.”
2010 Divisional Champions
· Horse of the Year- Seis It Fast (owner: Robert and Julie Petersen; trainer: Ed Ross Hardy)
· Older Filly or Mare – Bella Notte (owner: Art and Gretchen Eaton; trainer: Mac Robertson)
· Three-Year-Old Colt or Gelding -Stachys (owner: Al and Bill Ulwelling; trainer: Michael Biehler)
· Three-Year-Old Filly – Hunter’s Tiger Paw (owner: Joel and Kris Zamzow; trainer: Cory Jensen)
· Two-Year-Old – Seis It Fast (owner: Robert and Julie Petersen; trainer: Ed Ross Hardy)
· Sprinter – Moralist (owner: Miracle Logistics Inc.; trainer: Tammy Domenosky)
· Claimer – Lucky Skat (owner: Valene Farms; trainer: Gary Scherer)
· Grass Horse – Sir Tricky (owner: Joni and Barry Butzow; trainer: Mac Robertson)
· Quarter Horse – Seis It Fast (owner: Robert and Julie Petersen; trainer: Ed Ross Hardy)
· Older Horse – Moralist (owner: Miracle Logistics Inc.; trainer: Tammy Domenosky)