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Birthdays All Around

De Bala - 08-08-13 - R04 - CBY - FinishHandicapping requires various degrees of insight and not much at all in certain situations. Take a couple of races on Thursday night, for example.

Race No. 4 was a gimme. Scrap the PPs, ditch the workouts and eliminate everything else you knew about the race.

Derek Bell, celebrating his birthday, was on the No. 10 horse. Daughter Hailey Bell took over for Paul Allen and announced the start to the race, giving her father an extra boost. Need more than that?

Bell won on the horse, De Bala, his last time out at the very same distance, on the turf, and at a mile and about 70 yards. Yet he went off at 7-1 Thursday night.

It took a well-timed move but once again Bell was on the winner, coming out of nowhere to nose out the 3-2 favorite Klipit and one of the hottest young riders on the grounds – Alex Canchari. Right there as well was Manlee Spirit.

It took some probing to get an answer to the most obvious question, but what birthday was it for the Hall of Fame rider? “Twenty-five,” he said, not quite able to hide the smirk.

“Forty-three,” he finally relented. “And I was twenty-three when I started here.”

Twenty years. Two decades. An eternity to the young. A mere breath of air to the aging and aged.

Then, as if to underscore the point just made, Bell brought in Bright Perfection in the fifth, his 27th winner of the meet.


Canterbury Park based trainers had a successful weekend in Canada, Bryan Porter and Charles Smith to be precise.

Porter had a great weekend without leaving Canterbury, winning the $75,000 Manitoba Lotteries Derby at Assiniboia Downs with Assembly Hall, the 65th winner of the race.

Smith, on the other hand, won for the third time this summer at Assiniboia with the same horse, Portales, this time taking the Oaks in Monday races..

Porter won the same race in 2009 with Smuggler’s Hold. He didn’t accompany the horse that time and repeated himself on Monday because…”superstition,” he said.

So, his assistant Candy Courtemanche took over on Monday and gave a leg up to Alex Canchari, who is making a mark for himself this summer in Shakopee, his hometown.

The winner is co-owned by Porter and Denis Goettsch. Stormin Monarcho, trained by Joel Berndt, finished second.

Smith, meanwhile, has sent Portales north three times this summer. She won an allowance tune-up for the Chantilly Stakes, then won the Stakes itself and Monday added the Oaks to the list.

She broke her maiden? At Canterbury, naturally.


A chronicler of Canterbury Park happenings and events lost his balance and inadvertently lurched forward, the sharp point of his ballpoint pen imbedding itself in the back of a chair not inches from the neck of Hall of Fame rider Scott Stevens.

A conversation ensued:

“Imagine that,” the reporter said, quickly and imaginatively. “You’ve survived spills that have broken your ribs, your neck and nearly every other bone in your body, and a ballpoint pen proves to be the last straw.”

“Killed by blood poisoning from an ink pen,” Stevens added.

And not the first time an athlete has been done in by the power of the pen.


Paul Allen announced it via the public address system, and the message was later repeated via the television screen juxtaposed with the tote board:

Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Assn. president Tom Metzen was celebrating his birthday.

Sure enough, the HBPA boss had a celebratory cake on the table he occupies daily on the first floor of the grandstand and cut pieces for numerous acquaintances and friends throughout the evening. By the way, it was No. 75.

This blog was written by Canterbury Staff Writer Jim Wells. Wells was a longtime sportswriter at the Pioneer Press and is a member of the Canterbury Park Hall of Fame.