BY JIM WELLS
If you had the right vantage spot you knew who the winner was in the first grass race of the season on Saturday in Shakopee.
The view from above was perfect. It was another matter on the grandstand apron.
Hence, Jerry Pint, seated in the horsemen’s section on the second level of the grandstand, knew that Heza Wild Guy caught Pursue a Dream in the final jump of the 7 ½-furlong allowance sprint on the turf. “I knew he had it,” Pint said.
Colleagues down below weren’t so sure.
Another spot with the perfect view was in the saddle of the winner. “I knew at the television screen (inside the 1-16th pole) that we had it,” said winning rider Dean Butler.
A field of six lined up for the opening of the turf season and Heza Wild Guy, trained by Bernell Rhone, was sent off at 8-5. “I knew we had it,” Butler added. “He just seems to know where the wire is and how to get there.”
Heza Wild Guy was a neck in front of Pursue a Dream, an 8-1 longshot who finished a half length in front 7-5 selection Lovango, trained by Mac Robertson and ridden by Derek Bell. Pursue a Dream, conditioned by Mike Biehler, was ridden by Tracy Hebert, who brought in the daily double on Saturday’s card.
Afterward Pint, who is partners with Will Carlson, pointed out that the colors of their stable are back in force. The winner’s circle was filled with orange-colored shirts.
“We’re back,” said Pint. “And so are the shirts.”
A REASON TO CELEBRATE
You could tell there was something special by the greeting.
“Curt, Curt, congratulations,” Cam Casby yelled across the floor.
Curt Johnson’s eyes searched the main level of the grandstand for the source of the greeting and finally located Casby.
“Hey, how did you like that filly,” Johnson asked rhetorically.
You might typically not expect such a show of emotion over a 3 ½-furlong dash for 2-year-old Minnesota-bred maiden fillies.
This was different.
First of all it was the first win of the season for Johnson’s SEJ Stable, the leading owner at Canterbury last three years. If felt good again to be back in the winner’s circle where he has spent so much time the last three meets.
That perhaps was reason enough for Casby to congratulate Johnson, but she had additional motives behind her enthusiastic greeting after Downerbythemeadow with Juan Rivera up won the third race on Saturday’s card..
She bred, raised and raced Rock Climb the sire of the winning filly, his first racehorse..
“This is so exciting,” Casby said. “This is what it’s all about.”
Casby likes to find meaningful names for the horses she breeds. Thus, a horse from a hyper sire became Unexpected Angel because of her easy-going temperament. Another one with a quick temper became Fire When Ready.
“I don’t know. I guess I just liked the name,” Casby said.
“What are you going to do with a Gulch from a Lyphard mare?”
Hopefully Rock Climb’s first racehorse will get a better shake of the dice than he did.
“He was un unlucky horse,” Casby explained.
Well, one time he came to an unceremonious stop when he took a sudden spill near the rail, dropping the rider in the process.
On another occasion he did combat with the starting gate. “He knocked his teeth out that time,” Casby added. “He just wasn’t very lucky.”
Maybe his daughter can turn things around for the family legacy.
She got a good start in her maiden appearance.
ONE THAT ALMOST GOT AWAY
The winner of the opening race on the card was a 2-year-old colt named Sugar Storm owned by Curtis Sampson, Canterbury’s chairman of the board.
Sampson was eager to see what the horse could do in the 3 ½-furlong maiden sprint for Minnesota-bred maidens.
There were reasons to wonder.
“He’s a character, a little fractious,” Sampson said. “He tears apart those bungee cords they put on him in the stall. He just chews on them until they unravel.”
That’s not the colt’s only idiosyncrasy.
“He has a ball in his stall with a loop on it,” Sampson explained. “He grabs that loop with his mouth and bounces the ball up and down in his water, splashing everyone and everything around him.”
Saturday, the only thing he bounced was the opposition. Hebert took the son of Tropical Storm to an easy win, easing the colt past the wire.
And to think Sampson almost let this one get away.
“Dad has a lot of these 2-year-olds. He wanted to sell this one in the 2-year-old in training sale,” said Russ Sampson
“I’m glad we still have him. He might be a good one.”