The Canterbury Park stable area was scheduled to open Monday with the training track opening Tuesday. Mother Nature dropped the hammer this week in the form of a snowy mess, necessitating a delay to the scheduled opening. The backside will open April 19, the training track April 20 and the main track April 22 as originally planned (WEATHER PERMITTING).
There is however no truth to the rumor that new track superintendent Javier Barajas, upon seeing the weather forecast, immediately caught a return flight to Dubai where he spends his winters.
While the arrival of horses mid-month will be a trickle, by the end of May it should be a steady flow and by opening day nearly a full barn area is expected. The 2,500+ stall applications were a record for Canterbury Park and for the first time in nearly forever the 1,600 stalls will be filled. For horse players this is a cause to rejoice as it will translate to larger, more competitive racing and better wagering. The days of 42% winning favorites should be gone.
We will keep readers informed as trainers and horses arrive for the meet. Expect those that have been here for years, including Mac Robertson, to return along with many new barns. The jockey colony should take on a new look but until riders pull through the stable gate you never know for sure that they will ply their trade in Shakopee. Jockey agent Pete Antonucci did make it known that he will be representing Dean Butler and Lori Keith, a solid one-two punch.
Road to Kentucky
This week’s free-to-enter Road to Kentucky Contest features all races from Oaklawn Park plus the Blue Grass from Keeneland. Remember that Oaklawn has an earlier post time for their 12-race card and will begin at noon.
This is the final weekend of major prep races for the Derby with the Arkansas Derby and the Blue Grass each offering qualifying points of 100-40-20-10 to the first four horses. The standings indicate that 20 is the current cutoff for the field of 20. There will be defections along the way but those lacking at least that level need to get serious this weekend.
In the Arkansas Derby, Den’s Legacy, from the Baffert barn, is sitting on that number. He closed well on the rail in The Rebel and figures to make another bid Saturday. War Academy, also a Baffert animal, has zero points but is receiving attention from various handicappers including one very prominent Canterbury analyst. A top two finish puts him in the Derby, a third puts him on the fence, and anything worse makes him a Preakness possibility. He is the 2-1 morning line favorite.
Frac Daddy showed promise as a 2-year-old but has not delivered at three. As a contest play, he might be worth a look and is 15-1 on the line.
Local ‘capper The Oracle suggests that the Kentucky Derby winner is contained in this Arkansas Derby field; however, he will not reveal who exactly that is.
The Blue Grass attracted a full field of 14 led by morning line favorite Uncaptured. The Casse trainee has 30 points. Rydilluc drew the 13 hole. He is three for four with all his wins on the turf. Keeneland is synthetic so conventional thought is that his form transfers well. Tough post in a tough field.
West Hills Giant at 20-1 is an interesting colt. He is a cut below but has speed and might find the front like he did in the Gotham. Getting nine furlongs is the question.
Palace Malice, off a troubled trip in the Louisiana Derby, is 8-1. Horses find trouble but his was enough to merit a long look here and likely at a better price than the 7/2 at Fair Grounds.
Win Willy poised to surpass $1 million in earnings
Owned by Jer-Mar Stables of Minneapolis, Win Willy is entered in the $500,000 Oaklawn Handicap Saturday. A top four finish will put him over the $1 million mark in earnings. The big closer trained by Mac Robertson has his work cut out for him as he faces multiple stakes winning Optimizer and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Fort Larned along with a host of other top older horses. Cliff Berry is named to ride.