BY JIM WELLS
He has a name that elicits respect and perhaps a bit of homage, at the very least a nod or a tip of the hat accompanied by a certain savoir faire.
What a splendid name to consider, with all that it suggests…..Mr. Von Buckingham, meet Mr. Jagermeister.
Almost regal, you might say. In this particular case, however, it was bestowed upon a racehorse, and one bred in Minnesota at that.
Mr. Jagermeister will be the only state-bred horse in the gate for Saturday’s race of the season, the $200,000 Mystic Lake Derby and its field of 14 three-year-olds.
A full field, for the first time, for its seventh running.
And Mr. Jagermeister, for all the talent he has shown over the local racetrack and elsewhere, too, is making his debut, not only on grass, but over a route of ground.
He is not in this race simply to add a dash of home-bred flavor to the proceedings, not by any stretch of the imagination. But he is in tough.
He has resilient and proven foes:
There is morning line favorite Captivating Moon at 7/2, trained by Chris Block for Lothenbach Stables, two-time winner of this race, including last year with Giant Payday.
There is Curlin’s Honor, trained by Mark Casse at 5-1, and Steve-Asmussen-trained Reride, with more than $366,000 in earnings, at 6-1, and then Mr. Jagermeister, an 8-1 morning line choice who has earnings of just under $172,000.
So, how did this come about, this state-bred upstart, this Mr. Jagermeister? His story is a Minnesota story, written by a summer resident of Canterbury Park who spends her autumns and winters at Turf Paradise in Phoenix, trainer Valorie Lund.
Turn back the clock a few years to the Lund purchase, for a client, of a Washington-bred named Atta Boy Roy, who would become Mr. Jagermeister’s sire. Atta Boy raced under Lund’s direction, so she was well acquainted with him after a racing career in which he was 14-8-1 from 36 starts with earnings of $602,276.
Then there is the matter of the dam, Frangelica, purchased in Pennsylvania for Kristin Boice, who would eventually breed and own a third of Jagermeister along with her sisters, Lund and Leslie Cummings. Frangelica had an abbreviated career, cut short by an injury, but she was certainly fit for breeding.
The mating seemed logical as Lund observed the two horses in her barn one day and she immediately turned matchmaker.
“I thought they made a very nice couple,” she said.
They did, indeed. Dam and sire produced a foal and then what remained was a name. They found one during the long trip from Minnesota back to Phoenix with a load of horses, tossing a few suggestions back and forth before deciding on the name Jagermeister.
That request was rejected by the Jockey Club, which monitors and gives its imprimatur to all name selections. Lund and Boice went back to work, added “Mr.” to the appellation and they had a name.
The discussion included a number of possibilities. “We always do that, toss names back and forth,” Lund said. “We drive and talk, talk and drive.”
Numerous factors were considered and discussed, and, finally, they found the clue they needed: The dam’s name. Frangelica, after all, was a derivative of Frangelico, an Italian liqueur everyone seemed to like when it came time for a toast of some kind in the barn. Why not a Germanic liqueur in this case. Jagermeister was agreed upon, although not everyone in the barn, Lund in particular, is all that fond of it as a libation. It was still a fit, and then the interaction with the Jockey Club ensued.
There are a number of elements to consider heading into the Derby, elements about Mr. Jagermeister and his parents.
Mr. Jagermeister, while showing signs of great promise, is still a work in progress. Yet, he is coming off a commanding win in the 10,000 Lakes stake on May 19 in Shakopee, although at six furlongs and against horses not of the caliber he will face in Saturday’s fifth race. The Mister, as he is known in the Lund barn, is 4-3-0 from eight career starts; he finished well back the one time he did not hit the board, in the San Vicente Stakes at Santa Anita.
There is little to glean from the career of Frangelica. She was 1-1-1 from five career starts, the last of those at a mile and 70 yards while breaking her maiden impressively at Canterbury in 2013, her last career start. She was twice operated on for a broken sesamoid. Lund gave her plenty of time to heal but the bone “did not knit well” and she was subsequently retired and declared sound for breeding a year later.
Atta Boy had a fine career yet he left few clues as well. A sprinter, Atta Boy was winless in two starts on the grass and had a single win for a half dozen attempts at a mile. He raced a half dozen times at Canterbury Park, winning the Shot of Gold stake.
Yet, despite this dearth of insight from Atta Boy, Lund is confident after watching Jagermeister work on turf this week under rider Leandro Goncalves . She is not concerned with the distance. “The real factor is the grass,” she said. Yet he has taken to it during the recent workout and appears as capable there as he does on the dirt.
If so, and if well enough to reach the winner’s circle, the Lund barn will lift a glass of Jagermeister to their handsome three-year-old, Mr. Jagermeister.
With one modification. Lund concedes she will have to take hers with a healthy mix of Red Bull.
SATURDAY’S BIG LINEUP
The Saturday night lineup, with first post at 6 p.m., includes some of the premier races of the summer, highlighted by the Mystic Lake Derby, which will run as the fifth race on the card. The card is billed as the Northern Stars Racing Festival and includes five stakes races worth $500,000.
The Mystic Lake Mile has drawn a field of 12 and is worth $100,000. Sirenusa, an unbeaten filly owned by Butzows, Barry and Joni, of Eden Prairie heads a field of eight for the $100,000 Lady Canterbury.
There are seven horses each in the Dark Star Cup and the Hoist Her Flag, both $50,000 races.