SIZZLING BELL RINGS ‘EM UP, SIX IN ALL
By JIM WELLS
Derek Bell once rode 16 horses over a weekend at Canterbury Park and won with 12 of them. He once rode six winners on a single card at Canterbury. He could not recall ever winning six consecutive races.
He does now.
On the Saturday and Sunday cards.
Bell rode five races on Saturday, winning his last three, the sixth, seventh and eighth.
Then he rode his first three mounts on Sunday’s card to wins in races one, two and five.
“You can see the heat around you,” a horsemen said to Bell in the winner’s circle as he dismounted after making Dangerous Ghost his fifth straight.
The question at that point was whether he could extend the streak one more with his next mount, Mister Merz in race five, which offered a 10-horse field.
Mister Merz, a six-year-old son of Black Minnaloushe, sired by Storm Cat, ran fifth, 15 ½ lengths back, in his Canterbury debut this year on May 27, in a $7,000 optional claiming event at a mile and 1/16th. . Sunday’s distance was shorter, about 7 ½ furlongs on the turf.
Mister Merz was without a win in 2010 and again in seven 2011 starts, six of them at Tampa Bay Downs.
“He ran here last year and we discovered he had chips in a knee,” said trainer Red Rarick. “We took care of that and then tried to get him right. He didn’t like the sand at Tampa We hoped he’d take to the turf.”
Bell was cautiously optimistic before the race on Sunday.
“I think this horse can win it,” Bell said. “I just don’t know if he’s right yet.”
He does now.
With a tremendous kick at midstretch, Mister Merz looked as if he’d been launched from a giant slingshot in the final strides, winning by five.
Once more Bell had timed a stretch move ideally and this time got a bigger response than expected.
“Oh, this kid can ride,” said Rarick. “Nobody times a move any better than he does. I like him. I won about 24 races last year and I think he rode half of them for me.”
Bell, meanwhile, got the answer to his prerace question answered definitively.
“He’s a good horse,” he said.
Bell had the chance to extend his streak to seven in race six aboard a five-year-old mare named Sharik, owned by Hector Bulldog Partners and trained by Tony Rengstorf.
“I don’t know anything about this horse,” Bell said before the race. “I’ve never been on her.”
Rengstorf was hopeful.
“She usually runs well on the turf (she was 1-0-2 in six tries) ,” he said. “The key will be getting her to settle and relax.”
That prediction proved prophetic. “She started jumping some of the tracks out there,” Bell said, “and lost her momentum. She did come running at the end.”
Enough to get a piece of the action with a third-place finish.
Nonetheless, Bell’s sizzling streak came to an end.
After muttering a couple of invectives at the missed opportunity, Bell sighed and said. “Well, I had a good weekend.”
A memorable one at that.
WHEN A THREE-YEAR-OLD IS REALLY ONLY TWO
Scott Stevens is well regarded for his ability to get the best out of 2-year-olds and, for all intents and purposes, he was on one in Sunday’s fourth race.
Perfect Juan is in fact three years old but hadn’t raced before this season and was still a maiden after five starts.
Not any longer.
Perfect Juan ran imperfectly but Stevens held him together as he staggered past the wire in a six-furlong maiden claimer with eleven horses. Perfect Juan is not very good at changing leads and didn’t until the final strides on Sunday. He just doesn’t seem to have his heart in this thing called racing.
Stevens merely grinned when congratulated on guiding his steed out of the winless ranks.
“I don’t think he likes being a racehorse,” he said. “Usually if a horse gets headed, he wants to go to the lead but not him. I just don’t think he likes it out there.”
Oh, well, not everyone’s cut out to be a butcher or a barber, either.
MINNESOTA STALLION BREEDERS’ FUTURITY TRIALS
Two heats were conducted on Sunday to determine the runners for the final on June 26.
The first heat, with a field of seven, was won by Courtney Kansas, a sorrel filly by Sweet First Down, owned by Larry Sharp et all, trained by Casey Black and ridden by Jennifer Schmidt. Her time was :18.3 seconds.
Other qualifiers from the heat include Western Fun, trained by Ed Ross Hardy; Meter Me A Lady, trained by Bob Johnson and Beautys Prince trained by Herman Fennell.
My Morning Light, a brown filly by Intidab(TB), trained by Vic Hanson and ridden by Doug Frink won the second heat in 18.73. Other qualifiers included Not A Cheap Date, trained by Clay Brent; Whiz Happens, trained by Black; Little Itti Bitz, trained by Harvey Berg and Ridin High On Life, trained by Johnson.