By JIM WELLS
Ah, at long last, the kind of day and the kind of crowd this place has expected all summer.
It only took Father’s Day to do it.
Bright, sunny, jam-packed with fathers, their wives, sons and daughters all full of expectation and energy, Canterbury Park was theeeee place to be on Sunday.
A crowd in excess of 12,000 flooded the track apron and second level of the grandstand, with strollers and oodles of discarded pronto pup wrappers, pizza napkins and wagering tickets.
The card was highlighted by the $50,000 Princess Elaine Stakes and the $35,000 Shot of Gold Stakes and, for anyone willing to listen, the tip of the meeting.
Early in the card, Blan Wilson, who gallops for the Dave Wolochuk barn, approached an acquaintance with some advice.
“Bet whatever you want on the three horse in the seventh race,” he said. “He’s as ready as I’ve ever seen a horse. Bet what you want, if he don’t win I’ll give it back to you.”
The three horse, incidentally, was Haraldo, an eight-year-old gelded son of Hussonet, a Mr. Prospector son.
But first things, first. Bella Notte, ridden by Derek Bell, withstood a late challenge from Tickeyourfancy and Paul Nolan and then a stewards’ inquiry to win the Princess Elaine with a gate to wire run.
The stewards studied film of the race closely before letting the result stand, trying to determine if the winner, who drifted out in the stretch run, had denied the second place horse a chance to win.
“They took so long I thought they were going to take her down,” said Bell. “But we were clear the entire way.”
Earlier, Nolan found reason to disagree. “If they would have come out like they did earlier, I could have dropped inside and won it,” he said.
The stewards ruled otherwise and Bella Notte had a big win for trainer Mac Robertson and owners Art and Gretchen Eaton.
“She had a race opening weekend but has been in the barn since,” Art said. “But Mac has a way of getting his horses ready.”
Bella was ready and defeated Minnesota Mafia, the defending champion who finished third, and 2009 Horse of the Year Chick Fight.
Chick Fight was running on the turf for the first time, and owner Jeff Hilger wasn’t sure she would like it. Afterwards he was sure she didn’t like it.
“Those Fit to Fights don’t like the grass,” he said.
Hilger, by the way, played a role in the wayward concentration of the acquaintance to Blan Wilson. The acquaintance was about to hit the windows with Wilson’s tip moments before the seventh race and became involved in a discussion with Hilger.
The rest as they say is history…sorry history. Haraldo put on a stretch run under another well-timed move by Eddie Martin, Jr. to defeat Humble Smarty and Bizet in a swift 1:09 at 6-1 odds.
Wilson was in the winner’s circle for the picture and gave a thumbs-up to several bystanders, including the acquaintance with the poor concentration, who managed to smile weakly.
Meanwhile, the winning jockey blew a kiss to his 11-year-old daughter, Ally, outside the winner’s circle.
The acquaintance meanwhile was adding up the payoff he had just kissed good-bye.
FUTURITY A BIT ONE-SIDED
A two-year-old from the Bob and Julie Peterson barn in Cokato turned the $24,000-added Minnesota Stallion Breeders’ Quarter Hrose Futurity into a one-horse show on Sunday.
Seis It Fast, with Jerry Vaughan up, was very fast, winning by three-plus widening lengths in :18 flat over Divas Choice, with One Famous Streaker third.
“She’s from the same mare, Chic N Traffic, that produced Oaktree Blvd and Traffic Cartel,” said Bob Peterson.
Vaughan had plenty of horse at the wire. “He didn’t even ask her,” Peterson said. “There was plenty left in the tank.”
Two horses had chances in earlier races on the card to salute the sire for whom the co-feature stakes was named.
The lead owner of those two horses, HBPA president Tom Metzen, became a man of many hats _ make that two _ in an effort to elicit some good luck from the racing gods.
Shot of Silver, a seven-year-old daughter to Shot of Gold, was in the thick of things in race two under Dean Butler, but faded to third. Metzen had on a dark-colored Kentucky Derby cap for that race, but switched to a brightly-colored (Gold Country) Minnesota Gophers cap to support his horse in race four, Gold Country Cat.
Juan Rivera, a double winner in earlier races Sunday, had the mount on Gold Country Cat but had to settle for third, demonstrating once again that it’s often easier to change hats than it is to change leads.