There was sunshine, clear skies and tolerable dew points for the 10th running of the Claiming Crown on Saturday.
And there were 10,188 racing fans on hand to test their ability to find winners on the most competitive racing card of the season. In addition to seven Claiming Crown races, there was a contentious field of eleven for the $100,000 Lady Canterbury Breeders Cup Stakes as part of a 12-race card.
“It was a great day, a really wonderful day,” said track president/CEO Randy Sampson.
“Everything went very smoothly, without a hitch. The turnout wasn’t as good as last time (11,644 in 2006), but it was still very good.”
The total Claiming Crown handle from all sources was even better. That figure was $2,075,167 in 2006. It was $2,175,818 on Saturday.
Eight of the 10 runnings of this annual event have taken place at Canterbury Park.
There were two double winners for the day _ jockey Eusebio Razo, Jr. and trainer Merrill Scherer, in the Glass Slipper and the Tiara.
$50,000 IRON HORSE
Trainer Jay Wilkinson had succinct instructions for Fernando De La Cruz. “Don’t let them get too far in front,” he said.
Wilkinson didn’t want the speed getting an easy lead, and he wanted De La Cruz to be in position to take the rail if possible. De La Cruz did both and the result was a convincing win in the first of the seven Claiming Crown races.
Antrim County had 3 ½ lengths on House of Usher at the wire. Deputy Tice was another 10 ½ lengths back.
Antrim County, owned by Boys Haven Equine of Louisville, Ky., finished 3 1/2 lengths in front of House of Usher and Eusebio Razo, Jr. Deputy Tice, a locally stabled horse, finished third. Deputy Tice is trained by James Cook, owned by Steve Erban and John Truscott and was ridden by Jesse Garcia.
“We didn’t want somebody stealing this race,” said Wilkinson, who said he was breathing easily by the quarter pole. “I knew then that they couldn’t beat him,” he said.
Boys Haven is a home for abused youngsters, boys and girls. Its equine program was started by Wilkinson, a retired Louisville police officer. The program owns 10 horses. Ten percent of the horses’ earnings are returned to the kids, who act as grooms, hot-walkers and exercise riders in the program.
$75,000 GLASS SLIPPER
Chippewa Court and Morghyn were 8-5 picks in this race and validated that support with a one-two finish, just a neck apart.
Chippewa Court and Eusebio Razo, Jr. hit the wire first in the six-furlong event that had five starters. The winner is owned by Daniel Lynch and trainer Merrill Scherer who ended up in the Claiming Crown, to hear Lynch tell it, almost by accident.
“I didn’t know this horse’s name until yesterday,” Lynch said. “We supplemented her and got lucky.”
Chippewa Court, a four-year-old filly, is by Doneraile Court from Chippewa Falls. She was bred in Kentucky by Dr. James Wright.
Adore You, a six-year-old mare by Tactical Cat from Autumn Music, won this race last year. She finished third on Saturday.
When Lynch filled out the papers for his ownership partnership with Scherer he wrote down the horse’s name as Cherokee County.
“I’m from (Tulsa) Oklahoma,” Lynch said . “Everything is named Cherokee. The woman in the Minnesota Racing Comission corrected him, and he filled in Chippewa Court.
All local eyes were on the local horse in this race. Would Chickster, with the most wins this year in North America, extend his five-race winning streak and win his 10th race of 2008? Could he handle the invaders in this race and bring additional glory to the barn of Justin Evans and Curt and Sharon Johnson, owners of SEJ Stable?
Chickster, with Dean Butler in the irons, was out of the gate like a shot and held the lead into the stretch drive when he weakened under pressure from Extra Exclusive and Corey Lanerie, who made this an easy win, pulling away to a five-length victory in 1:09 and 2/5.
Pinecrest Inn, with Tracy Hebert up, finished second, 9-5 favorite Fireonthewire, ridden by Paul Nolan, was third. Chickster hung on for fourth.
Cat Hop’s stirring finish in the 1 1/16 mile turf race had trainer Merrill Scherer chuckling after this victory. He won earlier with Chippewa Court and now had his second Claiming Crown win on the card.
“We won with two substitutes,” he said.
By that, Scherer simply meant that he had two other horses in mind for this event and for one reason or another these two made the trip.
“And we ending up winning both of them in a photo,” he said.
Cat Hop is owned by Stanley Seelig of Metarnie, La., and finished a neck in front of locally stabled Couple While, ridden by Dena Butler and trained by Bernell Rhone. Simply Run was third.
$75,000 RAPID TRANSIT
This was a win for the hometown folks.
Jesse Garcia has developed a reputation in Shakopee as a tough frontrunner and that was the case in this race as well after he put Eagle Storm on the lead in this six-furlong sprint.
“He’s the best rider in the country,” said locally-based trainer Justin Evans.
On Saturday he and Eagle Storm were certainly the best in this 13-horse field. Garcia put this son of Stormy Atlantic in front strides out of the gate and kept him there to the wire, finishing in 1:08 and 4/5.
“We were hoping we would win at least one of the three, although I thought it would be Chickster,” said owner Curt Johnson of Detroit Lakes. “But Eagle Storm can run. You saw that.”
Eagle Storm, with Garcia applying steady pressure from the left side, finished two lengths in front of Erdiston and four in front of Tempo Five.
Self Made Man tracked the leaders and began his bid under Miguel Mena at the 3/8th pole.
At the top of the lane the leaders lined up like this: Shipwatch with Derek Bell up, Switzerland with Paul Nolan, and Self Made Man.
Self Made Man, owned by Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey of Nicholasville, Ky., hooked up with Shipwatch in the stretch and those two battled to the wire.
Self Made Man had a head on Shipwatch throughout much of that duel but stretched out to win by a neck in the final couple of strides.
The winning rider explained his horse’s inability to put the race away earlier: “I knew that horse was coming,” Mena said. “But this horse, he needs company.”
Locally stabled Canard, trained by Dave Van Winkle and ridden by Juan Rivera, finished third. Locally stabled Onotheregostokyo, trained by Bernell Rhone, ridden by Butler and owned by Bill Lethert and Minnesota HBPA president Tom Metzen of Inver Grove Heights, was fourth.
Won Awesome Dude was just that in the feature race of the Claiming Crown card, tracking the leaders to the far turn before digging in four deep coming out of the final turn under Casey Lambert.
Won Awesome Dude, by Awesome Delight, finished a length in front of R Clear Victory and 2 ½ in front of Coyoteshighestcall.
The winner is owned by Ernie Kuehne of Ocala, Fla., and trained by Daulton Nedrick.
Coyoteshighestcall, trained by Scott Lake was the morning line choice in this race at 7-2 but was sent off at 5-1 by the Canterbury crowd. Lake is the leading trainer in Claiming Crown history with eight victories, but couldn’t add to that total on Saturday.
“And I want to thank him, too,” said Kuehne. “He let us use his (exercise) rider here this week.”
$100,000 LADY CANTERBURY
Quiet Queen ruled the turf and was crowned winner of the $100,000 Lady Canterbury . She got her head in front at the 16th pole and that was that as she out-finished locally stabled Angel Smoke, trained by Mac Robertson for JerMar Stable and ridden by Derek Bell.
The five-year-old mare by Real Quiet had only one horse outside her in the 11-horse field but was first at the wire under Tracy Hebert, covering the mile in 1:34 and 4/5.
Quiet Queen treated her backers royally, returning a very regal $63.60 to win, $29.60 to place and $15.20 to show.
This was a contentious race with eight of the 11 horses who ran given a legitimate shot at winning, but it was the David Kassen trained daughter of Real Quiet who got the job done for owners Sam and Joan Pieper of Murfreesboro, Tenn.
Hebert said he just let the winner dictate the race she wanted to run, and, in this case, it was a winning formula.
Quiet Queen broke her maiden last March and moved into allowance company in May, winning a $32,500 race at Arlington Park on June 13.