You can’t debate any of those propositions after Saturday’s stakes races for Minnesota-bred horses. Not only were these state-breds running for $50,000, as they once did, there were results that brought congratulatory wishes of the sincerest form from even the also-rans.
How can anyone be displeased about a Paul Knapper-owed horse winning the Frances Genter Stakes. How can anyone feel anything but joy for Marlene Colvin, whose Heliskier (pictured above) put on another commanding performance to win the Victor S Myers Stakes.
Knapper has been part of the Canterbury scene since 1985 and the state racing industry years before that, as primarily a quarter horse breeder and owner. He was part of the effort that brought racing to Minnesota in the first place, and Saturday his one and only thoroughbred in training got up in the final jumps to claim a check for 30 grand. Knapper owned and bred the horse with Bob Lindgren, who celebrated his first stakes victory while Knapper celebrated the biggest win of his career.
Joking in the paddock before the race, Kapper kidded about their horse, Happy Hour Honey, and the naming process. “She’s so happy and always has been,” he said. “Besides that, Bob’s never missed a happy hour.”
Dean Butler was aboard Happy Hour and hit the pedal on her in the final 1/16th to finished 1 and ¾ lengths in front of Go Go Jill and Scott Stevens. It was another length back to 3-2 favorite Keewatin Ice.
“I almost started to cry (in the winner’s circle),” Lindgren said.
“I probably will when I see the replay,” Knapper added.
By Leroidesanimaux out of A J’s Honey, Happy Hour Honey is now 2-1-2 from six career starts and has a 50 grand career bankroll after the win. “She’s a very well-bred horse,” said trainer Bernell Rhone, “and had the high speed in a speed race. She didn’t break well, but got her feet under her.”
Which was Knapper’s immediate concern as he watched the break. “She broke flat-footed and her head came up,” he said. “She usually goes right out to the front.”
It was a three-horse race in the stretch run, with Happy Hour Honey, Go Go Jill and Keewatin Ice nearly shoulder to shoulder, until Happy Hour stretched out and took charge.
Shortly after the race, Knapper, his wife, Melita, her son, Joe, and grandson Peyton gathered near a television monitor. Peyton, 18 months old, already rides some of the horses in from pasture, bareback. Melita displayed a picture of him at Canterbury, Daily Racing Form in hand. “He’s addicted,” she said.
There was a more pressing concern at that precise moment, however.
“He needs his diaper changed,” she said.
Then there was Heliskier, the most remarkable state-bred horse in years, simply toying with five rivals. Marlene Colvin stood in the paddock before the race, analyzing her horse’s merits. He was the last horse bred and broken by her late husband, Robert, or “Bun” as the world knew him.
“This is really bittersweet,” she said, shortly before Derek Bell climbed aboard her horse. Bun died a year ago last Dec. 10 after telling his wife he just might postpone retirement to train the horse. The next month she sent the horse to long-time friend Mac Robertson in Hot Springs, Ark., to begin his training on the track.
He won by four lengths in 1:09 and 2/5 Saturday without Bell so much as touching the whip. “He just gallops out there,” Bell said “He does everything so effortlessly.”
Heliskier is now 4-for-4 and inspired so much confidence that someone plopped down over $150,000 grand to win in the final click on the tote board, bringing the win pool to a Canterbury Park first $224,795. Officially, Heliskier was 1-20.
Bell recalled something the horse’s breeder said about his final thoroughbred. “He said he was the best one he’d ever been on,” Bell said.
Marlene looked skyward in the winner’s circle. “He’s still telling us that,” she said.
WIENER DOGS GET THEIR DAY
After getting washed out – more exactly, mudded out – last week, the Wiener dogs got their qualifying heat in on Saturday’s card and the winner was…
Roxy Glamour Princess, owned by Kim and Layne Poppovich of New Richmond, Wis., weighs 13 pounds and is 21 inches long. “Roxy isn’t afraid of competition,” Kim said as part of her owner insight. “When she isn’t modeling clothes, she wrestles her 85-pound German Shorthair brother.”
Saturday, she “wrestled” a field of nine opponents. The second place dog was Charlie Brown, a seven-pound, 14-inch model owned by Dustin and Crystal Brown of Appleton, Minn.
Saturday’s top two advance to the final on July 4. Four more qualifying rounds are scheduled for Sunday.
This blog was written by Canterbury Staff Writer Jim Wells. Wells was a longtime sportswriter at the Pioneer Press and is a member of the Canterbury Park Hall of Fame.