By JIM WELLS
Hands Off Buddy cracks ’em up in the Ed Ross Hardy barn. The 2-year-old son of Sixes Royal keeps just about everyone within sight shakin’ their heads in disbelief.
Sometimes he simply stands in his stall with his tongue hanging out the side of his mouth, waiting for a reaction of some kind. Other times, he chases his tail, as if he were part of the canine family as opposed to the equine branch.
“I simply didn’t believe it when Kari told me about it,” said trainer Ed Ross Hardy. “I didn’t believe it, thought it must be somethin’ else.”
Ed Ross discovered his wife was right. “First he chases the tail to the left and catches it,” he said. “Then he’ll try it going to his right, just like a dog. He’s a real clown.”
Hands Off Buddy is a clown everywhere but the racetrack, where he is beginning to make a serious impression _ on his connections as well as the opposition.
Hands Off Buddy clocked the fastest time in the quarter horse trials, 18.121, for the Northlands Futurity and will be one of the top two favorites for that Grade III race on July 6.
Hardy isn’t taking anything for granted, though, not with trainer Amber Blair loaded for bear, having qualified four horses for the Northlands Futurity including Cedar Creek for the Tom Maher stable and A Sweet Gamble for herself.
“Amber does a good job,” said Hardy. “Anytime you put Maher in Amber and Jason’s barn, that horse becomes a big time factor.”
So, too, are some other qualifiers for the Northlands, including Babblin Brook, owned by Bruce Lunderborg and trained by Blair. The Brookstone Bay filly clocked an 18.155 in the trials, just behind Hands Off Buddy.
A Sweet Gamble, a filly by Sweet First Down, was clocked in 18.174, followed by Cedar Creek’s 18.188.
Hands Off Buddy caught the eye of trainer Jerry Livingston, who likes the horse’s chances in the Futurity. “I like him in there,” said Livingston. “He ran a pretty good race in the trials _ and in the race before that.”
Hardy also qualified Stolis Cool Chick by Stoli for the Futurity. “I like that horse, too,” said Livingston, “as well as Cedar Creek and Babblin Brook.”
“The rest of them are just horses like mine is,” said Livingston. “About all you can say is that they’re in the race.”
The Livingston-trained Jess Blue Bye, owned by Jim Olson and Terry Reed, was the final qualifier with a time of 18.408.
“He’s never run like I thought he would. I expected more out of him,” Livingston said.
Livingston then added the time-honored trainer’s qualifier about how horses who don’t appear to belong in a race wind up winning nonetheless.
Hardy put it this way:
“I’m real excited about this race, but there’s nothing certain for sure. This isn’t a gimme.”
MILLY WAS ONE OF THE FAMILY
Milly Otsea was familiar to anyone who frequented the track kitchen, not only for her banana bread but her welcoming demeanor with the horsemen and anyone else who stopped at the cash register to pay for breakfast or a piece of her freshly-made bread.
It wasn’t only horsemen, however.’
“I got to be good friends with Milly and considered her as one of the Canterbury family,” said track president/CEO Randy Sampson. “She always wanted to talk to me about what was going on in the kitchen.”
When Milly died in April, Sampson sent out an email referring to her as the track’s “good will ambassador on the backside.”
Milly will be honored after the third race on Saturday’s card.
“She felt it was her job to make the horsemen welcome, to feel like they were coming back home each spring,” Sampson added. “She had the unique ability to do that with horsemen from all over the country. She made them feel comfortable.”
Milly worked with some of the youngsters in the grandstand concession stands at times, teaching them the ropes. “She took them under her wing,” Sampson added, “and was like a grandma to them.”
Not only to the young employees.
“It became part of our family tradition to see Milly on the backside when my kids were at the track,” Sampson added. “Our first stop was in the kitchen to have pancakes and see Milly.”
MILLY HAD A SYSTEM
When it came to handicapping the horses, Milly had a system many of her relatives knew about, including Elaine Hoffrogge, who was married to Milly’s brother, Bill.
“Milly was born on January 13, 1931,” Elaine said. “She liked to play the numbers 3-1.
Whenever an exacta came in as 3-1 or 1-3, family members would stop for a moment and then say, “Milly did that.”
WALLY THE BEERMAN ON THE MEND