Minnesotans celebrated the Fourth of July in a variety of ways _ picnics, barbecues, fishing, boating, a leisure day at the lake or in the backyard.
A crowd of 10,245 chose Canterbury Park and it’s free hot dogs, a wiener dog warm-up race and two time-honored stakes races, named for two of the state’s prominent early leaders in thoroughbred racing, Frances Genter and Victor Myers, $60,000 events restricted to Minnesota-bred horses, geldings and fillies.
Six state-bred fillies lined up for the Frances Genter at six furlongs, and a speedster named Sky and Sea got there first by, oh, a furlong or so.
Speed is Life proved it is sometimes a winning factor, too, outdueling eight others in the Victor Myers.
With Ry Eilkeberry up, Speed is Life used a late surge in the stretch drive to hold off speedster Slippery Ice by a length With Royal Tramp and A P is Loose following up.
Trainer Doug Oliver saddled the winner for Bob McMahon and Diane Sillik, EZ-AZ Thoroughbreds LLP. Oliver is no stranger to the Victor Myers. He has won it three times now, including the 1995 and 1999 runnings.
McMahon purchased the horse when it was four or five weeks old. “It had trouble getting on its feet,” recalled Sillik. “Why would you want a horse that can’t stand,” a bystander wondered.
Well….how about a record or 4-2-1 with earnings in excess of $60,000.
Sometimes a race becomes not much more than a showcase for a specific horse, a venue In which to display his or her wares, to demonstrate that life is not fair in the equine world either.
…a fair depiction of Friday’s $60,000 Frances Genter Stakes and a resounding win by a 3-year-old filly named Sky and Sea, who on a gorgeous Fourth of July went gate to wire, resembling a mother hen escorting her chicks and winning by 11 ½ lengths.
That win brought a smile from trainer Bernell Rhone, who has saddled the winner of this race four times, three consecutive now, and rider Dean Butler who was on the Genter winner for a fourth time.
Sky and Sear was 1-5 minutes before post time, a fact that left pressbox professor Jeff Maday a bit perplexed. “I’m surprised someone hasn’t dumped $50,000 on this horse to show,” he said. “I figured she’d be 1-9.”
A minute later the tote-board numbers clicked and she was exactly that. Moments later she justified that confidence in overwhelming fashion.
Still, this well-earned and dominant victory did not come wrapped in festive holiday paper, but more in the rumpled, mixed foil of reality.
You’ll hear often in racing about the ups and downs, the tremendous highs and lows the sport can present to those who’ve invested their time, emotion and money.
It’s not often you’ll encounter both in the same individual as a result of the same race, but that was precisely the case for Scott Rake, the owner/breeder of Sky and Sea.
Certainly, he was pleased with the magnificent effort from Sky and Sea, but he another filly on his mind afterward, another 3-year-old filly at home in the pasture, a filly who should have been at Canterbury in the same race as her winning stablemate Friday.
“I found myself thinking about her,” he said. “She’s a half-sister to Bourbon County. She’s home at our place eating peppermints. I thought Sky and Sea would be the speed in this race and that she could come in as the closer.”
That was not to be the case.
Rebecca Rusch developed a noncancerous but inoperable tumor on her jaw some time ago. It continues to grow and consequently she was put to pasture.
Thus, Rake was left with mixed feelings Friday.
“I had that high and low at the same time,” he said.
by Jim Wells