Now the conjecture begins. Not since Affirmed outdueled Alydar in 1978 has horse racing had such potential for history to repeat itself… or not. The similarities are certain to be pointed out ad infinitum, even ad nauseam, in the coming days, right up to post time for the Belmont Stakes if both horses do indeed run.
If you liked the Kentucky Derby, you had to love the Preakness Stakes on Saturday. Visions of the great Triple Crown rivalry danced through the minds of anyone even vaguely familiar with that wondrous summer. Another year, Alydar likely would have been a Triple Crown champion, outdueled in each of the classics by Affirmed.
Now the scene is set for I’ll Have Another to do the same to Bodemeister. There is little doubt that those two horses are clearly at the front of the three-year-old crop this season right now. The Kentucky Derby finish left the racing public wondering if Bodemeister had simply outrun himself with blazing fractions, that I’ll Have Another took advantage of a tiring horse. Bodemeister had the front end to himself with a fractions more to his liking on Saturday and I’ll Have Another caught him once again.
A shot in the arm for racing?
“This is fabulous,” said Canterbury Park president/CEO Randy Sampson. “This might be the year things finally go our way.”
“This is the difference between 6,500 and 16,000 (fans) on Belmont Day,” said Canterbury announcer Paul Allen.
Comments of this nature are always difficult to pry from Media Relations director Jeff Maday.
“It was a good race. The best Triple Crown race of the day,” he said.
Who knows, Bodemeister might take the Belmont Stakes off. But for the immediate future, racing seems to be very, very healthy.
Preakness Stakes Saturday brought out a large number of colorful dresses and wide-brimmed hats. No group resplendent in such attire was any more festive than the group of young ladies gathered in the winner’s circle after the first race to celebrate the upcoming marriage of Danielle Theobald, to become Ellingson, she pointed out, on June 16 in Rochester.
She and 13 of her friends – six of them part of the upcoming wedding party – used the big day in racing as their bachelorette shindig and got the ball rolling minutes after three-time riding champ Dean Butler got his second win of the season, this one aboard Gone Digital.
Butler’s silks caught the attention of one of the bachelorettes, adorned as they are with the emblem of the owners, Hector Bulldog Partners.
“My boyfriend has a tattoo of a bulldog that looks just like that,” she said. “Could you let me get a picture.”
The Canterbury riding champ obliged, delaying his exit from the winner’s circle.
When a bystander commented on the bevy of attractive women surrounding him after the photo was taken, Butler rolled his eyes and headed for the jockeys’ room.
Canterbury’s defending riding champ got started with a win in the next to last race on Friday’s season-opening card. He followed up Saturday by winning aboard Gone Digital, trained by Tony Rengstorf.
So, Rengstorf has three wins for the season, a most auspicious start he refuses to let go to his head.
“Come see me in two hours,” he said, well aware of the vicissitudes of his sport. “I learned about that a long time ago.”
Veteran Hall of Fame rider Scott Stevens continues to make his presence felt. He had a winner on opening day and was aboard Downtown Delight for trainer Michael Biehler in race two on Saturday.
Stevens set a goal for himself a year or two ago of riding at least one winner a day as his riding career ostensibly winds down. “So far, so good,” he said Saturday behind wide grin.
“I just need more business now. I only have one mount tomorrow.”
BUTLER MINES HIDDEN GOLD
The $35,000 Lady Slipper stakes was a three-horse race until the 16th pole. Then Butler elicited the coup de grace kick from defending champ Hidden Gold (pictured above), who drew off to a solid 1 ¼ length victory over Sheso Dazzling with Polar Plunge claiming third.
“It was a great race,” said trainer Francisco Bravo. “I thought it came down to one of three horses, and we were the ones today. Dean gave the horse a great ride, terrific.”
Ann Sachdev owns the horse with Bravo’s wife, Lori. Ann’s husband, Sunil, provided another explanation for the victory.
He stood in the very same spot during the race that he did a year ago when Hidden Gold won.
“Superstition. That’s what did it,” he said.
Kayleigh Butler could have cared less. Her father had won the stakes race and she jumped into his arms for the winning photo in front of a crowd of more than 8,000.
2012 Lady Slipper and 10,000 Lakes Stakes Replays
THESE BOOTS ARE MADE FOR WINNING
Bet your Boots could have used some comfortable slippers after last year’s 10,000 Lakes Stakes. He got sore feet and needed some intensive doctoring to get right again for the race.
Saturday, it appeared that his feet were just fine and that he was in fact right again.
With Juan Rivera up, Bet Your Boots dug deep to finish a half-length in front of the 2010 winner of the 10,000 Lakes, with Samendra claiming third.
Owner-breeder Richard Bremer had terse instructions for Rivera. “Whatever you do, don’t give up the rail,” Bremer said.
Rivera hugged the rail as if it were a long-lost relative, and the son of Birdstone did the rest.
“His feet were so tender after last year’s race that he needed some rest,” said Bremer. That was last May 11, and Bet Your Boots was idle until April 29 when he finished third in a $35,000 optional claiming race at Prairie Meadows.
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.
Photo Credit: Coady Photography