Nothing quite feels like reaching the winner’s circle and confirming your beliefs, or maybe just erasing some uncertainties you’ve had about your horse.
It feels like, it feels like…
“I feel like I’m back in the saddle again,” owner Carolyn Friedberg blurted shortly after Three Graces responded in the stretch run for a 1 ½ length victory over Fabulous Babe in the $50,000 Northbound Pride Stakes, with Nijinsky Ballet another length back.
The victory was the second for the filly this year and had her owners clearly pleased with the effort and result.
There was a spell this winter when they wondered.
Joe Friedberg thought that Three Graces was depressed following an allowance race on Jan. 21 in which she finished 19 lengths behind Eight Belles, the ill-fated Kentucky Derby runner-up who was euthanized after breaking down.
Three Graces finished third in another allowance effort on Feb. 16, and then, asked once more in allowance company, was a clear winner. Most recently, however, she ran seventh in stakes company at Arlington Park.
With Paul Nolan, alternately known at Canterbury Park as the Turf Doctor and Sod Surgeon, in the irons, Three Graces came through on Saturday, re-breaking inside the 16th pole to draw off to her third career win.
“Congratulations. Nicely done,” Fabulous Babe’s owner Bob Ryan told Joe Friedberg afterward, shaking his hand.
Friedberg, in turn, reserved his thanks for Nolan, thanking him for a “great ride.”
Maybe it was appropriate that Nolan was on the winner of this race he had never won before. After all, while she was still Sherry Honsvall, Nolan’s future wife was the groom to Northbound Pride, for whom the race was named.
The year was 1989, and Northbound Pride was a three-year-old on a mission, the champion filly in Shakopee that season and runner-up to Hoist Her Flag for Horse of the Year.
Sherry Nolan gave the filly the nickname Pootie, for no reason other than “she was so small.” Nolan played a frequent game with the filly. “I’d always wear shoes with laces,” she recalled. “That way, she could bend down and untie them when she saw me.”
Paul Nolan never rode the horse in a race but did gallop her during one period.
“We went out to the farm to see her last year and we plan on going again this year. I can’t wait to see her yearling,”Sherry said, referring to Northbound’s foal.
Jockey Scott Stevens, who ran third on Nijinsky Ballet, credits Northbound Pride with jumpstarting his career at Canterbury. “I won my first stakes here on her,” he said, “and I won five-of-six with her that year (1989). She was a push-button horse and very, very versatile.”
Paul Nolan could not say the same thing about Saturday’s winner, not yet at any rate. “She acts kind of green yet,” he said. “She wasn’t quite sure what to do.”
She did find the wire in convincing fashion, however. And you’ll understand if Carolyn Friedberg put on an old 45 rpm disc by Gene Autry when she got home Saturday night..
She understood exactly what Autry was crooning about in that famous tune of his, extolling the joys of being back in the saddle again.
DON’T BE LATE FOR THE WEDDING
There was a wedding party at Canterbury Park on Saturday, but not the one that Craig Bjorn and his daughter, Tiffiney, were attending. They had about an hour drive to make from Shakopee for the ceremony but couldn’t leave until after the fourth race, in which their horse, Hills of Roses, was running.
“She’s got a shot,” Bjorn said before the race.
Shot, indeed. Hills of Roses was an easy winner under Paul Nolan in the six-furlong dash, and the Bjorns were pleased they had kept the horse after three attempts to part with her.
They tried to sell the three-year-old filly in a sale. No luck. They tried to donate her to a charity. Nope. And they tried to give her to Canterbury investor Dale Schenian as compensation for a horse of his that had died at their farm. No, once again.
All of that was revealed during a conversation the Bjorns had while watching a replay of Saturday’s race when it suddenly occurred to them.
“Hey, we have to go. We have a wedding to attend,” Craig said.