Entries have been posted for Opening Night and entries for Preakness Day are just around the corner! Opening Night drew some competitive affairs as 77 horses entered the 9 races for an average field size of just over 8.5 starters per race. Perhaps more impressive is the quality of the Opening Night card. The final six races are all either allowance, stakes or maiden special races. Total purses for the Opening Day card total an impressive $232,800. Certainly a dramatic change from past Opening Days.
While a previous blog entry hinted at what to expect this season, a previously mentioned newcomer should make their presence felt right away on opening night. Midwest Thoroughbreds starts right off on their Minnesotan quest in the first race of the night. Their Band of Silence brings in a win from Prairie Meadows to enter a heat of N2Ls to kick off Friday with journeyman Eddie Martin, Jr. making his return to riding in Shakopee. The first race also brings Ry Eikleberry back to the local scene on a horse he’s ridden before in Live a Little for the Greg Tracy barn, another fresh face on the backside.
The new faces are present all night long. In the very next race Daniel Vergara will take to the track for Valerie Lund. He brings his tack from Arizona to the local grounds for the first time along with Juan Ochoa in the sixth. He’ll leg up for a fresh Miguel Silva claim from California in the sixth event, an allowance with a kind $27,000 purse. The last also brings out two new riders from the jock’s room, Brandon Meier and Chris Fackler. I can tell you from watching both on track that they can ride given a little horse, and both end up on lives mounts in the final race opening night. Brandon Meier is in for the first time from Chicago, where he just concluded the spring meet along with yours truly at Hawthorne. Chris Fackler hails from Nebraska and went on a tear through his apprenticeship a few years ago, and will ride a Mac Robertson firster to take his first spin of the summer at Canterbury. Meier’s mount will come for new Michael McKenzie barn in the form of maiden De Bala.
Quite the opposite of the final field of the night do battle in the seventh. The featured Lady Slipper stakes has just about every salty MN-bred distaff sprinter you could think of in the gate to kick off the summer. Defending champ Hidden Gold will attempt to defend her title with a new jockey aboard, as Derek Bell takes over the riding duties for Francisco Bravo. The top three finishers from the Minnesota Distaff Sprint are all showing up to dance in this one, with Polar Plunge unraced since her success on Festival Day for Gary Scherer. There isn’t much to go on in the way of form this year – will one of the ladies be ready to fire off the shelf or is an upset with some seasoning in the works?
The opening night card is a solid one from start to finish. It appears the ball is rolling in the right direction already. Join us all season at Canterbury and enjoy the new and improved experience we have to offer!
This blog was written by Canterbury Paddock Analyst Angela Hermann. Angela Hermann serves as the Track Analyst for Hawthorne Racecourse in Cicero, Illinois and the summer of 2013 will mark her third year in a similar capacity at Canterbury Park.
Photo: Coady Photography