By Noah Joseph
This Saturday, Canterbury Park is introducing a new stakes race, the $100,000 Mystic Lake Turf Express. The race is five furlongs on the turf and has attracted a competitive field nine. Since Canterbury opened in 1985, many big stakes have been held at the Shakopee, Minn. racetrack. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular stakes races of the past.
In 1985, world-renowned jockey Bill Shoemaker came to Canterbury to ride Savannah Slew in
the inaugural Canterbury Oaks for trainer Ron McAnally. The daughter of Seattle Slew came into Minnesota after running in the Kentucky Oaks that year. Savannah Slew, due to her racing experience and the presence of Shoemaker, was sent off as the heavy favorite, and won easily. She closed out her career with two Grade 3 wins at Santa Anita. In later years, the Canterbury Oaks was moved from the turf to the dirt, and was won by horses such as Tappiano, Do So (also trained by McAnally), and Capades. The race was discontinued in 1990, but returned when Canterbury re-opened in 1995, and was won by Fluffkins. Current Canterbury trainer Troy Bethke won the race in 1998 with Sibling Song. The Oaks was renamed the Northbound Pride Oaks and is still being held.
The Canterbury Cup, like the Canterbury Oaks, debuted in 1985, as a race to bring the best older horses to Minnesota in a race designed as a prep for the Breeders’ Cup. In 1986, Smile came to Canterbury to run in the race. Smile, owned by Minnesotan Frances Genter, was a Grade 1 winner at three and ran in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint in 1985, finishing second to Precisionist. Smile, under jockey Jacinto Vasquez won the race over Dramatic Desire. Smile then went on to win the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, becoming the first horse to race at Canterbury to win a Grade 1 race. In later years, the Canterbury Cup was won by horses such as Present Value, Dispersal, and Secret Hello, who won the last running of the race in 1991.
In the early days, Canterbury’s crowning race was the Saint Paul Derby. A race that featured the best three year olds in the country, it quickly became an important race during the summer. The inaugural running was won by Cheapskate, at 72-1 odds under jockey Marco Castaneda, defeating Broad Brush and Gary Stevens by a nose. The following year, Lost Code defeated a small but select field of horses, including one of the top three year olds in the country in Cryptoclearance, who ran in all three Triple Crown races that year. Lost Code won the race, his sixth race in a row, and went on to run against the likes of Alysheba and Bet Twice. Longshot Fourstardave took the 1988 running at 50-1 under jockey Daryl Montoya. Fourstardave later became one of the most popular horses to race at Saratoga in New York, in which he won at least one race there from 1987-1994, earning him the nickname “The Sultan of Saratoga”. The Saint Paul Derby was last run in 1991 as the Minnesota Derby. Olympio won, driving by Richman in the final yards, in what would be one of seven stakes wins in 1991 for Olympio, five of which were graded stakes. He also ran fourth in the Preakness earlier that year.
Over the years, Canterbury has had many big races come and go. But this new big race just might stay.