By Jim Wells
There are ribbon cuttings, grand openings, kickoffs and numerous other designations for the start of something, but sometimes it is a nebulous matter, left to the whims of the individual.
The start of the horse racing season in Shakopee falls into that category.
The live thoroughbred racing season began on May 3, the night before the Kentucky Derby, and racing has continued on weekend days since.
Yet, there was something missing, a hole in the feeling that always accompanies the grand opening or renewal of a season.
It arrived on Saturday. The quarter horses returned. Turf racing did, too. And, quite impressively, the sun and temperatures more conducive to spring returned.
There it is. If it feels like horse racing is back, then it is.
The quarter horses returned with four trial races at 400 yards to determine the ten who advance to the $50,000 Gopher State Derby on June 8. Those who qualified are handled by three trainers: Clinton Crawford leads the way with five qualifiers, followed by Jason Olmstead with four and Jason Pascoe with the 10th.
Pascoe claimed his spot right out of the gate, so to speak, saddling Spy For the Senate, winner of race one in a time of 20.12 under Shanley Jackson. The colt got a clean trip and sailed home a half length in front of Crawford’s Fast Bobby. Pascoe says Spy For the Senate is “one of my favorite horses. I figured he had a shot in this race but in this business you never know, do you.”
Well, he does now.
Pascoe was in Shakopee last season as well. From Alberta, Canada, he has developed a fondness for the Shakopee track.
“I really love it here,” he said. “I’d love to have even more horses here if I could, but I have a lot of state breds I need to run in Canada.”Fast Bobby qualified for the big race as well, with a time of 20.209.
The second race went to Apollitical Mogul in a time of 20.47, swift enough to claim the winner’s share of Saturday’s $6,000 but not fast enough to qualify for the big race.
She had a head on Holy Storm but had to make up ground to do so after hesitating at the break and getting segregated behind horses. “I just let her have her head and she squeezed through,” said rider Julian Serrano. “Nice filly.”
With a better break and no traffic, who knows, she might be headed to the $50,000 championship.
Race three was the speediest of the four and the first three horses qualified for the big show, led by the Crawford-trained Veuve Clicquot, who finished a neck in front of The Bald Eagle and 1 ½ additional lengths ahead of Sunlight Seven. The winning time was a swift 19.870
The fourth race produced two more qualifiers, paced by the L Team’s dashing win with One Famous Ocean. The filly was ridden by Ry Eikleberry and was the first of four winners he rode Saturday, including a hat trick on the thoroughbreds, two of those on the grass.
The L Team might just as easily be called the Home Team since it is comprised of some homeboys. The ownership group includes Tom and Bill Maher, Paul Luedemann and track announcer Paul Allen and Wild goalie Alex Stalock.
The L Team designation was derived from its members’ tendency to produce more losers than winners, now a thing of the past.
It was on Saturday, at least.