There was John Bullit, a horse enshrined in Canterbury Park’s Hall of Fame. There is the silver bullet, a shell capable of repelling a serious vampire threat, and there is the Human Bullet, aka David Smith, Jr., who soared 165 feet through the mist and premature gloaming Monday afternoon and into a net 20 feet above the ground.
Memorial Day might never be the same.
The patrons at Canterbury Park, 8,863 of them, sat or stood spellbound awaiting unquestionably the stellar sideshow of Canterbury Park’s long list of novel attractions over the years.
Paddock analyst Angela Hermann analyzed the cannonball from the lift of a boom truck, her high heels occasionally sticking in the grate floor beneath her but safely anchored in a harness and directly in front of the Human Cannonball’s flight path. Beside her was Michelle Benson, who filmed the event for blog viewers. They looked up as the Cannonball soared past them overhead.
“Hey, I’ll give you $500 bucks if you grab Angela on the way and take her with you,” said announcer Paul Allen.
“I’ll give you $1,000 if you don’t,” countered Hermann.
The presentation was the brainchild of press-box boss Jeff Maday, who has been advocating some time for this event.
Nearly lost in the afterglow and gun powder of the daredevil demonstration, harkening memories of Evel Knievel, was the feature horse race of the afternoon, the $50,000-guaranteed Honor the Hero Stakes at five furlongs on the turf.
From the local stable of perennial training champ Mac Robertson, who was saddling horses at Delaware Park on Sunday and left paddock duties to his assistant, Brad Hedges. The winning horse, a 4-year-old gelding owned by Hugh Robertson named Bet Seattle, shone on the wet, soft turf for a 1 ¾ length win over El Seventyseven, also from the Robertson barn.
The winner was sent off at 10-1 producing a healthy payoff for those who backed him.
“Maybe Mac should stay away for these races,” quipped Hedges, who saddled Heliskier for his easy win two weeks ago with Robertson out of town.
The winning rider was Geovanni Franco, who picked up the mount and the stakes win at 9 a.m. Monday when it was announced Nate Smith would not fly in to ride the horse.
The win was the first for Mac Robertson in the Honor the Hero Stakes, adding a Memorial Day memento to countless other stakes wins and eight training titles in Shakopee.
Third was the ship-in and favorite Canuletmedowneasy, with Eddie Martin, Jr. aboard. Favored to win because of his career best effort in the Grade III Shakertown at Keeneland Race Course, losing by half a length at 29-1 odds, the son of With Distinction did not run appear to enjoy the soft going on Monday.
Memorial Day will hereafter evoke memories of a milestone for Mike Biehler, who saddled his 500th winner in Shakopee for Monday’s third race.
Hidden Agenda’s agenda was anything but. She broke sharply to the lead and outran eight rivals to win with lengths to spare. “She broke out of there like a rocket,” said winning rider Lori Keith, who was beaming afterward.
It was that kind of day, a day devoted to shooting humans out of cannons and horses out of the gate.
“I think I was more excited that she won than he (Biehler) was,” Keith said. The winning filly got a swift start to the race just as Keith as to the season, moving into a tie for the lead in the rider standings with Eddie Martin, Jr. at that point with her seventh win of the meet.
Biehler’s 500 win at Canterbury moved him into a tie with Doug Oliver for second place on the all-time trainer winning list. Bernell Rhone has 655 wins.
The tie didn’t last long. Twenty-five minutes at most, because Derek Bell took the Biehler-trained Machorina to the wire first in a 7 and ½-furlong claiming sprint on the turf in the fourth race.
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.