Three $50,000 Turf Stake Races Saturday at Canterbury Park

Indian Horse Relay Championship also on 5:00 p.m. racing program

Three $50,000 turf stakes, the Minnesota HBPA Distaff, the Brooks Fields Stakes, and the Mystic Lake Turf Sprint, will be co-features on Saturday’s thoroughbred race card that begins at 5:00 p.m. at Canterbury Park. The stakes will be run as races three through five on the nine-race program, which also includes the Indian Horse Relay Championship.

The Turf Sprint, at five furlongs on the grass course, drew a field of eight including 5 to 2 morning line favorite Satellite Storm, trained by Valorie Lund and ridden by Leandro Goncalves. The locally-based 5-year-old found his best form since racing twice, and winning both times, on the turf course this meet. Kentucky shipper Angaston, 7 to 2, will be ridden by Eddie Martin, Jr.

The Brooks Fields, at a distance of one mile on the turf, is headed by Nobrag Justfact for trainer Eric Heitzmann. The 4-year-old colt won the $100,000 Mystic Lake Mile locally before finishing ninth in the Grade 3 Arlington Handicap at Arlington Park in suburban Chicago. Martin, Jr. has the mount.  The race is named in honor of the late Brooks Fields, CEO of the Shakopee, Minn. racetrack when it originally opened in 1985.

Seven entered the Minnesota HBPA Distaff, at one mile on the turf, including defending champion Molecules, trained by Brian House and ridden by Martin, Jr. Also in the field is 5 to 2 morning line favorite Beach Flower, winner of the $100,000 Lady Canterbury on June 22. She is trained by Hall of Famer Mac Robertson and will be ridden by Dean Butler. A $25,000 guaranteed Pick Four pool that includes the three stakes races, will begin with the second race.

Indian Horse Relay, North America’s first ‘extreme’ sport, involves teams of four Native American riders dressed in colorful regalia racing bareback around the track on a series of three horses, exchanging them at high speed in front of the grandstand. Presented at Canterbury Park by the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community each summer since 2013, this sport dates back more than 400 years. Horses were traditionally very important in Native American culture, and relay racing was an activity to test the horse, rider and team. Fourteen teams representing various tribes from Montana, Wyoming, the Dakotas, Washington and Idaho, will compete for prize money. The Championship will feature the seven qualifying teams from heats held during racing Thursday and Friday evenings.

Bushrod Wins 1st Mystic Lake Turf Express

By Jim Wells

Only in horse racing do the storylines sometimes seem to come out of a children’s storybook, heroes emerging from unlikely places under unusual circumstance;  little guys being lifted to the level of those who dominate the world up above; heartwarming tales of the men and women who keep the world turning but are seldom given a share of the spotlight.

It happens, though, on the racetrack and the biggest race of the night Saturday, the first running of the $100,000 Mystic Lake Turf Express at five furlongs, is a first-hand example.

The winner, Bushrod, wasn’t overlooked at 7/2. He was given his share of respect in a contentious field of seven. Yet, you can’t help a slight grin, a positive nod of the head when you consider his story.

Originally handled by Canterbury Park Hall of Fame trainer Doug Oliver, Bushrod was claimed by Hall of Fame conditioner Mac Robertson and then by Judd Becker for $18,000 on May 11 at Arlington Park.

Becker trains a handful of horses at his farm outside Pardeeville, Wisconsin, 30 miles north of Madison. He races largely in Chicago but likes taking the 4 ½-hour trip to Canterbury Park on occasion, as he did for Saturday’s race.

He arrived with this thought in mind. “We thought we had a chance.”

With good reason. Bushrod beat a horse named Good By Greg _ a real monster, Becker said _ on August 12 in a 5 1/2 furlong race in Chicago.

“That horse would have been the favorite if he had run here in this race,” he added.

Saturday’s race was a half-furlong shorter, and Bushrod loved it. Although he was slowed in tight quarters leaving the gate, he essentially went gate-to-wire under Quincy Hamilton, holding off a late bid from Show Bound (5/2) under Francisco Arrieta to win by  three-quarter lengths in 56.20.  Fireman Oscar (16-1) was next, three-quarter lengths out of second.

Creative Art, the leading thoroughbred at Canterbury throughout much of the meet, had won four straight races this summer on the dirt, but is now 0-5 on the turf after finishing in front of only Sky T on Saturday.

 

    $50,000 BROOKS FIELDS STAKES

Gate to wire under the leading rider in Shakopee in what is being called perhaps the best race of the 2018 meet.

Ibaka

.           That sizes up the effort of Ibaka and the ride given him by Ry Eikleberry in a a thrilling four-horse finish that drew a collective gasp from the enthusiastic crowd.

Here is what it looked like at the wire:

Ibaka, in 1:35.27,  a head in front of Majestic Pride, a half length in front of Hay Dakota, who had a head on Patriots Rule.

“One of the best races of the meet,” said director of racing Andrew Offerman.

“Yeah, it was a good one,” said Eikleberry. “I knew there was a ton of them together at the wire.”

Most of the fans in attendance needed the results of the photo to determine if they should celebrate or moan, but Scott Garrison, assistant to trainer Francisco Bravo did not.

“I thought his head was there first,” he said. “He’s a very big hearted horse and Ry gave him such a good ride.”

The horses around him were closing hard, but Ibaka had enough, just enough, to hold them off in a scintillating finish.

           $50,000 MINNESOTA HBPA DISTAFF

Late to the paddock but not to the wire.

That sums up jockey Leslie Mawing’s itinerary before and during this race for three-year-old and older fillies and mares.

Mawing’s arrival in the paddock was delayed _ for a call of nature _ but there was nothing late about the wire-to-wire effort of Molecules. The three-year-old filly angled inside from the break and stayed there until the wire, holding off a late, hard charging effort from defending champion Beach Flower to win by a head, with a time of 1:35.63. In third, another 1 ½ lengths out of second was Some Say So, the Princes Elaine winner.

This was a family enterprise. The owner, Morgan Thilo, was home in Indiana with sick children, so her mother, Dawn Fontenot, who once trained the horse, took over in her absence, with her mother Jackie Todhunter along for support.

And best yet, the winning horse was a gift, from the former owner who became ill, to Fontenot, who gave up training because of a conflict of interest; her boyfriend is the starter on the gate back in Indiana.

“It really is a family effort,” said Fontenot, who got the horse last October.

       INDIAN RACES ALL IN THE FAMILY

An accident on the racetrack sidelined Brew Crew rider Brian Beetum in Friday night’s semifinal round of competition.

So, 18-year-old Sylvan Brown took over in Saturday’s championship round and wound up a winner.

Brown, it so happens, is a nephew to Beetum.

In what was perhaps the best Relay Race competition in its six years, Brew Crew brought home another title, and the team stood in the winner’s circle afterward, posing for pictures while admiring the buckles awarded them for the championship.

How long has Brown been competing? He wasn’t certain. “I’ve been doing this, riding, since I was very young,” he said.

Brew Crew represents the Oglala band of the Sioux Nation on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota.

Brew Crew and Little Badger, a Blackfeet team, battled it out over the final mile of the three-mile race.

The win should make the 10-hour drive home a bit easier to take for Brown and the rest of the Oglala crew: mugger Will Brewer, back holder Steve Brewer, Jr., and team captain and set-up man Stanley Brewer, Jr.

RELAY CONSOLATION CHAMPIONSHIP

Riley Prescott was beaming afterward.

He had just wrapped up the consolation for Omak Express, beating out the Long Feather team from Standing Rock and rider Jace Long Feather.

Prescott overtook Long Feather during the final mile, letting him take the lead by design.

“I knew he was going to blow out his horse, so I just let him go past me,” Prescott said.

Belmont Day at Canterbury Park

Gold Medal Dancer - Minnesota HBPA Distaff - 06-07-14 - R08 - CBY - Inside Finish600x300

 

            Sometimes the past and present intersect in unexpected ways, as they did Saturday in Canterbury Park’s winner’s circle, a dominant rider from days gone by celebrating after the first of two stakes races, a reigning champion in a similar mood after the second of those events.

            Luis Quinonez won the first of five consecutive riding titles in 1995 in Shakopee and was right back where he has been countless times before after the $75,000-guaranteed Minnesota HBPA Distaff, catching second choice 5/2 Every Way by a head at the wire aboard the favorite, 6/5 Gold Medal Dancer.

            “Some things never change,” a bystander said to Quinonez. “I  still know how to get there,” he responded.  “So, does she.”

            Quinonez said his horse didn’t break like he wanted. “I had to weave  through horses to give her a chance to win,” he said.

            Both stakes races were scheduled for 7 ½ furlongs on the turf but were moved to the main track because of the heavy rain. At first glance, Gold Medal Dancer appeared to benefit from the change. Quinonez wasn’t so sure.

            “She’s won on the turf (in her only start). I think she can do well anywhere she runs,” he said.

            Jimmy Simms, trained by two-time national champion conditioner Steve Assmussen had an easier time of it in the boys race, the $75,000 Brooks Field Stakes . With Dean Butler, champion rider in Shakopee four of the last five seasons,  in the irons, Jimmy Simms finished 3 ¾ lengths in front of Stachys.

            Butler sized up his win in succinct fashion.

            “A pretty classy nine-year-old (gelding). He knows how to win and so does the trainer,” Butler said.

            A crowd of 11,742 turned out hoping to see a Triple Crown champion but to no avail. California Chrome left his A game at home and finished in a dead heat for fourth.

             Quinonez,  who dominated the rider standings Canterbury Park’s first five seasons, walked into the jockey lounge Saturday and was  hit by an immediate thought.

            “I couldn’t believe how many years had gone by,” he said.

            Many of the faces were familiar, riders, valets, a general employee here or there. ” A familiar face stuck his head inside the silks room, where Quinonez was carrying on a conversation, with a bit of sarcasm.

            It was Nate Quinonez, Luis’s stepson.

            Racing is a small world, in many, many ways.

            Luis Quinonez ened Canterbury Park in 1995 with the first of five consecutive riding titles before moving south, eventually to Oklahoma where he has lived since.

            He spent nearly all of last summer at home healing from a broken neck at Churchill Downs, where he intended to ride for the first time but didn’t get started.

            He was in Shakopee Saturday to ride in the two stakes races on the card, and dropped a bit of news in the process.

            “I might come back for some of this meet,” he said. “If not, probably next summer for sure.”

            The reason, clearly, is the stable purse structure at Canterbury. “Yes, the purses are good here,” he said.

            Quinonez has been riding this summer at Lone Star Park in Dallas, driving three hours from Jones, Okla., for Thursday through Sunday cards before returning home to be with his family the remainder of the week.

            He arrived in Shakopee ready to race at Canterbury Sunday, but with a minor handicap.

            He trusted his valet in Dallas before leaving home. “I asked him if I should bring my rain clothes, ” he said. “He told me no.”

by Jim Wells       

Mystic Lake Mile Preview

Mystic Lake Mile LogoPart of the ongoing story of any racetrack are its historic races, often named in commemoration of founding fathers, famous horses or grand contributors to the game.

Many of those races have storied pasts and memorable results. Such is the legacy of the $100,000 Lady Canterbury, first run in 1986 and twice later as a Grade III event, a race with winners whose names roll off the tongue like a Sunday litany: to name a few – Paulson & Summa Stables’ Sauna, Nature’s Way, Maktoum al Maktoum’s Balbonella, Down Again, Fieldy and Falls Amiss, in addition to Go Go Jack, KZ Bay, and most recently Ruthville in 2012, owned by Kentucky royalty, Arthur B. Hancock III.

The $100,000 race, at one mile on the turf, will be run for the 21st time on Saturday and has attracted a competitive field of 12 fillies and mares.

This stellar card includes the $125,000 Mystic Lake Mile, also with 12 horses, and the $54,100 Canterbury Park Quarter Horse Derby with a field of 10.

The eminent analysts of the pressbox and beyond, those irreproachable handicappers of unparalleled acumen and insight, have varied views on the race.

Paddock analyst Angela Hermann sized up the day’s stakes races with this terse but terrific analysis:

“Whether it is their hockey team or their horses, those from Chicago play to win,” she said. “Leave any of them out at your own peril.”

You will find numerous horses with dossiers that include plenty of work in the Windy City.

For pressbox guardian and provider of program riches Jeff Maday, the Lady C looks like this:

“Kune Kune and (trainer) Joan Scott are right there. She should sit right off the pace and win… at a decent price,” he said.

“Hooh Why was good but maybe is past her prime. The (Barry and Joni) Butzow horse (Bryan’s Jewel) has a big chance but I hate that (No. 10) post out there.'”

And then there is irrefutable logic and insight of racing operations analyst Andrew Offerman:

“I don’t know quite what to make of this one,” he said. “Bryan’s Jewel (last year’s runnerup) is most likely to win. The horse was capable of winning a Grade III race and ran in a Grade I.”

Bryan’s Jewel won last time out, the Grade III Obeah at Delaware Park on June 15 at a mile and 1/8. Her previous race produced a win, too, in stakes competition at a mile and 1/16.

Track announcer Paul Allen was succinct in his outlook on the Lady Canterbury “I’ve been pulling for the local horses since KZ Bay won in 1997,” he said. There are chances from all over the country but don’t overlook local Lady Haddassah who is red hot and most importantly 15-1.”

Then there is the inaugural running Saturday of the $125,000 Mystic Lake Mile at a mile on the turf for three-year-olds and older, also with a field of 12. “This is a heck of a race,” said the pressbox impresario. “I like A Diehl. That horse looks pretty good. But if they let Hammer’s Terror go alone, he could be tough to beat. Somebody needs to hook up with him. It will come down to the ride.”

The race features the winner and runner-up of the Brooks Fields Stakes at 7 ½ furlongs on June 16. Hammer’s Terror, winner of the inaugural Mystic Lake Derby last summer, finished one length in front of Slip and Drive in the Brooks Fields. “He’ll be coming,” added Maday.

“You can’t rule too many of out of this one,” added Offerman. “You can make a case for eight of the 12 horses in this one. There can’t be too many people in this one who look at the PPs and think they don’t have a chance.”

Senor Allen has this pithy portrait of the race:

“If you missed Hammer’s Terror in the Brooks Fields, fret not. You’ll get it all back and then some when he wins the Mystic Lake Mile.”

Stacy Charette-Hill has been the queen of the quarter horse stables this summer and there is no reason to think she won’t be wearing the crown again after the Derby.

She has three of the horses in the field: First Prize Wagon, Hr Ebony Princess and Hr Money Maker, the fastest qualifier of the 10.

Hr Money Maker is a 3-1 morning line choice and will be ridden by the leading quarter horse rider of the meet, Jorge Torres.

THURSDAY BABIES OFFER POTENTIAL PREVIEW OF SHAKOPEE JUVENILE

Rumbauer (pictured below), a 2-year-old Artie Schiller colt, put on the late rush to win Thursday night’s third race convincingly, a five-furlong event for maiden two-year-olds.

Ridden by Ry Eikleberry, it was an impressive finish by Rumbauer, who is likely headed to the inaugural running of the $100,000 Shakopee Juvenile Stakes at 7 ½ furlongs on the turf Aug. 3. “Maybe,” said trainer Dave Van Winkle, later adding, “that’s been our dream all along.”

Rumbauer -  07-11-13 - R03 - CBY - Finish

The race will be run on the undercard of the $200,000 Mystic Lake Derby on Saturday, August 3.

THURSDAY NIGHT HANDLE APPROACHES RECORD

Wagering on Thursday night’s card totaled $805,212. The $605,300 wagered off-track was the most wagered on a Thursday night (non-holiday) card since August 2004 and was close to breaking the all-time Thursday night (non-holiday) record of $634,407.

Pick 4 players will be happy to hear that the late Pick 4 handled $25,014 – the largest thus far in 2013 and a substantial increase from the average 2012 Pick 4 pool of $7,500. The 14% takeout wager returned $80.70 for $.50 with winners paying ($5.60, $9.00, $3.20 and $6.80).

There were two winning tickets in the early Pick 4 which returned a massive $5,246.2o for $.50. The key to hitting the early Pick 4 was coming up with Affirmed Cure, the $86.20 winner of the night’s 4th race. Not a bad return on investment for a $.50 minimum bet.

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.

14,455 Enjoy Father’s Day Card

Hammers_Terror_Brooks_Fields_StakesThere is nothing like horse racing for destroying a person’s spirit one instant and then restoring it a few minutes later. These are the vicissitudes of a sport that can present more ups and downs, more highs and lows, than the Wild thing at Valley Fair. You can be a dejected loser one moment and an exuberant winner the next.

That’s exactly how the feature events played out on a glorious Father’s Day at Canterbury Park Sunday. The unbeaten Heliskier went to his knees, reportedly cut his face, on the break and was taken by van from the track. Then the odds-on favorite in the feature event of the day, the $50,000 Brooks Fields Stakes, did all that was expected of him to balance the scales for the day.

For whatever reason, much of the crowd of 14,455 departed immediately following Heliskier’s race. Perhaps that answers a question for Marlene Colvin, Heliskier’s owner, who wondered before the race: “Do you think this large crowd is here to see him?”

Well, the case now can be made that perhaps it was.

Perhaps Father’s Day and a solid card were factors, too.

HELISKIERDerbyFinish

In any event, Heliskier’s (pictured above winning the Minnesota Derby in 2012) unbeaten winning streak ended at seven, and a tearful Colvin approached the winner’s circle afterward seeking information on her horse.

Rider Derek Bell, visibly upset, made conflicting statements afterward but left the strong impression that Heliskier was probably OK but that erring on the side of caution was the best approach in this case. Reading between the lines it seemed apparent that Bell was cautiously confident he horse would recover but wasn’t willing to push his luck after the gate incident.

The day’s activities included a horseshoe toss that included Daily Racing Form correspondent Ted Grevelis. “I didn’t realize how far that toss was,” he said afterward. His efforts drew a comment from a pressbox know-it-all who said, “I had a horse who could throw a shoe with more accuracy than that.”

Grevelis later took umbrage with the behavior of several fans during the running of Heliskier’s race. “When they saw him go to his knees they yelled and clapped,” he said.

Grevelis was appalled and reacted with this response. “A horse or a rider could have been severely injured and they’re clapping. I don’t get it.”

With Heliskier out of the mix, a 19-1 choice named Rainier Ice, ridden by Alex Canchari, cashed in, finishing in front of Jamaican Memories and Bizet.

Then, under sunny skies, Hammers Terror (pictured at top), winless in five races since the Mystic Lake Derby in Shakopee last July, got healthy again, leading seven others to wire, repelling challenges in the stretch run from Slip and Drive and Wild Jacob to finish in front of those two.

With three scratches in the race including the far outside two, the outside spot was left to the winner.

“That was a concern,” said winning rider Dean Butler, who had four winners on the card, “But once I brought him over he settled nicely.”

Butler moved his horse up gradually to the front where he prefers to run and the son of Artie Schiller took charge on the lead (full race replay below).


SKIP ZIMMERMAN MEMORIAL STAKES

Trainer Stacy Charette-Hill considered sending Stone Cottrell, a five-year-old gelded son of Sc Chiseled in Stone back to the farm to freshen up when the Remington Park meet concluded this spring.

Then her husband and assistant trainer, Randy, intervened. “There is a stakes race at Canterbury Park called the Skip Zimmerman that he could run in,” he said.

Stacy had a response. “This horse can’t run 350 yards,” she said. Indeed, he had not gone more than 350 yards in some time.

Then Stacy began weighing the odds. Stone Cottrell is the first baby from the dam Rainbow Riches to run at a track. “I figured if he could even get a third up here it would help his mare,” Stacy said.

Stone Cottrell did more than that in Sunday’s co-feature, withstanding a late, hard rush from A Splash of Hell to win by a head in 17.73.

“He couldn’t have gone 355 today, though,” Stacy said happily.

The win was fifth in two days at Canterbury for her stable and rider Jorge Torres, riding for the first time this year.

“He comes from a racing family,” Stacy said. “He’s ridden in some match races but hadn’t ridden this way until this year.”

The Hills are from outside Lexington, Okla., and have liked all they’ve seen of Canterbury Park since arriving. “It’s wonderful here,” she said. “The people are exceptionally cordial and nice. I’d consider bringing a big stable here if they had more than two quarter horse races on their regular cards.”

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.

Photo: Coady Photography

Video: Michelle Benson & Canterbury Television Department

Brooks Fields Stakes on Tap

Brooks FieldsWhen you walk into Churchill Downs the history of its most famous race is displayed along the upper reaches of the grandstand outside the paddock, one Kentucky Derby winner after another, starting with Aristides in 1875.

Thoroughbred racing is empty without its history, without the stories of its great horses, sires and broodmares, jockeys, trainers and founding figures.

Brooks Fields is one of them, a man who forever will be associated with Canterbury Downs and the arrival of pari-mutuel racing in Minnesota in 1985. It is not a stretch to call him ‘Founding Father.’ It seems the perfect appellation under any circumstances but even more so on Father’s Day.

He will be remembered again on Sunday, as he is each year, with the running of the Brooks Fields Stakes, a $50,000 race this time thanks to a $15,000 endowment from the Mystic Lake Purse Enhancement Fund.

Fields made his mark in the grain business and took on horse racing as a retirement endeavor. An entire industry is indebted to him for that commitment and will salute before and after the eighth race.

The likely favorite in the 7 and ½ furlong dash on the grass is 4-year-old colt Hammers Terror, the Kentucky-bred winner of the inaugural Mystic Lake Derby last summer who has shipped in from Arlington Park. Winless in two starts this year, in five since the Derby, Hammers Terror will be ridden by locally based Dean Butler.

The chief competition will likely emerge from the Mac Robertson barn, a horse named Slip and Drive who shares blood with the favorite. Both are by Artie Schiller.

Red Lead’s speed makes him part of this picture, too. Lori Keith, who rode Hammers Terror in the Mystic Lake Derby, has the mount here.

Meanwhile, family members and friends will be on hand for the Brooks Fields Stakes. Sarah Neesan, Brooks’ daughter, will present the trophy to the winning connections after the race.

Fields had a reputation as a people person. “They were his passion,” said Sarah. “He loved people.”

Even though he knew little about horse racing when he set the groundwork for its place in Minnesota, he learned to love the sport as well.

SKIP ZIMMERMAN MEMORIAL STAKES

Another tribute on today’s card will honor Skip Zimmerman, a former owner who was once the president of the Minnesota Quarter Horse Racing Association.

HUCKLEBERRY MOJITO

The $20,000-added race has drawn a field of eight for the 350-yard event. A 4-year-old filly named Huckleberry Mojito (above), trained by Ed Ross Hardy and ridden by Nick Goodwin gets a slight nod over the competition here. Mojito proved dominant last summer at Canterbury notching victories in the Canterbury Derby and Fillies Race for Hope Distaff.

Iris Cartelsbadnews, Bf Farm Boy and Red Hot Zoomer, another Hardy horse, are the likely challengers.

The MQHRA will honor its former president with this edition of the annual race. Zimmerman grew up with horses in North Dakota and got into the racing business in the early 1970s .

LOCAL IDOL GETS OUTSIDE TEST

Maybe more compelling than the feature race on Sunday is the matchup of 2012 Canterbury Horse of the Year Heliskier (below) outside of state-bred competition for the first time.

Heliskier

Unbeaten in seven starts, Heliskier is the prohibitive favorite in an 11-horse field, his largest to date.

Owned by Marlene Colvin, trained by Robertson and ridden by Derek Bell, the 4-year-old gelding is by Appealing Skier from Plana Dance.

RIDER, TRAINER WIN FOUR OF SIX MYSTIC LAKE FUTURITY TRIAL RACES

Hall of Fame rider Scott Stevens had back-to-back winners on the card, piloting The Flying Whizzer at 17-1 to the winner’s circle in the second race. Stevens was on the winner in the very next race, too, Sentiment Gray.

ML Futurity Trial

Jockey Jorge Torres and trainer Stacy Charette-Hill won four of Saturday’s six quarter horse trial races for the $133,525 Mystic Lake Northlands Futurity. Charette- Hill qualified five of her six runners for the July 5 final, including fastest qualifier High Ace (pictured above) who covered the 350-yard distance in 17.692 seconds.

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.

Photo: Coady Photography

Buck Night is Back

Mister_BernsteinBuck hot dogs, soft drinks, admission and programs returned Thursday night and so, too, did good weather and the fans.

For that matter, so did a horse named Supreme Ghost.

The first buck night of the meet by almost any measuring stick was a rousing success.

Let’s start with the turnout.

A crowd of 7,196 was on hand.

Now the weather.

“Nicest day we’ve had so far,” said identifier Mark Bader.

“Gorgeous night. Just great for watching races,” said Minneapolis Star-Tribune handicapper Johnny Love.

Love doesn’t restrict his analysis of racing to merely a horse’s form. He likes to analyze the crowd as well. “Different people on every level (of the grandstand),” he said. “Different levels of knowledge, too.”

A certain area is frequently occupied by the grumblers, the players who find fault with the jockey, trainer or horse every time their selection comes up short. Then there are the neophytes, the infrequent visitors to Canterbury Park who make their selections based on colors, riders’ looks or the alphabet.

Other factions are divided, too, on their opinions of the handicappers. One side hangs on every word of their favorite handicapper. The other faction calls every word of the same handicapper’s analysis into question.

And so it goes.

Supreme Ghost apparently has some of Brett Favre or Roberto Duran in him. He retired a year ago, but was back in the lineup for Thursday’s sixth race. Trained now by Sandra Sweere, Supreme Ghost has won once and finished second once from eight career starts after finishing in front of one horse Thursday.

No race on the card stood up to the fifth (pictured above), one of those runs to the wire that quickened the pulse of everyone watching. It was obvious over the final 100 yards that a head bob would decide this race, and Mister Bernstein, with Derek Bell up, did just that, dropping his noggin in front of Incognito Bandito and Brandon Meier.

Defending quarter horse riding champion Nik Goodwin moved within one win of the lead by riding the first winner on Thursday’s card, V OS Red Hot Cole in the opener at 350 yards.

The star of the evening was Eddie Martin, Jr., who rode three winners to throw the thoroughbred race into a three-way tie for a short while, but Lori Keith bounced back in front of Martin and Ry Eikleberry with the winner of the ninth race, Ceeya Tuesday.

Keith got the mount on that winner after Justin Shepherd was sidelined following a spill in the fourth race, as was visiting rider Tim Thornton, who might have broken a bone in his shoulder. Shepherd reportedly was checked for an injured wrist.

Such are the vagaries of racing. Keith picks up a winning mount. Thornton pays a visit to Canterbury from Chicago, rides one horse and pays dearly.

FATHER’S DAY CARD LOADED

Sunday’s Father’s Day card came up impressively strong with 126 horses entered in 12 races including big fields in the co-featured Brooks Fields Stakes and the Skip Zimmerman Memorial Stakes for Quarter Horses. Additionally, as an added bonus, Heliskier makes his debut against open runners! He has been installed as the 3/2 morning line favorite in Race 7, a field of 11. It is likely to be his toughest test to date.

Quite a special treat for the race fans that will be in attendance. Don’t miss it!

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.

12,120 Enjoy Father’s Day Stakes

As the second choice at 7-2, it was difficult to call this horse a sleeper. But that’s exactly what he is, anytime you visit him in the barn. Ask his owners, Al and Bill Ulwelling, Canterbury Park’s champion owners the last two seasons.

“This horse sleeps all the time, but I guess that’s good,” said Al Ulwelling.

Hard to argue the point Sunday after a command performance by Stachys, a 5-year-old gelded son of Candy Ride. A Father’s Day crowd of 12,120 was on hand to witness the sterling effort.

It took that performance plus a smart ride from Tanner Riggs, but there was little doubt about the outcome after Stachys collared 8-5 favorite Gleam of Hope at the head of the lane, and drew off to a 1 ¾ length victory in the $50,000 Brooks Fields Stakes. Show money went to Wild Jacob, another eight lengths back.

“I was really worried about the No. 7 (Gleam of Hope),” said Ulwelling, “but this one goes to Mike. He had him ready.”

He was talking about trainer Mike Biehler. When the 7 ½ furlong race was moved to the main track from the turf, Biehler got the first item on his wish list. He wasn’t certain how Stachys would handle the mud, however.

“Tanner did a great job of keeping the horse close,” Biehler said. “I was worried with the way the track was playing, that the speed might get away if he didn’t stay close. ”

He was close enough to make a race-winning move coming out of the turn that put his horse in charge in the stretch run.

Apparently all that rest he gets in the barn paid off. He had plenty to offer in that stretch run to the wire.

SHOT OF GOLD GETS A RECORD-SETTING RUN

The axiom goes something like this: You can have the best horse in the world, but if his trainer doesn’t find the right race it won’t matter in the least. We paraphrase, of course.

Yet the maxim proved its worth on Sunday in the $50,000 Shots of Gold Stakes.

Trainer Clay Brinson has been placing his horses in perfect spots for them the entire meet. This time it was worth the winning share of fifty grand.

Brinson claimed the horse for $14,000 last December, picked up a win in Chicago, then one at Canterbury on May 19 in an optional/claiming event.

Sunday, the horse put it all together, pulverizing six rivals in a stakes record 1:09.

Under Bobby Walker Jr., I’ll show Them (pictured above and replay below) was the even-money favorite and finished 4 ¾ lengths in front of 2-1 second choice Silver Magnus and 8 ¼ in front of Humble Smarty, who was fourth in the same race last year.

Brinson was in Canada at Assiniboia Downs to saddle Schillerthekiller in the $30,000 Free Press Stakes and missed his horse’s record-setting effort.

The winner of last year’s race was Atta Boy Roy, who is back on the grounds this summer, happily occupying the No. 1 stall in trainer Valorie Lund’s barn, but not close to running for at least the next month.

“He’s about five weeks away from a race,” Lund said. “I don’t have anything in mind for him. We’ll see when the times comes.”

With the Mystic Lake purse enhancement fund in full effect, Walker smiled broadly when reminded that the original offering of $35,000 had been increased by $15,000.

“I like that. I’m really happy with that,” he said.

WEATHER WAS (NOT) FOR THE DOGS

The soggy conditions created a number of changes in plans for the Father’s Day card. The feature of the day was moved off the grass for starters, but some folks were outright disappointed when the Dachshund Dashes, informally known as the Wiener Dog Races, were postponed until next Saturday. That weekend card will include additional Dashes on Sunday.

JOCKEYS’ ROOM BACK IN GOOD HANDS

Jerry Simmons was back at his station as the custodian in the riders’ quarters on Saturday after a brief hiatus for some surgery. Simmons said he was feeling fine, better than he has in months, after getting two stents in his left artery.

Simmons received the stents on Thursday and was released from the hospital on Friday. “Il feel great. I wish I had this done a long time ago,” he said.

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.

12,120 Enjoy Father’s Day Stakes

As the second choice at 7-2, it was difficult to call this horse a sleeper. But that’s exactly what he is, anytime you visit him in the barn. Ask his owners, Al and Bill Ulwelling, Canterbury Park’s champion owners the last two seasons.

“This horse sleeps all the time, but I guess that’s good,” said Al Ulwelling.

Hard to argue the point Sunday after a command performance by Stachys, a 5-year-old gelded son of Candy Ride. A Father’s Day crowd of 12,120 was on hand to witness the sterling effort.

It took that performance plus a smart ride from Tanner Riggs, but there was little doubt about the outcome after Stachys collared 8-5 favorite Gleam of Hope at the head of the lane, and drew off to a 1 ¾ length victory in the $50,000 Brooks Fields Stakes. Show money went to Wild Jacob, another eight lengths back.

“I was really worried about the No. 7 (Gleam of Hope),” said Ulwelling, “but this one goes to Mike. He had him ready.”

He was talking about trainer Mike Biehler. When the 7 ½ furlong race was moved to the main track from the turf, Biehler got the first item on his wish list. He wasn’t certain how Stachys would handle the mud, however.

“Tanner did a great job of keeping the horse close,” Biehler said. “I was worried with the way the track was playing, that the speed might get away if he didn’t stay close. ”

He was close enough to make a race-winning move coming out of the turn that put his horse in charge in the stretch run.

Apparently all that rest he gets in the barn paid off. He had plenty to offer in that stretch run to the wire.

SHOT OF GOLD GETS A RECORD-SETTING RUN

The axiom goes something like this: You can have the best horse in the world, but if his trainer doesn’t find the right race it won’t matter in the least. We paraphrase, of course.

Yet the maxim proved its worth on Sunday in the $50,000 Shots of Gold Stakes.

Trainer Clay Brinson has been placing his horses in perfect spots for them the entire meet. This time it was worth the winning share of fifty grand.

Brinson claimed the horse for $14,000 last December, picked up a win in Chicago, then one at Canterbury on May 19 in an optional/claiming event.

Sunday, the horse put it all together, pulverizing six rivals in a stakes record 1:09.

Under Bobby Walker Jr., I’ll show Them (pictured above and replay below) was the even-money favorite and finished 4 ¾ lengths in front of 2-1 second choice Silver Magnus and 8 ¼ in front of Humble Smarty, who was fourth in the same race last year.

Brinson was in Canada at Assiniboia Downs to saddle Schillerthekiller in the $30,000 Free Press Stakes and missed his horse’s record-setting effort.

The winner of last year’s race was Atta Boy Roy, who is back on the grounds this summer, happily occupying the No. 1 stall in trainer Valorie Lund’s barn, but not close to running for at least the next month.

“He’s about five weeks away from a race,” Lund said. “I don’t have anything in mind for him. We’ll see when the times comes.”

With the Mystic Lake purse enhancement fund in full effect, Walker smiled broadly when reminded that the original offering of $35,000 had been increased by $15,000.

“I like that. I’m really happy with that,” he said.

WEATHER WAS (NOT) FOR THE DOGS

The soggy conditions created a number of changes in plans for the Father’s Day card. The feature of the day was moved off the grass for starters, but some folks were outright disappointed when the Dachshund Dashes, informally known as the Wiener Dog Races, were postponed until next Saturday. That weekend card will include additional Dashes on Sunday.

JOCKEYS’ ROOM BACK IN GOOD HANDS

Jerry Simmons was back at his station as the custodian in the riders’ quarters on Saturday after a brief hiatus for some surgery. Simmons said he was feeling fine, better than he has in months, after getting two stents in his left artery.

Simmons received the stents on Thursday and was released from the hospital on Friday. “Il feel great. I wish I had this done a long time ago,” he said.

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.

Brooks Fields, A Man of Vision

Frances Genter named a horse after him. A program in the stable area once bore his name. The racetrack he built named a race after him. He is, of course, enshrined in its Hall of Fame.

He was honored from the early days of racing by the NAACP for his commitment to affirmative action in a manner not seen before at a U.S. racetrack. The list continues ad infinitum.

Brooks Fields was genuinely touched whenever someone mentioned his association with the state’s racing industry. He was humbled even though it was he who brought horse racing to Minnesota in 1985, despite knowing little or nothing about thoroughbreds or quarter horses.

Tomorrow, Canterbury Park will salute him with its annual running of the $50,000 Brooks Fields Stakes. It couldn’t come on a more appropriate day for his daughter, Sara Nessan, who will present the trophy to the winner.

“Father’s Day. It’s all so perfect,” she said.

She believes her father would have been pleased with the recent agreement between Canterbury Park and Mystic Lake. “He would have been very happy for the people of Minnesota,” she added. He would have been pleased for the industry and everyone who makes a living in it.

Fields’s vision and belief in the undertaking that would become Canterbury Downs came after a successful career in the grain business and in real estate, and he undertook the challenge at an age when many men would have collected the royalties of a job well done and headed to the golf course or lake cabin.

Fields was 66 years of age when he took on the construction of a racetrack on farmland surrounded by acres of the yet undeveloped Shakopee landscape. “My mom thought he was nuts,” said Nessan.

Yet Fields proceeded full bore with the project his wife, Martha, originally associated with his dotage, and on June 26, 1985 a gathering of 15,079 newcomers welcomed pari-mutuel racing to Minnesota, nervously putting nearly $868,000 through the windows.

Canterbury Downs was officially part of the Minnesota sports landscape.

“He loved it. He was so proud of it,” Sarah said. “It was always so near and dear to his heart.”

What the early employees at Canterbury learned was that Fields did not recognize a class system in the building. “He treated everyone alike,” Sarah recalled, “the valets, the jockeys, the people at the concession stands. He talked about everybody the same.”

That meant everybody.

While implementing affirmative action policies at Canterbury Downs, Fields developed a close friendship with Jesse Overton, now the chairman of the Minnesota Racing Commission. “He was my inspiration,” said Overton. “He wrote a letter to (Gov. Tim) Pawlenty recommending me for the commission.”

Fields eschewed rigid formalities whenever he met people. He was open and friendly with them, down to earth. His friends called him Brooker.

He had little knowledge of pari-mutuel racing when he undertook the project of building Canterbury Downs along with partners that included Santa Anita Race Track in California. His knowledge of horses was limited as well, although he was part of the last unit to go through horse cavalry school at Fort Riley, Kan.

Oh, and there were those trips to the Sonoran desert. “Growing up he was always taking us horseback riding in Arizona,” Sarah recalled.

There was one another association with horses as well. “My father and mother went to London many years ago and bought some carousel horses,” Sarah added. “They came back with three ponies, two pokers and one big horse. The big one was at their place in Arizona. Every single grandchild was on that horse at one time or another.”

Fields was a people person and it is that legacy by which he is best recalled.

“People were his passion,” Sarah added. “He loved people.”

They loved him back.

“He was truly humbled whenever anyone mentioned the track or thanked him for what he had done,” she said.

Martha Fields died in 2001 and Fields later remarried, to Lucy, a longtime friend of his and Martha’s.

“He was so nonjudgmental with people,” Lucy said. “He let people be themselves.”

Fields, of course, was known for his mind as well as his heart. “He was brilliant,” Lucy said.

Smart enough to handle the rigors of Yale University and to learn the Chinese language well enough that he was used as an interpreter in China by the U.S. Army.

Fields died in June of 2008 at 89, a couple of weeks after attending the Brooks Fields Stakes. In his final days, it was he who expressed gratitude. “He felt blessed,” Lucy said. “He said that he had had a wonderful life, had made more money than he could dream about, had two wonderful wives and wonderful children.”

He had friends wherever life took him. Many of them will be at Canterbury Park today to watch the race named in his honor.

Oh, and the horse Frances Genter named for him?

Brooker – of course.

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.