Prep In Her Step

By Noah Joseph

In the early years of racing in Minnesota, few horses received more attention and praise than Hoist Her Flag. There was a good reason for such attention, for she was a constant winner on the track. An 11-time stakes winner, she often beat the best horses at Canterbury. During that time, she developed a rivalry with another constant horse named Lil Preppy. And while Hoist Her Flag received overwhelming praise and accolades, Lil Preppy was also a talented horse in her own right, and also deserves attention and respect as well.

Lil Preppy was bred in Kentucky and owned by Bill Alder, who also trained her. A daughter of Parade of Stars, Lil Preppy was an experienced runner when she came to Canterbury during its inaugural season in 1985 as a three-year-old, having competed 11 times at three different tracks during her career. Lil Preppy seemed to take a liking to the new track, as she ran eight times that year in Shakopee and never finished outside the top three, including a 2nd place finish in the Lady Slipper Stakes and a win in the Sleepy-Eye Handicap. Her rivalry with Hoist Her Flag also started that season, as they raced against each other twice, with Lil Preppy winning once.

Proving that 1985 was not a fluke, Lil Preppy began her 1986 campaign with two consecutive wins, including another score over Hoist Her Flag in the Mankato Stakes. Lil Preppy won two more times that year, including the Columbine Handicap. The results spoke for themselves; Lil Preppy was a special horse.

1987 was nearly deja vu for Lil Preppy, as her five-year-old campaign at Canterbury was virtually identical to her three-year-old season, as she once again ran eight times and never ran worse than 3rd. She did win the Charles Lindbergh Handicap, but her old foe Hoist Her Flag was ready to get her revenge. Hoist Her Flag trounced Lil Preppy in two stakes races, the Mighty Miss Handicap and the Prior Lake Handicap en route to being named the 1987 Canterbury Downs Champion Older Filly or Mare and Horse Of The Year. Despite her rival’s success, it was still a good year for Lil Preppy – 1988 also saw Lil Preppy win the Charles Lindbergh Stakes for the 2nd year in a row, defeating Hoist Her Flag in the process. But once again, Hoist Her Flag would turn the tables on Lil Preppy, this time in the Don Riley Handicap. That would be the final season Lil Preppy raced at Canterbury. She raced twice in Ohio the following year before being retired.

In her career, Lil Preppy won 11 times, with 10 of those wins coming at Canterbury, five of them in stakes races. She finished in the money 26 times from 44 career starts, and earned over $148,000. Lil Preppy definitely deserves her place in Canterbury glory.

-Canterbury Firsts –

by Noah Joseph

While Canterbury Park takes a break from live racing due to hosting the Twin Cities Summer Jam concert festival, let’s take a look at something a little bit different than usual. Here are some interesting facts about some of the first occurrences in Canterbury history.

  • The first horse on Canterbury stable grounds was Pure Pressure in 1985. He was trained by
    Pure Pressure

    Canterbury Hall of Fame member Bernell Rhone, who still trains here at Canterbury today.

  • In 1985, the appropriately named Canterbury Phantom was the first horse to have a workout over the Canterbury racetrack . She was owned by Steve Erban, who was inducted to the Canterbury Hall of Fame last week.
  • The first day of racing in Canterbury history was June 26th, 1985 and the first horse to win was Faiz for trainer Martin Kenney, who co-owned the horse with Linda Kenney. Marty

    Hamilton was the winning rider.

  • Also on that first day of racing, Canterbury held their first stakes race, named the Inaugural Stakes. Patch of Sun and My Earl dead-heated for the win.
  • The first Minnesota-bred horse to win a race at Canterbury was Millimark on July 27th, 1985. Millimark was owned by Mary Green who also was just inducted into the Canterbury Hall of Fame.
  • The first horse to win a grass race at Canterbury was the Australian bred mare Sauna. She won
    Sauna wins inaugural Lady Canterbury

    the Lady Canterbury on May 25th, 1986 under Chris McCarron for owners Allen Paulson and Summa Stables and trainer Richard Cross.

  • The first Minnesota Festival of Champions Day was held September 12th, 1992. Sadly, this was also a last, as it would be the last day of racing in Minnesota until 1995, and the end of the Canterbury Downs era.
  • The first day of racing when the track reopened as Canterbury Park was May 19th, 1995. The first winner in the Canterbury Park era was Billy
    Billy Three

    Three, who was owned and trained by Don Rice. Paula Bacon was the winning rider.

Who knows what firsts are just around the corner? Keep following the races and find out!

We’ll be back with live racing on July 28th.

Strangis Operated At Racing’s Helm

By Jim Wells

Ralph Strangis typically impressed newly-made acquaintances the same way:  ” What a nice guy,” they would say.

As they got to know him, those impressions expanded: “Never met anyone like him, so gracious, understanding and knowledgeable.”

Those who really knew him understood even more:

“So smart, what a businessman, what a head for the law.”

Yet, only the men and women in Minnesota’s horse racing industry understood his role in a Minnesota Racing Commission decision that they largely agreed saved the sport in Minnesota.

It is standard practice to eulogize a person in glowing terms and disregard the blemishes, yet that was not the case with Strangis, who died last August. He was a person friends, acquaintances and family described in the same terms they used when he was alive.  Except, perhaps, for his own children, who had their private definition as youngsters. “We referred to him as a benevolent dictator,” said son Paul.

Strangis was a highly respected attorney, husband, father, grandfather and a racing fan to boot. He was a horse owner during the early days of Canterbury Downs and thereafter whenever he wasn’t serving two separate terms on the Minnesota Racing Commission, helping usher out the Ladbroke Racing Corp. in 1992, after it became clear that horse racing in Minnesota would not survive under that ownership.

“Really one of his remarkable accomplishments as a regulator was the leadership and ability he provided to back down Ladbroke,” said Canterbury Park CEO Randy Sampson. “It took a strong leader to take them on and let them know that the Racing Commission was not going to bend the rules and allow simulcasting without a commitment to live racing.”

Strangis’ unique style in a meeting was lauded by almost anyone in attendance and by the participants themselves. Time was of the essence to orderly discussion, and he demonstrated that repeatedly by preventing distractions from obtaining a foothold.

“I really liked that about him,” Sampson added. “I’ve never seen a guy run a meeting more efficiently than he did. It was remarkable how he could keep a meeting on track and keep it moving.”

The fifth race on Sunday has been dedicated to Strangis and will be run in his honor. He died last August at the age of 82. Among his survivors are his wife, Grace; children, Ralph, Jr., Paul, Jason and Anthea and his stepchildren, Sara Grace and Nathan, several grandchildren and countless friends and business associates.

Strangis had been a racing fan much of his life when the sport was ushered in for Minnesotans with the arrival of Canterbury Downs in 1985, and he was among the early horse owners who frequented the new facility to cheer on the stars of their stables.

Cachuma was a fan favorite in the 1980s, owned by Thoroughbreds, Inc., which included Minnesota Vikings general manager Mike Lynn, automobile dealer Jim Lupient and Strangis.

Cachuma ran with his head down, a distinguishing feature fans came to recognize and appreciate, particularly in the final sixteenth when his unique style was all the more on display.

“We all made money on Cachuma,” said Paul Strangis. “Win after win.”

Later, Ralph Strangis was involved as an owner with a Tom Metzen partnership .

Paul is still involved in racing as an owner, his love for the sport nurtured at the Southern California tracks as a youngster during trips there with his father and siblings.

“He was uniquely qualified (as a commissioner and later chairman) with his love of the sport,” said Sampson. “He always did what was right for the backside people and the horse. He made a unique contribution to horse racing, as chairman, and as an owner.”

Strangis was prohibited from owning horses while serving on the commission, but quickly reengaged when his terms expired, having helped regulate the sport with a participant’s understanding.

Jim Lane III, the acting chairman of the commission, got to know Strangis before serving on the commission with him. Lane, an attorney himself, was working at the time with North Ridge Farm and the late Franklin Groves, an Eclispse Award winning breeder, and trainer Carl Nafzger.

“I knew him (Strangis) as a horse owner and active participant along with Tom Metzen,” Lane said. “Ralph knew the racing business and liked it and was therefore a better informed regulator than perhaps people not exposed to racing.”

Strangis had other strengths that Lane says directed decisions in which he participated. “He was very interested in the two tracks (Canterbury Park and Running Aces) and their financial strength,” Lane added.  “He was a wonderful businessman and attorney.”

Strangis, in fact, was described in certain accounts as the “legal architect” of Target Field for the Minnesota Twins and Allianz Field, home to the Minnesota United soccer team.

Strangis designated Lane as first vice chairman of the racing commission after becoming chairman and he continued in that role until Strangis died last year. Lane has been the acting chairman since.

Lane recalls two “big” problems “percolating” when Strangis rejoined the commission five or six years ago. “The purse underpayment at Running Aces and the dispute between that track and the Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association regarding the financial agreement with the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community,” he said. “Ralph was instrumental in solving both problems,” said Lane. “Those things tend to be forgotten.”

Commissioner Alan Gingold first met Strangis in 1973. “He was representing the company I worked for (Piper Jaffrey and Hopwood),” Gingold said.

“He was an extraordinary man, 70 percent lawyer, 70 percent businessman and 70 percent community activist.”

Gingold grew to know Strangis in new ways upon serving with him on the Commission. “He had a natural love for racing, the beauty of racing and the horses, which is true of most of the commissioners. They love horses,” Gingold said.

Gingold also cited Strangis’ ability to get people together, talking and solving their problems.

His appreciation for Strangis, having known him four and one-half decades might  best be summed up in these comments:

“I think about him every day,” Gingold said. “He was larger than life, and I don’t expect to meet anybody like him.”

Races Of The Past, and A New One For The Present

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

Savannah Slew arrives in Minnesota

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.

Olympio wins 1991 Minnesota Derby

Over the years, Canterbury has had many big races come and go. But this new big race just might stay.

A Race Is A Race

By Noah Joseph

This Saturday, two of the richest races for Minnesota bred thoroughbreds are being run at Canterbury Park. The Minnesota Oaks for fillies, and the Minnesota Derby for colts and geldings, are both being held for the 30th time, both with a record purse of $100,000. These races, restricted to three year old Minnesota breds, have produced some of the best horses of all time. Both races debuted with a strong start in 1988, and they have showcased the best of the breed ever since.

Princess Elaine won the inaugural Minnesota Oaks under Chris Valovich. She would later be inducted into the Canterbury Hall of Fame. The Oaks gained another Hall of Famer when Northbound Pride won the following year with Scott Stevens aboard. It’s uncommon to see jockeys win the same race three years in a row, but jockey Luis Quinonez did just that, winning the Oaks from 1995 to 1997. Susie Blues set the stakes record for the race in 2002 under jockey Derek Bell in a time of 1:41.66, and the record hasn’t been broken. Hall of Famer Glitter Star took the Oaks in 2005 with Seth Martinez, who like Quinonez, scored his third Oaks win in a row. Last year’s race was won by Double Bee Sting with jockey Jareth Loveberry.

As for the Minnesota Derby, Hall of Famer Blair’s Cove won the inaugural Minnesota Derby under Larry Melancon, in which owner Irish Acres Farm won the first two runnings, the second with A Nice Lark. Canterbury legend Crocrock took the 2000 Minnesota Derby on the road to becoming one of the greatest Minnesota breds to ever run. J.P. Jet holds the race record in a time of 1:40.26, which he set in 2002. Wally’s Choice won the 2004 Minnesota Derby, and later that year won the Grade 3 Oklahoma Derby. Last year’s Minnesota Derby was won by Hot Shot Kid and jockey Alex Canchari.

Blair’s Cove

This year’s Minnesota Oaks and Derby will have strong fields, and we just may see the coronation of another legend in the history of Minnesota racing.

A Tale of Two Deans

By Noah Joseph

Over the years, many jockeys who rode regularly at Canterbury became fan favorites and etched their names into history. Jockeys like Derek Bell, Paul Nolan, Scott Stevens, Ronnie Allen Jr., Donna Barton, and Chris Valovich all became Minnesota racing legends. However, two that really stand out were two jockeys with the same first name and incredible riding abilities; Dean Kutz and Dean Butler.

Dean Kutz was not only a supreme rider at Canterbury, but also around the Midwest, winning at many tracks in major races, including eight graded stakes wins. Kutz rode at Canterbury Downs through the 80s. He was a patrol judge for most of the inaugural 1985 season before riding his first race on Labor Day. He won his first race at Canterbury on Lassie’s Dutches on September 6. Kutz won his first Canterbury title in 1987 with 158 wins, a Canterbury Park or Downs record, and he won another title 1988 with 146 wins. He rode at Canterbury until the end of the 1989 season. He made occasional appearances at Canterbury Park in the mid to late 90s and early 2000s, and rode for part of the 2002 Canterbury season. Kutz died of cancer in 2004. He’s a member of the Canterbury Hall of Fame.

Much like Kutz, Dean Butler came to Canterbury and instantly became a favorite. He made his first Canterbury appearance in 2006, and won his first ever Canterbury mount on Squall Line on May 6, 2006. He won three consecutive riding titles from 2009-2011 and two more titles in 2013 and 2016. He’s ridden some of the best horses in Canterbury Park history such as Glitter Star, Chick Fight, Nomorewineforeddie, Hold for More, and Sky and Sea. He’s ridden for top trainers who ship to Canterbury such as Bill Mott, Michael Stidham, and Michael Tomlinson. He’s third in the rider standings currently with 38 wins, and he’s also a surefire future Canterbury Hall of Fame member.

Making the Grade

By Noah Joseph

In the history of horse racing and breeding, only four horses bred in the state of Minnesota have ever won a graded stakes race. A graded stakes race is a stakes race of the highest quality in both prize money and strength of the competition. The highest level is Grade 1, followed by Grade 2, and then Grade 3 and the Minnesota breds have won at nearly every level.

1990 was a banner year for Minnesota bred horses winning at the national level. The first Minnesota bred to win a graded stakes race was Super Abound. A son of Superbity, Super Abound was owned by Frances Genter and trained by Carl Nafzger, who also were the connections of 1990 Kentucky Derby winner Unbridled. While Super Abound never got as much attention as his star stablemate did, Super Abound made his own claim to fame by winning the 1990 Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes at Arlington Park, in which he beat Unbridled, who was trying the turf for the first time. And while it was his only graded stakes win, it stamped Super Abound’s name into history. (By the way, Unbridled actually beat Super Abound at Canterbury the previous year.)

Only a few weeks after Super Abound’s victory, Blair’s Cove did the state of Minnesota one better when he won the Grade 3 Swoon’s Son Stakes, also held at Arlington. Blair’s Cove, a son of Bucksplasher, competed in graded stakes races all over the country. He ran in graded stakes races in Minnesota, Ohio, Illinois, Nebraska, New York, New Jersey, and California. He even ran in a graded stakes race in Hong Kong. Blair’s Cove is a member of the Canterbury Hall Of Fame, and was honored with the annual Blair’s Cove Stakes on July 3rd.

Although she never competed in her home state, Booly was also one of a kind. The daughter of Apalachee was sold as a weanling in Kentucky, and never returned to Minnesota. But she made a name for herself in her own special way. She broke her maiden in the Grade 3 Selima Stakes at Laurel in 1992. She also holds the unique honor of being the only horse bred in Minnesota to run in the Breeders’ Cup. She finished 9th in the Juvenile Fillies in 1992.

Last, but definitely not least, a Canterbury classic: Wally’s Choice. Fans who’ve been coming to Canterbury for a good part of the century will always remember Wally’s Choice. The son of Quick Cut was owned by Curt Sampson along with Wally McNeil (often known as Wally the Beerman) and Wally’s wife, Joyce.

After winning three stakes, Wally’s Choice won the 2004 Grade 3 Oklahoma Derby at Remington Park. While it was his only graded victory, Wally’s Choice won five more stakes, his last stakes win coming in 2006, and his last overall win coming in 2009. He was retired in 2011 and is also a member of the Canterbury Hall Of Fame.

Canterbury Park’s Leading Ladies

By Noah Joseph

One of the most inspiring parts of horse racing is inclusiveness. Since the beginning of the 20th century, horse racing has had many prominent female owners, trainers, and breeders. In the 1960s, females were allowed to compete as professional riders. Since the early days of racing in Minnesota, female jockeys have played a very important part in Canterbury’s history.

In the Canterbury Downs days, female jockeys were equal, if not superior, to their male counterparts. Top female jockeys included Vicki Warhol, Kathy Craig, and Patrice Finnegan. In 1988, apprentice Donna Barton burst on to the scene in Shakopee, and became an overnight success en route to becoming one of the top jockeys in the country. People know her now as Donna Brothers, an NBC Sports reporter and analyst who conducts interviews with the jockeys on horseback after Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup races.

That same year, Canterbury held a jockey’s challenge featuring female vs male riders. The races were held at different distances and surfaces. The male team featured Dean Kutz, Ronnie Allen Jr., Chris Valovich, and Mike Smith, while the female team featured Donna Barton, Vicki Warhol, and national jockeys Vicky Aragon and Julie Krone. Later that season Julie Krone defeated legendary jockey Bill Shoemaker in a match race (pictured above) at Canterbury known as the “Duel at the Downs.” Krone went on to become the first female jockey to win a Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup race.

In recent years, top female jockeys at Canterbury have included Paula Bacon, Shannon Ritter, Laura Paynter, Jo Black, Lori Keith, Anne Von Rosen, Jennifer Schmidt and Helen Vanek. The female jockeys at Canterbury this season are Lori Keith, Jenna Joubert, Katlin Bedford, Kassie Guglielmino, Janine Smith, Betty Williams, and Nakia Ramirez.

Hoist Her Flag- Silks Of Red, White, and Blue


By Noah Joseph

It would be somewhat crazy not to write about a horse with a patriotic name with the Fourth of July coming up this Tuesday. One horse that raced at Canterbury had one of the most patriotic names, and was and still is one of the greatest to race in Minnesota; that horse was Hoist Her Flag.

A big grey, almost white, filly, she was sired by the unraced Aferd, who was sired by Hoist The Flag. Foaled in North Dakota in 1982, she was owned by Seven Springs Racing Partnership of Dan and Beverly Mjolsness and trained by Greg Markgraf. She raced in red silks with a white “SS” with blue sleeves.

In 1985 and 1986, Hoist Her Flag finished in the top three in 10 of 11 starts. She won six races in 1987, four of them stakes including two in six days and she beat the boys in one of them. She was also stakes-placed three times. In that time, she developed a rivalry with another fine mare named Lil Preppy. Hoist Her Flag picked up right where she left off the following year winning five races in 10 starts, including three stakes. She placed in two other stakes as well. Her final year of racing was 1989, in which she won four races in nine starts, all of them stakes. She retired that year after racing in Minnesota, Arkansas, Illinois, and Alabama and won 19 races, 11 of them stakes victories in 49 starts and earned almost $300,000.

As a broodmare, Hoist Her Flag had three foals, all daughters. While all three raced at Canterbury, her first foal, First Flag, by Woodman, was a multiple stakes winner like her mother. First Flag won two stakes, including the 1993 Northern Lights Debutante, held that year at Arlington Park. First Flag was Hoist Her Flag’s only foal to win a race, and the only one to ever win at Canterbury. She won an allowance race at Canterbury in 1995.

Hoist Her Flag is a member of the Canterbury Park Hall Of Fame. She was named Canterbury Horse of the Meet in 1987 and 1989. She and Heliskier (2012 and 2013) are the only two-time winners of that award.

Canterbury will race six consecutive days through July 4 beginning Thursday.

Noah Joseph is a longtime Canterbury Park and horse racing fan. He’s been attending races at Canterbury since 2000 when he was 3 years old and has enjoyed every minute of it. Noah provides a weekly piece on

Come Summer, Simply the Best

come summer win pictureHe was good enough to beat a future national sprint champion, good enough to win all four of his races that summer at the new racetrack in Shakopee. And he was good enough to become the first Horse of the Year in Minnesota Racing history.

He was Come Summer.

A stunning dark colt with royalty in his blood, Come Summer would continue his career racing mostly in Kentucky and other parts South after the first summer in Shakopee, this great-grandson of Bold Ruler and Somethingroyal, who had a son named Secretariat.

Trained primarily by George “Rusty” Arnold and also Shug McGaughey, Come Summer was retired as a six-year-old and purchased shortly thereafter in Kentucky by LeAnne and Dave Dayon of Wind N Wood Farm, who recalled an incident at the time worthy of passing on.

A horse sale was being conducted at the Shakopee Ballroom, when Dayon walked in and ran into Alvin Goebel. Both had been in Kentucky at the same time recently trying to find a horse to stand at their farms.

“I have a stallion you’ll want to breed your mares to,” said Goebel, who had just purchased Danski.

“I have a stallion you’ll want to breed your mares to,” responded Dayon.

Thus began Come Summer’s life in Minnesota, where he would spend the remainder of his days as a stallion and then a pensioner, inquired about frequently by his original owners, Ward and Roberta Williford of Dallas, Texas, right up until his death last January.

“He died right there in the paddock,” said Dayon.”He had the same spinal problem as Seattle Slew.” He was 31 years old with some of the infirmities that accompany many animals as they gather years. Another way of putting it, as Dayon did: “He died of old age.”

Yet what a life he had on the racetrack, winning 14 times from 34 starts that included five seconds and four thirds and earnings of $360,237. A foal of 1982, Come Summer was a horse the Willifords were hopeful of running in the Kentucky Derby, before quarter cracks derailed those intentions.

He came to Shakopee instead and took over the grounds, beating future Eclipse Award winning sprinter Smile in the Canterbury Invitational, setting a track record for a mile and 70 yards that stands 28 years later (1:40.20) and then winning the Canterbury Derby. The Invitational was voted race of the meet that summer. Come Summer demonstrated in the years that followed he could run any distance from sprint to route. He won Churchill Downs’ Grade III Clark Handicap in 1986, beating a handful of Grade I winners in the process.

A Canterbury Park Hall of Fame horse, Come Summer was pensioned at age 22 by Dayon after a modest career at stud. Canterbury Patrons surely recall one of his offspring, Haulin’ Oats.

Officially a dark brown horse, Come Summer stood 16.1 hands. All business on the racetrack, he was playful in the barn and away from the bugle, nipping at his grooms who fed him mints. “He liked to kick up his heels a little bit,” said Dayon, “but he was always a manageable horse to breed with.”

He liked to ham it up at picture time, too. When he appeared in the winner’s circle at Canterbury Park for his retirement acknowledgement, Come Summer knew where the winner’s circle was and what to do when he got there.

“He sat up and posed the moment he saw the camera,” Dayon added.

For the Dayons and the Willifords, Come Summer was one of a kind, the first “big” horse for the Dallas couple and not much different for the Dayons.

“To us he was like owning a person’s first Porsche,” said Dayon.”And we were in constant contact over the years with the Willifords.”

The Willifords were planning a trip to Minnesota to see Come Summer last year. “They weren’t able to make it, but they had hoped to see him one last time before he went,” said Dayon.

Clearly, he was a horse they never forgot, nor, presumably, have the early fans who watched Come Summer’s magnificent summer 28 years ago. Certainly not the Dayons, who are still considering the proper gravestone for the horse.

“He is buried right outside his stall beneath the cherry tree,” said Dayon.”We’re still thinking about what kind of marker to put up for him.”

Just a suggestion, but…

Come Summer, the best of Minnesota racing’s first summer.

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.