Mr. Jagermeister seeks graded stakes win in Saturday’s Ack Ack at Churchill Downs

Minnesota-bred Mr. Jagermeister will attempt to add a graded stakes win to his impressive resume on Saturday at Churchill Downs in the $150,000 Ack Ack Stakes, a grade three one-turn mile where he drew post six in a nine-horse field. Leandro Goncalves will ride in the Ack Ack for trainer Valorie Lund.

The 4-year-old has won seven stakes, all but one restricted to state breds.  He defeated open company in the $100,000 Chesapeake, a sprint stake at Colonial Downs on Aug. 17, before returning to Canterbury to win the $100,000 Crocrock Sprint Championship Sept. 1, his most recent race, a dash restricted to Minnesota breds. In all, the son of Atta Boy Roy has won 10 of 17 starts and $493,537 in purses.

Canterbury Park’s 2018 Horse of the Year was shipped to Churchill shortly after the Crocrock and has been training well there, including a bullet five furlong work last Sunday.

“He really likes the track,” Lund said. “I mean he really likes it. He goes so easy.” This comes as no surprise to his trainer as Mr. Jagermeister’s sire, also trained by Lund, did his best running at Churchill including a win in the grade 2 Churchill Downs Stakes.

Mr. Jagermeister once before was entered in a graded stakes, the grade 2 San Vicente at Santa Anita in February of 2018, coming off a nearly five-month layoff. After dueling through blistering fractions he tired.

Saturday could be a different story as the colt is as sharp as he has ever been.

“I think he is the right horse for this race,” Lund said. “If he brings his ‘A-game’ he will be tough to beat.”

Top trainers from across the country have entered experienced runners in the Ack Ack including Steve Asmussen, Dale Romans, Al Stall, Jr., and Phil D’Amato. Many of the horses have been tested in graded events and have won.

Timeline is a two-time grade three winner, but those came in 2017 for trainer Chad Brown when he won the Peter Pan at Belmont and the Pegasus at Monmouth before going favored in the grade 1 Haskell and running up the track.  He is now under the care of Asmussen, has not raced since Dec. 1, 2018, and has eight works at Churchill leading into Saturday.

Mr Freeze, trained by Romans, won the 2018 West Virginia Derby, a grade 3, but has not won since in just three tries. Air Strike is the highweight in the field carrying 125 pounds. He won the grade 2 Triple Bend at Santa Anita on May 25 at 12 to 1 odds and has since finished fourth in both the grade 1 Bing Crosby at Del Mar and the grade 1 Forego at Saratoga. Trainer D’Amato has been prepping Air Strike at Santa Anita showing three published workouts.

With few confirmed front runners, Mr. Jagermeister may control the early pace.

“I never tell my rider to go for the lead,” Lund said but she has a feeling Goncalves may end up there.

Mr Freeze showed his traditional speed recently in one mile Ellis allowance but was reeled in by Mr Darcy who is also entered in the Ack Ack. Mr Darcy has proven to be tactical and enters Saturday’s stake off a second-place finish Sept. 13 racing six furlongs at Churchill, a surface on which he has competed eight times, winning twice, finishing second four times and third once.

The Ack Ack will be the seventh race on Churchill’s 11-race twilight card that begins at 5 p.m. central. Post time for the race is set for 8:05 p.m.

“This is a very good field of horses,” Lund said. “That’s what you get at Churchill. [Mr. Jagermeister] is really good right now. I’m excited.”

Canterbury Race Book will offer Win bet insurance on the race. Guests making a $20 Win bet on Mr. Jagermeister will receive a refund on the bet if he fails to win but runs second. The offer applies to the first $20 win wager on Mr. Jagermeister only and the wager must be made using the MVP Rewards player card. Should he run second, those refunds will be made in MVP Rewards points mid-week and can be converted to cash.

Moe Man Takes Bullit

Moe%20Man%20-%20John%20Bullit%20Overnight%20Stakes%20-%2008-16-13%20-%20R08%20-%20CBY%20-%20Inside%20FinishQuite appropriate. Very fitting. The trainer of a Breeders’ Cup Classic winner saddles the winning horse in a $35,000 overnight stake named for John Bullit, Canterbury Downs champion claimer in 1986, a horse ridden by Mike Smith, Julie Krone, Chris Antley, Scott Stevens and Dean Kutz among others.

Ian Wilkes, who conditioned 2012 Classic winner Fort Larned, sent out Moe Man, owned by Robert Lothenbach and ridden by Justin Shepherd.

The instructions were simple: “Ride your race.” Ride the race as it comes up.

“He’s a good rider. I know him from Kentucky,” said Wilkes, after Moe Man left a field of seven rivals eating his dust in a stretch burst, finishing 4 ½ lengths in front of Coconino Slim with Wild Jacob in third.

The easy victory left even Wilkes a bit stunned. “That was surprising, the way he came down the lane,” said Wilkes.

Wilkes, an Australian trainer, learned under a man well known to Canterbury fans – Carl Nafzger, who trained 1990 Kentucky Derby winner and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Unbridled.

If Wilkes was surprised by Moe Man’s easy win, so also were the Canterbury fans, who let him get away at 7-1. The favorite at 2-1 was Diamond Joe, who finished fourth.

John Bullit, incidentally, set track records in 1986 that still stand: on July 25, he ran 1 ¼ mile on the main track in 2:04 1/5. On Sept 26, he turned in a 3:11 2/5 for 1 7/8 on the turf.

He was trained originally by Clayton Gray, who bought the horse in a package deal and loved thereafter telling stories about how John Bullit would introduce himself to a new rider the same way each time: by sending the individual headlong into the rafters of the barn or the dirt in an arena.

The grand old gelding ran 31 times at Canterbury Down, winning 17 times.

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.

Mystic Lake Derby Day Nears

MysticDerby_LogoGo ahead and pick up the champagne, dig out the attire you wore last year for the race, careful to assure everything is the same, not a single accoutrement out-of-place, cross your fingers and don’t say anything that might be construed as a jinx.

“My dad’s superstitious,” said Lori Keith. “It will have to be the same shirt, everything.”

The topic at hand is the second running of the Mystic Lake Derby on Saturday and the preparations of Mr and Mrs. Keith – William and Philomena (or Bill and Phil as they’re known) – for Saturday’s race.

For the uniformed, Lori Keith, a native of England and a regular rider at Canterbury Park, won the first running of the biggest race in Canterbury Park history last year aboard Hammers Terror, owned by Terry Hamilton and trained by Michael Stidham.

Bill asked his daughter in a recent conversation whether she would ride in the race again this year. When she informed him that the chances appeared good, he began making plans. “He wanted to know if he should get the champagne,” Lori said.

Keith’s parents, who own a restaurant in the South of France, watched the inaugural running down the street from the restaurant, at an acquaintance’s home. Good viewing, just a matter of connecting the laptop to the telly, as they say, and they saw their daughter win the biggest race of her career.

They plan on looking in again on Saturday.

Keith will ride a horse named Dorsett, owned once again by Hamilton and trained once again by Stidham. And, get this, she is breaking from the No. 2 hole in an eight-horse field, just as last year.

A year ago, Keith took the morning line second choice to the winner’s circle after surviving a stewards’ inquiry for interference in the stretch. This time she is on the 5/2 morning line favorite.

“I think he has a great shot,” she said. “On paper he looks very good, but I think it will be a very competitive race.”

Dorsett, a son of Artie Schiller from Dontgetnmyway, has two wins, a second and a third from eight career starts with earnings of $74,670. He is part of a field of eight that will engage at one mile on the turf.

$200,000 Mystic Lake Derby Field & Morning Line
PP Horse Trainer Jockey ML
1    Impassable Canyon Michael Maker Victor Lebron 5-1
2 Dorsett Michael Stidham Lori Keith 5/2
3 Finding Candy Michael Biehler Denny Velazquez 12-1
4 Coastal Breeze Wayne Catalano Channing Hill 4-1
5 Kale’s Kourage Kelly Von Hemel Ry Eikleberry 10-1
6 Evan’s Calling Neil Pessin Eddie Martin Jr. 8-1
7 Red Zeus Dan McFarlane Alex Canchari 6-1
8 Officer Alex Lynn Whiting Leandro Goncalves 9/2

Last year the purse was for a guaranteed $150,000 and produced a total of $162,000 and change after adding in the entry fees. This year the race offers a guaranteed $200,000. The lion’s share of that funding, $150,000, is provided by the Mystic Lake purse enhancement fund.

The inside post was drawn by Impassable Canyon, a colt by Tapit from Anna Forever, owned by F. Thomas Conway and trained by Mike Maker.

Finding Candy will line up in the No. 3 hole. He is a colt by Candy Ride, owned locally by Al and Bill Ulwelling and trained by Mike Biehler.

The No. 4 hole will go to Coastal Breeze, a colt by Empire Maker that is owned by Barry Golden and trained by Wayne Catalano. The No. 5 hole belongs to Kale’s Kourage who has earned $85,511 lifetime and has won three of his seven career starts. He is owned by Pam Von Hemel and trained by Kelly Von Hemel.

Lining up in the No. 6 spot will be Evan’s Calling, with one win in 11 career starts. The No. 7 belongs to Red Zeus, who has earned $112, 426, running primarily at Turf Paradise in Phoenix with two starts locally, including a win at six furlongs his last out. He is owned by Peggy Hopwood and trained by Dan McFarlane.

Officer Alex drew the outside post. He has earned $163,000 running on the circuit between Churchill Downs and Oaklawn Park. He is trained by Lynn Whiting, who saddled Lil E. Tee, the winner of the 1992 Kentucky Derby.

So, there you have it, the lineup for the richest race in Canterbury Park history, a whopping $200,000 guaranteed and an opportunity for Lori Keith to top last year’s take.

“Oh, I can’t believe it,” she said. “I’m keeping my fingers crossed.”

Is superstition a genetic trait?

SHAKOPEE JUVENILE AND NORTHBOUND PRIDE OAKS

Both races offer $100,000-guaranteed purses.

The Oaks at a mile on the turf has been run in some form, fashion or name since 1985 and was won in 2012 by Soonerette, ridden by riding champion Tanner Riggs for Donnie Von Hemel.

$100,000 Northbound Pride Oaks & Morning Line Odds
PP Horse Trainer Jockey ML
1    Eden Prairie Neil Pessin Channing Hill 3-1
2 Kipling’s Joy Michael Stidham Dean Butler 9/2
3 Stoupinator Mac Robertson Alex Canchari 5-1
4 I’m Already Sexy Wayne Catalano Scott Stevens 4-1
5 Seeking Treasure Larry Dunbar Ry Eikleberry 10-1
6 Raising Dakota Tevis McCauley Luis Garcia 8-1
7 Kissmeimdanish Valorie Lund Derek Bell 8-1
8 American Sugar Kenneth McPeek Victor Lebron 6-1

Saturday’s edition has a field of eight, including the Ken McPeek-trained American Sugar, who is trying the grass for the first time and is 5-0-3 from 13 starts with earnings of more than $200,000. Robert Lothenbach’s Eden Prairie is 2-0-1 from six grass starts and earnings of $70,000-plus. Michael Stidham’s Kipling’s Joy is 2-0-3 from nine career starts, both wins on the grass, with earnings of $62,200.

I’m Already Sexy arrived from Arlington Park and has won twice from three turf starts, is three-for-six overall, and earned $81,141. Wayne Catalano trains. Locally-owned Stoupinator, trained by Mac Robertson, has hit the board three times in three turf starts and is 2-1-2 overall from six career starts with earnings of $76,000. Here’s a look at the field:

The Juvenile, for colts/geldings and fillies, is being run for the first time, at 7 and 1/2 furlongs on the turf and has attracted a field of nine boys.

$100,000 Shakopee Juvenile Field & Morning Line Odds
PP Horse Trainer Jockey ML
1    A P Is Loose Michael Biehler Lori Keith 6-1
2 Aft Michael Lauer Leandro Goncalves 8-1
3 Rumbauer David Van Winkle Ry Eikleberry 6-1
4 My Corinthian Dane Kobiskie Luis Garcia 7/2
5 Fling Orrin Cogburn Eddie Martin Jr. 12-1
6 Clarisimo Sandra Sweere Nik Goodwin 10-1
7 General Jack Michael Maker Victor Lebron 3-1
8 Chairman Crooks Tony Rengstorf Dean Butler 6-1
9 Pure Surprize Vic Hanson Jenna Joubert 10-1

Among those is a 2-year-old colt named General Jack, a Kentucky-bred son of Giant’s Causeway who is looking to break his maiden on Saturday after running second among maiden special weights for $70,000 at Belmont Park.

He had a bullet work in late June and is trained by Mike Maker who has made a habit of winning big races at Canterbury.

Aft, trained by Michael Lauer, broke his maiden last time out in Indiana. Lauer tried to run Aft on the lead his first out and finished second. He ran him off the pace in his second start with improved results.

My Corinthian has hit the board three times in three career starts and was the first of the shippers to arrive, stabling here on Monday. He is trained by Dane Kobiskie. He is 1-1-1 from three career starts and is 1-1-0 from two outs on the grass.

Mike Biehler will saddle A P Is Loose, who ran third in his first start, at Canterbury on July 11. Clarisimo, trained by Sandra Sweere, is another local horse who broke his maiden here on June 16. Dave Van Winkle will saddle locally stabled Rumbauer, who broke his maiden under Ry Eikleberry on July 11 in his second start.

Vic Hanson will send out Pure Surprize, a local juvenile who broke his maiden at first asking on July 14. Fling, trained by Orrin Cogburn, did not hit the board in two previous starts.

Curtis Sampson’s Chairman Crooks, named for the late leader of the Mdewakanton Community, is trying the grass for the first time. He broke his maiden first time out, on June 13.

Wagering Opportunities Abound

The three races will be run as races 6, 7 and 8 on the card with the Oaks leading off, followed by the Juvenile and then the 2nd running of the Mystic Lake Derby. Post times are 4:10 CDT, 4:40 CDT and the Mystic Lake Derby will go off at 5:12 CDT. The three races anchor Saturday’s late pick 4 which continues to feature a 14% takeout, among the lowest in the country. Additionally, the three stakes comprise an all-turf Pick 3 also featuring the same low takeout rate of 14%.

Check back here often to learn more about the participants for Saturday’s big races over the coming days.

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.

15,168 Enjoy July 3rd

TamarenoAlex Canchari was searching for ice in the jockeys room after the second half of the co-feature Wednesday night.

“What’s up?” someone asked.

“I’m trying to cool off,” said Canchari.

“Oh, wait a minute…” he added.

Yes, indeed, wait a minute. Canchari had just won three races in a row, including the Princess Elaine and Blair’s Cove stakes, each worth $50,000.

The hottest rider on the grounds was wiping perspiration from his forehead and looking for ice to stuff in his helmet. He reconsidered.

Three years ago, Canchari was selling tacos in the Cantina at Canterbury Park, having grown up in Shakopee, the son of Luis Canchari, who rode at Canterbury in the late 1980s.

“In all of the places you’ve raced have you ever ridden three winners in a row?” paddock analyst Angela Hermann asked Alex in the winners’ circle. “No, ma’am,” he said.

“Have you ever ridden two $50,000 stakes winners in a row?” she added. “No, ma’am,” Canchari repeated.

“Welcome home,” she said.

Canchari capped off his sterling afternoon (and early evening) on Ghost Dance, a six-year-old gray gelding who won two grass races late in the meet last summer, both allowance events.

“We’ve been thinking about this race since,” said winning trainer/owner Bryan Porter. “This is the race we’ve been pointing for.”

The race included Mack’s Blackhawk, third in last year’s race; Tubby Time, the defending champion, and Coconino Slim, the runner-up last year.

Ghost Dance ran down Mack’s Tiger Paw, Tubby Time and Coco Slim to give the Minnesota Kid (those words are emblazoned on the side of his pants) his third win on the card, with a winning  time of 1:40.86 for the distance. (Correction: an earlier version of this blog referred to the final time as a track record. In fact, Aroney had previously broken the track record for the distance at the meet running 1:40.83 on June 20. Therefore, Ghost Dance’s final time of 1:40.86 was not a new track record for the distance.)

A crowd of 15,168 was on hand for the annual card that concludes with fireworks. Many of them witnessed Canchari’s winning run on It’s Tamareno (pictured above), trained by Percy Scherbenske, in the Princess Elaine Stakes.

Scherbenske was concerned before the race about the distance, a mile and 1/16 on the turf, the same as its Blair’s Cove. Both were run on the grass.

Distance was not the issue afterward for Scherbenske. It was a question of surface. “She runs best on the grass,” he said.

Canchari, the Minnesota kid, heartily agreed after she split horses at the sixteenth pole to finish a head in front of Happy Hour Honey and another neck in front of Talkin Bout, with a time of 1:42.46.

The festive July 3rd crowd wagered $316,993 and an additional $861,768 was wagered throughout the country on Canterbury’s holiday card.

SUN SHINES FOR STORMY, BF FARM BOY

Stormy Smith knew exactly what he was getting into, or make that “on,” in the $22,900 Great Lakes Stakes Wednesday afternoon.

Smith had gotten on the horse, BF Farm Boy, a few days ago and liked what was beneath him during a morning work. “I also saw the horse race at Remington Park on May 12. He got beat a neck by Cold Cash 123 and that horse is something,” Smith recalled.

BF Farm Boy, breaking from the No. 2 hole, slipped badly on the break and the No.1 horse, Wagon Empire, got a decisive jump. Then BF Farm Boy got his feet back beneath him and ran down the leader to win in a (hand-time) 21:83.

Owned by Wade Siegel and Don Boyle and trained by William S Harris, BF Farm Boy recorded the sixth win of his 30-race career.

“We gelded him last fall and that seemed to help,” said Harris. “I had just told my wife how good the footing was and then he slips. But when he gets a chance to run he’s a darn good horse. As you saw.”

A Splash of Hell, ridden by Ry Eikleberry, was third. Cody Smith brought in Painted Lies for fourth.

DERBY WINNER STOPS AT CANTERBURY

Turn back to the first Saturday in May, 2009 and a winner named Mine That Bird, who arrived at Churchill Downs under the most unceremonious of conditions, having traveled 1,700 miles from New Mexico in a trailer attached to a pickup truck.

Something will remind trainer Chip Woolley of that unforgettable day on occasion and he’ll pull up a memory or two to mull over. “I can’t watch an entire tape of that day and race without getting a little emotional,” Woolley said. “I guess it’ll always be that way.”

As it should.

There is another memory he’d just as soon put behind him.

Woolley has been running a stable at Prairie Meadows the last three summers and likes to fish in his spare time. He likes to pursue the wily carp with bow and arrow. On a recent outing he had finished for the day and was heading back. “It was getting king of dusky,” he recalled. The heavy rains this year have increased water levels in many places, including the Des Moines River. “There are a lot of logs and branches,” he said. “You don’t want to run into one.”

Woolley encountered one on the return trip up-river, but the log turned out to be the body of a 35-year-old man and he reported the finding on the spot.

Woolley paid a brief visit to Canterbury in the 1980s, but is truly impressed with the facility this time around. “They’ve got something for everyone here,” he said. “How many places to get something to eat here… 30? l really like the place. There’s not another track like this.”

Unless, of course, it’s Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May and you’re leading a horse named Mine That Bird to the paddock.

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.

Tales of the Track

Brian Porter Stable 6-29-13Bryan Porter was passing out checks the other day and couldn’t find a payment from a former employer for his newest employee.

The problem was easily solved. Doug Myers is actually Charles Myers. Everyone simply calls him Doug.

Myers is from Louisville, Ky., and arrived in Shakopee with the Bobby Radcliffe barn. When Porter took over the barn a few days ago, Myers decided to stay on as a hotwalker.

Myers is a nephew to former world heavyweight champions Jimmy Ellis, his mother Mary’s brother, and grew up hanging out in the gymnasiums of Louisville, influenced by the boxing world and the horseracing world of his grandfather and father simultaneously.

His father was a jockey who turned to exercise riding at Churchill Downs when he outgrew the job, but he died when Doug was seven, a victim of suspicious circumstances never fully explained. “His billfold was missing when he was found,” Myers said. “They later found it in a garbage can.”

So young Doug grew up with a father figure, the future heavyweight champion of the world. “Jimmy was like a father to me,” he said. “He was like a brother, a best friend.”

Myers accompanied uncle Jimmy to the Louisville boxing gyms where a man known then as Cassius Clay was frequently encountered. Ellis and Clay fought twice as amateurs, each winning once. When they met as professionals, Ellis was stopped in 12 rounds by the same man, known then as Muhammad Ali.

Uncle Jimmy was part of what is regarded as the best heavyweight era of all time, an era that included a pantheon of heavyweight greats: Floyd Patterson, Ali, Joe Frazier, Jerry Quarry, Ken Norton, Earnie Shavers, Oscar Bonavena, George Foreman and George Chuvalo.

Ellis defeated Patterson in a controversial decision. He was knocked out for the first time in a title unification fight with Joe Frazier, having held the World Boxing Association title from 1968 to 1970.

“He took me under his wing with his own kids and tutored me,” said Myers. “To this day I have a lot of respect for that. In a lot of ways he made me who I am today, as far as respecting people and doing the right things. He had a lot to do with making my character.”

His uncle is suffering now from boxing dementia. “He has Alzheimer’s,” said Myers. “But this family intends to care for him. He’s not going into a facility. He doesn’t remember much, but he’s at home and at peace.”

Myers says his own boxing days extended only to amateur cards in Golden Gloves tournaments. “I was a flyweight,” he said. “I could throw punches in bunches.”

Myers has been in and out of horse racing jobs the past 15 years or so, taking an assignment as a groom or hotwalker here and there as the spirit moves him.

He has been hot-walking for Porter since joining the barn a few days ago.

“He seems happy with what he’s doing,” said Porter. “I really like him. He’s a class act. He is very positive and likes to motivate the younger guys. He’ll jump in and help out with something even if it’s not under his job title.”

Myers’ own riding experience extends no further than pleasure riding as a youngster. “Uncle Jimmy bought a Tennessee Walker for his wife, but basically I rode it more than anybody. That horse had five gaits and was about 17 hands. He was a big fellow.”

Ellis used to take the kids trail riding, Myers with them. “Jimmy and my dad were real close, too,” Myers said. “They used to rabbit hunt a lot and went to the track. My father liked to play the horses.”

Myers had never been to Canterbury Park before this summer and has mixed emotions about what he’s seen so far. He loves the people and their dispositions. The weather is another matter. “I could do without all this rain,” he said. “It seems to rain all the time.”

Nevertheless, he is pleased to be in Shakopee and working in the Porter barn.

“To me, this is like a vacation,” he said. “Horses are like athletes that have to be trained right. Then, it is interesting to see how things unfold.”

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.

Race of the Week – Stephen Foster

FortLarnedThe Downs After Dark card for Stephen Foster Saturday is a little light on numbers but long on star Power, with a competitive but compact feature. The Foster may not make you millions but it’s a heck of a race. The field’s earned nearly $10,000,000; with likely favorite or second choice Successful Dan ranking fifth in the group. THAT’s how good they are. Let’s take a closer look and bet from there.

Golden Ticket – He seems to be one of a couple in here entering with their local record in mind rather than current form. He’s sort of resting on his laurels as well, with the real claim to fame being a dead heat win in the Travers last summer alongside Alpha. Ken McPeek’s colt has hit the board in three of four at Churchill, with the elusive win coming last time around against optional claimers. The problem is that his last two wins have come at that level and at slightly shorter distances. While 1 1/8 miles is not out of his scope, at this level many distances are. He’ll need his A-game and then some in this spot but with a limited field and his home court in play, taking a shot isn’t the worst idea in the world.

Fort Larned – The Breeders’ Cup Classic winner, pictured above, is an easy one to find on paper although his race in the Oaklawn Handicap leaves something to be desired. How can one’s form reverse so drastically in so short a time?! Obviously he was cranked on March 9th, but winning without the jockey is still losing so it’s all for not. He likes Churchill just fine as well, and while he’s lost to a couple in here in front of the twin spires he became too good at the end of his four-year old year to leave out here. He’s very quick and versatile, but will the price be too short in a spot that’s not the eventual goal? The good news is that his off efforts don’t typically come often or in streaks, so expect a rebound here. Whether that’s good enough at this time remains to be seen. He’s the best horse in the race probably in the long run but this could be the time to catch him.

Ron the Greek – Is he up to it? When the answer’s yes he’s damn near impossible to hold off, but of his eight wins less than half have come in the past two years. Last year’s Santa Anita Handicap was one of the softer editions in this handicapper’s recent memory, and the classy Floridian capitalized. Conversely, that late kick of his was good enough to run down eventual horse of the year Wise Dan in the Foster, so what gives? He blew out a field of fellow state-breds in the Sunshine Millions to start his year, but would that margin have been so gaudy if Mucho Macho Man hadn’t thrown in the towel so abruptly? Certainly not. He’s pretty reliant on pace and the riders up front most likely will not be in too much of a hurry – Things will need to break just right for Ron’ and Lezcano but it’s not out of the question.

Take Charge Indy – Holy Alysheba! That race last time out on Derby day was a home run (replay below), but was it too much? Hard to find a horse that can top his career beyer with ANOTHER one, and that’s exactly what the royally bred son of A.P. Indy is being asked to do here. I liked him a lot Derby day but it’s hard to adorn the same confidence on him in this spot despite the field shrinkage. Rosie gave this horse an outstanding ride, and while he let a longshot take the lead from him on the inside they managed slow down some of the interior fractions before EXPLODING home to their six length win. He’s a big notch below if not kept in close attendance to the pace, but he should get a pretty cozy trip outside of Fort Larned as long as ‘Dan doesn’t come and mush him in the middle. I personally don’t think anyone has much room to regress in this spot and still compete, so I may let him come back to Earth and play him another day when the competition isn’t so stiff.

Pool Play – He, like Golden Ticket, is one not really entering off the attractiveness of his recent races. Take nothing away from Mark Casse, as he is a top-notch trainer and managed to bring Pool Play back from an injury that cuts many careers short. He managed to garner another graded win in last year’s Hawthorne Gold Cup, but that’s been his only win since 2011 with nary a sniff outside of it. It was only a six-horse field that day as well, but take that running line completely out of the equation and he really doesn’t fit all that well with this group. He’s eight, his stud career is looming, and without much outside of that Foster win to print in bold on his stallion register page he isn’t going to attract all that much attention. I don’t blame the connections for running in here (goodness, Farish has enough good horses to fill many graded races) but I won’t be using the Canadian.

Successful Dan – He has the biggest shoes to fill of any equine in this field, and this could be the best possible way to do it. With his little brother tasting defeat in this race at the hands of Fort Larned, could a better revenge story be written in a horse race? He’s another horribly fragile animal among friends here, but no one can take his “recent” form away from him. He’d won three of his last four but the grade one title has eluded him thus far. DQ’d from his Clark win in 2010, that was the last we saw of this half to the horse of the year until last spring. If the Alysheba is any indication of how this race will go, he’s the one to beat. He used his tactical advantage and versatility that day to top the eventual exacta in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, but then had the tables turned on him in Iowa. He and Fort Larned pick up the rivalry again today but this one’s prep could not have set up him up any better. Yes, it was not a quick race nor a taxing pace….but he managed to stay up and run his race. I’m guessing that Fort Larned has worked well leading into all of his wins AND losses, so I’ll believe the afternoon running over the morning hype. Watch for Leparoux to take it a bit more to the aforementioned runner early, and give us a great duel down the stretch.

Take your pick but don’t expect a price – This is just one you won’t want to miss!

This blog was written by Canterbury Paddock Analyst Angela Hermann. Angela Hermann serves as the Track Analyst for Hawthorne Racecourse in Cicero, Illinois and the summer of 2013 marks her third year in a similar capacity at Canterbury Park.

2013 Kentucky Oaks Preview

2013OaksIt’s been a fun spring in Chicago, but it’s good to be home. Derby week has come! The Kentucky Oaks field intrigues me even more than the Derby, and with the run for the lilies just a day away let’s glance at the field:

Silsita – Pletcher’s loaded hand comes into play immediately with the first horse into the gate, and she could be the longest of his shots. A game winner of the Bourbonette, she still has the big question mark of dirt on her profile. She has plenty of breeding to handle both the surface and the distance, but will see plenty of company where she wants to be on the front end as well. Gary Stevens’ hand could be forced from the inside and unless she’s developed a new fondness for closing the trip may be a tough one.

Midnight Lucky – The rookie of the field may have more potential than most – but is she ready to fire a lifetime best? She’ll need it to beat this group but she’s certainly earned the shot with career races one and two. The gray is bred on a very similar cross to a former Baffert star named Pussycat Doll, who excelled at distances between seven and nine furlongs. While her talent should get the extra ground, having to battle early and late on the inside may take some punch out of the filly down the stretch. Her better races may come down the road but the raw ability is there.

Beholder – The champion two-year-old filly has been campaigned beautifully leading up to this race. She could be the first in a while to complete this prestigious double but she’ll have to take her act on the road for the first time. Many of these are entering this race off their lifetime best figures/races, while she has been picking up steam in her spring campaign in that department. I question many horses leaving Santa Anita for any other dirt surface for the first time; while she’s more likely to handle the change than most I’ll still be interested to see how full the tank is at the 1/8 pole.

Unlimited Budget – She’s a rarity – An expensive purchase that’s paid dividends very quickly for the Repole Stable. Any other year she’d be the star of the show from Team Pletcher but with Dreaming Of Julia drawn into the same race her sparkling record has taken a slight backseat. She’s one of the more versatile runners in the field and has already handled this distance in victorious fashion. This is no four horse race like the Demoiselle, but note that the filly she beat that day made a laughing stock of the Ashland field a month ago. While Emollient did nothing against DOJ she also got that Grade 1 Ashland win a week later…..hmmmm.

Seaneen Girl – While she returns to the site of her greatest glory thus far, the form of that race hasn’t really panned out. A few will be on the Oaks undercard, but none are joining her in the big dance. Her last outing wasn’t bad, but drawing right next to the filly that beat her and trying to make up four lengths on a pretty level playing field may not work today. The addition of Rosie doesn’t hurt but she’ll need to take another pretty substantial step forward.

Princess of Sylmar – Had her hefty win streak snapped in the Gazelle, and like the runner immediately to her inside meets the filly that showed her defeat. She’ll be able to sit just off any speed duel that should develop in here but needs to show she can swim in the deep end after rattling through the inner track meet. This one was on the fence to even go into this race, and though she’ll be the best price of her life there are more enticing longshots in this field.

Pure Fun – She’d be a joy to have in your barn wouldn’t she? Turf, dirt, poly, females, males – Name it and she tries hard every time. After getting marooned from the outside slot in the Lexington against males, she returns to her own gender. She had a pretty good string of performances prior to the Lexington and gets Lasix for the first time in start 11. She needs a jolt in the speed figure department but is not out of the question if the speed melts down. She is one of only two left in the field that owns a win over the local strip as well.

Dreaming of Julia – She’s as consistent and classy as any in this field, but how can she not regress off that monster effort? Even if she does she’s still good enough, but the money should pour into this corner. She’s never much for value on the board and if you think she’s that much the best either single her or move on to the Derby card. Other than the GP Oaks though, she’s very much in line with the rest of these. Must use but beatable.

Rose to Gold – She has pretty much one gear lately, and that’s been good enough. She faces the same problem that a lot of the speedsters in here do though, and with her drawing so wide the biggest appeal will be the price. Borel will take his share of the action (as always at CD) but may not be enough to push this filly into single digits. She’s been the best purchase in the field, costing only $1,400 at auction while earning over $700,000 in only seven starts. There are some things to like but demand value with this one.

Flashy Gray – SCRATCHED

Close Hatches – This is one of the better examples of the depth of this field. An undefeated, Juddmonte-Owned and Bill Mott-Trained filly would almost never be set at 6-1 but she simply found a deep group. The numbers improve each time and her natural early lick has come out with more ground, and she’s proven she can handle more than one track. Princess of Sylmar looked primed to pass in the Gazelle but suddenly turned into second best in the stretch, as ‘Hatches found a new gear and simply powered away. This may be another in the field, though, with her best races ahead of her.

This blog was written by Canterbury Paddock Analyst Angela Hermann. Angela Hermann serves as the Track Analyst for Hawthorne Racecourse in Cicero, Illinois and the summer of 2013 will mark her third year in a similar capacity at Canterbury Park.

Main Track Training Begins

Main TrackNow that the snow has finally melted, the track crew has been feverishly pepping the main oval for use on Friday. The training track opened Wednesday mid-morning and traffic has been steady.

Roughly 140 horses are on site now with major loads expected to arrive this weekend. Hawthorne wraps up their spring meet Sunday and then the Chicago contingent, including the leading owner in the country Midwest Thoroughbreds, will begin to arrive.

Jockey agent Richard Grunder will handle business for Ry Eikleberry, fresh off a Sunland Park riding title, and Giovanni Franco, currently the leading pilot at Turf Paradise.

Demand for stall space is high. Some trainers were put on hold and none got the total number they asked for. It would be great to have 2,600 stalls at Canterbury but the fact is there are slightly less than 1,600 and they need to be filled with useful horses that fit the program here and are ready to run. It takes at least 10 to 12 weeks to get a horse ready to race so those that have been wandering around a pasture since September are light years from being ready. Demand for space is a good problem to have but it also means that some things need to change from an owner’s perspective.

Road to Kentucky Contest

Just two weekly contests remain in the 2013 Road to Kentucky Contest and both involve Churchill Downs.

The Derby Trial is Saturday. Not really a Derby prep but a good reason to hold a free contest. Twilight racing at Churchill with a 5pm first post. Entry cards will be available throughout the day however.

The final contest is of course the Derby Day card and that begins next Saturday at 9:30am.

Even though no fillies are expected to run for the roses, a glance at the Road to Kentucky Overall Leader Board shows distaff dominance. The top four players are female. I don’t have the stats but I would say women are outnumbered by a wide margin. Jessica Rau has a nearly 2,000 point lead over Linda Hernandez who is just in front of Nancy Sobkowiak and Heidi Snow. While Rau is not home and cooled out, she is in the driver’s seat for the trip to the National Handicapping Championship next January.

Advance wagering on the Derby and undercard begins the morning of Friday, May 3.

If you have a Derby horse already feel free to share it with the readers via a comment.

Road to Kentucky & A Trip (Not that Far) South

aqueduct_racetrack_logoThe Road to Kentucky passed through Fair Grounds last week. There was plenty of chalk for sure but two winners jumped up at huge prices. Race 2 featured a $99 winner and the double-point Risen Star saw the 135 to 1 Ive Struck a Nerve get up by a nose…. a cap horse worth 2400 points.

Only five players tabbed the unlikely bomb including weekly winner Ray Hassan who totaled 3770 points and won the $500 wagering account for the week. Hassan also hit Orb in the Gulfstream Fountain of Youth for another 396. Solid ‘capping.

“This horse was working out really well and needed one race to put it all together,” Hassan said. “I like to call this handicapping angle ‘A Coming into Form Race.’ I knew if this horse ran as Presser or a Closer he would run the other speed horses down. And he had enough speed to run with them. Switching to the jockey James Graham was beneficial. The odds were too generous on this horse.”

This week the R2K venue is Aqueduct. Eleven races in all including the double-point Gotham. The Battaglia Memorial from Turfway Park is tossed in for a little extra bonus action. Arrive by 11:30 and get your selections in. As always, entry to Road to Kentucky is free. We’re giving money away!

Let’s go to Angela Hermann for a look at the NY prep race:

The Gotham – She Said by Angela Hermann

It doesn’t seem a prep goes by anymore without mention of Todd Pletcher’s overwhelming favorite. His favorite in the Gotham, Overanalyze, drew the far outside post with a short run to the first turn. Of course I’ll try to beat him! I’m interested to see how Cohen decides to ride Escapefromreality, who had shown speed in all his lifetime starts but learned to harness it in the Withers. Only a huge effort from Revolutionary stopped the New-York bred from getting his picture taken, but his affinity for the inner track and cozy post should both help him in this spot.

Surprisingly no one in this field appears all that comfortable rallying from far off the pace, so the field may bunch coming around the first turn and cost outside runners valuable ground. In search of a closer one must look at Sky Captain, who ships in from Florida after deciding against the Fountain of Youth. Orb ran a big race, so this may have been the right move. Sky Captain got a pretty perfect trip last time, but it was his first try around two turns and he did not exactly give up.

Given the rounds most of these have gone against each other, he may be ready to swoop in and get a big piece from the outside. Overanalyze may just outclass the whole crew, but let’s give the tactical advantage to Escapefromreality. The barn had its best year to date in 2012 and is due to hit some luck this year.

Derby Future Wager

Pool 2 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager is offered this weekend. Bet it at Canterbury Park.

Live from Hawthorne

Perhaps a trip to Chicago for a winter getaway would not be the best of plans for the weather conscious as this weekend’s forecast rivals MN for low temps. But this isn’t about sitting on a beach. It is three days of live racing at historic Hawthorne Race Course. Real horses and jockeys in ski masks.

The first race meet at the Cicero track was held in 1891. The grandstand reeks of history – a structure that could not be built today and probably wouldn’t even if possible. This is a testament to the days when people actually went to the racetrack… in droves. The pre-OTB days. Racing was the king of sports.

The new Kentucky Derby points system left the G3 Illinois Derby out in the cold. Yes Churchill Downs Incorporated, the Derby is your race and can determine qualifiers as you wish but that was an act of pure spite and not in the best interest of racing. Arlington is a Churchill property and constantly at odds with Hawthorne. Instead of standing up for the industry and going to bat for Illinois, Arlington officials carried the water for the boys in Louisville. Tell me having a Derby prep in Chicago is not in the best interest of racing in the state. Many have written more elegantly than this blogger about the underhanded move but to summarize: it was a screw job. But I’m an outsider, what do I know?

Chicago Dining Tip

Johnnie’s Beef in Elmwood Park about eight miles from Hawthorne. Italian Beef Sandwich: Beef, Dipped , Hot. You’ll have it in your hands in a minute and can turn and eat it at a narrow counter immediately.

sandwhich

This blog was written by Canterbury Media Relations Manager Jeff Maday. Maday has filled multiple positions including Media Relations and Player Relations Manager since the track reopened in 1995.

Mystic Lake Derby Draws Field of Eight

The inaugural running of the $150,000 added Mystic Lake Derby on Saturday has drawn a field of eight including two participants that last raced at Woodbine Race Course, in Ontario, Canada and two others that made their most recent start at historic Churchill Downs. In total, the field is comprised of four shippers and four local hopefuls, all vying for the lion’s share of the largest purse since Canterbury Park reopened under new ownership in 1995.

The morning line favorite at 5/2 is Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey’s Gung Ho, the third-place finisher in the Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes (video replay below). The Ramseys are two-time winners of the Eclipse Award as the Nation’s Outstanding Owners. Gung Ho drew post four and is trained by Michael Maker, who ranks 10th in North America for races won in 2012.

North of Never, trained by Anthony Granitz and owned by Standlee and Shultz, exits an allowance victory at Churchill Downs following a fourth-place finish in the Arlington Classic. Willie Martinez will be aboard.

Hammers Terror and Delegation both ran most recently at Woodbine. Hammers Terror won the $100,000 Charlie Barley Stakes on June 23 before finishing fourth in the $150,000 Toronto Cup on July 14. Hammers Terror is owned by Terry Hamilton, trained by Michael Stidham and will be ridden by local rider Lori Keith.

Delegation, the other Canadian invader, is undefeated in two lifetime starts for trainer Mark Casse and owner Gary Barber. He’ll make his stakes debut on Saturday under jockey Jermaine Bridgmohan.

Tequila Factor leads the local contingent for trainer C. L. Wilson coming off a fourth place finish in the Brooks Fields Stakes and a third place finish in an open allowance. Leading rider Tanner Riggs has the call. Take Heart, with Derek Bell aboard, will bring a two-race winning streak into the race for Canterbury’s seven-time defending champion trainer Mac Robertson. Corporate Chapel for trainer Stanley Mankin and Why Frank for Canterbury Hall of Fame trainer Doug Oliver complete the field.

The purse, $162,000 if all entrants start, will make this race the richest since Canterbury Park re-opened under new management in 1995 and the largest purse in Minnesota since the 1991 Minnesota Derby (previously named the St. Paul Derby) was contested for $250,000.

The Mystic Lake Derby is the first significant co-promotional event since the historic $83.5 million cooperative marketing and purse enhancement agreement was reached on June 6 between Canterbury Park and the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community which owns and operates Mystic Lake Casino Hotel. The Mystic Lake Purse Enhancement Fund will contribute $100,000 to the purse of this race.

“The Mystic Lake Derby is an excellent example of what this cooperative agreement will do for racing,” Canterbury Park President Randy Sampson said. “This is the most significant race in Minnesota in over two decades and we anticipate it will become the most important race in the state’s history. We look forward to bringing this kind of high quality horse racing to our world class facility.”

Purses this season have increased by 35% since the agreement was approved by the Minnesota Racing Commission and will more than double when the purse enhancements are fully implemented over the next decade.

Mystic Lake Casino Hotel and Canterbury Park are located less than four miles from one another along Canterbury Road/Mystic Lake Drive in Scott County in the southwest corner of the Twin Cities metropolitan area.

The Mystic Lake Derby will be run as the seventh race on a ten race card. Post time for the Mystic Lake Derby is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. CDT. Racing begins on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. Admission is $5, children 17 and younger are admitted free and parking is free. The first 8,000 fans will received a free t-shirt.

Here’s the field for the inaugural Mystic Lake Derby with post positions and morning line odds:

PP Horse Trainer Jockey ML
1 Why Frank Doug Oliver Dean Butler 30-1
2 Hammers Terror Michael Stidham Lori Keith 3-1
3 Delegation Mark Casse Jermaine Bridgmohan 5-1
4 Gung Ho Michael Maker Malcolm Franklin 5/2
5 Tequila Factor C. L. Wilson Tanner Riggs 6-1
6 Corporate Chapel Stanley Mankin Scott Stevens 12-1
7 North of Never Anthony Granitz Willie Martinez 7/2
8 Take Heart Mac Robertson Derek Bell 8-1