Races Heat Up

Two Bayme -  08-15-13 - R02 - CBY - Inside FinishThursday’s card was the 51st of the meet.

So, let’s see now, that means there are 18 racing days remaining in this, the 19th meeting since racing resumed in Shakopee after a two-year-shutdown, under the name Canterbury Park instead of Downs.

Naturally, the focus on the leading rider, trainer and owner will draw increased scrutiny in these final days.

On Thursday night for instance:

The card got under way with Dean P. Butler holding a five-win lead over Alex Canchari, 47-42, in the rider standings. However, Canchari will begin a four-day suspension today that will have an impact on the final results. Next in line is Ry Eilkleberry who started the evening with 36 winners.

The fun began from there.

Eilkleberry won two races on the card, with Artistic Design in the first and Hannahslittleangel in the sixth.

Canchari, still on a tear that started two weeks ago, won the fourth race with Moonshine Promise at 9-1. Aha, but Butler took that one right back, winning aboard Ghost Skier in race five.

Meanwhile, Juan Rivera (pictured above on Two Bayme), struggling for wins this meet, rode two winners on the card,Two Bayme in race two and Supremo Struckgold in race seven, and has 10 for the meet.

The race for leading trainer, won by Mac Robertson since just before mud caulks were introduced to racing, actually every year since 2005, went unchanged at the top of the standings Thursday.

It looks like this: Mike Biehler leads with 28, followed by Robertson with 27 and Bernell Rhone with 26. Robertson, incidentally, needs five wins to reach 500 at Canterbury Park.

The top of the owner standings went unchanged, too: Midwest Thoroughbreds leads with 21 winners, followed by Al and Bill Ulwelling, champions in 2010 and 2011, with 20.


Hes Relentless continues to demonstrate he is just that – relentless. Once again, this two-year-old under the care of trainer Amber Blair has been impressive on the racetrack, this time posting the fastest qualifying time, 21.148, among the top five horses in heats Thursday at Ruidoso Downs for the All American Futurity.

Hes Relentless Race Replay


Thursday’s qualifiers will join today’s five qualifiers – the first time trials have been conducted over two days – in the Grade 1 $2.6 million All American on Labor Day. Fourteen trials were conducted Thursday and the same number will be run Friday.

Hes Relentless, running for R.D. Hubbard, Tom Maher and Johnny Cope was supplemented to the race for $50,000, as was Especially Tres, the second fastest qualifier on Thursday with a time of 21.191.

Hes Relentless was the fastest qualifier also for the Heritage Place Futurity on June 1, winning his heat by 4 ¼ lengths, at Remington Park and was sent off the favorite in the Futurity. He was beaten a head by Big Biz Perry, a 30-1 longshot. Big Biz Perry won one of Thursday’s trials for the All American but did not qualify for the final.

Other qualifiers on Thursday include Especially Tres, Handsome Jack Flash and Houdini. You N How Many More and Fly Thru The Fire finished tied Thursday with identical times of 21.27.  You N How Many More won a draw on Friday morning for the fifth and final spot in the All American Finals.


Lori Keith, describing her horse’s demeanor heading into the first turn of the $200,000 Mystic Lake Derby.

Dorsett, who would win the race handily, was relaxed, maybe too relaxed heading into the first turn. “It was like he was asleep,” recalled Keith. “I didn’t want to be too far back, so I gave him a little s-m-o-o-c-h.”

Wide awake, just like that. And then some.

Dorsett snapped to attention with such gusto, Keith decided on the spot that a reminder was probably not necessary. “I didn’t smooch to him again,” she said. “He just took off when I did that one time.”

Seis The Royal Cash, at 16-1, won the North Central Quarter Horse Futurity, breaking from the No. 1 hole. The rail had been fast earlier in the meet, evened out and then went back to the rail.

Thus, Vic Hanson sized up his horse’s win thusly:

“We drew well,” he said.

A youngster next to the winner’s circle spotted Israel Hernandez, all 5-foot-1 of him, heading down the steps after a race. “He looks like a real jockey,” he said.

Richard Grunder

Just after the fifth race on Thursday, a notice was posted on the screen next to the tote board wishing announcer Richard Grunder a happy birthday. A picture of Grunder, circa 1989, accompanied the message.

“I keep it from everyone in the racing office all day,” Grunder moaned, “and then it gets displayed on the big screen.”

The source of the leak? Julian Assange? Edward Snowden?

Grunder had some thoughts on the matter, but nothing firm enough to make an arrest.

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.

Blair Stable Flush with Talent

BlairStableWell, it was a week late in coming and the money wasn’t quite the same, but she’ll take it just the same. A win is a win after all.

Amber Blair got her stakes win on Saturday with BP Painted Lady in the Minnesota Stallion Breeders’ and North Central Derby. A nice stakes win in a $22,300 race, nothing to sneeze at.

The three-year-old filly was considered a shoo-in as the odds-on favorite and justified that confidence under Cody Smith.

Not bad at all.

Blair saddled a favorite named Hes Relentless (#7 in the video below) on June 1 at Remington Park, too, but got beat a head for the winner’s share by a 30-1 longshot named Big Biz Perry.

The race was the Grade 1 Heritage Place Futurity. The purse was worth $1 million as part of a $2 million card, the richest in Remington Park history.

Clearly the hoopla surrounding an event of that size was enough to cope with, but Blair also had the favorite in the race, which attracted additional attention.

“Obviously there had been a lot of hype about the horse. He was carrying a lot of weight (figuratively) that day. Our horse ran his race. The filly just left the gate a little sharper and got a jump on him. Two more jumps and he would have had her.”

Such is the stuff of horse racing, just like any other sport.

Hes Relentless is in Blair’s barn at Canterbury awaiting transfer in the coming weeks to the All American trials at Ruidoso. It’s likely he’ll make a stop at the thoroughbred farm managed by Amber’s father, Randy, in Oklahoma and travel later to New Mexico from there.

Hes Relentless is owned by Tom Maher and provided Blair with the biggest opportunity of her career. “It was bittersweet for sure,” she said. “We had never gotten to experience something like that. Nothing went wrong, I just guess that filly is very mature and prepped well.”

Blair is a regular at Canterbury Park. She finished third in the quarter horse standings a year ago and is back this season with the largest stable she’s had in Shakopee. “We have 30 head,” she said. That requires the help of four grooms and she probably could use a couple more.

Her father has been in the horse business his entire life, but Amber was planning on a different career for herself.

“He made me go to college,” she said, “so I had options, but I veered back to this.”

Amber considered a degree as a teacher in early childhood development, but wound up with an associated degree in science and agriculture. So, she does work in early development… in a way.

“I guess so,” she said. “Sometimes it seems like I’m running a daycare back there.”

Blair was born in Creston, Iowa, but her father went to work at a farm in Georgia when she was an infant and from there they moved on to Oklahoma, where she has been since.

The horse business started with her grandfather. “My dad’s dad was a horse trader. They had ponies and horses and broke them. I’ve always lived on a farm that he managed somewhere. I was born in Iowa and was there 30 days, just enough to have been an accredited Iowa-bred.”

So, she is an Oklahoman now, but a Minnesotan come summer, and is off to a solid start once again in Shakopee, picking up her second win of the meet in Saturday’s Derby.


Sunday’s 10-race card was cancelled after the third race when jockeys refused to ride due to what they deemed unsafe riding conditions. Several riders complained that their mounts were sliding around on the slick surface and were fearful that an accident was likely.

Jockeys met with track president Randy Sampson and other management in an attempt to resolve the issue. They wanted to continue riding but asked for some additional work on the track, hopeful of improving conditions.

Tractors worked over the track surface twice but the conditions were still deemed dangerous by the riders when the work was finished.


Canterbury Hall of Famer Sheila Williams reported that a heretofore untested handicapping tool worked marvelously for her on Saturday.

She referred, of course, to the Belmont Stakes.

The new technique? She called it the “Old Family Money” approach.

An explanation:

Well, she said, “Orb won the Kentucky Derby and is owned by the Phipps family, old money to be sure.”

“Then we had Oxbow, owned by Calumet Farm, win the Preakness Stakes.”

So, for Saturday’s Belmont Ms. Williams was all over Palace Malice, owned by Dogwood Stable and the 13-1 winner of the race.

This blog was written by Canterbury Staff Writer Jim Wells. Wells was a longtime sportswriter at the Pioneer Press and is a member of the Canterbury Park Hall of Fame.