On a day when Minnesotans were still coming to terms with the loss of Justin Morneau, news came about the death of former heavyweight champion Tommy Morrison, that Diana Nyad had at long last accomplished her life-long dream, and that Oscar would indeed defend his title.
Call him by his appropriate appellation, Dachshund, or by the folksier designation, Wiener Dog, it doesn’t seem to matter to Oscar or others of his ilk.
They come to Canterbury Park each year to race, and the crowds follow them like groupies do a rock band, annually giving the racetrack one of its largest crowds of the season.
Oscar was simply unbeaten and the defending champ in the Wiener Wars, having won five titles and two in a row.
Alas, on any given Labor Day afternoon…
Duke carried the day. Only fourteen months old, Duke trained in the backyard of his home in Vadnais Heights. Owned by the Wrona family – Sonya, Mike, Michael and Nicole – Duke got a great break from the gate and finished a length in front of the defending champion. Oscar dwelt in the gate but managed to overtake every other starter in the field except for the winner.
“He’ll be back. He’s not finished at all,” said owner Chrissy Bitterman.
As for Duke, he trained primarily by running in the Wrona’s backyard for food rewards.
His victory reward was something he had never had before. “He’s going to get a tiny piece of hotdog,” said Sonya.
Will he defend his title next summer?
“Probably, if we’re not at the lake,” said Michael.
Six heats throughout the card on Sunday determined the 12 qualifiers for the championship race which was held after the seventh horse race of the day.
Aspen, owned by Jake and Justine Launert of St. Louis Park, qualified first in the third heat. Aspen’s training diet consisted of bacon and cheese stuffed burgers. He trained with the boxer next door.
Justine knew exactly what to expect in the final, or at least thought she did. Oscar was indeed the dog to beat in her view.
Bikini was the second qualifier from the same heat and is owned by Ashley Lembke of Northfield. His training regimen? Well, he’ll clean the cat box out if Ashley doesn’t stop him first. But he also sits on a miniature pony while his owner leads him around.
Then, of course, there was Charlie Brown, a qualifier from heat No. 2. Charlie is owned by Dustin and Crystal Brown and beefs up on bologna twice a day, at 9 a.m. and again at 9 p.m. He was in the finals last year.
Frank, owned by Jessie Bentz of Eden Prairie, qualified first out of heat 5. Frank’s idiosyncrasies? He likes to chase squirrels and doesn’t care for the Fedex or the UPS men. He also came out of retirement for one last shot after running in 2006 and 2007.
Kirby was the first qualifier out of heat 6. Owned by Christina Ingracia and Ryan Timboe of Minnetonka. He likes to chase frisbees and hoped to give Oscar a run for his money. Other qualifiers included Philly, owned by Mike Linnemann and Emily Gage, and Bosco, owned by Brittany and Jon Voigt.
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.