By JIM WELLS
There was a heat advisory on Saturday as the area got a taste of what typically doesn’t occur until the depths of summer in the Twin Cities, yet even what Minnesotans refer to as oven-like was mitigated significantly by a stiff breeze.
It was warm, 95 degrees at 3 p.m. with a southwest wind of 20 mph and relative humidity in the comfort zone, 36 percent. But it’s all relative, isn’t it!
“I haven’t even broken a sweat,” said trainer Gary Scherer, whose weather at home in Louisiana is not only warmer but considerably more sultry.
“It’s a hot one, eh mate! Absolutely stifling,” said former jockey Mark Irving, a native of England.
Actually, not a bad day at all, especially for trainers, riders and anyone else from southern or southwestern parts of the country. “This is nice,” said Star-Tribune handicapper Johnny Love, who recently moved to Arizona.
It was under those conditions, with temps in the mid 90s and what was called by the chart crew at Canterbury Park a 40 MPH headwind that Stormy Smith kicked off Belmont Stakes day by riding the winner in the first of four stakes races on the card.
Orlando Mojica caught on quickly, grasping early that a rider had to save enough horse for battling that headwind in the stretch, a realization that helped him win two $50,000 stakes and finish second in a third. On this particular day, it was not only weather one could describe as hot.
$32,750 GOPHER STATE DERBY
The winning rider of the first race on the card had the eponymous first name for the day, Stormy. An exaggeration to be sure, but fitting somehow nonetheless.
Stormy Smith is from Purcell, Oklahoma, where big winds (we call them tornadoes) are quite common, so he had no trouble whatsoever dealing with the big headwind in this quarter horse 400 yard dash.
He was on La Mos Pyc for trainer Lori Harris and owner Thomas Scheckel and hit the wire a head in front of Lil Baby Eagle, who had a neck on Corona Springs, another Scheckel owned horse.
“She left (the gate) good, raced her butt off and ran a good race,” said Smith, who will stay another day in the Twin Cities. He has mounts in five of the Mystic Lake Northlands Futurity quarter horse trials on Sunday.
For the record, Smith’s account of the weather on Saturday was favorable. “I’d rather it hot than cold,” he said. “I’ve turned into a bit of wimp. Got too many (surgical) screws in me.”
$50,000 MINNESOTA TURF DISTAFF
The winning horse in this race has been knocking at the door, to paraphrase one of her owners, Tim Rosin. Saturday, the door opened.
With Mojica playing his cards expertly, he kept Some Say So (4-1) at the front of the race, monitoring his fuel reserves expertly, and created a leisurely pace that left plenty in reserve for a winning stretch run, finishing 1 ¾ lengths in front of First Hunter and 2 ¼ ahead of Honey’s Sox Appeal, the even money favorite.
The winning time was 1:29.85 after a half mile in :48.67.
The winner is owned by Wisconsinites Tim Rosin, Patti Miller and Mark Kane, who arrived in Shakopee full of confidence.
“We knew we had a live horse,” said Rosin. “We’ve been very close several times. Two weeks ago we lost (by a head) for $18,000.”
Some Say So made up for that on Saturday, collecting $30,000 as the winning share.
$50,000 DARK STAR CUP
Mojica had the winning strategy in the Turf Distaff, so why not try it again. He put Wings Locked Up at the front of a seven-horse field and kept the five-year-old gelding right there, took charge in the upper stretch and finished ½ length in front of Saturdaynitelites and 1 ½ ahead of Wabel, a ship in from Churchill Downs.
“If you have the lead in this headwind it helps, doesn’t it,” someone said to Mojica. “Yeah, but you have to have the horse,” he said. For the second straight time, Mojica had just that, finishing in 1:15.72
The win was stiff throughout the afternoon, and readily apparent to horse and rider as they turned into the stretch. “Oh, you could really feel it,” said Mojica. “You had to have a lot of horse.”
The winning trophy was presented in this instance by former Minnesota Twins manager Tom Kelly, who was a personal friend of Dark Star, the radio personality for whom the race is named.
$50,000 MINNESOTA TURF
For a couple of deep breaths, Jenna Joubert and Pennant Fever appeared headed for the winner’s circle at 34-1, a major upset in the making.
An instant later, A P Is Loose does what he generally does under such circumstances. He fired inside the 1/16th pole and finished a neck in front of surging Plenty of Sun who had the same margin on Pennant Fever at the wire.
“Oh, that was close,” said winning owner Joel Zamzow. “A great race.”
Butler, the winning rider, had this to say about A P is Loose. “He knows where the wire is. He’s done that every time I’ve ridden him.”
A P is Loose went off the 3/5 favorite and settled outside in the second flight, tracking pace-setting Pennant Fever, who gave up and then regained the lead.
But A P was running his typical race, picking off one horse when he came to him and then the next, finishing in 1:30.54.
LOVEBERRY DINES IN WHITE HOUSE
Jareth Loveberry started the day as the leading rider at Canterbury with 15 wins, two more than Orlando Mojica and defending champion Dean Butler.
Earlier in the week, you might recall, Loveberry and members of his family had dinner at the White House for a reception honoring Gold Star families, those who’ve lost someone in the military service.
Jareth’s brother, Justin, was killed in Iraq in 2004 returning from a mission. Alerted to a possible explosive, Justin exposed himself to the IED, saving some of his comrades in the process.
Monday, Jareth, his mother, stepfather, and three brothers were greeted by the President who thanked them and other families in attendance for their sacrifice and enjoyed a stand-up dinner that consisted of multiple entrees. “There was a lot of food, an awful lot of food,” Loveberry reported.
Among the items he recalled were watermelon salad, crab cakes, top sirloin, London broil, lamb chops.
“Oh, yeah, and desserts, too,” he added.
He didn’t gain an ounce. “They were tiny servings,” he explained.