Young horses are often a handful_ fractious in racetrack parlance. Difficult in the barn, or the paddock or the gate.

Now meet the morning line favorites for the $85,000 Minnesota Oaks and the $85,000 Minnesota Derby, Dazzlingsweetheart and Smooth Chiraz, a couple of three-year-olds who not only defy such descriptions but are quite the opposite.

“She’s a real sweetheart,” said Barry Butzow, who owns the Oaks favorite with his wife, Joni.

“He’s very kind and quiet. You don’t even know he’s in the barn,” said Francisco Bravo, trainer of Smooth Chiraz.

There’s a simple explanation for Dazzlingsweetheart’s easy-going demeanor. It’s a difficult assignment to unnerve a horse who experienced the worst and then some as a weanling.

She was in a barn that was destroyed by a tornado. “She should have died,” Butzow said, “but somehow she survived.”

Butzow said he choked up when he got this response from the breeders after purchasing this daughter of Dazzling Falls:

“You just paid for our new barn,” he was told by the breeders, Mary and Eric Von Seggern of Pilger, Nebraska.

“That tornado took their whole barn,” Butzow said.

If there is an equine equivalent for PTSD, Dazzlingsweetheart might have contracted it.  Regardless of the explanation, she was slow to mature and didn’t hit the racetrack until this year, her three-year-old season.

The Butzows sent her to Florida as a yearling, to a handler they use there. She wasn’t ready yet at age two so they held her back until May 21st this year when she broke her maiden in Shakopee. She won both of her starts thereafter, including the $60,000 Frances Genter Stakes her last time out.

She is 3-for-3, the only unbeaten filly in today’s race.

And that personality?

“We had 25 people at the barn last Sunday,” Butzow said. “A lot of kids. She simply loves kids.”

She loves winning, too, and is a 9/5 morning line favorite among eight rivals in today’s race, including Honey’s Sox Appeal, a 5/2 choice who ran second to the presumptive favorite in the Frances Genter.  Joe Sharp will saddle Dazzlingsweetheart today and Chris Rosier will ride.

Smooth Chiraz
Smooth Chiraz


Then there is Smooth Chiraz, a gelded son of Chitoz, who won the Victor S. Myers Stakes in commanding fashion the same afternoon the Frances Genter was run. This fellow is two-for-four this year and four-for six lifetime with earnings of $128,884.

“Usually a horse like this comes back from a workout and can be kind of mean to handle. He’s big and he’s strong, but he’s really mellow,” said Bravo.

The hotwalkers love this guy despite his size because of that attitude. “His mother (Memory Divides) was the same way, really easy going,” Bravo added.

Smooth Chiraz won the Victor S. Myers in his last out by seven lengths and will face some of the same competition today, namely Smooth Stroke and Pensador.

Despite his relaxed demeanor, there are specific occasions when his blood pressure rises.

There are times when you have to watch yourself around him. “The only time you have to be careful, ” Bravo said, “is when you are coming off the race track with him and he hears horses behind him. He either wants to run with them or away from them. He’s very competitive.”

Equally so at dinner time, or any other time for that matter. “He loves to eat,” his trainer said. “He eats constantly. But he sits back in his stall without a fuss.”

Chiraz, with Dean Butler in the irons, will be the favorite in today’s field of 11 for the Derby, and rightly so. Yet Bravo, naturally, is not taking anything for granted.

“Not ever,” he said. “You never know.”

Dazzlingsweetheart Attempts to Remain Undefeated in Saturday’s Minnesota Oaks

DAZZLINGSWEETHEART - Frances Genter Stakes - 07-04-16 - R06 - CBY - Inside Finish

Smooth Chiraz favored in MN Derby; Record purses offered to state-bred 3-year-olds

Dazzlingsweetheart, undefeated in three career starts, faces eight others in Saturday’s $85,000 Minnesota Oaks at Canterbury Park. The one mile and seventy yard race is restricted to state-bred fillies. The 3-year-old is owned by Barry and Joni Butzow of Eden Prairie, Minn. and is trained by Joe Sharp.

Dazzlingsweetheart will be ridden by Chris Rosier, who has been aboard for each of the three wins. Her most recent victory came in the six furlong $60,000 Frances Genter Stakes when she found the early lead and drew off to win by more than three lengths. While she has already defeated six in the Oaks’ field, and has been installed as the 9 to 5 favorite on Saturday, this will be uncharted territory as she attempts her longest distance yet.

“I think she can get there,” said Rosier, a veteran jockey who rode in the 2009 Kentucky Derby. “She doesn’t need to be on the front. She just ended up there last time. She races best when covered up.”

Saturday’s Minnesota Oaks and co-featured Minnesota Derby, both being run for the 28th time, offer record purses of $85,000.

Smooth Chiraz, the 6 to 5 favorite in the Minnesota Derby, has won four of six career races and $128,884 in purses. He captured last season’s top prize, the Northern Lights Futurity, and this year won the Victor Myers Stakes by a commanding seven lengths. Smooth Chiraz also tries a two-turn race for the first time. The 3-year-old will be ridden by leading jockey Dean Butler and is trained by Francisco Bravo.

First post for the 10-race program is 12:45 p.m. The Derby and Oaks will be run as the seventh and eighth races.

Canterbury also will be hosting a new event dubbed Corgis & Cupcakes. Six corgi exhibition races with a total of 72 dogs will be held on the main track between horse races. A final race featuring the top two dogs from each heat will be held after the eighth horse race. There will also be nine Twin Cities’ bakeries selling cupcakes and other baked goods.

General admission is $7 for adults; children 17 and younger are admitted free. Parking is also free. More information is available at .


Smooth Chiraz, Dazzlingsweetheart win stakes


SMOOTH CHIRAZ - Victor S Myers Stakes - 07-04-16 - R04 - CBY - Finish


The joy of winning a race can sometimes be enough including as it does validation of a job well done. The monetary reward that goes with it is additional compensation for the investment of time and money, and sometimes there is even more.

Take the case of Francisco Bravo, the trainer of Smooth Chiraz, Monday’s convincing winner of the $60,000 Victor S. Myers Stakes Monday, named for the late veterinarian who played various roles in the early years of Minnesota racing.

The victory was special to Bravo for additional reasons. While studying at the University of River Falls in the 1970s, Bravo met Myers, who was part of the equine program there. “He became a mentor to me and we became friendly,” Bravo recalled. “I learned a lot from the man.”

Special indeed, how lives sometimes overlap, drift apart and are then reconnected, even in a spiritual way as was the case Monday with Bravo, who saddled his third winner of this race. He saddled last year’s winner, Hold for More, who was selected Horse of the Meet, as well as 2000 winner Crocrock

Smooth Chiraz, winner of the Northern Lights Futurity by a head over Cupid’s Delight last year, expanded that margin to seven lengths Monday over the same stablemate, who finished ¾ length in front of front-running speedster Bar fight.

Smooth Chiraz beat only one of his six rivals out of the gate but was a half length behind Bar Fight at the half-mile marker and, gathering steam, was 2 ½ in front at the top of the lane and steadily increased the lead in the stretch run.


DAZZLINGSWEETHEART - Frances Genter Stakes - 07-04-16 - R06 - CBY - Finish


Dazzlingsweetheart typically takes charge shortly out of the gate and can then go to the lead and stay there. Imagine what she might do if she learns how to break cleaner and quicker.

Not that she needs to, at least not yet.

After all, she is three-for-three after winning this $60,000 Stakes race in convincing style on Monday.

With Chris Rosier in the irons, Dazzlingsweetheart beat only one other filly out of the gate but was at the head of the seven-horse field quickly and lead thereafter, finishing 3 ¼ lengths in front of Honey’s Sox Appeal and another 1 ¼ lengths ahead of Stella’s Princess.

The winning time was 1:09.95, second fastest in this event that was first run in 1988.

“She got away a little slow from the gate,” said Rosier, “but she made up for it quickly.”

The winner is owned by Barry and Joni Butzow and trained by Joe Sharp. Barry Butzow complimented Rosier’s resilience, his ability to deal with the “ups and downs” of horse racing with composure.”


Paul Nolan won the riding title at Canterbury Park in 2006 and is frequently cited for his victory in the 1997 Lady Canterbury Stakes aboard 32-1 longshot K Z Bay.

After an absence of several years from Shakopee while riding in other jurisdictions, Nolan planned to ride the entire meet at Canterbury this summer until an accident curtailed that plan.

He was galloping horses for Michael Stidham at the time and while grazing a filly one morning was kicked in the chest, a blow that broke two of his ribs.

On Monday, Nolan returned to the saddle with one mount, a filly named First Hunter trained by the meet’s current leading trainer Mac Robertson and bred and owned by Joel Zamzow of Duluth.

FIRST HUNTER -  07-04-16 - R05 - CBY - 001 Post Race

You might recall a filly named Hunter’s Tiger Paw from year’s past, a horse named by Zamzow’s daughter Hunter who was five at the time. That horse is the dam to First Hunter and Hunter the daughter, who’ll shortly turn 15, was on hand in the winner’s circle after the fifth race.

Track announcer Paul Allen made the crowd aware of Nolan’s special connection to Canterbury in the winner’s circle after the race, and the rider, happy but a bit winded, was clearly pleased by the reception.

First Hunter has had trouble switching leads and Mac explained that to Nolan when he worked the horse the other day.

Sure enough, she balked at switching in Monday’s race.

When Nolan gave her a stern request, she at last replied, breaking to the lead and the win. “Without that, she doesn’t win,” Nolan said.

The race was for Minnesota-bred maidens at a mile and 70 yards on the turf. Thus,  First Hunter collected her first win, Nolan got a reintroduction to Shakopee racing and the Zamzow family returned to Duluth on a happy note.


Owner Jeff Hilger was discussing his horse, Bar Fight, a son of former Horse of the Year Chick Fight, shortly before the Victor S Myers Stakes.

“He has amazing speed. He could beat some quarter horses,” Hilger remarked, adding that he was probably best at quarter horse distances, too. “He goes right to the front. Now we have to figure out how to keep him there through the whole race.”

“He had such a big lead in his last race that nobody could catch him,” Hilger said. “But he almost collapsed at the finish line.”

Bar Fight went straight to the lead on Monday, too, and hung on for show money.