Heliskier & Happy Hour Honey Win Stakes

Sometimes life is fair. Sometimes the world spins on its axis, like a giant roulette wheel, and the numbers come up just right. Yes, Virginia, there is a God!

You can’t debate any of those propositions after Saturday’s stakes races for Minnesota-bred horses. Not only were these state-breds running for $50,000, as they once did, there were results that brought congratulatory wishes of the sincerest form from even the also-rans.

How can anyone be displeased about a Paul Knapper-owed horse winning the Frances Genter Stakes. How can anyone feel anything but joy for Marlene Colvin, whose Heliskier (pictured above) put on another commanding performance to win the Victor S Myers Stakes.

Knapper has been part of the Canterbury scene since 1985 and the state racing industry years before that, as primarily a quarter horse breeder and owner. He was part of the effort that brought racing to Minnesota in the first place, and Saturday his one and only thoroughbred in training got up in the final jumps to claim a check for 30 grand. Knapper owned and bred the horse with Bob Lindgren, who celebrated his first stakes victory while Knapper celebrated the biggest win of his career.

Joking in the paddock before the race, Kapper kidded about their horse, Happy Hour Honey, and the naming process. “She’s so happy and always has been,” he said. “Besides that, Bob’s never missed a happy hour.”

Dean Butler was aboard Happy Hour and hit the pedal on her in the final 1/16th to finished 1 and ¾ lengths in front of Go Go Jill and Scott Stevens. It was another length back to 3-2 favorite Keewatin Ice.

“I almost started to cry (in the winner’s circle),” Lindgren said.

“I probably will when I see the replay,” Knapper added.

By Leroidesanimaux out of A J’s Honey, Happy Hour Honey is now 2-1-2 from six career starts and has a 50 grand career bankroll after the win. “She’s a very well-bred horse,” said trainer Bernell Rhone, “and had the high speed in a speed race. She didn’t break well, but got her feet under her.”

Which was Knapper’s immediate concern as he watched the break. “She broke flat-footed and her head came up,” he said. “She usually goes right out to the front.”

It was a three-horse race in the stretch run, with Happy Hour Honey, Go Go Jill and Keewatin Ice nearly shoulder to shoulder, until Happy Hour stretched out and took charge.

Shortly after the race, Knapper, his wife, Melita, her son, Joe, and grandson Peyton gathered near a television monitor. Peyton, 18 months old, already rides some of the horses in from pasture, bareback. Melita displayed a picture of him at Canterbury, Daily Racing Form in hand. “He’s addicted,” she said.

There was a more pressing concern at that precise moment, however.

“He needs his diaper changed,” she said.

Then there was Heliskier, the most remarkable state-bred horse in years, simply toying with five rivals. Marlene Colvin stood in the paddock before the race, analyzing her horse’s merits. He was the last horse bred and broken by her late husband, Robert, or “Bun” as the world knew him.

“This is really bittersweet,” she said, shortly before Derek Bell climbed aboard her horse. Bun died a year ago last Dec. 10 after telling his wife he just might postpone retirement to train the horse. The next month she sent the horse to long-time friend Mac Robertson in Hot Springs, Ark., to begin his training on the track.

He won by four lengths in 1:09 and 2/5 Saturday without Bell so much as touching the whip. “He just gallops out there,” Bell said “He does everything so effortlessly.”

Heliskier is now 4-for-4 and inspired so much confidence that someone plopped down over $150,000 grand to win in the final click on the tote board, bringing the win pool to a Canterbury Park first $224,795. Officially, Heliskier was 1-20.

Bell recalled something the horse’s breeder said about his final thoroughbred. “He said he was the best one he’d ever been on,” Bell said.

Marlene looked skyward in the winner’s circle. “He’s still telling us that,” she said.

WIENER DOGS GET THEIR DAY

After getting washed out – more exactly, mudded out – last week, the Wiener dogs got their qualifying heat in on Saturday’s card and the winner was…

Roxy Glamour Princess, owned by Kim and Layne Poppovich of New Richmond, Wis., weighs 13 pounds and is 21 inches long. “Roxy isn’t afraid of competition,” Kim said as part of her owner insight. “When she isn’t modeling clothes, she wrestles her 85-pound German Shorthair brother.”

Saturday, she “wrestled” a field of nine opponents. The second place dog was Charlie Brown, a seven-pound, 14-inch model owned by Dustin and Crystal Brown of Appleton, Minn.

Saturday’s top two advance to the final on July 4. Four more qualifying rounds are scheduled for Sunday.

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.

Dean Butler – The Pro

He’s not apt to give you a high five, a slap on the back or rap knuckles with you. It is often difficult to gauge just what’s stirring within him because his usual demeanor is that of a focused, take-charge individual.

To Dean Butler, the horse racing business is all business. There is no drama, no changes of direction, no ifs, ands or butts.

“He’s very professional, doesn’t miss anything. He’s not a guy you have to worry about missing an appointment,” said Pete Antonucci, Butler’s agent for the fifth consecutive meet at Canterbury.

Of course, it might be argued that Butler, 41, is exactly the kind of rider his agent represents. Antonucci had the book for Donna Barton and Luis Quinonez at one time, riders with very similar work ethics.

Butler’s professional attitude, work ethic and talent set him upon a successful pattern well before he made the decision to skip Ellis Park and head to Canterbury Park in 2006, where his father-in-law, Bernell Rhone, had a stable of 50 horses.

He married Rhone’s daughter, LeAnn, the year before, and she was carrying the first of their two daughters, Kayleigh, when they arrived in Shakopee.

Butler, now in his 20th season as a rider, already had credentials when he hit Shakopee, having won four riding titles at Philadelphia Park and one at Atlantic City.

There were 10 riders in front of him when he finished the 2006 meet in Shakopee with 25 wins. He finished fifth the next year with 39 wins and was third in 2008 with 70 winners. He won his first title in Shakopee the following season with 72 wins and won the next two meets with 76 and 83 wins.

Bernell Rhone would have told you at one time that he didn’t relish the notion of his daughter living the nomadic life of a race-tracker, but two granddaughters, Kayleigh and Kendall, in the last five years have clearly softened if not eliminated that concern completely.

And the trainer, who uses his successful son-in-law frequently in races, doesn’t dislike the business side of the relationship either.

“This has been profitable for both of us,” he said.

Everybody in the Rhone barn, for that matter: Rhone’s wife, Cindy, the barn manager; LeAnn, who gallops and helps run the operation. The Rhones’ son Russ is a farrier with substantial business at the racetrack.

The Butler girls get an early start to the day. They are up at 5 a.m. and it’s off to the babysitter’s shortly thereafter. After he finishes galloping for the morning, their father picks them up between 9:30 and 10 a.m. at a nearby barn and they rejoin the Rhone clan. ”

Butler’s work ethic might account for his serious countenance, at least part of it. “He’s thinking all the time,” Bernell said. “He thinks a lot, keeps track of horses and makes mental notes for the next trip. He can remember what a horse did three weeks earlier and he can tell you what happened in the race.”

That library of knowledge might be limited to fewer racing domains in the coming seasons.

Typically, Butler will head to Remington Park after the Canterbury meet and then to Tampa Bay Downs. Now, the deal with Mystic Lake and the possibility of a longer race meet in Shakopee has the Butlers hopeful of altering their lives to a two-track schedule: Canterbury summers and early autumn, Tampa Bay in the winter months.

Dean and LeAnn met on a blind date in 2003 and clicked from the start. Butler describes the meeting as one of the truly fortuitous events in his life. “I’ve been very lucky,” he said. “I met the love of my life, we have two great kids…”

The list, of course, goes on and on. He didn’t even get to the subject of winning riding titles, of perhaps winning his fourth straight this summer. There is simply too much business to take care of before that can take place.

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.

Photo Credit: Coady Photography

Dean Butler – The Pro

He’s not apt to give you a high five, a slap on the back or rap knuckles with you. It is often difficult to gauge just what’s stirring within him because his usual demeanor is that of a focused, take-charge individual.

To Dean Butler, the horse racing business is all business. There is no drama, no changes of direction, no ifs, ands or butts.

“He’s very professional, doesn’t miss anything. He’s not a guy you have to worry about missing an appointment,” said Pete Antonucci, Butler’s agent for the fifth consecutive meet at Canterbury.

Of course, it might be argued that Butler, 41, is exactly the kind of rider his agent represents. Antonucci had the book for Donna Barton and Luis Quinonez at one time, riders with very similar work ethics.

Butler’s professional attitude, work ethic and talent set him upon a successful pattern well before he made the decision to skip Ellis Park and head to Canterbury Park in 2006, where his father-in-law, Bernell Rhone, had a stable of 50 horses.

He married Rhone’s daughter, LeAnn, the year before, and she was carrying the first of their two daughters, Kayleigh, when they arrived in Shakopee.

Butler, now in his 20th season as a rider, already had credentials when he hit Shakopee, having won four riding titles at Philadelphia Park and one at Atlantic City.

There were 10 riders in front of him when he finished the 2006 meet in Shakopee with 25 wins. He finished fifth the next year with 39 wins and was third in 2008 with 70 winners. He won his first title in Shakopee the following season with 72 wins and won the next two meets with 76 and 83 wins.

Bernell Rhone would have told you at one time that he didn’t relish the notion of his daughter living the nomadic life of a race-tracker, but two granddaughters, Kayleigh and Kendall, in the last five years have clearly softened if not eliminated that concern completely.

And the trainer, who uses his successful son-in-law frequently in races, doesn’t dislike the business side of the relationship either.

“This has been profitable for both of us,” he said.

Everybody in the Rhone barn, for that matter: Rhone’s wife, Cindy, the barn manager; LeAnn, who gallops and helps run the operation. The Rhones’ son Russ is a farrier with substantial business at the racetrack.

The Butler girls get an early start to the day. They are up at 5 a.m. and it’s off to the babysitter’s shortly thereafter. After he finishes galloping for the morning, their father picks them up between 9:30 and 10 a.m. at a nearby barn and they rejoin the Rhone clan. ”

Butler’s work ethic might account for his serious countenance, at least part of it. “He’s thinking all the time,” Bernell said. “He thinks a lot, keeps track of horses and makes mental notes for the next trip. He can remember what a horse did three weeks earlier and he can tell you what happened in the race.”

That library of knowledge might be limited to fewer racing domains in the coming seasons.

Typically, Butler will head to Remington Park after the Canterbury meet and then to Tampa Bay Downs. Now, the deal with Mystic Lake and the possibility of a longer race meet in Shakopee has the Butlers hopeful of altering their lives to a two-track schedule: Canterbury summers and early autumn, Tampa Bay in the winter months.

Dean and LeAnn met on a blind date in 2003 and clicked from the start. Butler describes the meeting as one of the truly fortuitous events in his life. “I’ve been very lucky,” he said. “I met the love of my life, we have two great kids…”

The list, of course, goes on and on. He didn’t even get to the subject of winning riding titles, of perhaps winning his fourth straight this summer. There is simply too much business to take care of before that can take place.

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.

Photo Credit: Coady Photography

Week 1 in Review (Stats & Trends)

If you were able to attend the races on Friday and Saturday, you saw a series of front running winners over a fast track which is not unusual early in the meet. After the storms moved through on Saturday night, the track played a bit more evenly on Sunday as off-the-pace runners held their own.

Opening night produced a wide variance in Pick 4 payoffs, as the early Pick 4 returned a chalky $37.55 for 50-cents and the late Pick 4 was a pool sweeping $8,237.90 for 50-cents. Thanks to the reduced takeout on the Pick 4 this year, that lucky winner received an additional $862.10 over what it would have paid last year! More good news for Pick 4 players: all six Pick 4 payoffs were overlays compared to the win parlays of the sequence. The overlays ranged from 9% to 93% above the win parlays. Keep playing that Pick 4 at Canterbury Park!

Jockeys Juan Rivera (Rivera aboard Bet Your Boots in the 10,000 Lakes Stakes above) and Dean Butler led all riders with 4 winners. Trainer Tony Rengstorf saddled three winners to get off to a nice start.

I talked about Post 1 in my Canterbury preview last week. The rail post got off to a bit of a slow start the first weekend with only three winners, but they were all good prices and produced a break even ROI for the three days.

Here’s another angle that might be worth following, and a few facts and figures from opening weekend…

The Beaten Favorite Angle

This is an angle that involves wagering on any runner who was a beaten favorite in their last start. There were 14 such runners over the weekend at Canterbury and seven of them were victorious. That’s a 50% strike rate and the angle returned $2.29 for every dollar wagered.

Winners Previous Start

Horses shipped to Canterbury Park from across the country. Here’s a breakdown of the major tracks horses shipped from, and how they fared on opening weekend:

Prairie Meadows: 5 winners from 28 starters. ROI 0.89

Hawthorne: 3 winners from 15 starters. ROI 0.55

Canterbury (2011 meet) : 3 winners from 51 starters. ROI 0.63

Oaklawn Park: 2 winners from 11 starters. ROI 1.96

Turf Paradise: 2 winners from 19 starters. ROI 0.26

Fonner Park: 2 winners from 21 starters. ROI 0.86

Slow Starting Stats

First time starters went 0 for 13 on opening weekend. Related to that, horses running on Lasix for the first time went 0 for 15. And horses with Morning Line odds of 10-1 and higher were only 1 for 50 during the first three days. Things to keep in mind…

This blog was written by Canterbury Regular “The Oracle”. The Oracle is a longtime Minnesota race fan that has handicapped Canterbury’s races religiously for more than 20 years. He writes about handicapping and statistical trends in Canterbury’s races.

Photo Credit: Coady Photography

Local Stakes & Preakness Elicit Excitement

Now the conjecture begins. Not since Affirmed outdueled Alydar in 1978 has horse racing had such potential for history to repeat itself… or not. The similarities are certain to be pointed out ad infinitum, even ad nauseam, in the coming days, right up to post time for the Belmont Stakes if both horses do indeed run.

If you liked the Kentucky Derby, you had to love the Preakness Stakes on Saturday. Visions of the great Triple Crown rivalry danced through the minds of anyone even vaguely familiar with that wondrous summer. Another year, Alydar likely would have been a Triple Crown champion, outdueled in each of the classics by Affirmed.

Now the scene is set for I’ll Have Another to do the same to Bodemeister. There is little doubt that those two horses are clearly at the front of the three-year-old crop this season right now. The Kentucky Derby finish left the racing public wondering if Bodemeister had simply outrun himself with blazing fractions, that I’ll Have Another took advantage of a tiring horse. Bodemeister had the front end to himself with a fractions more to his liking on Saturday and I’ll Have Another caught him once again.

A shot in the arm for racing?

“This is fabulous,” said Canterbury Park president/CEO Randy Sampson. “This might be the year things finally go our way.”

“This is the difference between 6,500 and 16,000 (fans) on Belmont Day,” said Canterbury announcer Paul Allen.

Comments of this nature are always difficult to pry from Media Relations director Jeff Maday.

“It was a good race. The best Triple Crown race of the day,” he said.

Who knows, Bodemeister might take the Belmont Stakes off. But for the immediate future, racing seems to be very, very healthy.

Preakness Stakes Saturday brought out a large number of colorful dresses and wide-brimmed hats. No group resplendent in such attire was any more festive than the group of young ladies gathered in the winner’s circle after the first race to celebrate the upcoming marriage of Danielle Theobald, to become Ellingson, she pointed out, on June 16 in Rochester.

She and 13 of her friends – six of them part of the upcoming wedding party – used the big day in racing as their bachelorette shindig and got the ball rolling minutes after three-time riding champ Dean Butler got his second win of the season, this one aboard Gone Digital.

Butler’s silks caught the attention of one of the bachelorettes, adorned as they are with the emblem of the owners, Hector Bulldog Partners.

“My boyfriend has a tattoo of a bulldog that looks just like that,” she said. “Could you let me get a picture.”

The Canterbury riding champ obliged, delaying his exit from the winner’s circle.

When a bystander commented on the bevy of attractive women surrounding him after the photo was taken, Butler rolled his eyes and headed for the jockeys’ room.

Canterbury’s defending riding champ got started with a win in the next to last race on Friday’s season-opening card. He followed up Saturday by winning aboard Gone Digital, trained by Tony Rengstorf.

So, Rengstorf has three wins for the season, a most auspicious start he refuses to let go to his head.

“Come see me in two hours,” he said, well aware of the vicissitudes of his sport. “I learned about that a long time ago.”

Veteran Hall of Fame rider Scott Stevens continues to make his presence felt. He had a winner on opening day and was aboard Downtown Delight for trainer Michael Biehler in race two on Saturday.

Stevens set a goal for himself a year or two ago of riding at least one winner a day as his riding career ostensibly winds down. “So far, so good,” he said Saturday behind wide grin.

“I just need more business now. I only have one mount tomorrow.”

BUTLER MINES HIDDEN GOLD

The $35,000 Lady Slipper stakes was a three-horse race until the 16th pole. Then Butler elicited the coup de grace kick from defending champ Hidden Gold (pictured above), who drew off to a solid 1 ¼ length victory over Sheso Dazzling with Polar Plunge claiming third.

“It was a great race,” said trainer Francisco Bravo. “I thought it came down to one of three horses, and we were the ones today. Dean gave the horse a great ride, terrific.”

Ann Sachdev owns the horse with Bravo’s wife, Lori. Ann’s husband, Sunil, provided another explanation for the victory.

He stood in the very same spot during the race that he did a year ago when Hidden Gold won.

“Superstition. That’s what did it,” he said.

Kayleigh Butler could have cared less. Her father had won the stakes race and she jumped into his arms for the winning photo in front of a crowd of more than 8,000.

2012 Lady Slipper and 10,000 Lakes Stakes Replays

THESE BOOTS ARE MADE FOR WINNING

Bet your Boots could have used some comfortable slippers after last year’s 10,000 Lakes Stakes. He got sore feet and needed some intensive doctoring to get right again for the race.

Saturday, it appeared that his feet were just fine and that he was in fact right again.

With Juan Rivera up, Bet Your Boots dug deep to finish a half-length in front of the 2010 winner of the 10,000 Lakes, with Samendra claiming third.

Owner-breeder Richard Bremer had terse instructions for Rivera. “Whatever you do, don’t give up the rail,” Bremer said.

Rivera hugged the rail as if it were a long-lost relative, and the son of Birdstone did the rest.

“His feet were so tender after last year’s race that he needed some rest,” said Bremer. That was last May 11, and Bet Your Boots was idle until April 29 when he finished third in a $35,000 optional claiming race at Prairie Meadows.

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.

Photo Credit: Coady Photography

The 2012 Jockey Colony

Several new faces join the Canterbury jockey colony this season and should fit well with the established riders that include Derek Bell, Dean Butler, Scott Stevens, Lori Keith et al.

Tanner Riggs makes his return to Shakopee and will be handled by agent Richard Grunder who also books mounts for Juan Rivera.

Larren Delorme moves to the big oval after riding regularly on the bullrings of Nebraska.

Geovanni Franco tied for third in the Turf Paradise standings in the recently concluded meet and should see plenty of action for trainer Miguel Silva who reportedly will have nearly 50 horses here.

Agent and former rider Chuck Costanzo adds Olaf Hernandez from Mountaineer to his stable of pilots that also includes bug-boy Denny Velazquez and a veteran who has not been here for some time, Bobby Walker Jr.

Jose Rivera Jr. is a New Mexico import who will share an agent with Luis Robletto.

While agent Pete Antonucci racks up wins with his rider Dean Butler, the early favorite to win his fourth consecutive riding title, he also will book mounts for Carlos Castro, a winner of 877 career races who most recently rode at Hawthorne.

This is hardly a complete list as many quarter horse jocks will arrive in the coming weeks as well.

Get to know your riders and the barns they work for as it can make a difference when handicapping.

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’s reopening in 1995.

The 2012 Jockey Colony

Several new faces join the Canterbury jockey colony this season and should fit well with the established riders that include Derek Bell, Dean Butler, Scott Stevens, Lori Keith et al.

Tanner Riggs makes his return to Shakopee and will be handled by agent Richard Grunder who also books mounts for Juan Rivera.

Larren Delorme moves to the big oval after riding regularly on the bullrings of Nebraska.

Geovanni Franco tied for third in the Turf Paradise standings in the recently concluded meet and should see plenty of action for trainer Miguel Silva who reportedly will have nearly 50 horses here.

Agent and former rider Chuck Costanzo adds Olaf Hernandez from Mountaineer to his stable of pilots that also includes bug-boy Denny Velazquez and a veteran who has not been here for some time, Bobby Walker Jr.

Jose Rivera Jr. is a New Mexico import who will share an agent with Luis Robletto.

While agent Pete Antonucci racks up wins with his rider Dean Butler, the early favorite to win his fourth consecutive riding title, he also will book mounts for Carlos Castro, a winner of 877 career races who most recently rode at Hawthorne.

This is hardly a complete list as many quarter horse jocks will arrive in the coming weeks as well.

Get to know your riders and the barns they work for as it can make a difference when handicapping.

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’s reopening in 1995.

Will History Repeat in 2012? (With Video)

As the 2012 Canterbury Park live racing season approaches, it can be instructive to look back at 2011 and analyze the results.  What can we learn from the thoroughbred races run last year that might help us in our handicapping and wagering?  Will trends from a year ago carry forward?  Time will tell, but here are a few things to keep in mind that may figure prominently in the handicapping puzzle for 2012.

Respect the Favorite on the Main Track

The public was right 43% of the time last year in all races run on the main track. That is about ten percentage points above the national average. The public choice really dominated in maiden sprints, finding the winners circle 49% of the time and showing a 10% flat bet profit. If this trend carries forward, maiden sprints might be a place to look for singles in horizontal wagers.

Looking for vulnerable chalk? Try the turf races, which yielded only 29% winning favorites in 2011.

The Golden Rail

Track biases do exist, and the rail was the place to be last year on the Canterbury main track. Horses breaking from post 1 won 20% of the time and generated a 17% flat bet profit.  There were 24 more winners from post 1 than from any other post position. Significant! Breaking it down between sprints and routes, the flat bet profit in sprints was 6% and in routes it was 52% with horses winning at a 20% and 21% clip, respectively.

Jockeys

If you wagered on a jockey with the initials D.B last year you had a pretty good chance! Dean Butler and Derek Bell combined to win about 1/3 of the thoroughbred races last summer, and both showed a flat bet profit if you played them every time. Derek Bell really excelled in allowance and maiden special weight races, winning 35% of the time and returning $1.49 for every dollar wagered. Dean Butler showed the most profitability in claiming and maiden claiming races, winning at a 27% clip with an ROI of $1.19. Call them the Butler and Bell mutual funds of 2011, and expect strong showings from both riders in 2012.

Trainers

Mac Robertson, Bernell Rhone and Michael Biehler were the top three trainers last summer with over 100 wins combined. Let’s take a closer look at each one.

Mac Robertson was the leading trainer once again and won with 34% of his starters, showing a flat bet profit of $1.03. He was pretty strong in all categories, but his most lucrative plays were on the turf, where he had a 38% win percentage and returned $1.50 for every dollar wagered.

Bernell Rhone had 22% winners last summer with a flat bet profit of $1.07. He excelled with route horses on turf and dirt, posting a 28% win rate and returning $1.51 for every dollar wagered in that category. You could look elsewhere when Rhone started a two year old (1 for 13), a layoff runner of over six months (0 for 11) or an extreme longshot > 15-1 (0 for 16).

Michael Biehler won with 19% of his starters last year and won over 30 races, but you had to pick your spots when wagering on his horses. He was very good with horses at 3-1 odds and lower, winning 28 of 69 starts in that odds range and showing a slight profit. But at 7/2 odds and above he was only 4 for 103 (4%) and you could look elsewhere for the winner.

Good luck with your selections in 2012 and we will continue to follow what’s happening on the racetrack from a statistical perspective throughout the summer.

This blog was written by Canterbury Regular “The Oracle”. The Oracle is a longtime Minnesota race fan that has handicapped Canterbury’s races religiously for more than 20 years. He writes about handicapping and statistical trends in Canterbury’s races.

Will History Repeat in 2012? (With Video)

As the 2012 Canterbury Park live racing season approaches, it can be instructive to look back at 2011 and analyze the results.  What can we learn from the thoroughbred races run last year that might help us in our handicapping and wagering?  Will trends from a year ago carry forward?  Time will tell, but here are a few things to keep in mind that may figure prominently in the handicapping puzzle for 2012.

Respect the Favorite on the Main Track

The public was right 43% of the time last year in all races run on the main track. That is about ten percentage points above the national average. The public choice really dominated in maiden sprints, finding the winners circle 49% of the time and showing a 10% flat bet profit. If this trend carries forward, maiden sprints might be a place to look for singles in horizontal wagers.

Looking for vulnerable chalk? Try the turf races, which yielded only 29% winning favorites in 2011.

The Golden Rail

Track biases do exist, and the rail was the place to be last year on the Canterbury main track. Horses breaking from post 1 won 20% of the time and generated a 17% flat bet profit.  There were 24 more winners from post 1 than from any other post position. Significant! Breaking it down between sprints and routes, the flat bet profit in sprints was 6% and in routes it was 52% with horses winning at a 20% and 21% clip, respectively.

Jockeys

If you wagered on a jockey with the initials D.B last year you had a pretty good chance! Dean Butler and Derek Bell combined to win about 1/3 of the thoroughbred races last summer, and both showed a flat bet profit if you played them every time. Derek Bell really excelled in allowance and maiden special weight races, winning 35% of the time and returning $1.49 for every dollar wagered. Dean Butler showed the most profitability in claiming and maiden claiming races, winning at a 27% clip with an ROI of $1.19. Call them the Butler and Bell mutual funds of 2011, and expect strong showings from both riders in 2012.

Trainers

Mac Robertson, Bernell Rhone and Michael Biehler were the top three trainers last summer with over 100 wins combined. Let’s take a closer look at each one.

Mac Robertson was the leading trainer once again and won with 34% of his starters, showing a flat bet profit of $1.03. He was pretty strong in all categories, but his most lucrative plays were on the turf, where he had a 38% win percentage and returned $1.50 for every dollar wagered.

Bernell Rhone had 22% winners last summer with a flat bet profit of $1.07. He excelled with route horses on turf and dirt, posting a 28% win rate and returning $1.51 for every dollar wagered in that category. You could look elsewhere when Rhone started a two year old (1 for 13), a layoff runner of over six months (0 for 11) or an extreme longshot > 15-1 (0 for 16).

Michael Biehler won with 19% of his starters last year and won over 30 races, but you had to pick your spots when wagering on his horses. He was very good with horses at 3-1 odds and lower, winning 28 of 69 starts in that odds range and showing a slight profit. But at 7/2 odds and above he was only 4 for 103 (4%) and you could look elsewhere for the winner.

Good luck with your selections in 2012 and we will continue to follow what’s happening on the racetrack from a statistical perspective throughout the summer.

This blog was written by Canterbury Regular “The Oracle”. The Oracle is a longtime Minnesota race fan that has handicapped Canterbury’s races religiously for more than 20 years. He writes about handicapping and statistical trends in Canterbury’s races.