If At First You Don’t Succeed

By Noah Joseph

When we think of racehorses, we often think of them for their ability to run at blazing speeds, winning lots of races. Those who are able to do so become popular and in the process gain many fans to cheer them on. But what if there was a horse that lost a lot, a whole lot, and still managed to have fans cheer her on, no matter where she finished? Well, Canterbury had such a horse, and her name was Dear Hrishi.

Dear Hrishi was bred in Minnesota by her owner Rodney Miller. She was sired by Deerhound, who had also sired Countess Diana, who won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and won the Eclipse Award as Champion Two-Year Old Filly in 1997. Clearly, Dear Hrishi had a successful father. Her dam, or mother, was Hrishi, who also raced at Canterbury. She ran six times in Shakopee, but never won there.

Dear Hrishi made her debut at Canterbury on June 18th, 2009 and finished 2nd in a maiden special weight race restricted to two-year-old fillies bred in Minnesota and was good enough to run 4th in the Northern Lights Debutante that same year. But by the end of her two-year-old season, Dear Hrishi still did not have a victory. Her three-year-old season was exactly the same. Her four-year-old season was even more difficult, for on August 3rd, 2011, she clipped heels in a race and fell, losing her rider in the process. She had been the 2-1 favorite in the race as well. Both horse and rider walked away from the incident unscathed. A race during her five-year-old season pretty much summed up her racing career. On Father’s Day 2012, Dear Hrishi was leading a race with just a few yards to go, only to get beaten at the wire by a nose. It was just one tough loss after another. Surely she could win a race soon?

It’s 2013. Dear Hrishi is six years old and still yet to win a race, yet the fans still cheer her on each time she runs. The date is July 21 and Dear Hrishi is entered in a maiden race scheduled to be run on the grass. The race was moved to the dirt after rain forced the turf races to be moved to the main track. It just felt like today was going to be Dear Hrishi’s day to finally break through. In career start number 40, Dear Hrishi finally won a race. Track announcer Paul Allen told the crowd to rise and applaud as she came down the stretch, so many of whom had watched, bet, and supported Dear Hrishi through her losses. She even received a standing ovation returning to the winner’s circle. She won that day under jockey Derek Bell for trainer David Van Winkle. And just for good measure, Dear Hrishi won one more race for Van Winkle, this time on the grass under Juan Rivera. In addition to Van Winkle, Dear Hrishi was trained by Troy Bethke and Jefferey Lynn, who handled her in her last two starts in Chicago. Dear Hrishi retired in 2013 with 2 wins from 40 starts while finishing 2nd and 3rd a combined 24 times and earned over $120,000.

So while we cheer on the many favorites and winning horses at Canterbury, let’s also not forget to cheer for the underdogs as well; underdogs who might break through and succeed. Underdogs like Dear Hrishi.

MTA Stakes Cap Weekend

B%20J%27s%20Angel%20-%20MTA%20Stallion%20Auction%20Lassie%20Stakes%20-%2007-21-13%20-%20R03%20-%20CBY%20-%20FinishA horse with a bad foot and another with a good turn of foot grabbed the headlines on an otherwise leisurely Sunday afternoon

One day after a record turnout of 20,000-plus crammed the nooks and crannies of the place, Canterbury Park took on a relaxed and casual demeanor, but there were three winners on this particular day, at least their connections, who didn’t fall in line.

Winners have every right to carry on a bit. They are forgiven their peccadilloes for a given period of time after having their pictures taken.

Especially first-time winners and those still paying off their purchase price.

Especially first-time winners running for a guaranteed $35,000 purse and first-time winners trying for the 40th time.

And, in particular, horses trying to pay off their $40,000 claiming price.

So, there you have it – a breakdown of gleeful winners on a quiet Sunday, a day without Zebras, Camels or birds sometimes associated with a nice pair of boots.

B.J.’s Angel, pictured above, was the first of the three to get the cameras flashing, winning the MTA Stallion Auction Stakes, and the first-place share of $35,000, with leading rider Dean Butler up.

A 3-year-old filly by Stormy Business from Demiparfait, B.J.’s Angel erased any lingering doubts about the left back tendon she tore running into a fence by outrunning four rivals, finishing 4 and ¾ lengths in front of Tra Kela and another head in front of Kerisma.

Owner/breeder Dave Astar talked afterward about the incident in which his horse ran into a fence, tearing a tendon that was later repaired by Anoka Equine surgeons. He, himself, twice tore an Achilles tendon in athletic events, so he had a first-hand experience with which to view the situation.

“It’s a funny-looking left foot,” he said in reference to the horse. Similar to the description he applied to his own appendage.

One race later, a horse named Bet Your Life, with Lori Keith aboard, took charge on the turn, stayed in command thereafter, and won by 1 and ¼ lengths over Sugar Business, who had 4 and ½ lengths on Lil’ Apollo.

Keith didn’t need much direction from trainer Mike Biehler before this one. “He just wished me good luck,” she said.

When you are “much the best” even that much “direction” might be construed as redundant.

The winner was claimed for $40,000 at Oaklawn Park by Al and Bill Ulwelling and picked up more than half its purchase price with the victory, worth $21,000.

“We got lucky with the rain,” said Al.

“Well, a three-year-old often is better than he was at two,” said Bill.

The track was officially “sloppy” for the first five races but dried steadily from the first race onward

It had hardened just enough to benefit a 6-year-old mare named Dear Hrishi to break her maiden in her 40th start during four years of racing.

Yes, that is correct, she had started 39 times without finishing first.

She had 12 seconds and 11 thirds in those previous starts but had banked $84,223. Thus, when she claimed the winner’s share of Sunday’s $25,000 maiden special weight purse, her earnings exceeded $100,000.

Each time Dear Hrishi ran a race without a win, owner/breeder Rodney Miller was assured of some commentary from acquaintances on the first floor of the grandstand.

He was reminded on Sunday that he had taken away that specific needle from his colleagues, but had also broken the (maiden) bank that Dear Hrishi had been filling with checks.

“I think she benefitted from the rain and the track was drying out,” said Miller.

“She hadn’t run well on a (really) off track.”

Despite her previous failure to post a win, Dear Hrishi always put on a game face. Miller would take her home for the winter and she put on a face. “She wouldn’t let me touch her,” he said. “She come up to me but always stay about six inches away. I couldn’t pet her like I did my other horses.”

Once she reached the track in the spring, however, it was another matter. “She was ready to go,” he said.

That was the case again on Sunday, but with a different outcome.

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.

Dear Hrishi – The ATM

Rodney Miller has owned around 120, perhaps 130 horses since he bought his first thoroughbred in the late 1980s. In the time since, he has watched the racing industry crash and rise again Phoenix-like with the arrival of the Sampsons in the mid 1990s and now with the Mystic Lake agreement.

He has seen much during the last quarter century, but he has never had nor seen a horse quite like Dear Hrishi (pictured above, purple helmet).

Oh, he has had bigger earning horses, but never one who earned her keep the way this five-year-old daughter of Deerhound does.

Dear Hrishi’s total earnings are $87 short of $72,000 and she’s earned it all running behind winners. That’s right, Dear Hrishi is still a maiden. She’s never won a race and yet her bankroll is approaching SEVENTY-TWO thousand dollars.

Trained by Troy Bethke, she has run 31 times, finished second 11 times and third eight. She is 0-4-6 in 17 starts at Canterbury Park, an unusual money-making feat to say the least.

“I’ve never had one like that,” said trainer Dave Van Winkle. “It is unusual.”

“No, I haven’t had one either. I wouldn’t want one like that,” mused trainer Bernell Rhone.

Trainer Mike Biehler hasn’t had a Dear Hrishi either. “The other day someone asked the owner what he’d do if the horse ever wins a race,” Biehler cracked. “He said he’d fire the jockey.”

That line was provided by HBPA president Tom Metzen, who has joined forces with owner Jack Walsh to heckle Miller every chance they get.

“Every time they see me at the track they’ll ask if my ATM machine is running that night,” Miller said. “They always give me a lot of crap.”

It doesn’t end there, either.

Miller was asked the other day why he doesn’t run the horse more often, maybe once a week as Dougie Huntington used to do. “One fellow suggested that I should run her on a Thursday and then come right back with her on Sunday,” Miller said.

Dear Hrishi is special to Miller for reasons other than her unique approach to money-making. He bred and foaled her, and she might be the last. “I’m 68 years old,” he said simply.

Whatever happens down the road, he seems to be enjoying this special time with this special mare, one of 15 horses he has this season.

“She’s a real hard trier. She tries hard every time she runs,” he said. “She would have more starts but a couple of (injuries) sidelined her.”

Miller has never had another horse earn its keep in this manner. “For a maiden, it’s phenomenal,” he said. “I can’t get too mad at her. Her last five starts have all been seconds.”

A horse of Dear Hrishi’s type lands in a trainer’s barn once in a lifetime if at all.

Percy Scherbenske has one right now in Chicago, Smokem Gray, owned by Jack Guggisberg of Burnsville. “He broke his maiden around the first of July at Arlington,” Scherbenske said. “He was close to $75,000 as a maiden and is now close to $100,000. Never had one like him before. He’s just a money-making machine.”

Dear Hrishi is running in Friday night’s fifth race, a six-furlong maiden special weight affair offering $25,600.

Against all that is sacred in racing, against all of our inclinations to the contrary, let’s keep our fingers crossed and root for her to finish second.

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