Minnesota Festival of Champions

The 26th Minnesota Festival of Champions takes place tomorrow at Canterbury Park. The special event debuted in 1992 to pay tribute to the Minnesota horse breeding industry, and acts as the unofficial celebration of the Canterbury Park live racing season.

“Festival day is like the Championship game of the season,” said trainer Bernell Rhone, winner of 20 festival races. “You spend all year getting ready for this day, the money is good, and the different categories really help each horse succeed individually. It’s a very special day.”

But, why?

Why is the Minnesota Festival of Champions so memorable to Canterbury Park and its members?

For jockey Derek Bell, it’s all about the competition. “There are a lot of nice horses that day,” said Bell. “I consider myself lucky each time I get to ride on festival day.” Bell is the most winning jockey in Festival history with 24 wins.

“A lot of good riders, trainers, owners and breeders participate in the Minnesota Festival of Champions,” added jockey agent Chad Anderson, who won seven festival races when he was a jockey. “It makes for a very fun and exciting day of racing at Canterbury Park.”

Track announcer Paul Allen loves how it reveals true dedication.  “The day is all about Minnesota. Having been here a quarter century calling races I have a high level of respect, adoration and love for those who have been through the battles to keep racing strong at Canterbury,” he said. “This is a day many of those people get a chance to compete and get paid. It’s our State Tournament for Minnesotans and forever will be my favorite day we present.”

Festival Day will offer record purses this year with each thoroughbred stakes race, and there are six of them, worth $100,000. The quarter horse Futurity and Derby will each pay more than $55,000.

It’s more than the money, though. The Minnesota Festival of Champions was created to send a message to the Minnesota horse industry and the owners of the state’s only pari-mutuel facility; the message that there is still a market for horse racing in the state.

“When the first Festival took place in 1992, it proved that there was still an interest in horse racing among Minnesotans,” said Clerk of Course Peggy Davis. “It’s always so fun to see everyone at the track enjoying the races.”

As Canterbury Park and the state’s breeding industry continue to expand, the excitement of racing on Festival day continues to grow as well.

Bell Still the Leading Festival Rider

By Jim Wells

Nobody has ridden more Festival of Champions winners than Derek Bell, the Canterbury Park Hall of Fame rider who has been to the winner’s circle 24 times on this annual day of tribute to Minnesota horses.

That total is six more than Dean Butler and 13 in front of Scott Stevens.

Bell has won every race in the thoroughbred lineup but one, the Glitter Star Distaff Classic, and has ridden multiple winners in the other six, including seven in the Bella Notte Distaff Sprint. He was on Bella Notte herself for two of her three wins, in 2009 and 2011, before the race was renamed in her honor.

Bella won a third time in 2010 when Bell was taken off her and two other winners by trainer Mac Robertson. “I should have 27 winners,” he said Friday, while perusing the list of previous champions. He also lost mounts on Suddenly Silver and Sir Tricky that year. “They were all easy winners, too,” he said.

Bell’s Festival winners actually should total 28, if the 2013 Sprint champion, Heliskier, is included. Bell’s knee was broken the morning of the race when a horse he was working flipped on him. Instead, Justin Shepherd rode Heliskier, that year’s Horse of the Year.

Bell scanned the list of previous Festival winners, commenting on some of those he rode: He won the 2011 Turf championship on Tubby Time in 2012. “He was nice, a real runner,” he recalled. “A push-button horse.”

He won the 2002 Minnesota Classic on J.P. Jett for trainer Dave Van Winkle. “He was a big, black horse,” Bell recalled. “More like a quarter horse. I won the Derby on him and the Festival race that year.”

Bell rode Bizet, owned by Olaf Strand, only once and that was a winning ride in the 2009 Minnesota Sprint. “That was it, just that one time,” he said. “He was a big chestnut.”

Bell rode Nidari for Kissoon Thoroughbreds to consecutive wins, 2000 and 2001, in the Distaff. He won aboard Madam Speaker for Almar Farms in 2004, Bleu’s Apparition for Jeff Hilger in 2005, and Sentimental Charm for James Peltier in 2007.

 

Bell and Prime Step

Bell won six riding titles in Shakopee and holds career records in earnings and wins. He is second all time in win percentage. His best day at Canterbury, was on June 14, 2002 when he rode six winners. He arrived late in the current meet during a summer when Canterbury has been overrun with good riders, including four former riding champs, five upon his arrival.

He has only an allowance mount on Sunday for the annual running of the Festival that began under inauspicious circumstances in 1992, when racing was in dire straits.

Horsemen put together the inaugural Festival to prove a point to Ladbroke Racing Corporation’s local executives, who had all but proclaimed live racing a thing of the past in Minnesota.

The Ladbroke Racing Corp. was on its way out as owner of the Shakopee race track after a refusal by the Minnesota Racing Commission to renew the British firm’s racing license for the 1993 season. Before that took place, horsemen wanted to demonstrate that Minnesotans would indeed show up for quality racing. They did just that, on a bright sunny afternoon in 1992 that was the last live card in Minnesota until racing resumed in 1995. The Festival has been a part of the summer racing program every year since.

Magic Six

By Noah Joseph

One of the surprises of this 2019 season is the return of Canterbury Hall of Famer and champion jockey Derek Bell. A long-time Canterbury favorite, Bell has returned to Canterbury for the first time since 2014, and to overall riding since 2016. From his debut at Canterbury in 1997, Bell has won six riding titles and is the leading rider in the history of Canterbury Park or Downs in number of wins with 1,061. He’s been a part of many great moments in track history, including one that put his name in the record books. That moment, or series of moments, occurred June 14th, 2002, as Derek won six races on the card, the first rider to do so in the history of the Shakopee racetrack.

The first win of the night came in the second race aboard Call Me Elaine for owner and trainer Kenneth Wirth. Bell then took the next race as he guided the favorite Zen’s Silverbuck home to victory for owner and trainer Cynthia Crandall. But Derek wasn’t done yet, he won again on K.C Jazz for trainer Michelle Sinn. The wins kept on coming, as once again Bell scored, this time on To Wit for trainer Pat Cuccurullo and owner Lothenbach Stables. It was an exact repeat for owner, trainer, and jockey, as Slewp’a Doop gave Bell his fifth win in as many consecutive races. The streak came to a halt as Bell didn’t win the next two races, but it wouldn’t be the last win of the night as he guided The Hot Corner, a quarter horse for Jerry Livingston. Paul Allen was so impressed that he said that Derek could guide a pinto to win at Indy.

Later that evening Bell looked back on the accomplishment. “When I got here this morning I had no idea what I was on,” said the jock who at that time had won two riding titles. “Right before the races I knew I had two or three pretty good shots.”

To this day, no jockey has broken Derek’s record for most wins on a single card. But this might be the year it happens, and just maybe, it could be broken by the man who set it. Welcome back, Derek!

The list of local horses Derek rode throughout his career is impressive. Here is a sample:

Lt. Sampson
Heliskier
Bella Notte
Sir Tricky
Tubby Time
J. P. Jet
Sentimental Charm
Phone the Diva
Dontbotherknocking
Ashar
Now Playing
Suddenly Silver
Shot of Gold
Bleu’s Apparition

FESTIVAL DAY MAKES LASTING MEMORIES FOR SOME

MN_FestivalOfChampions_600x300

Festival Day. It means different things to different people, has enduring memories for some, forgettable ones for others.

Correctly put, it is the Minnesota Festival of Champions, a day on which Minnesota owners and breeders trot out their best to determine how they stand up to others bred here, in the land of 10,000 Lakes.

Several state-bred kings and queens were crowned on this particular day and knighthood bestowed on the men and women, the trainers and riders, who put the time and conditioning into those winners.

Does it come as any surprise that the leading trainer on Festival Day is the leading trainer of every meet in recent years, Mac Robertson? If it does, you simply haven’t paying attention or are not a racing fan.

You are excused if you miss on leading rider because he was not present last summer, but has been again for the second half of the 2014 meet, none other than Derek Bell who (with Scott Stevens rehabilitating a broken hand in Phoenix) is the only current Canterbury Hall of Fame rider in Shakopee.

Aforementioned trainer and rider, in fact, have hooked up for some big wins on Festival Day in previous meets. There was Heliskier in the 2011 Northern Lights Futurity. There was Chick Flight in the Northern Lights Debutante in 2008, and Bella Notte, three-time winner of the Distaff Sprint, in 2011 and before that in 2009.

Sir Tricky and Bizet, Suddenly Silver, Tubby Time and Sarah’s Son are others.

Robertson has 23 wins to his credit, seven more than Bernell Rhone, heading into the 2014 Festival on Sunday. Bell has 24 wins, 14 more than reigning riding champ Dean Butler.

So, how does a win on Festival Day stack up against wins on other days, everything being equal.

“It’s always fun to run in stakes races,” said Robertson. “Most of my owners have bred and raised their horses so it means a little more. It doesn’t mean as much to the guys who claim horses and get a little lucky.”

Robertson will saddle 14 horses in all on today’s card, including three in the $60,000 guaranteed Bella Notte Distaff Sprint.

One of those is two-time Canterbury Horse of the Year Heliskier, who has the No. 10 hole in the $60,000 Crocrock Minnesota Sprint and returned recently from fresh surroundings at Arlington Park in Illinois.

“He wasn’t training well here,” said Robertson. “He ran at Arlington and got a big work there. He came here, schooled and stood in the gate. I like the post (here). He can take it right to them.”

Festival Day, admittedly, takes an emotional toll on the human connections to the runners. As for Robertson, he tries as much as possible to treat it as another day.

“I try to stay on an even keel, just get the day over with and hope something stumbles across. The horses are easy to deal with. It’s the egos of some individuals that are trying, hard to deal with. For the most part, they are good people who understand that most of the time the fastest horse wins.”

Sometimes owners and breeders will wait for what seems a lifetime to get that first Festival win.

It wasn’t quite that way for Cheryl Sprick and Richard Bremer. They’ve been racing since oh, about 1990. “Something like that,” Cheryl said. Their first Festival winner as owners didn’t come until 2009, however, with Bet Your Boots in the Northern Lights Futurity.

However, they did breed a winner a year earlier, the inimitable Ice Rocket who at the longest winning odds in Festival history set all sorts of pari-mutuel records for his owner, the Astar Lindquist Stable. Ice Rocket won the Futurity that year paying $105.20 to win and $42.20 to place, both Festival records, as was his exacta payoff with Supreme Warrior, a payback of $1,087.20. The trifecta with those two and First Captain returned a hefty $8,924.20 and the superfecta with the trifecta trio and Zack Cape a whopping $35,705.80.

So, Sprick and Bremer have their stake in Festival history as well, with more to come perhaps in future years.

They began breeding two years ago for the Iowa market when purses there exceeded those in Minnesota. Since the Canterbury deal with the Mystic Lake Community, things have changed.

“Our best two-year-olds are Iowa-breds this year,” Cheryl said. “We have only one for Minnesota, but that will change next year.”

The agreement with Mystic Lake which adds another $5.84 million to the Canterbury purse fund this year has bankrolled those changes for Sprick/Bremer and many others.

“That inspired us,” Sprick said. “Now we can raise a horse, put it through its Minnesota conditions and have it pay its own way. Your stable can earn its keep.”

The inspiration Sprick referred to comes in the form of an additional $229,000 for today’s purses from the Mystic Lake enhancement fund.

Enough to create some additional 2014 Festival memories for anyone who cashes in.

by Jim Wells

FESTIVAL DAY MAKES LASTING MEMORIES FOR SOME

MN_FestivalOfChampions_600x300

Festival Day. It means different things to different people, has enduring memories for some, forgettable ones for others.

Correctly put, it is the Minnesota Festival of Champions, a day on which Minnesota owners and breeders trot out their best to determine how they stand up to others bred here, in the land of 10,000 Lakes.

Several state-bred kings and queens were crowned on this particular day and knighthood bestowed on the men and women, the trainers and riders, who put the time and conditioning into those winners.

Does it come as any surprise that the leading trainer on Festival Day is the leading trainer of every meet in recent years, Mac Robertson? If it does, you simply haven’t paying attention or are not a racing fan.

You are excused if you miss on leading rider because he was not present last summer, but has been again for the second half of the 2014 meet, none other than Derek Bell who (with Scott Stevens rehabilitating a broken hand in Phoenix) is the only current Canterbury Hall of Fame rider in Shakopee.

Aforementioned trainer and rider, in fact, have hooked up for some big wins on Festival Day in previous meets. There was Heliskier in the 2011 Northern Lights Futurity. There was Chick Flight in the Northern Lights Debutante in 2008, and Bella Notte, three-time winner of the Distaff Sprint, in 2011 and before that in 2009.

Sir Tricky and Bizet, Suddenly Silver, Tubby Time and Sarah’s Son are others.

Robertson has 23 wins to his credit, seven more than Bernell Rhone, heading into the 2014 Festival on Sunday. Bell has 24 wins, 14 more than reigning riding champ Dean Butler.

So, how does a win on Festival Day stack up against wins on other days, everything being equal.

“It’s always fun to run in stakes races,” said Robertson. “Most of my owners have bred and raised their horses so it means a little more. It doesn’t mean as much to the guys who claim horses and get a little lucky.”

Robertson will saddle 14 horses in all on today’s card, including three in the $60,000 guaranteed Bella Notte Distaff Sprint.

One of those is two-time Canterbury Horse of the Year Heliskier, who has the No. 10 hole in the $60,000 Crocrock Minnesota Sprint and returned recently from fresh surroundings at Arlington Park in Illinois.

“He wasn’t training well here,” said Robertson. “He ran at Arlington and got a big work there. He came here, schooled and stood in the gate. I like the post (here). He can take it right to them.”

Festival Day, admittedly, takes an emotional toll on the human connections to the runners. As for Robertson, he tries as much as possible to treat it as another day.

“I try to stay on an even keel, just get the day over with and hope something stumbles across. The horses are easy to deal with. It’s the egos of some individuals that are trying, hard to deal with. For the most part, they are good people who understand that most of the time the fastest horse wins.”

Sometimes owners and breeders will wait for what seems a lifetime to get that first Festival win.

It wasn’t quite that way for Cheryl Sprick and Richard Bremer. They’ve been racing since oh, about 1990. “Something like that,” Cheryl said. Their first Festival winner as owners didn’t come until 2009, however, with Bet Your Boots in the Northern Lights Futurity.

However, they did breed a winner a year earlier, the inimitable Ice Rocket who at the longest winning odds in Festival history set all sorts of pari-mutuel records for his owner, the Astar Lindquist Stable. Ice Rocket won the Futurity that year paying $105.20 to win and $42.20 to place, both Festival records, as was his exacta payoff with Supreme Warrior, a payback of $1,087.20. The trifecta with those two and First Captain returned a hefty $8,924.20 and the superfecta with the trifecta trio and Zack Cape a whopping $35,705.80.

So, Sprick and Bremer have their stake in Festival history as well, with more to come perhaps in future years.

They began breeding two years ago for the Iowa market when purses there exceeded those in Minnesota. Since the Canterbury deal with the Mystic Lake Community, things have changed.

“Our best two-year-olds are Iowa-breds this year,” Cheryl said. “We have only one for Minnesota, but that will change next year.”

The agreement with Mystic Lake which adds another $5.84 million to the Canterbury purse fund this year has bankrolled those changes for Sprick/Bremer and many others.

“That inspired us,” Sprick said. “Now we can raise a horse, put it through its Minnesota conditions and have it pay its own way. Your stable can earn its keep.”

The inspiration Sprick referred to comes in the form of an additional $229,000 for today’s purses from the Mystic Lake enhancement fund.

Enough to create some additional 2014 Festival memories for anyone who cashes in.

by Jim Wells

Bell Out Rest of 2013 Meet

Derek BellInjuries sustained during a morning workout last week will sideline Canterbury Park Hall of Fame jockey Derek Bell for the remainder of the meet. Bell suffered a broken kneecap and wrist while returning a horse to the barn last Sunday morning.

Bell was unavailable for comment but his agent, Chad Anderson, said Friday that X-rays have confirmed the injuries to Bell’s kneecap and wrist.

“He had finished working a horse and was returning it to the barn when it happened,” Anderson said. “The horse flipped over on him and struck him a couple of times in the legs.”

The incident occurred on a morning when one other horse broke down during a workout.

Bell was scheduled to ride Heliskier, last year’s Horse of the Year, that afternoon, but missed the mount for the first time in the horse’s career.

Bell was having a solid meet when the accident occurred. He is currently in sixth place in the standings, with a 28-20-20 record from 141 mounts and earnings of $594,382.

Anderson said that Bell intends to meet with doctors who have worked with the Minnesota Twins next week for MRIs of the injuries.

The only six-time riding champion at Canterbury Park, Bell is one of four active Canterbury Park Hall of Fame jockeys, one of two in Shakopee. He and Scott Stevens still compete yearly at Canterbury. Mike Smith, the track’s first riding champion in 1985, is a prominent rider in California and Luis Quinonez, who won five consecutive titles at Canterbury, rides primarily in Arkansas and Oklahoma.

Bell holds career earnings and wins records in Shakopee and is second all time in win percentages. On June 14, 2002, he rode six winners on a single card.

THE LEGACY OF ALMAR FARM

Countless stories will be told Saturday when family and friends gather to recall the long, accomplished life of Hall of Fame breeder Alvin Goebel. He and his wife, Marlys, are inductees in Canterbury Park’s Hall of Fame for their breeding contributions in the Minnesota industry as owners of Almar Farm in Cottage Grove.

Alvin died in January of 2012 and will be honored with Saturday’s third race, the Alvin Goebel Memorial.

Goebel bought his first racehorse at age 19 and was involved with horses thereafter over a span of 70 years.

He claimed only one horse in all that time. “He didn’t like having horses claimed on him, so he thought other people probably didn’t either,” Marlys said.

Apparently the policy worked. Marlys said they had maybe two horses claimed from them in their many years of racing.

One of those horses, Speakers Action, will run in the second race of today’s card.

He is owned by Tom and Karen Metzen and trainer Dave Van Winkle.

Metzen was involved in a package of horses with the Goebels during the 1950s that were trained by D. Wayne Lukas. “Alvin, Pete Thompson and I and our wives were involved,” recalled Metzen. “We raced those horses in Rochester and then took them to Park Jefferson in South Dakota.”

Marlys was asked if Alvin ever considered retiring from racing during his 70-year involvement.

“He did retire once,” she said. “It lasted for about a month.”

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.

Heliskier Back on His Game

Heliskier%20-%20%2008-18-13%20-%20R06%20-%20CBY%20-%20Inside%20FinishHorse racing has more than its share of stories that tug at the heartstrings, bring tears to your eyes and leave otherwise stout human beings weak in the knees. It doesn’t take million dollar colts and fillies or regally-bred champions, either. When you’ve invested much of what you have – even in an expensive claimer – the stories can be just as heartrending as those attached to the big-money horses.

Horse racing is more about the little guy and his horses, anyway, since they are the backbone of the sport and outnumber the elite by a considerable number. They are the middle class of the game.

So it was that on a splendid Sunday afternoon that the turnout at Canterbury Park, at least those with their fingers on the pulse of local racing, found plenty to celebrate.

They didn’t have to wait long, either. The good stuff started in race one.

Want something to bring out the compassion?

Try this: with the meet swiftly winding down and all but over for the quarter horses, a trainer with a hard-luck story that gives the genre new meaning sent out the winner in a $16,000 stake. Sammi Santanna, ridden by Rusty Shaw and trained by Randy Weidner picked up first place money. It is a certainty the money will be well spent. Weidner’s stable was wiped out in Oklahoma this spring by a tornado. The native of Rosemount has fought his way back during the Canterbury meet from that devastating incident.

How about a truly feel-good story, one about a cherished horse fallen on hard times that fights back and looks like his former self?

Look no further than Sunday’s sixth race and the 2012 Horse of the Year, Heliskier.

Unbeaten with a 7-0 record through last May, Heliskier was vanned off the track in his second start of the summer after stumbling badly at the start and finishing last and ran second his last time out. Now, about to make his first start since July 20, Heliskier had a new rider, Justin Shepherd, for the first time in his career. Regular rider Derek Bell was injured, not severely, during a workout earlier in the day and did not ride Sunday.

Not to worry, Shepherd took the star of the Colvin stable straight to the winner’s circle, winning with daylight to spare.

“I knew he was back on Friday,” said owner Marlene Colvin. “(Trainer) Mac (Robertson) gave me two thumbs up.”

Was Shepherd concerned?

“I told Marlene that he was too much horse for me to mess up,” he responded.

“He had it his way today.”

Prefer a tale for your tender father-son side?

Well, jockey Nik Goodwin, who had a productive weekend on the racetrack, was bound for his home in Ocala, Fla., immediately after the races. He wanted to be there on Monday morning when his five-year-old son, Lane, leaves for his first day of kindergarten.

Would Goodwin remain stoical in the face of such an occasion? Jockey room custodian Jerry Simmons tried to prepare him just in case. “I’m not an emotional person,” Simmons said. “And I thought I’d be just fine walking my daughter down the isle,” he said. “But it all took me by surprise and…”

For a final happy story of the day, the tale of jockeys Rusty Shaw and Patricia Trimble, husband and wife, was a perfect finish.

Shaw, of course, rode the winner for Weidner in race one, his only mount of the day. Patricia rode Ridgestone, her only mount on the card and the winner of race five, for Harvey and Susan Berg.

As Shaw waited outside the winner’s circle to congratulate his wife, a bystander shouted: “Hey, that’s the way to go about it. Ride one, win one,” he said. “Ride less, win more.”

The philosophic concept sounded just fine to Trimble. “I’d rather ride one and win one than ride seven and not win,” she said.

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.

Birthdays All Around

De Bala - 08-08-13 - R04 - CBY - FinishHandicapping requires various degrees of insight and not much at all in certain situations. Take a couple of races on Thursday night, for example.

Race No. 4 was a gimme. Scrap the PPs, ditch the workouts and eliminate everything else you knew about the race.

Derek Bell, celebrating his birthday, was on the No. 10 horse. Daughter Hailey Bell took over for Paul Allen and announced the start to the race, giving her father an extra boost. Need more than that?

Bell won on the horse, De Bala, his last time out at the very same distance, on the turf, and at a mile and about 70 yards. Yet he went off at 7-1 Thursday night.

It took a well-timed move but once again Bell was on the winner, coming out of nowhere to nose out the 3-2 favorite Klipit and one of the hottest young riders on the grounds – Alex Canchari. Right there as well was Manlee Spirit.

It took some probing to get an answer to the most obvious question, but what birthday was it for the Hall of Fame rider? “Twenty-five,” he said, not quite able to hide the smirk.

“Forty-three,” he finally relented. “And I was twenty-three when I started here.”

Twenty years. Two decades. An eternity to the young. A mere breath of air to the aging and aged.

Then, as if to underscore the point just made, Bell brought in Bright Perfection in the fifth, his 27th winner of the meet.

THE LOCALS INVADE THE NORTH

Canterbury Park based trainers had a successful weekend in Canada, Bryan Porter and Charles Smith to be precise.

Porter had a great weekend without leaving Canterbury, winning the $75,000 Manitoba Lotteries Derby at Assiniboia Downs with Assembly Hall, the 65th winner of the race.

Smith, on the other hand, won for the third time this summer at Assiniboia with the same horse, Portales, this time taking the Oaks in Monday races..

Porter won the same race in 2009 with Smuggler’s Hold. He didn’t accompany the horse that time and repeated himself on Monday because…”superstition,” he said.

So, his assistant Candy Courtemanche took over on Monday and gave a leg up to Alex Canchari, who is making a mark for himself this summer in Shakopee, his hometown.

The winner is co-owned by Porter and Denis Goettsch. Stormin Monarcho, trained by Joel Berndt, finished second.

Smith, meanwhile, has sent Portales north three times this summer. She won an allowance tune-up for the Chantilly Stakes, then won the Stakes itself and Monday added the Oaks to the list.

She broke her maiden? At Canterbury, naturally.

HORSES ARE NOT QUITE AS DANGEROUS

A chronicler of Canterbury Park happenings and events lost his balance and inadvertently lurched forward, the sharp point of his ballpoint pen imbedding itself in the back of a chair not inches from the neck of Hall of Fame rider Scott Stevens.

A conversation ensued:

“Imagine that,” the reporter said, quickly and imaginatively. “You’ve survived spills that have broken your ribs, your neck and nearly every other bone in your body, and a ballpoint pen proves to be the last straw.”

“Killed by blood poisoning from an ink pen,” Stevens added.

And not the first time an athlete has been done in by the power of the pen.

ANOTHER BIRTHDAY AT THE PARK

Paul Allen announced it via the public address system, and the message was later repeated via the television screen juxtaposed with the tote board:

Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Assn. president Tom Metzen was celebrating his birthday.

Sure enough, the HBPA boss had a celebratory cake on the table he occupies daily on the first floor of the grandstand and cut pieces for numerous acquaintances and friends throughout the evening. By the way, it was No. 75.

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.

Mystic Lake Derby Day Nears

MysticDerby_LogoGo ahead and pick up the champagne, dig out the attire you wore last year for the race, careful to assure everything is the same, not a single accoutrement out-of-place, cross your fingers and don’t say anything that might be construed as a jinx.

“My dad’s superstitious,” said Lori Keith. “It will have to be the same shirt, everything.”

The topic at hand is the second running of the Mystic Lake Derby on Saturday and the preparations of Mr and Mrs. Keith – William and Philomena (or Bill and Phil as they’re known) – for Saturday’s race.

For the uniformed, Lori Keith, a native of England and a regular rider at Canterbury Park, won the first running of the biggest race in Canterbury Park history last year aboard Hammers Terror, owned by Terry Hamilton and trained by Michael Stidham.

Bill asked his daughter in a recent conversation whether she would ride in the race again this year. When she informed him that the chances appeared good, he began making plans. “He wanted to know if he should get the champagne,” Lori said.

Keith’s parents, who own a restaurant in the South of France, watched the inaugural running down the street from the restaurant, at an acquaintance’s home. Good viewing, just a matter of connecting the laptop to the telly, as they say, and they saw their daughter win the biggest race of her career.

They plan on looking in again on Saturday.

Keith will ride a horse named Dorsett, owned once again by Hamilton and trained once again by Stidham. And, get this, she is breaking from the No. 2 hole in an eight-horse field, just as last year.

A year ago, Keith took the morning line second choice to the winner’s circle after surviving a stewards’ inquiry for interference in the stretch. This time she is on the 5/2 morning line favorite.

“I think he has a great shot,” she said. “On paper he looks very good, but I think it will be a very competitive race.”

Dorsett, a son of Artie Schiller from Dontgetnmyway, has two wins, a second and a third from eight career starts with earnings of $74,670. He is part of a field of eight that will engage at one mile on the turf.

$200,000 Mystic Lake Derby Field & Morning Line
PP Horse Trainer Jockey ML
1    Impassable Canyon Michael Maker Victor Lebron 5-1
2 Dorsett Michael Stidham Lori Keith 5/2
3 Finding Candy Michael Biehler Denny Velazquez 12-1
4 Coastal Breeze Wayne Catalano Channing Hill 4-1
5 Kale’s Kourage Kelly Von Hemel Ry Eikleberry 10-1
6 Evan’s Calling Neil Pessin Eddie Martin Jr. 8-1
7 Red Zeus Dan McFarlane Alex Canchari 6-1
8 Officer Alex Lynn Whiting Leandro Goncalves 9/2

Last year the purse was for a guaranteed $150,000 and produced a total of $162,000 and change after adding in the entry fees. This year the race offers a guaranteed $200,000. The lion’s share of that funding, $150,000, is provided by the Mystic Lake purse enhancement fund.

The inside post was drawn by Impassable Canyon, a colt by Tapit from Anna Forever, owned by F. Thomas Conway and trained by Mike Maker.

Finding Candy will line up in the No. 3 hole. He is a colt by Candy Ride, owned locally by Al and Bill Ulwelling and trained by Mike Biehler.

The No. 4 hole will go to Coastal Breeze, a colt by Empire Maker that is owned by Barry Golden and trained by Wayne Catalano. The No. 5 hole belongs to Kale’s Kourage who has earned $85,511 lifetime and has won three of his seven career starts. He is owned by Pam Von Hemel and trained by Kelly Von Hemel.

Lining up in the No. 6 spot will be Evan’s Calling, with one win in 11 career starts. The No. 7 belongs to Red Zeus, who has earned $112, 426, running primarily at Turf Paradise in Phoenix with two starts locally, including a win at six furlongs his last out. He is owned by Peggy Hopwood and trained by Dan McFarlane.

Officer Alex drew the outside post. He has earned $163,000 running on the circuit between Churchill Downs and Oaklawn Park. He is trained by Lynn Whiting, who saddled Lil E. Tee, the winner of the 1992 Kentucky Derby.

So, there you have it, the lineup for the richest race in Canterbury Park history, a whopping $200,000 guaranteed and an opportunity for Lori Keith to top last year’s take.

“Oh, I can’t believe it,” she said. “I’m keeping my fingers crossed.”

Is superstition a genetic trait?

SHAKOPEE JUVENILE AND NORTHBOUND PRIDE OAKS

Both races offer $100,000-guaranteed purses.

The Oaks at a mile on the turf has been run in some form, fashion or name since 1985 and was won in 2012 by Soonerette, ridden by riding champion Tanner Riggs for Donnie Von Hemel.

$100,000 Northbound Pride Oaks & Morning Line Odds
PP Horse Trainer Jockey ML
1    Eden Prairie Neil Pessin Channing Hill 3-1
2 Kipling’s Joy Michael Stidham Dean Butler 9/2
3 Stoupinator Mac Robertson Alex Canchari 5-1
4 I’m Already Sexy Wayne Catalano Scott Stevens 4-1
5 Seeking Treasure Larry Dunbar Ry Eikleberry 10-1
6 Raising Dakota Tevis McCauley Luis Garcia 8-1
7 Kissmeimdanish Valorie Lund Derek Bell 8-1
8 American Sugar Kenneth McPeek Victor Lebron 6-1

Saturday’s edition has a field of eight, including the Ken McPeek-trained American Sugar, who is trying the grass for the first time and is 5-0-3 from 13 starts with earnings of more than $200,000. Robert Lothenbach’s Eden Prairie is 2-0-1 from six grass starts and earnings of $70,000-plus. Michael Stidham’s Kipling’s Joy is 2-0-3 from nine career starts, both wins on the grass, with earnings of $62,200.

I’m Already Sexy arrived from Arlington Park and has won twice from three turf starts, is three-for-six overall, and earned $81,141. Wayne Catalano trains. Locally-owned Stoupinator, trained by Mac Robertson, has hit the board three times in three turf starts and is 2-1-2 overall from six career starts with earnings of $76,000. Here’s a look at the field:

The Juvenile, for colts/geldings and fillies, is being run for the first time, at 7 and 1/2 furlongs on the turf and has attracted a field of nine boys.

$100,000 Shakopee Juvenile Field & Morning Line Odds
PP Horse Trainer Jockey ML
1    A P Is Loose Michael Biehler Lori Keith 6-1
2 Aft Michael Lauer Leandro Goncalves 8-1
3 Rumbauer David Van Winkle Ry Eikleberry 6-1
4 My Corinthian Dane Kobiskie Luis Garcia 7/2
5 Fling Orrin Cogburn Eddie Martin Jr. 12-1
6 Clarisimo Sandra Sweere Nik Goodwin 10-1
7 General Jack Michael Maker Victor Lebron 3-1
8 Chairman Crooks Tony Rengstorf Dean Butler 6-1
9 Pure Surprize Vic Hanson Jenna Joubert 10-1

Among those is a 2-year-old colt named General Jack, a Kentucky-bred son of Giant’s Causeway who is looking to break his maiden on Saturday after running second among maiden special weights for $70,000 at Belmont Park.

He had a bullet work in late June and is trained by Mike Maker who has made a habit of winning big races at Canterbury.

Aft, trained by Michael Lauer, broke his maiden last time out in Indiana. Lauer tried to run Aft on the lead his first out and finished second. He ran him off the pace in his second start with improved results.

My Corinthian has hit the board three times in three career starts and was the first of the shippers to arrive, stabling here on Monday. He is trained by Dane Kobiskie. He is 1-1-1 from three career starts and is 1-1-0 from two outs on the grass.

Mike Biehler will saddle A P Is Loose, who ran third in his first start, at Canterbury on July 11. Clarisimo, trained by Sandra Sweere, is another local horse who broke his maiden here on June 16. Dave Van Winkle will saddle locally stabled Rumbauer, who broke his maiden under Ry Eikleberry on July 11 in his second start.

Vic Hanson will send out Pure Surprize, a local juvenile who broke his maiden at first asking on July 14. Fling, trained by Orrin Cogburn, did not hit the board in two previous starts.

Curtis Sampson’s Chairman Crooks, named for the late leader of the Mdewakanton Community, is trying the grass for the first time. He broke his maiden first time out, on June 13.

Wagering Opportunities Abound

The three races will be run as races 6, 7 and 8 on the card with the Oaks leading off, followed by the Juvenile and then the 2nd running of the Mystic Lake Derby. Post times are 4:10 CDT, 4:40 CDT and the Mystic Lake Derby will go off at 5:12 CDT. The three races anchor Saturday’s late pick 4 which continues to feature a 14% takeout, among the lowest in the country. Additionally, the three stakes comprise an all-turf Pick 3 also featuring the same low takeout rate of 14%.

Check back here often to learn more about the participants for Saturday’s big races over the coming days.

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.

2013 Derby Day Nears

HAMMERS TERROR_The Mystic Lake Derby_07-28-12_CBY_Inside FinishOccasionally she’ll think about the race and the biggest win of her career, the stuff of warm feelings and pleasant thoughts, except for that interminable wait.

“It was intense, wasn’t it though,” says Lori Keith.

The subject at hand, of course, is the inaugural Mystic Lake Derby first held in 2012 and Keith’s controversial win aboard Hammers Terror. About half the grandstand thought the horse should have been taken down. The other half sided with Keith’s horse.

So did the Stewards, who ruled that Hammer Terror did in fact veer in front of Delegation in the final yards but the action did not change the outcome of the race in their view. Nonetheless they gave Keith days, even after she sweated out the decision on the race for what seemed like an eternity.

Keith talked about the race as she headed to the paddock on Sunday for the third race, which she won aboard Francisco Bravo’s Free Sailing.

She is hopeful of riding in the second Mystic Lake Derby next Saturday, for the same owner whose horse she rode last year.

“Things can change,” she said, “but there’s a good chance .” She referred to a three-year old colt named Dorsett, owned by Terry Hamilton and trained by Michael Stidham, who have the same connections as Hammers Terror, the 2012 champ.

Hamilton has talked about how great it would be to win the first two Mystic Lake Derbys. He has to run a horse for that to happen, of course.

The $200,000 Derby will be run on the same card with the $100,000 Northbound Pride Oaks and the $100,000 Shakopee Juvenile Stakes. All three to be run over the Canterbury turf course.

Questions about the second rendition of the Mystic Lake Derby abound at this point:

Will Dorsett indeed run and will the field include a Java’s War, a longshot who finished 13th in this year’s Kentucky Derby and, although nominated to the Derby, is a longshot to appear in next Saturday’s race?

Undrafted, owned by New England Patriots defector and current Denver Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker, has been nominated also.

Other nominees include Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey’s You Blue and Leaden In Ken, along with Bill and Al Ulwelling’s Finding Candy. In total, nearly 100 horses were nominated for the trifecta of grass races next Saturday.

The draw is scheduled on Wednesday for all three races.

My Corinthian, trained by Dan Kobiskie and scheduled to arrive Monday, will run in the Juvenile and will be the first horse on the grounds for Saturday’s stakes events.

The Shakopee Juvenile, at 7 and 1/2 furlongs on the turf, will be run for the first time. The Oaks, at a mile on the turf, was won last year by Soonerette, owned by Robert Zoellner, ridden by riding champ Tanner Riggs and trained by Donnie Von Hemel. The purse this year is $100,000, for the first time since 1995, when the Carl Nafzger-trained Fluffkins won. Von Hemel nominated no horses to the Oaks but has nominated Smack Smack, owned by Dream Walkin’ Farms, Inc. (the stable name of renowned country music singer Toby Keith) to the Juvenile.

CANCHARI SURGES IN JOCKEY STANDINGS

Alex Canchari, the Minnesota Kid as he refers to himself, surged this week into second place in the rider standings, riding seven winners to wind up Sunday night with 31 winners for the meet.

That’s eight behind the leader, Dean Butler, a three-time champion. Ry Eikleberry had only one winner for the week and slipped into third place with 30 wins, followed by Lori Keith with 29 and Hall of Fame rider Derek Bell and Eddie Martin, Jr. at 25 wins each. Hall of Fame rider Scott Stevens is next with 23 wins.

There was no change in positions among the track’s top trainers. Mike Biehler continues in front with 24 wins, followed by Bernell Rhone with 22 and Mac Robertson with 21.

Stormy Smith, who rode the winner of the Bob Morehouse Stakes, Western Fun, on Saturday, continues to lead the quarter horse riders. He has 16 wins. Jorge Torres is next with 14.

SUNDAY HAPPENINGS

You Be Gator Bait, trained by Mac Robertson, is nominated but won’t run in the Shakopee Juvenile, not with a mere week’s rest. He won the opening race on Sunday’s card for Minnesota-bred maidens with Chris Fackler up. “He’s a hard worker,” Robertson said of the winning rider. The most likely spot to see the Minnesota-bred next will be on the 2013 Festival of Champions card in the Northern Lights Futurity.

Martin Escobar was the only double winner among the riders Sunday, with Hard Cider in the sixth and Scorsese in the seventh, his 10th and 11th winners of the meet.

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.