BY JIM WELLS
Time has its own dimension, governed by rules that stretch human understanding, the cerebral grasp of mere mortals. Look over one shoulder and it’s 1995. Look over the other and its Memorial Day 2015, and horses are lining up for the 21st running of the Honor The Hero Stakes, a six-furlong sprint worth $75,000 .
In the winner’s circle prior to the race are Rebecca Ueland and Allen Burdick, owners of Hall of Fame sprinter Honor The Hero who once thrilled thoroughbred fans in Shakopee with his remarkable talent. In fact, he still holds the record on grass at Canterbury Park for 7 ½ furlongs. Also there is trainer Doug Oliver, who not only trained The Hero but saddled a two-time winner of this race named Thatsusintheolbean.
Time seemingly stood still, but a horse named El Seventyseven did not, outrunning six rivals and withstanding an objection under Leandro Goncalves, who is making an impact with his first-time presence at Canterbury.
The objection came from trainer Tammy Domenosky, who sent Silver Lining John from Arlington Park and gave Ry Eikleberry the mount.
` “Ry was just riding his race but said he just didn’t have enough horse,” said Goncalves, who was confident of a favorable ruling but pounded the air softly with a two-handed fist pump nonetheless when the decision was announced. The win was Goncalves’s second and he won the nightcap too for a hat trick.
Winning trainer Mac Robertson had a similar take. “There was a little bumping,” he said, “but it was good race.”
And a good decision according to winning rider and trainer.
El Seventyseven finished in :57.36, 1 3/4 lengths in front of Rockin Home, who finished a head in front of Castletown, the second place horse in last year’s race.
While turning back the clock it certainly seems appropriate to recall the first winner of this race, a horse named Auggie My Dad, trained by Tim Muckler and ridden by Hall of Fame rider Scott Stevens.
And Honor the Hero? Oliver is reasonably certain the horse is still alive on a ranch in either South or North Dakota.
THE BULLDOGS WERE A HIT ONCE AGAIN
There was a crowd of 11,323, the majority of them on hand to see the bulldogs race, and they weren’t disappointed.
There was a dead heat for first place in the championship heat after Henry, who got out of the gate slowly, left the ground with a dramatic leap and crossed the finish line still in the air to share the title with Gixxer. “He’s a slow starter,” said Steve Gleason, who owns Henry with his wife Pamela. “But he can run.”
“We tried to get into this race last year but were only reserves and didn’t get to race,” said Josh Blair of Cottage Grove who owns Gixxer with his wife, Melissa
The earlier heats that determined the 12 finalists added their own element to the proceedings.
At first blush, it seemed that diet might have had something to do with the win by Isabella, who simply ran away from the competition in the first heat of the bulldog competition.
“She loves sweet potatoes and salmon,” said one of her owners, Lacey Hoffner of St. Cloud.
Alas, how do you then explain Winston’s narrow victory in heat two?
“He likes to eat underwear,” said co-owner Kate Vogl of Minneapolis.
So much for the diet theory.
Winston does get his vitamin C, however. “Yes, he likes berries and watermelon also,” she added.
Diet seemed to have little if anything to do with the next two heat winners.
Ozzy, owned by Tom and Crystal Haas of Northeast Minneapolis, likes to snack on string cheese and summer sausage, and ran his heart out as Tom shook a Tupperware container full of enticing tidbits.
Henry, owned by the Gleasons of Excelsior, doesn’t have a favorite snack but did consume an entire pan of Rice Krispie bars on one occasion.