Nice Weather On An Extreme Day

BY JIM WELLS

There is the short, quick race at a distance you expect to see in the summer Olympics, another that tests your eye/brain coordination by watching a race being conducted on different racing surfaces simultaneously, and yet another at a mere two furlongs.

The afternoon includes events you might otherwise expect to see only on a National Geographic special.

The exotic combination is called Extreme Race Day.

Extreme races, at 110 yards, a quarter of a mile, and on the dirt and grass simultaneously. Exotic animals _  camels, ostriches and zebras _  ridden by men and women who typically ride horses.

All of it conducted under sunny skies, with a 10 mph southeasterly breeze and 49 percent humidity, the first afternoon a major event has taken place this season under such ideal conditions.

   $18,000 DASH IN A FLASH

The footnotes were exceptionally brief, but what can you expect from a race that begins and ends in the blink of an eye.

Track announcer Paul Allen sized it up thusly: Seven seconds of sheer bliss.

Even less than that:   6.978, if you must.

This race was over in the time it takes to bend over and pick up a program you just dropped, the time it takes to complete a single sneeze or to eat five hot dogs if your name is Joey Chesnut.

Quick, quicker quickest.

And the horse with the eponymous name _ Ms Haulin Chic _ did exactly that in the only stakes race on the menu Saturday. She hauled it as if she were a dragster BIR, reaching the wire with a head to spare on Bout Tree Fiddy and another ¾ length in front of Bye Byefreighttrain.

That made this swift 4-year-old filly the winner of the Dash In A Flash Stakes, a 110-yard race whose purse was increased by a $9,000 addition from the Mystic Lake purse enhancement fund to $15,000. Quarter horse purses that size attract a crowd and this one drew a lineup of 10, reduced to nine after a gate scratch named Perfect Lota, who turned around in her stall, roughing up jockey Jorge Torres in the process.

Torres was maneuvering an arm in the socket as he made his way to the jockeys lounge, rubbing the biceps at the same time. “Everything okay?,” he was asked.

“Yeah, yeah, just part of the game,” he responded.

Part of a game, that in this case at any rate, took fewer than seven seconds.

The winning horse is trained by R. Allen Hybsha for owner Haulin Assets Racing. Hybsha trained the winner of last year’s Dash also, Lota James owned by Whiting Ranch.

Hybsha sized up Saturday’s win in succinct fashion, saying of the winner:

“She’s fast, very fast. She set the track record for 220 at Remington Park this spring.”

At 110 yards, fast counts…a lot.

CAMELBURY DERBY

The conversation before this race took various forms. In one corner, Michelle Dupras, visiting from Tucson, informed anyone interested that it hurt when a camel spits and it hits you.

She learned that bit of information from informed camel people at another point in her life.

Jockey Patrick Canchari had a bit of advice for one of the camel riders before hand: “Wear goggles,” he said. “That way when he turns and looks at you he won’t see the fear in your eyes.”

Camels also are odiferous, tall and difficult to manage at times.

None of that was of much concern to Brandon Kewatt, a racing office intern and student at Mankato State. Kewatt is majoring in sports marketing but Saturday he was king of the sultans, riding the winning camel in a four-camel derby.

The winner? Keepin Up with a Camel KarDashian, the No. 4 hump.

“I liked it,” Kewatt said after his first camel ride. “That was fun.”

Opposing rider Maddie Primo had this to say in reponse:

“You killed it out there. You did.”

BATTLE OF THE SURFACES

No sense in looking at what doesn’t concern you, that over which you have no control. So, Jareth Loveberry kept his mind on business in this race, being run on the dirt and the turf.

“You just ride your race. The other one has nothing to do with you,” he said.

Yet, after he was assured of the wire, Loveberry did allow himself a glance at what was transpiring on the grass. “I looked over there,” he said, “and I also took a look at the big TV.”

He knew his horse was the winner in both cases, just not by how much.

It was substantial.

Riding Promising Shoes for Tammy Horsnby, Loveberry was a convincing winner in both cases. He beat the second best dirt horse, Buxton, by 2 ¾ lengths. Promising Shoes had a huge margin over Artie’s Rumor, the first grass runner to finish…20 lengths. The winning time was 1:39.28.

  DON’T LAY AN EGG DASH

Jake Samuels learned that some days all you have to do is stay in the saddle (figuratively) and you are a winner.

He was the one rider in the four-ostrich race to keep his seat and that made him a winner.

He was aboard Rob GronkOstrichski, the No. 1 ostrich, described thusly:

“Made of pure muscle, this party animal brings his flashy personality to the race track…

With the three other riders rolling in the dust, Samuels claimed his win with relish.

“I’m not winning on the horses so any win feels good,” he said.

Yet, this experience was quite unlike those he experiences on a thoroughbred. His bird gave him a strange look in the gate.

“He turned completely around and looked me right in the eye,” Samuels said. “I thought he was going to bite me.”

     ZOOMING ZEBRAS

They didn’t zoom. They didn’t really run. One of the zebras in this four-zebra field wandered over to the rail as if he expected a treat. Another wandered about the track for a short spell as if he were under a spell. All in all, they just didn’t seem all that interested.

Justin Zieber, somehow, found the finish line, wandering across first, and that after deciding to sit down in the gate.

His rider, Nakia Ramirez, has been through this before. She rode a zebra in a similar exhibition at Remington Park last spring. Any difference?

“Yes,” she said, “the one at Remington actually ran.”

EXTREME DAY A WILD, WOOLY, FEATHERY AFFAIR

BY JIM WELLS

It has been proposed once before and this additional suggestion is not based on settled science but on mounting evidence: Canterbury should consider running a 67-day meet featuring ostrich, zebra and camel racing each year, mixing in a thoroughbred/quarter horse day here and there.

Evidence suggests that would reverse what is now occurring:  Solid attendance for horse racing and stupendous attendance whenever the wild beasts run.

Just imagine, sizeable crowds to watch the critters of the desert sands and average attendance of 16,000 to say 21,000 for horse racing. Canterbury Park would become the envy of the racing world. The brain trusts at Santa Anita, Churchill Downs and Belmont would be forced to bow down to an enterprise in existence only since 1985.

“Hey, did you see what they drew at Canterbury on Friday,” someone would say in a California or New York racing boardroom. “They ran thoroughbreds and quarter horses there yesterday and had a crowd of 29,000.”

“Yeah,” someone would say, “but what was the per capita?”

“Never mind the per cap,” someone would reply.  “They sold 33,000 hot dogs,  the same number of pizza slices and several hundred gallons of Pepsi products, not to mention 300 barrels of beer.”

Per capita spending on wagering alone, say 50 bucks, would rise to $450 when concessions are added.

Granted, such a shift to extreme day racing on a full-time basis could not be made without possible pitfalls, but right now, based on what happened at Canterbury Park on Saturday (a crowd of 13,315) and in years past, this latest proposal seems sound.

The perfect name for the 2017 rendition of Extreme Day, as it is known, should actually be Nik Goodwin day, based on how he kicked off Saturday’s proceedings.

Goodwin, you might recall, celebrated the 1,000th thoroughbred winner of his career recently. Saturday, he became the all time leader in quarter horse winners at Canterbury, riding Lota James in the Dash in a Flash Stakes, an Extreme Day 110 yard sprint. That gave him 108 overall, one more than Ry Eikleberry. Then,  in the Duck Race, he made trainer Randy Pfeifer a first-time winner this meet aboard Choral Song.

“Been a good day,” Goodwin said matter of factly.

A good summer.

Before we recount the events of the day, there are additional suggestions to be made. For instance, in the race called the Battle of the Surfaces, pitting horses on the turf against others on the grass. It is an amazing spectacle, watching two races being run as one. Yet it could be improved. Next year, why not add the training track beyond the main track and turf course to create even more excitement. Maybe even run quarter horses on the training track, for an added dimension. Just imagine, watching three races at the same time but it is actually one race. What a rush. What a reason to skip the cabin, fishing, boating on the St. Croix. It would be better than the State Fair, Valley Fair and the Scott County Fair all in one.  A three for one deal, so to speak.

As good as Extreme Day already is, it can certainly benefit from implementing these suggestions.

It has been several years since a turf horse has won the battle of the surfaces, but that changed on Saturday.  Nutty Futty, ridden by Leslie Mawing, was the winner, breaking from the No. 2 hole on the grass. The next three finishers also ran on the grass. There were 11 starters on the turf, nine on the dirt.

Former pressbox assistant Michelle Benson, the winning rider in last year’s Camelbury Dash, now works in advertising for the Thoroughbred Daily News in New Jersey. She shipped in Saturday, hoping to defend her crown aboard last year’s winner, Rock N Spit.

 

Her mount did not break well and ran even worse and she was of the mind afterward that she had been aboard a ringer, simply tagged with the same name. “I don’t think it was the same camel,” Michelle said. “The hump was different.”

The winner was June’s rider of the month, Oscar Delgado, riding Alexander Camelton. “Hey, no trophy, no belt buckle,” Delgado lamented afterward.

The Spurt in the Dirt, a two-furlong affair, was won by World Famous Sam T with Larren Delorme in the irons.

Then there was the Canterbury Endurance challenge, a 1 7/8 mile marathon on the grass that went to Born Force and rider Chad Lindsay in a strange twist of affairs. On extreme day:

Orlando Mojica, aboard Blue Bomber and gliding effortlessly on the lead, did something extremely extreme: He stopped riding halfway through the race, thinking it was over. With another lap to go, Mojica stood in the irons at the finish line.  Visions of Bill Shoemaker aboard Gallant Man in the 1957 Kentucky Derby, when the Shoe blew a win, standing in the irons too soon.

As for what occurred on Saturday, think nothing of it, compadre, a friend of mine once punched out at noon, thinking the lunch hour was the end of the day. Could happen to anyone.

The last two extreme races on the card were won by the same rider, Justine Klaiber. She rode her ostrich, Mark My Bird, beautifully, taking advantage of her erratic competitors who ran all over the place, to hit the finish line first.

Then she rode her zebra, Earn My Stripes, to win that race while her fractious competitors bucked their riders into the dirt or simply refused to run. Here is where another suggestion could improve conditions for this race, as suggested in the past. A couple of lions and/or hyenas nipping at their heels would keep these striped fellows running in a straight line.

There you have it, all of the ins and outs of extreme day 2017, and the suggestions that will make 2018 even grander.

Extreme Memories

By Noah Joseph

Saturday is Extreme Race Day, a highlight of the year at Canterbury Park, now in its 11th edition. It’s a wild and wacky day for all featuring camel, ostrich, and zebra races. The first Extreme Race Day was held in 2007, and I was there at age nine. So this is a recollection of memories from that day.

It was a cloudy yet pleasant Sunday afternoon as my family and I entered the track. After a couple of “normal” thoroughbred races got the day started, things got wild with thoroughbreds running the unique and rare distance of 4 ½ furlongs and quarter horses running 100 yards, the shortest distance run at the track. Golden Zoomer won that race and set a track record that still stands.

After the shortest race came the longest race, a virtual marathon of 2 miles and a 16th on the dirt, which was won by Agent Dansuer.

We had camel and ostrich races, but then came the most captivating race of all with horses racing on the dirt and turf at the same time! That and the quarter horse dash are still run every Extreme Day.

Other fun races included a two year old maiden battle of the sexes sprint that took place on the turf and a 770 yard race between the thoroughbreds and quarter horses, with the thoroughbreds winning. The last extreme race of the day, a turf race, was the Dirty Dozen for horses who had never won on the turf. A couple of quarter horse trials then closed out the card.

The inaugural Extreme Race Day was a huge success. It caught on so quickly that other tracks started doing extreme races as well, but Canterbury will always be the first to have done it. And I can guarantee that this year’s Extreme Race Day will be just as fun and exciting as it was in 2007.

Noah Joseph is a longtime Canterbury Park and horse racing fan. He’s been attending races at Canterbury since 2000 when he was 3 years old and has enjoyed every minute of it. Noah provides a weekly piece on CanterburyLive.com.

EXTREMELY NICE WEATHER, LARGE CROWD FOR EXTREME RACE DAY

CBY Camels Extreme Day 7-16-16 005

BY JIM WELLS

How about the largest field for a race this year other than the Kentucky Derby, a race in which the track announcer can’t call a winner because, as Paul Allen put it Saturday, “I had no idea who won.”

Not  because there was a photo finish involved. Even the winning jockey was left shaking his head.

Welcome to the Battle of the Surfaces, 11 horses running on the turf and seven on the dirt….in the same race, part of the annual Extreme Day at Canterbury Park which drew a crowd of 18,746.

“I got confused. I knew I was winning in my group (on the dirt),” said Orlando Mojica. “But the others I couldn’t tell. They were all looking at each other. ”

Yes, it can get weird, particularly when horses running on the dirt, or vice versa, begin eyeing one another across the way. Call it organized confusion.

So,  once again a horse on the dirt won this race, even though the distances for the two surfaces was tweaked again this season. No grass runner has ever won.

Welcome to a strange race that highlights a day of racing involving ostriches, camels and zebras and exotic races to boot.

Mojica, aboard Towpath, trained by Lynn Rarick, finished 2  ¾ lengths in front of Gavar (both runners on the dirt) and 5 ½ in front of Sam’s Silver Star (on the turf).

Eighteen horses leaving the paddock at Canterbury prompted one observer to proclaim. “They just keep coming and coming. It’s like people climbing out of a clown car.”

 

TOWPATH - Battle of the Surfaces - Dirt - 07-16-16 - R11 - CBY - 005

 

CANTERBURY DASH IN A FLASH STAKES

 

DIVAS CANDY GIRL - Dash In A Flash Stakes - 07-16-16 - R02 - CBY - Finish

Racing a mile and a quarter?

A clock between the ears helps, so does the ability to judge what others around you are doing and the sensitivity to measure the gas left in your horse without benefit of a fuel gage and to take the rail and save ground if possible.

Racing 110 yards?

The axiom on this one parallels another long held belief in the real estate profession about location, location, location. Only in this case, it’s all about the break, the break, the break.

Divas Candy Girl applied that understanding to near perfection, breaking like she was a long narrow missile leaving Cape Canaveral, a start that enabled her to outnose Sudden Separation in the $22,700 Dash in a Flash Stakes, another novelty race part of the annual Extreme Day of racing in Shakopee.

“Wow, that’s the blankety blank way to leave the gate,” intoned winning trainer Jason Olmstead

“I warmed her up pretty good and she took off out of there really quick,” said winning rider Brayan Velazquez.

“A short race like this, the break is the whole thing,” said winning owner Thomas Scheckel, a native of Bellevue, Iowa.

Divas Candy Girl, a 3-year-old filly by Spit Curl Jess, won for the first time this year and fourth time in her career in nine starts.

She returned $27.40, $10.40 and $5.20 across the board as a 12-1 choice, outdueling sudden Separation at 5/2 and Dash Around Blues at 15-1.

Sometimes all a guy, or a horse, needs to win in this sport is a break.

A clean, quick one.

 

 

SPURT IN THE DIRT

If 110 yards for quarter horses sounds weird, how about two furlongs for thoroughbreds.

You have to go like crazy in this one, and Scott Bethke aboard World Famous Sam T, trained and owned by his father, Troy, did just that, bringing home the bacon as they say.

Anyone who walked in on this one unaware, would have sworn he/she was watching a quarter horse race. It capped off a two-race sweep for  Bethke, who won the fourth race at 21-0 aboard Jerry’s Two Tickets, trained by Thad Keller.

 

 

THE DUCK RACE

This race is for trainers who had not saddled a winner this year, at least at the time of entry, a distinction that became necessary this time around.

Chuck Turco saddled Dusty Princess in this one and Virginia Peters sent out One Won Eleven. Both trainers were winless at the time they entered horses for the race but had shed that dubious distinction in the days after.

Saturday, Turco added to his yearly total in the W column after Dusty Princess raced home in front of Poverty Flats.

 

 

CAMELS, OSTRICHES and ZEBRAS

Camels, camels, camels. A barrel of fun for the kids and a kegful of laughs for mom and dad, and it took a barrel racer to win this event on Saturday.

Michelle Benson, the track’s digital media specialist, has been riding horses since before she learned to walk and has been barrel racing competitively since she eight or nine year old.

Saturday, she turned her first time aboard a camel into a winning ride, guiding Rock N Spit to a clear victory over three others, namely Donald Hump, Hillary Camelton and Frank Underhump.

She was thrilled to get the opportunity and, upon learning that the Ostrich race was short a rider, campaigned vigorously for a chance to add the big bird to her list of animals she has ridden.

She got it.

“It was fun,” she said. “It was (at times) like riding a horse with the saddle slipping.”

Nonetheless, she finished third in the race, and her mind went blank after crossing the finish line. “We were told how to dismount,” she said, “but I forgot what was said.”

So….

“I basically just tucked and rolled,” she said.

Michelle was quite satisfied with her third place finish. “You have to remember,” she said, “I basically was spotting those other riders (all jockeys) about 15 pounds.”

The winner was a new rider at Canterbury, Carlos Esquilin, aboard an Ostrich named Kim KarDASHIN. Had he ever ridden a big bird before?

“No, never in my life,” he said. “It was fun

It was also his first win at Canterbury.

Oh, the Zebras. They looked a little tired on Saturday. Maybe lazy is a better adjective. They ran a little but not exactly in a straight line.

One jockey suggested putting blinkers on them to correct the latter fault.

Not necessary, he was told. Sic a lion on them. They’ll run a  lot straighter and faster.

Tara Coombs picked up where Michelle Benson left off. Winning another one for the women, aboard a zebra named WeGottaStreaker, one of the few around who gives his all.  It was Tara’s second time aboard the striped fellows and she outrode three others.

CBY Ostrich Extreme Day 7-16-16 007

Photos by Coady Photography

 

Top 5 Reasons to Come to Extreme Race Day at Canterbury Park

Extreme Day Camels

1.      The Great Camelbury Dash “Debate”

·         In the most anticipated “race” of the season, Donald Hump and Hilary Camelton go head to head in a battle of speed and spit Saturday, July 16. Will Donald Hump be able to make racing great again or will he hit a wall? While Hilary Camelton is the only female in the race, will she be able to take down Donald Hump with her major sass? The only way to find out is to witness this major debacle this Saturday at Canterbury Park.  Plus, be sure to get here early as each of these popular camel candidates will be on display to the public before their big race.

 

2.      The Zonkey is Loose

·         Have you ever seen a cross between a zebra and a donkey? You will this Saturday at Canterbury Park. This hybrid animal is often referred to as a zebonkey, zebrinny, zebrass, zedonk or as we refer to it as “the  Zonkey”. This gray striped mixed breed is always a big contender in the Zooming Zebra race on extreme day and nothing gives you a good laugh like hearing the excitement in Paul Allen’s voice as he calls out “The Zonkey is Loose”!

Extreme Day Zebras

 

3.      The “Birds” are Back in Town

·         It’s been two years since we’ve seen these large flightless birds take to the track. Last year, due to the bird flu epidemic, the ostrich races were on hiatus, but we’ve been given the green light.   The ostrich races are the most entertaining races of the day.   Ostriches are the fastest running bird, sprinting up to 43 mph.   They say birds of the feather flock together, but not these big birds.

Extreme Day Ostrich

4.      Battle of The Surfaces

·         Battle of the Surfaces is race six and features both dirt horses and turf horses in one pari-mutuel race.   Twelve turf horses will compete on the turf track against seven dirt horses on the main track – all racing simultaneously! Better get your handicapping hat on; this 19 horse field is sure to keep you on the edge of your seat.

 

5.      Family Fun Activities

·         If camels, ostrich and zebras aren’t enough to sway you to come play this Saturday…we have plenty of FREE family activities such as pony rides, a petting zoo, and face painting.  Plus, stick around after the final horse race for Old Dutch Kids Race the Track. All kids will receive a special prize for participating and they burn off any remaining energy for the car ride home. Did we mention that kids 17 and under receive free admission? and not just on Extreme Day, but every race day!

Extreme Race Day Saturday, July 16

AN EXTREME YET INVIGORATING DAY

Scott Bethke rides Donald Hump to victory

There was something for everyone during Extreme Day Saturday:

Short races for anyone in similar financial straits, a race run simultaneously on the turf and the dirt for those who watch a couple of NFL games on side-by-side television sets, camel races for those trying to surmount a hump of one kind of another and, of course, the zebra races for fans of all stripes.

Extreme Day typically attracts large crowds, a plethora of strollers, first-time patrons, colorful hats and dresses, awestruck youngsters, long lines at the concession stands and a mad rush for the doors after the last promotional event of the day (in this case the zebra races).

Orchestrating the events from his microphone at trackside while demonstrating his bucket-list plans could include a job as carnival barker, Paul Allen kept the fans engaged and the performers sometimes struggling to negotiate the nuances of a second language whenever his irony or parody was misconstrued as straightforward.

All in all, that majority of the crowd seemed to enjoy themselves. In fact, it was the third race on the card that grabbed the attention of even novice fans.

Horse racing doesn’t get any better than the stretch drive of that event, a mile and 70 yards, with Steviefromstanley, ridden by Leandro Goncalves, and Demi Blue, with Dean Butler up, exchanging leads throughout the stretch drive and then wondering, along with the crowd, about the distinct possibility of a dead heat as they awaited the result of the photo finish.

The nod went to Butler and Demi Blue by no more than a whisker. “Great race,” a bystander said to Goncalves. “It would be better if I had won,” he responded. “But that’s the way it goes. Win some, lose some.”

Not often in such dramatic conditions, however.

DASH IN A FLASH STAKES

The first extreme race on the card was for quarter horses at 110 yards, a virtual drag race. A race that short requires a perfect break, and that’s what the Stacy Charette-Hill trained Defiant Red Rooster got.

“It’s just so short you have to get a good break,” said Jorge Torres, who this race for the third straight time as the stable’s first-call rider.

It meant a lot to Torres’ son, clearly. He was asked by a passerby later on whether he was having a good day. “Yup, ” he said. “My dad won his race today.”

Finishing third wasn’t bad either, the way Jim Olson saw it. Irish Brew, owned by Olson and Paul Knapper and trained by Jerry Livingston, ran third. “Not bad for a Minnesota-bred,” Olson said afterward. “We knew we’d have to outbreak that horse (the winner) to win and we didn’t do that.”

A SHORT ONE, FROM A TB’S POINT OF VIEW

Two furlongs is a mere warmup for most thoroughbreds. Nonetheless, Oscar Becerra rode Wildcat Moon for Dayson LaVanway to the winner’s circle in the two-furlong Spurt in the Dirt in a winning time of :21.39.

BATTLE OF THE SURFACES

This race matched a field of 17, nine of them on the turf and eight on the main track, and for the second consecutive year the dirt runners dominated. “You can’t give them a 70 yard head start,” one trainer said about the extra yardage required of the turf runner.

All but one of the main track horses finished ahead of the first turf runner. The winner of Another Gear, owned by Al and Bill Ulwelling, trained by Mike Biehler and ridden by Lori Keith.

The first turf runner to finish was Seven Tuff, trained by James Robertson, owned by J&J Stable and ridden by Dean Butler.

A conversation ensued afterward between Butler and Keith after she was asked if she had any view of the turf runners from the main track. “I had all I could do to race by horse,” she said.

“I was hoping my horse would catch sight of the (main track horses) and that would (inspire) him,” said Butler.

The order of finish was Another Gear, Pendulum and Mystorynmstikntoit.

 

THE ZEBRAS INSPIRE

You won’t see this happen in a quarter horse or thoroughbred race:

Dave Pinon, assigned to another zebra, instead hopped aboard the perennial winner in this race, a Zonkey (half zebra, half donkey) and raced to victory.

“I had no idea. I just jumped on a zebra and raced,” he said afterward.

He picked the right one. The other riders were unseated from their zebras. “Mine started bucking right out of the gate,” said Marcus Swiontek.

 

THE WEATHER WAS SUITED TO CAMELS

Pari-mutuel wagering was not included but anyone inclined to make a side bet on the camels Saturday needed no more handicapping wisdom than a look at the runners’ names on the warmest day of the Minnesota summer.

Take Donald Hump as an example. You knew he’d be near the lead in emulation of his namesake, who has been near the front in the GOP polls.

Or how about Cam El Chapo, whose namesake many people believe can never be caught, not after that clean start in his latest break.

As often happens with the thoroughbreds or quarter horses, not all went according to form, even though Donald Hump, hesitant but steady, won going away. It simply became a one-camel race. Cam el Chapo and rider Dave Pinon, Call Me Camel Cait and Leonel Olgvin and Rock’N’Spit and Nicholas Zufelt resembled the Belmont field following Secretariat down the stretch. The winning rider was Scott Bethke (yes, his father is the trainer, Troy). The 15-year-old sophomore at Waconia High School has been on plenty of horses but was making his first ride aboard one of the tall, smelly beasts.

After addressing all of the perfunctory questions, young Mr. Bethke averred that yes, he is willing to do it again.

After all, he had just provided evidence that winning camel races is quite possibly a genetic skill. His father won this race a couple of years ago.

AN EXTREME YET INVIGORATING DAY

Scott Bethke rides Donald Hump to victory

There was something for everyone during Extreme Day Saturday:

Short races for anyone in similar financial straits, a race run simultaneously on the turf and the dirt for those who watch a couple of NFL games on side-by-side television sets, camel races for those trying to surmount a hump of one kind of another and, of course, the zebra races for fans of all stripes.

Extreme Day typically attracts large crowds, a plethora of strollers, first-time patrons, colorful hats and dresses, awestruck youngsters, long lines at the concession stands and a mad rush for the doors after the last promotional event of the day (in this case the zebra races).

Orchestrating the events from his microphone at trackside while demonstrating his bucket-list plans could include a job as carnival barker, Paul Allen kept the fans engaged and the performers sometimes struggling to negotiate the nuances of a second language whenever his irony or parody was misconstrued as straightforward.

All in all, that majority of the crowd seemed to enjoy themselves. In fact, it was the third race on the card that grabbed the attention of even novice fans.

Horse racing doesn’t get any better than the stretch drive of that event, a mile and 70 yards, with Steviefromstanley, ridden by Leandro Goncalves, and Demi Blue, with Dean Butler up, exchanging leads throughout the stretch drive and then wondering, along with the crowd, about the distinct possibility of a dead heat as they awaited the result of the photo finish.

The nod went to Butler and Demi Blue by no more than a whisker. “Great race,” a bystander said to Goncalves. “It would be better if I had won,” he responded. “But that’s the way it goes. Win some, lose some.”

Not often in such dramatic conditions, however.

DASH IN A FLASH STAKES

The first extreme race on the card was for quarter horses at 110 yards, a virtual drag race. A race that short requires a perfect break, and that’s what the Stacy Charette-Hill trained Defiant Red Rooster got.

“It’s just so short you have to get a good break,” said Jorge Torres, who this race for the third straight time as the stable’s first-call rider.

It meant a lot to Torres’ son, clearly. He was asked by a passerby later on whether he was having a good day. “Yup, ” he said. “My dad won his race today.”

Finishing third wasn’t bad either, the way Jim Olson saw it. Irish Brew, owned by Olson and Paul Knapper and trained by Jerry Livingston, ran third. “Not bad for a Minnesota-bred,” Olson said afterward. “We knew we’d have to outbreak that horse (the winner) to win and we didn’t do that.”

A SHORT ONE, FROM A TB’S POINT OF VIEW

Two furlongs is a mere warmup for most thoroughbreds. Nonetheless, Oscar Becerra rode Wildcat Moon for Dayson LaVanway to the winner’s circle in the two-furlong Spurt in the Dirt in a winning time of :21.39.

BATTLE OF THE SURFACES

This race matched a field of 17, nine of them on the turf and eight on the main track, and for the second consecutive year the dirt runners dominated. “You can’t give them a 70 yard head start,” one trainer said about the extra yardage required of the turf runner.

All but one of the main track horses finished ahead of the first turf runner. The winner of Another Gear, owned by Al and Bill Ulwelling, trained by Mike Biehler and ridden by Lori Keith.

The first turf runner to finish was Seven Tuff, trained by James Robertson, owned by J&J Stable and ridden by Dean Butler.

A conversation ensued afterward between Butler and Keith after she was asked if she had any view of the turf runners from the main track. “I had all I could do to race by horse,” she said.

“I was hoping my horse would catch sight of the (main track horses) and that would (inspire) him,” said Butler.

The order of finish was Another Gear, Pendulum and Mystorynmstikntoit.

 

THE ZEBRAS INSPIRE

You won’t see this happen in a quarter horse or thoroughbred race:

Dave Pinon, assigned to another zebra, instead hopped aboard the perennial winner in this race, a Zonkey (half zebra, half donkey) and raced to victory.

“I had no idea. I just jumped on a zebra and raced,” he said afterward.

He picked the right one. The other riders were unseated from their zebras. “Mine started bucking right out of the gate,” said Marcus Swiontek.

 

THE WEATHER WAS SUITED TO CAMELS

Pari-mutuel wagering was not included but anyone inclined to make a side bet on the camels Saturday needed no more handicapping wisdom than a look at the runners’ names on the warmest day of the Minnesota summer.

Take Donald Hump as an example. You knew he’d be near the lead in emulation of his namesake, who has been near the front in the GOP polls.

Or how about Cam El Chapo, whose namesake many people believe can never be caught, not after that clean start in his latest break.

As often happens with the thoroughbreds or quarter horses, not all went according to form, even though Donald Hump, hesitant but steady, won going away. It simply became a one-camel race. Cam el Chapo and rider Dave Pinon, Call Me Camel Cait and Leonel Olgvin and Rock’N’Spit and Nicholas Zufelt resembled the Belmont field following Secretariat down the stretch. The winning rider was Scott Bethke (yes, his father is the trainer, Troy). The 15-year-old sophomore at Waconia High School has been on plenty of horses but was making his first ride aboard one of the tall, smelly beasts.

After addressing all of the perfunctory questions, young Mr. Bethke averred that yes, he is willing to do it again.

After all, he had just provided evidence that winning camel races is quite possibly a genetic skill. His father won this race a couple of years ago.

Thrills and Chills of Extreme Day

Zebra Start 7-20-13

Canterbury Park will send out exotic animals and accompanying jockeys for Saturday’s annual Extreme Day, an occasion when caution and civility are thrown to the wind and some people are caught downwind from the camels, zebras and ostriches. It is an occasion of fun and games along with the regularly featured thoroughbred races, including a few of an extreme nature.

During his second season as a jockey Ry Eikleberry consented to riding an ostrich during a promotion at Turf Paradise in Phoenix. Listening to him retell the occasion, it sounds as if the memory isn’t about to fade anytime soon.

Eikleberry climbed aboard the big bird in the claustrophobic confines of the starting gate prepared to break cleanly and swiftly, in the fashion he always anticpates aboard a horse.

One problem.

“The bird turned its head and looked right at me,” he said.

Creepy?

It goes without saying, but the ordeal wasn’t over.

“Then it kept trying to peck me,” he said.

So, there he is, aboard a nice pair of Nocona exotic boots, and the thing was prepared to eat him.

Will that stop him from riding an ostrich during Canterbury Park’s Extreme Day promotion on Saturday?

Yup!

Eikleberry is leading all riders in the current standings in Shakopee. Who in his right mind would jeopardize that by risking a disabling peck in the eye from a bird that has been known to kick a human being to high heaven for simply looking at him…or her.

Not Eikleberry. He’s taking a philosophic approach to Canterbury’s Extreme Day and the chance to ride an ostrich, a camel or even a zebra.

Thanks. But no thanks.

“It was fun,” he said about the ostrich ride. “A real good, one-time experience.”

He will be part of other Extreme Day activities nonetheless.

He will ride Oughterson in the seventh race as the Battle of the Surfaces returns, with some minor adjustments. Races will be run simultaneously on the dirt and turf courses, but for wagering purposes it will be a single race.

That event will feature the largest field in the nation this year with a contingent of 20 horses, besting even the Kentucky Derby and its annual cavalry charge by one.

Twelve horses are entered to run on the grass, the other eight on the dirt.

You might recall that one of the starting gates failed to open in 2008 when this race was run for the second time. It is emerging from the ashes Phoenix-like for its first running since.

The grass horses will run a mile and 1/16 and those on the dirt a flat mile. Racing officials have analyzed the varying speeds of the two surfaces and the class of horses entered in the two fields to account for the difference.

Some of the jockeys aren’t so sure about that.

“A mile is a mile is a mile,” one of them responded.

Canterbury apparently will take everything to an extreme on Saturday.

Eikleberry will ride a horse called Rebel’s Myne in the sixth race, at a mere two furlongs. “I’ve ridden a lot of babies two furlongs.” he said. “But this is the first time I’ve ridden an older horse that distance.”

Canterbury Park Hall of Fame rider Scott Stevens will leave the exotic rides to the youngsters. He’s had enough spills and wrecks for one lifetime without setting himself up for a possible peck or two from an ostrich, a bite from a zebra or camel spit in an eye.

Besides, camels have been known to transmit the dreaded MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) virus to human beings, although pressbox impressario Jeff Maday is not in the least concerned.

“These camels were bred in Kansas,” he said. “No need to worry.”

Tell that to Lori Keith, who rode one of the smelly fellows to victory a couple of years ago. “I didn’t know they spit at you,” she said at the time.” Nonetheless, Keith was aboard the winning Rock N’ Spit.

There are also zebra races scheduled, and Keith was able to supply some insight on those beasts as well, supplied by trainer Mike Biehler. “He said they are kind of ornery and very hard to break,” she said.

In addition, one of the striped devils from a previous Extreme Day had the termerity on an occasion to bite off its trainer’s thumb..

Keith has the mount on Little Wagon in the Battle of the Surfaces, on the turf. She is foregoing another opportunity on the camels or ostriches, content to leave that to the track’s youngest riders, who still believe they are bullet-proof.

Despite her reluctance to mount another camel, the two-time winner of the Mystic Lake Derby likes the Extreme Day promotion.

“It’s good to cultivate the younger population, and this is good publicity-wise for Canterbury,” she said.

Although camels or zebras are not among his mounts on the card, Stevens will ride Ivory Fudge for trainer Robertino Diodoro on the main track in the Battle of the Surfaces race. He has the call on My Fine Lady in the sixth race, the two-furlong dash.

As one example for his enduring success at race-riding, Stevens pointed out some facts about one of his rivals in that race, an indication that he continues to do his homework.

Jorge Correno rides Just Meteor, a winner at five furlongs in his only Canterbury out. He has a six-race winning streak. “It would be 10 but he finished second in two races by a nose and a neck,” Stevens said.

Even so, he figures to be in the race. “I like my chances,” he said. “My filly is fast, real fast.” A nice feature in any race, yet especially at two furlongs.

 BY JIM WELLS

 

Extreme Day features The Battle of the Surfaces

extreme day

Canterbury Park’s Extreme Race Day, now in its eighth year, will be held Saturday, July 19. Exhibition races with camels, ostriches, and zebras have become the main draw on Extreme Day, last year’s attendance was a record 20,291, but this season the program will include the return of ‘The Battle of the Surfaces.’ This pari-mutuel race will feature 20 horses, the largest field in North American racing in 2014, competing against each other simultaneously at one and one-sixteenth miles on the turf and one mile on the dirt.

The two starting gates will be staggered so that the final time of the race is approximated to be the same for both the turf and dirt.  Canterbury Park officials have analyzed the varying speed of the turf and dirt courses as well as the class of the horses competing, and have judged that the closest finish would result from the turf horses racing an extra one-sixteenth of a mile. The starting gate stalls will open in unison and it will be up to handicappers to determine which horses will be the best when the horses finish at the same finish line in front of the grandstand. Twelve thoroughbreds have been entered for the turf and eight for the dirt.

Each horse will be an individual betting interest with win, place, show, exacta, trifecta, and superfecta wagering offered. The order of finish will be determined by best finish position regardless of which surface the horse is racing on, so it is possible to have an exacta payoff comprised of a horse racing on the turf and a horse racing on the dirt. The Battle of the Surfaces will be the seventh race on a 10-race program.

Canterbury Park was the first track to successfully attempt such a race when it debuted during the 2007 Extreme Day. The following year the starting gates failed to open simultaneously and The Battle of the Surfaces seemed doomed. Canterbury’s Vice President of Racing Operations Eric Halstrom is determined to make it a success this Saturday.

“We showed that this could work in 2007 and the fans loved it. We were disappointed the next year when the gates did not open together, but it was technology that failed us not the race,” Halstrom said. “We have tested and tweaked the gates and the distances to make this an exciting event that race fans will only experience at Canterbury Park and believe we are creating the most unique wagering opportunity in the history of racing for handicappers across the country.”

The 2014 Kentucky Derby field had 19 horses. This 20-horse field of Battle of the Surfaces will be the largest in the country this year.

Ostriches, camels, and zebras will again be a part of Extreme Race Day, presented by the Minnesota State Lottery, with exhibition races being conducted throughout the afternoon.

Horse racing begins at 12:45 p.m. General admission is $8.00 for adults. Children 17 and under are admitted free. Parking is free. Family Day activities including pony rides, face painting and a petting zoo will also be offered.

More info on the day here.

 

16,071 Witness Extreme Race Day! (W/Video)

Extreme day had something for everyone on Saturday, and everyone totaled 16,071 patrons on hand to watch Red Hot Zoomer win one of the shortest races in track history, Wild Jacob repeat as John Bullit champion, the mayor of Shakopee win another race, this time on a camel, and a one-eyed horse steal the HBPA Sprint Stakes.

Oh, yes, and the Ostrich dash, won by veteran rider Derek Bell, riding a bird for the first time in his career.

There was also the first helium-called race in thoroughbred history, with announcer Paul Allen breathing from a helium balloon during parts of the race.

STEVENS WINS ANOTHER JOHN BULLIT

Maybe the John Bullit Stakes is a misnomer, maybe the name should be altered to somehow include the name Scott Stevens because the Canterbury Park Hall of Fame rider has a hold on this race.

Once again, Stevens found a way to win a race against long odds. Granted he was riding the defending champion, and granted he was riding a horse conditioned by a man he calls the consummate trainer.

Still, the $50,000 John Bullit for 2012 attracted out of state and local talent that made Stevens’ horse Wild Jacob an outside choice at 5-1 over the mile and 1-16th distance on the turf.

Didn’t matter.

Wild Jacob caught fire approaching the final sixteenth and finished two lengths in front of Edgerin J and 2 and ½ in front of multiple stakes winning Stachys.

The win was the fifth in the John Bullit for Stevens, who was aboard Doc Hollywood in the inaugural running in 1996 and on Sharman the next year.

He also rode Tiganello in 2008 and Trying Brian in 2009. Derek Bell, also a Hall of Famer, is the only other rider with four John Bullit wins.

For Stevens, though, there is another special attachment to this race. He won the 2,000th and 4,000th races of his career in the John Bullit. He also rode John Bullit at one point during his career.

But the credit according to Stevens belongs to winning trainer Stanley Mankin.

“He’s one of the best trainers I’ve ridden for,” Stevens said. “He only has four horses but he takes such good care of them and has them so ready.”

$35,000 HBPA SPRINT STAKES

The finish left trainer Tony Rengstorf pleased but shaking his head, owner Bonnie Baskin delighted and Dean Butler the rider on another winning stake horse.

Desert Alley, the only Minnesota-bred in the race, led from gate to wire, desperately withstanding Clear to Canada in the final 100 yards to win by a length.

“I didn’t expect this,” Rengstorf said. “He is better off at 5 ½ but he held on.”

The race came down to the top two horses at the finish, with only Desert Alley and the Miguel Silva trained Clear to Canada, who had 5 and ½ lengths on Gordon Drive, in the running. The winner even overcame the fact he races without a right eye, lost to an infection. “We don’t know if he got dirt in it or what, but it got infected,” Rengstorf added.

SHORT IS GOOD

The card commenced with shortest race of the day, in fact the second shortest race in Canterbury Park annals, and a 3-year-old sorrel filly called Red Hot Zoomer made short work of the competition.

A seven-horse field lined up for this track first, the $15,000-added Dash in a Flash, the $15,000 financed by the Mystic Lake Purse Enhancement Fund.

The race was over four jumps out of the gate as Red Hot Zoomer, by Azoom from Prairie War, broke as if she had been shot out of a cannon.

“She just blew out of there,” said winning rider Nik Goodwin, who added one more win to his leading total among quarter horse riders. “She can fly when she gets her feet under her like that.”

The winner is trained by perennial quarter horse training champ Ed Ross Hardy and is owned by Terry Thorson.

THE MAYOR RULES

Shakopee mayor Brad Tabke and a camel named Mayor Camelot blew away the competition in Saturday’s Camelbury Dash, one of the annual highlights of Extreme Day at Canterbury Park.

Mayor Camelot was the 2-1 morning line favorite and looked it, breaking outside his three competitors. Of the four, only the winner ran a straight true line with any alacrity to his movement.

Afterwards, Mayor Tabke expressed kind, glowing thoughts for Canterbury and its role in the Shakopee community.

Meanwhile, several disgruntled side bettors called foul, and they weren’t referring to the odoriferous being of the humpbacked athletes.

The suggestion was that a camel named Mayor Camelot, ridden by a real Mayor, must have been a set-up.

Paddock analyst Angela Hermann, who finished third on Camelflage behind the runnerup, Spittin’ Image ridden by trainer Gerry Corcoran, described the experience as “a bumpy” ride. Included in her race analysis was this recollection from comments made before the race:

“People kept asking if I had made out my will and if I had insurance,” she said.

The fourth camel, Humpty Dumpme, finished last under trainer Tony Rengstorf

BELL, BIG BIRD STEAL RACE

The Don’t Lay an Egg Dash is an annual favorite at Canterbury Park, first because it’s a strange sight to see grown men, or women as the case may be, riding a bird.

Or as Saturday’s winning rider, Derek Bell, put it, “a big chicken.”

Bell, riding the race for the first time, kept his seat and his bearings, something two of his competitors were unable to do, and stole the show aboard Wally the Birdman.

Larren Delorme was unable to keep his seat on Ostradamus out of the No. 1 hole. Jeramie Fennell rode Flockstar, Denny Velazquez was aboard Bird if the Word and Marcus Swiontek was on Ostracized.

“That was pretty weird,” Bell said after his first Ostrich ride. “It was like riding a chicken, a big souped-up chicken.”

By the way, Bell’s bird won by a long neck.

PA REVISITS 1995

The final “Extreme” event on the card was Paul Allen revisiting tones last heard around Canterbury Park in 1995. Paul called the 9th race on the card with an assist from Helium bringing his voice back into a register not familiar to some of Canterbury Park’s younger fans. Here’s the race:

Here’s a look at the race with some behind the scenes footage:

 

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