Unbridled: Canterbury’s Star

By Noah Joseph

On Sunday, September 24, 1989, race nine was the Canterbury Juvenile Stakes. Despite being a fairly new race, in just three previous editions it produced several top 2-year-olds including 1987 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner, Success Express.

The winner of the ’89 Canterbury Juvenile, Appealing Breeze, also ran in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile that year, but it was the colt that finished second in the Canterbury race that was on to bigger and better things.

That colt was Unbridled. The son of Fappiano was owned by Frances Genter, a 92- year-old woman from Minnesota who had owned racehorses, including 1986 Breeder’s’ Cup Sprint winner and Canterbury winner Smile, for several decades. The trainer of Unbridled was Carl Nafzger, who had stables around the country, including at what was then Canterbury Downs. Unbridled finished 1989 with two wins in six starts and never finished worse than third.

However, it was during his 3-year-old season when the magic happened. Unbridled won the 1990 Kentucky Derby after running well in several preps. His win was very special for Genter and Nafzger, for Nafzger called the race for the elderly owner.

 

Unfortunately, Unbridled didn’t win the Triple Crown, he finished second in the Preakness and  fourth in the Belmont, but he capped off his championship season with a win in that same year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic at Belmont Park and was voted champion 3-year old colt of 1990.

 

After a sub-par 1991 campaign, Unbridled was retired to stud, where his record was outstanding. Unbridled died in 2001, but not before he left his mark in the racing world. His son Unbridled’s Song is the sire of Arrogate, the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner along with the Pegasus and Dubai World Cups, while another son, Empire Maker, produced Bodemeister, the sire of this year’s Kentucky Derby winner, Always Dreaming, and Pioneerof the Nile, who gave us 2015 Triple Crown, Grand Slam, and Horse Of The Year American Pharoah. It’s hard to believe that a colt that finished second in a stakes race at Canterbury would grow up to be one of the best and produce some of today’s greatest horses.

Frances Genter’s Smile in the Canterbury winner’s circle after winning the 1986 Canterbury Cup.

 

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.

Hot Dogs Everywhere But On The Track

 

Sky and Sea
Sky and Sea

Minnesotans celebrated the Fourth of July in a variety of ways _ picnics, barbecues, fishing, boating, a leisure day at the lake or in the backyard.

A crowd of  10,245  chose Canterbury Park and it’s free hot dogs, a wiener dog warm-up race and two time-honored stakes races, named for two of the state’s prominent early leaders in thoroughbred racing, Frances Genter and Victor Myers, $60,000 events restricted to Minnesota-bred horses, geldings and fillies.

Six state-bred fillies lined up for the Frances Genter at six furlongs, and a speedster named Sky and Sea got there first by, oh, a furlong or so.

Speed is Life proved it is sometimes a winning factor, too, outdueling eight others in the Victor Myers.

             With Ry Eilkeberry up, Speed is Life used a late surge in the stretch drive to hold off speedster Slippery Ice by a length With Royal Tramp and A P is Loose following up.

            Trainer Doug Oliver saddled the winner for Bob McMahon and Diane Sillik, EZ-AZ Thoroughbreds LLP. Oliver is no stranger to the Victor Myers. He has won it three times now, including the 1995 and 1999 runnings.

            McMahon purchased the horse when it was four or five weeks old. “It had trouble getting on its feet,” recalled Sillik. “Why would you want a horse that can’t stand,” a bystander wondered.

            Well….how about a record or 4-2-1 with earnings in excess of $60,000.

Sometimes a race  becomes not much more than a showcase for a specific horse,  a venue In which to display his or her wares, to demonstrate that life is not fair in the equine world either.

            …a fair depiction of Friday’s $60,000 Frances Genter Stakes and a resounding win by a 3-year-old filly named Sky and Sea, who on a gorgeous Fourth of July went gate to wire, resembling a mother hen escorting her chicks and winning by 11 ½ lengths.

            That win brought a smile from trainer Bernell Rhone, who has saddled the winner of this race four times, three consecutive now, and rider Dean Butler who was on the Genter winner for a fourth time.

Sky and Sear was 1-5 minutes before post time, a fact that left pressbox professor Jeff Maday a bit perplexed. “I’m surprised someone hasn’t dumped $50,000 on this horse to show,” he said. “I figured she’d be 1-9.”

             A minute later the tote-board numbers clicked and she was exactly that. Moments later she justified that confidence in overwhelming fashion.

            Still, this well-earned and dominant victory did not come wrapped in festive holiday paper, but more in the rumpled, mixed foil of reality.

You’ll hear often in racing about the ups and downs, the tremendous highs and lows the sport can present to those who’ve invested their time, emotion and money.

            It’s not often you’ll encounter both in the same individual as a result of the same race, but that was precisely the case for Scott Rake, the owner/breeder of Sky and Sea.

            Certainly, he was pleased with the magnificent effort from Sky and Sea, but he another filly on his mind afterward, another 3-year-old filly at home in the pasture, a filly who should have been at Canterbury in the same race as her winning stablemate Friday.

            Rebecca Rusch.

“I found myself thinking about her,” he said. “She’s a half-sister to Bourbon County. She’s home at our place eating peppermints. I thought Sky and Sea would be the speed in this race and that she could come in as the closer.”

That was not to be the case.

Rebecca Rusch developed a noncancerous but inoperable tumor on her jaw some time ago. It continues to grow and consequently she was put to pasture.

            Thus, Rake was left with mixed feelings Friday.

            “I had that high and low at the same time,” he said.

            by Jim Wells

The 4th of July

Badge Of Glory - Frances Genter Stakes - 07-04-13 - R08 - CBY - Under Rail FinishNo one in the public eye of American Racing captured the hearts of the thoroughbred world more convincingly than a 92-year-old woman from Minnesota in 1990.

Frances Genter, the grand dame of American racing, is still recalled for her Kentucky Derby win with Unbridled and the emotional race call of trainer Carl Nafzger that year at Churchill Downs.

Her lack of height and advancing years prevented Mrs. Genter from seeing clearly over the heads of fans in front of her, so Nafzger, at her side, called the race as Unbridled brought home the roses that afternoon.

Although the Kentucky Derby win thrust her into the national spotlight, Frances Genter and her deceased husband, Harold, were widely credited with helping build the Florida thoroughbred industry.

They owned some of the legendary horses of racing and breeding including champion two-year-old filly My Dear Girl, 1951 Santa Anita Derby winner Rough ‘n Tumble, 1967 Florida Derby winner In Reality, and 1980 Flamingo Stakes winner Superbity.

Canterbury Park annually stages a race named for the Eclipse-Award winning Mrs. Genter, as it did on Thursday in front of more than 14,000 fans with the $50,000-guaranteed Frances Genter Stakes.

It is certainly appropriate that a jockey who was riding at Canterbury Park the year Unbridled won the Derby was also aboard the winner of this race named for the owner of the 1990 3-year-old North American Horse of the Year. It is also fitting that he won this race only once before in its 23 runnings, in 1990 aboard Superb Sympathy.

Hall of Fame jockey Scott Stevens, who put in the ride of the season so far, in an obscure race on Wednesday, had to change plans quickly during the course of the race after strategy A was dismantled quickly.

The plan for his horse, Badge of Glory was simple. “We wanted the lead,” Stevens said. “But we couldn’t keep up with Mac’s horse (Hall of Fame trainer Mac Robertson’s Blue Moon Magic).”

Then the plan disintegrated as Stevens’ horse began taking dirt in the face. “By the time I got her to settle, I think we only had two horses beat,” Stevens added.

His observation was exact.

With a half mile to go in the six-furlong event, Stevens was in front of only Top Vow and Adorkable. It was a glory run from there. “When I asked her, she really came running,” Stevens said.

Running indeed. Badge of Glory, owned by Cheryl Sprick and Richard Bremer, picked off horses one by one, eight in all, to finish one length in front of 54-1 outsider Sultry Queen with Anne Von Rosen up and 1 ½ in front of the tiring even money favorite Blue Moon Magic and Derek Bell.

The win was the third in the Frances Genter Stakes for trainer Bernell Rhone, who won last year with Happy Hour Honey and in 1997 with Anisha.

Badge of Glory wanted the lead on Thursday but benefited from the swift early pace up front when Sentiment Gray and Juan Rivera went right at Bleu Moon Magic to create fractions of 21.67, 44.66 and 57.98. The winner, a chestnut filly by Badge of Silver from Dracken, caught the tiring horses in front of her with a winning time of 1:12. 74.

The victory made Badge of Glory the fifth Minnesota-bred filly of all time to complete the Northern Lights Debutante/Frances Genter Stakes sweep capturing both the two-year-old and three-year-old Minnesota Sprint Stakes joining Her Sweet Saint (2010), Chick Fight (2009), Sentimental Charm (2006) and Samdanya (1998).

LUCKY DOESN’T ALWAYS MEAN THE SAME THING

Trainer Randy Weidner, a native of Rosemount, was back in the winner’s circle Thursday with a horse named Track A Tac, his first winner since a tornado devastated his barn in Moore, Okla.

Track A Tac won the 350-yard dash, Thursday’s 10th race, just as his trainer and owner, M and M Racing Stables had hoped.

“This horse was waiting for me when I got here (after the tornado),” said Weidner. Originally, the horse was supposed to go to Oklahoma but the owner , Pat Krieg of Tucson, arranged for the horse to pick up a ride to Minnesota from Turf Paradise in Phoenix.

Pat was in North Dakota this week to attend her brother’s funeral. Her brother, Greg Marquardt, 63, was a jockey and raced in his younger days against Bernell and Russ Rhone and Gary Scherer.

So, the victory was bittersweet for Krieg.

And Weidner, too.

“When we got her we had a one-horse stable,” said Weidner, who is batting .500. Track A Tac is his second starter at Canterbury.

The horse’s barn name, by the way, is Lucky.

PICK YOUR PUPPY

Oscar appears to have some competition this year from a hippy cousin in the Dachshund ranks.

Oscar, the defending Wiener Dog race winner from 2012, was a little restive on Thursday but still beat nine rivals to the wire first in the warm-up for the Labor Day finals.

On his heels was Philly, a wirehair Dachsund, who hasn’t raced in nearly two years but looked in rare form nonetheless.

Philly is owned by Mike Linnemann and Emily Gage and is not to be taken lightly. He has two third-place finishes in this race and would like to change that this time around.

THE VIDEO SAYS IT ALL

Last, but certainly not least, let’s not forget that Canterbury held its annual hot dog eating contest on the fourth. However, the display of gluttony was too much for this blogger to overcome. Watch the video:

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.

Aroney Evokes Racing Nostalgia

The moment passed without fanfare or celebration beyond the most perfunctory of acknowledgement, a picture in the winner’s circle without even the horse’s owners present.

Then again, this was a testament to someone else altogether, a former owner who had a prominent part in Minnesota and U.S. racing history.

It was a special moment tinged with nostalgia and a hint of sadness. The winner of Friday night’s third race was the last of his particular kind, the last link to a stable that is part of Minnesota and U.S. racing lore.

Aroney (pictured above), a 4-year-old gelding by Aptitude from the Chester House mare Ambling, is owned by Astar Lindquist Stable, but it is his previous owner who is the subject of attention here.

Aroney is the last horse owned by the late Bentley Smith and made his last start at Canterbury Park, for this season any way. It was a winning final appearance with Tanner Riggs in the irons.

“That’s a pretty classy horse,” said Riggs. “He’s really fun to ride.”

Trainer Gary Scherer, who trains many of Dave Astar’s horses, said he likely will take the horse to Arlington Park at the conclusion of this meet next week. “He really took to the turf here,” said Scherer. “His first two races he got beat by a nose and maybe a neck but he was in tons of trouble both times.”

James Lane, a Minnesota Racing Commissioner and attorney, was a long time friend of Smith’s and a personal representative of his estate. He negotiated the sale of Aroney to Dave Astar shortly after the meet began at Canterbury Park in May. The horse sold for less than $20,000. “I probably sold him too cheap,” said Lane.

Smith ran Genter Stables for his mother-in-law, Frances Genter, who died in 1992. Genter Stables owned some of the finest thoroughbreds in the country from the late 1930s until Mrs. Genter’s death in 1992, two years after her Unbridled delivered the most prestigious wins of her racing career in the Kentucky Derby and the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Smith, who died on Oct. 23, 2011, carried on for a period time with the stable and then branched out on his own but began dispersing his equine holdings little by little in the last few years. Aroney remained in racing under the training of Carl Nafzger, who also conditioned Unbridled among others for Mrs. Genter. “He was still paying his way so Carl kept him racing,” Lane added.

Astar was unable to attend Friday’s races and encouraged Lane to attend on his behalf. So Lane and his wife, Joni, were on hand to watch the last horse owned by their friend put on an impressive show. The win was the third straight for Aroney, who is three for five at Canterbury since June 8 with two seconds, one by a half-length, the other by a nose. His late, explosive charge on Friday got him to the wire 1 ½ lengths in front of Mister Bernstein.

ANOTHER FIVE-BAGGER FOR TANNER

Aroney was the second of five winners for Riggs, who has had three five-baggers this meet, a first in track history. The big night broke a tie and put him five wins in front of three-time defending champion Dean Butler in the riding standings.

Riggs nearly gave up riding last December after struggling with his weight in Chicago, so this meet has been nothing short of a Godsend for him on several levels.

“I was ready to quit. I wasn’t even in the top ten. I was winning maybe 10 percent and now to come here and win this many races is unbelievable,” he said.

Riggs rode his first winner of the night in race two on Theatre of Dreams. He followed the win on Aroney with his third of the night, on Mamameme in the fourth race. Riggs didn’t have a mount in the fifth race and finished third in the sixth with C J Mamas Boy (where a tough luck trip cost him a chance for another win). He made it four for the night with Mr Good in race seven and was on Heart’s of Gold in race eight for number five. He was out of the money with his final mount of the night in race nine.

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

Aroney Evokes Racing Nostalgia

The moment passed without fanfare or celebration beyond the most perfunctory of acknowledgement, a picture in the winner’s circle without even the horse’s owners present.

Then again, this was a testament to someone else altogether, a former owner who had a prominent part in Minnesota and U.S. racing history.

It was a special moment tinged with nostalgia and a hint of sadness. The winner of Friday night’s third race was the last of his particular kind, the last link to a stable that is part of Minnesota and U.S. racing lore.

Aroney (pictured above), a 4-year-old gelding by Aptitude from the Chester House mare Ambling, is owned by Astar Lindquist Stable, but it is his previous owner who is the subject of attention here.

Aroney is the last horse owned by the late Bentley Smith and made his last start at Canterbury Park, for this season any way. It was a winning final appearance with Tanner Riggs in the irons.

“That’s a pretty classy horse,” said Riggs. “He’s really fun to ride.”

Trainer Gary Scherer, who trains many of Dave Astar’s horses, said he likely will take the horse to Arlington Park at the conclusion of this meet next week. “He really took to the turf here,” said Scherer. “His first two races he got beat by a nose and maybe a neck but he was in tons of trouble both times.”

James Lane, a Minnesota Racing Commissioner and attorney, was a long time friend of Smith’s and a personal representative of his estate. He negotiated the sale of Aroney to Dave Astar shortly after the meet began at Canterbury Park in May. The horse sold for less than $20,000. “I probably sold him too cheap,” said Lane.

Smith ran Genter Stables for his mother-in-law, Frances Genter, who died in 1992. Genter Stables owned some of the finest thoroughbreds in the country from the late 1930s until Mrs. Genter’s death in 1992, two years after her Unbridled delivered the most prestigious wins of her racing career in the Kentucky Derby and the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Smith, who died on Oct. 23, 2011, carried on for a period time with the stable and then branched out on his own but began dispersing his equine holdings little by little in the last few years. Aroney remained in racing under the training of Carl Nafzger, who also conditioned Unbridled among others for Mrs. Genter. “He was still paying his way so Carl kept him racing,” Lane added.

Astar was unable to attend Friday’s races and encouraged Lane to attend on his behalf. So Lane and his wife, Joni, were on hand to watch the last horse owned by their friend put on an impressive show. The win was the third straight for Aroney, who is three for five at Canterbury since June 8 with two seconds, one by a half-length, the other by a nose. His late, explosive charge on Friday got him to the wire 1 ½ lengths in front of Mister Bernstein.

ANOTHER FIVE-BAGGER FOR TANNER

Aroney was the second of five winners for Riggs, who has had three five-baggers this meet, a first in track history. The big night broke a tie and put him five wins in front of three-time defending champion Dean Butler in the riding standings.

Riggs nearly gave up riding last December after struggling with his weight in Chicago, so this meet has been nothing short of a Godsend for him on several levels.

“I was ready to quit. I wasn’t even in the top ten. I was winning maybe 10 percent and now to come here and win this many races is unbelievable,” he said.

Riggs rode his first winner of the night in race two on Theatre of Dreams. He followed the win on Aroney with his third of the night, on Mamameme in the fourth race. Riggs didn’t have a mount in the fifth race and finished third in the sixth with C J Mamas Boy (where a tough luck trip cost him a chance for another win). He made it four for the night with Mr Good in race seven and was on Heart’s of Gold in race eight for number five. He was out of the money with his final mount of the night in race nine.

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

Brooks Fields, A Man of Vision

Frances Genter named a horse after him. A program in the stable area once bore his name. The racetrack he built named a race after him. He is, of course, enshrined in its Hall of Fame.

He was honored from the early days of racing by the NAACP for his commitment to affirmative action in a manner not seen before at a U.S. racetrack. The list continues ad infinitum.

Brooks Fields was genuinely touched whenever someone mentioned his association with the state’s racing industry. He was humbled even though it was he who brought horse racing to Minnesota in 1985, despite knowing little or nothing about thoroughbreds or quarter horses.

Tomorrow, Canterbury Park will salute him with its annual running of the $50,000 Brooks Fields Stakes. It couldn’t come on a more appropriate day for his daughter, Sara Nessan, who will present the trophy to the winner.

“Father’s Day. It’s all so perfect,” she said.

She believes her father would have been pleased with the recent agreement between Canterbury Park and Mystic Lake. “He would have been very happy for the people of Minnesota,” she added. He would have been pleased for the industry and everyone who makes a living in it.

Fields’s vision and belief in the undertaking that would become Canterbury Downs came after a successful career in the grain business and in real estate, and he undertook the challenge at an age when many men would have collected the royalties of a job well done and headed to the golf course or lake cabin.

Fields was 66 years of age when he took on the construction of a racetrack on farmland surrounded by acres of the yet undeveloped Shakopee landscape. “My mom thought he was nuts,” said Nessan.

Yet Fields proceeded full bore with the project his wife, Martha, originally associated with his dotage, and on June 26, 1985 a gathering of 15,079 newcomers welcomed pari-mutuel racing to Minnesota, nervously putting nearly $868,000 through the windows.

Canterbury Downs was officially part of the Minnesota sports landscape.

“He loved it. He was so proud of it,” Sarah said. “It was always so near and dear to his heart.”

What the early employees at Canterbury learned was that Fields did not recognize a class system in the building. “He treated everyone alike,” Sarah recalled, “the valets, the jockeys, the people at the concession stands. He talked about everybody the same.”

That meant everybody.

While implementing affirmative action policies at Canterbury Downs, Fields developed a close friendship with Jesse Overton, now the chairman of the Minnesota Racing Commission. “He was my inspiration,” said Overton. “He wrote a letter to (Gov. Tim) Pawlenty recommending me for the commission.”

Fields eschewed rigid formalities whenever he met people. He was open and friendly with them, down to earth. His friends called him Brooker.

He had little knowledge of pari-mutuel racing when he undertook the project of building Canterbury Downs along with partners that included Santa Anita Race Track in California. His knowledge of horses was limited as well, although he was part of the last unit to go through horse cavalry school at Fort Riley, Kan.

Oh, and there were those trips to the Sonoran desert. “Growing up he was always taking us horseback riding in Arizona,” Sarah recalled.

There was one another association with horses as well. “My father and mother went to London many years ago and bought some carousel horses,” Sarah added. “They came back with three ponies, two pokers and one big horse. The big one was at their place in Arizona. Every single grandchild was on that horse at one time or another.”

Fields was a people person and it is that legacy by which he is best recalled.

“People were his passion,” Sarah added. “He loved people.”

They loved him back.

“He was truly humbled whenever anyone mentioned the track or thanked him for what he had done,” she said.

Martha Fields died in 2001 and Fields later remarried, to Lucy, a longtime friend of his and Martha’s.

“He was so nonjudgmental with people,” Lucy said. “He let people be themselves.”

Fields, of course, was known for his mind as well as his heart. “He was brilliant,” Lucy said.

Smart enough to handle the rigors of Yale University and to learn the Chinese language well enough that he was used as an interpreter in China by the U.S. Army.

Fields died in June of 2008 at 89, a couple of weeks after attending the Brooks Fields Stakes. In his final days, it was he who expressed gratitude. “He felt blessed,” Lucy said. “He said that he had had a wonderful life, had made more money than he could dream about, had two wonderful wives and wonderful children.”

He had friends wherever life took him. Many of them will be at Canterbury Park today to watch the race named in his honor.

Oh, and the horse Frances Genter named for him?

Brooker – of course.

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.