When you walk into Churchill Downs the history of its most famous race is displayed along the upper reaches of the grandstand outside the paddock, one Kentucky Derby winner after another, starting with Aristides in 1875.
Thoroughbred racing is empty without its history, without the stories of its great horses, sires and broodmares, jockeys, trainers and founding figures.
Brooks Fields is one of them, a man who forever will be associated with Canterbury Downs and the arrival of pari-mutuel racing in Minnesota in 1985. It is not a stretch to call him ‘Founding Father.’ It seems the perfect appellation under any circumstances but even more so on Father’s Day.
He will be remembered again on Sunday, as he is each year, with the running of the Brooks Fields Stakes, a $50,000 race this time thanks to a $15,000 endowment from the Mystic Lake Purse Enhancement Fund.
Fields made his mark in the grain business and took on horse racing as a retirement endeavor. An entire industry is indebted to him for that commitment and will salute before and after the eighth race.
The likely favorite in the 7 and ½ furlong dash on the grass is 4-year-old colt Hammers Terror, the Kentucky-bred winner of the inaugural Mystic Lake Derby last summer who has shipped in from Arlington Park. Winless in two starts this year, in five since the Derby, Hammers Terror will be ridden by locally based Dean Butler.
The chief competition will likely emerge from the Mac Robertson barn, a horse named Slip and Drive who shares blood with the favorite. Both are by Artie Schiller.
Red Lead’s speed makes him part of this picture, too. Lori Keith, who rode Hammers Terror in the Mystic Lake Derby, has the mount here.
Meanwhile, family members and friends will be on hand for the Brooks Fields Stakes. Sarah Neesan, Brooks’ daughter, will present the trophy to the winning connections after the race.
Fields had a reputation as a people person. “They were his passion,” said Sarah. “He loved people.”
Even though he knew little about horse racing when he set the groundwork for its place in Minnesota, he learned to love the sport as well.
SKIP ZIMMERMAN MEMORIAL STAKES
Another tribute on today’s card will honor Skip Zimmerman, a former owner who was once the president of the Minnesota Quarter Horse Racing Association.
The $20,000-added race has drawn a field of eight for the 350-yard event. A 4-year-old filly named Huckleberry Mojito (above), trained by Ed Ross Hardy and ridden by Nick Goodwin gets a slight nod over the competition here. Mojito proved dominant last summer at Canterbury notching victories in the Canterbury Derby and Fillies Race for Hope Distaff.
Iris Cartelsbadnews, Bf Farm Boy and Red Hot Zoomer, another Hardy horse, are the likely challengers.
The MQHRA will honor its former president with this edition of the annual race. Zimmerman grew up with horses in North Dakota and got into the racing business in the early 1970s .
LOCAL IDOL GETS OUTSIDE TEST
Maybe more compelling than the feature race on Sunday is the matchup of 2012 Canterbury Horse of the Year Heliskier (below) outside of state-bred competition for the first time.
Unbeaten in seven starts, Heliskier is the prohibitive favorite in an 11-horse field, his largest to date.
Owned by Marlene Colvin, trained by Robertson and ridden by Derek Bell, the 4-year-old gelding is by Appealing Skier from Plana Dance.
RIDER, TRAINER WIN FOUR OF SIX MYSTIC LAKE FUTURITY TRIAL RACES
Hall of Fame rider Scott Stevens had back-to-back winners on the card, piloting The Flying Whizzer at 17-1 to the winner’s circle in the second race. Stevens was on the winner in the very next race, too, Sentiment Gray.
Jockey Jorge Torres and trainer Stacy Charette-Hill won four of Saturday’s six quarter horse trial races for the $133,525 Mystic Lake Northlands Futurity. Charette- Hill qualified five of her six runners for the July 5 final, including fastest qualifier High Ace (pictured above) who covered the 350-yard distance in 17.692 seconds.
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: Coady Photography