The horses who won these races in years past are part of a pantheon of Minnesota colts and fillies whose names still resonate with the state’s long-time racing fans.
Among the fillies there was Princess Elaine, Northbound Pride, Argenti and Glitter Star, the latter of which will join the Canterbury Park Hall of Fame on Sept. 1. The colts and geldings included the redoubtable Blair’s Cove, the majestic Timeless Prince and, of course, who could forget Silver Me Timbers.
They carried the colors of Minnesota’s breeders and owners in the Minnesota Oaks and the Minnesota Derby, winning their respective races in the early days of pari-mutuel racing in the state.
Say what you want about the quality of Minnesota racing, there is nonetheless an aura that settles over the paddock on the days these races are run.
It wasn’t any different for Saturday’s editions of these two races, limited to Minnesota-bred three-year-olds.
$65,000 Minnesota Derby
He looks like a man against boys, is in a class of his own, the absolute real deal, the Usain Bolt of Minnesota-breds.
He hasn’t been touched, by the opposition or his rider, and yet he is 6-for-6.
His rider for all six victories, Derek Bell, waxed philosophically at times as he watched a replay of the race after Heliskier (pictured above), without so much as a look at the stick, ran away from a field of seven rivals.
He is fun to watch as he simply toys with his opponents and demands only a cluck or a clack from Bell to draw off, almost any time he pleases.
In this case, he started to move at the three-quarter pole, had a five-length lead at the top of the stretch and simply kept adding to the distance between himself and the field for a 13 ¼ length victory over Sue’s Stormy, who had 1 ¼ lengths on Tez Virat. The winning time was 1:43 flat and could have been considerably swifter had Bell asked for anything.
This gelded son of Appealing Skier is approaching $150,000 in earnings and has not been threatened in six starts, all in Shakopee.
“Look at him. He’s just playing, just galloping away,” said Bell as he watched a replay of the race. “He’s the best Minnesota-bred I ever saw.”
Not much doubt about that. Ask trainer Mac Robertson, for one.
“He’s the kind of horse that makes you look like you know what you’re doing,” Robertson said. “Nice horse.”
Robertson has won seven consecutive training titles at Canterbury Park, yet the Derby win was his first, as it was for owner Marlene Colvin.
Unlike his previous two starts, there was not a $200,000-plus show wager plunked down at the last moment. This time he drew a comparatively modest $30,504 to show, with $11,738 to win and $5,036 to place.
$65,000 Minnesota Oaks
Speed, speed and more speed.
Except that no one wanted to let it out, so Juan Rivera let the 7-5 favorite Keewatin Ice (above), never far back, settle in and await her turn. It appeared as the field came out of the turn. Keewatin dug in, drawing off to a 1 ½ length victory over stablemate Talkin Bout.
Rivera described the winning move in, well, exact terms. “She has a pretty quick turn of foot. When you ask her she vrooooooms.”
Meanwhile, Cam Casby, the owner of the winning and second-place horses, broke her usual seclusion to sneak peaks at the race as it unfolded. “I saw you watching the race,” a bystander said to her. “I did see bits and pieces,” she admitted.
Even though the winner received 7-5 backing from the Saturday crowd, Casby tempered her expectations by recalling the results of races in which she had run the favorite and ended second best or worse. “You need luck,” she kept saying.
As it turned out this time, Casby not only had the luck but the top two horses in this edition of the Oaks. They were head and shoulders above the rest of the field.
Talkin Bout, ridden by Nik Goodwin, had 8 ¾ lengths on Jills Summer Raine.
Rivera was concerned momentarily before the race. “She was hot,” he said, “just like she was in Iowa.”
That was a reference to a June 2 race at Prairie Meadows for $60,000 in which she failed to fire and finished fifth.
Trainer Bryan Porter was not concerned, however, as he watched the race unfold. “He was back (of the leaders) but they decided not to go,” he said. “As long as she had something to run at I knew she was OK.”
The winner finished in 1:44 and 2/5.
The Oaks win was the first for Casby, who’ll be inducted into the Canterbury Park Hall of Fame on Sept. 1.
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