‘Ice’ and ‘Eddie’ Headline Festival of Champions Day

The Festival of Champions, which began in 1992, is a day of racing restricted to horses bred in Minnesota. Keewatin Ice, owned by Camelia Casby of Shakopee, MN, is entered in the $50,000 Minnesota Distaff Classic Championship. The 1 1/16 mile race drew a field of seven. Keewatin Ice (pictured above) has won four of nine career starts, including decisive wins in the $35,000 MTA Stallion Auction Lassie Stakes and the $65,000 Minnesota Oaks this season. She will be ridden by Juan Rivera. The 11-race Festival of Champions program offers more than $400,000 in purse money.

If Keewatin Ice is successful in winning this running of the Minnesota Distaff Classic, it would mark the fifth time in Minnesota’s racing history that a three-year-old has captured the Minnesota Oaks and the Minnesota Distaff Classic in the same calendar year. Others to have completed that feat include: Chick Fight (2009); Glitter Star (2005); She’s Scrumpy (2003) and D’s Dancing Sophie (1999).

Additionally, if she should win, she would be only the third filly to complete the sweep of the Northern Lights Debutante, Minnesota Oaks and Minnesota Distaff Classic. A win on Sunday would place her in the company of She’s Scrumpy (2002-2003) and Chick Fight (2008-2009) as the only runners to take the three biggest races for Minnesota-bred fillies during their 2-year-old and 3-year-old seasons.

Also on Festival of Champions Day, Nomorewineforeddie will aim for his third consecutive Minnesota Sprint Championship. A third straight victory in the Sprint would put Eddie into the company of Bella Notte (2009-2011 Minnesota Distaff Sprint Champion) , Crocrock (2000-2002; 2004 Minnesota Sprint Champion) and Glitter Star (2005-2007 Minnesota Distaff Classic Champion) as one of only four runners to capture the same Festival Day race three years in a row.

Finally, Jaival will return to defend his Minnesota Classic Championhip for trainer Valorie Lund and owners Eight Ender Stable.

Mac Robertson has a comfortable lead in the thoroughbred trainer standings and will win his eighth consecutive training title. The leading jockey will be determined over the weekend. Tanner Riggs holds a five-win lead over defending riding leader Dean Butler.

Photo Credit: Coady Photography

Oaks and Derby Showcase Superstars

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

Heliskier Does it Again… Just as Impressively

There are numerous sorts of intoxicating, maybe even medicinal qualities attached to the phenomenon of winning.

For Marlene Colvin, it might have meant a good night’s sleep Sunday night. For Cam Casby, it might have provided the perfect remedy for the summer cold she’s battling.

Clearly, winning as he did polished the already shiny image of the remarkable gelding Heliskier, who breezed home in 1:16 and 4/5 under a hand ride. It also made the filly Keewatin Ice, who hasn’t won in her last five outs, look like the lady who won the Northern Lights Debutante last Sept. 4, galloping home as she did (1:17) in the $35,000 Lassie Division of the MTA Stallion Auction Stakes.

All in all, winning proved to be the perfect tonic in each of these instances Sunday.

Colvin has been on a flying carpet ride with Heliskier, the last horse trained to saddle by her late husband, Bun.

It’s been ages since there’s been a Minnesota-bred such as this one on the grounds at Canterbury Park. The son of Appealing Skier from Plana Dance is five-for-five after simply loping away from four rivals, winning by six lengths without so much as a look at the stick in the $35,000 MTA Stallion Auction Stakes.

Consider this. Derek Bell has tapped this horse once, lightly on the shoulder in five races and probably didn’t even need to deliver that reminder.

“He’s a racehorse, the best I’ve been on,” Bell said. ‘I can’t imagine what he’d do If I asked him for anything.”

For her part, Colvin has been living in a heady world since this horse began racing. “Nobody paid any attention to me all those years I was mucking stalls back there in the barns,” she said.

“Now people I’ve never met come up to me and say ‘good luck, way to go or what a horse’ it’s kind of nice to have people pay attention to you that way.”

Indeed, although there is a tradeoff to the attention surrounding Heliskier. “I’ve been nervous all day,” Colvin said. “But I got a motel room. I’m not driving back tonight (to her home in South Dakota). I’ve learned that lesson.”

Heliskier went over $100,000 earnings after Sunday’s win, so Colvin could at least get a room with a magic fingers feature to ease any remaining tension.

“People tell me I can go someplace else now besides the Super 8,” Marlene said “I guess they just don’t know Marlene.”

She is, on the other hand, getting to know Heliskier. “I’m starting to believe in him,” she said.

Just as her husband did while breaking the horse. “The horse has a good head on him,” she said. “He knows what’s going on and learns quickly. Bun used to say you only have to show him something once. He might take a look at a deer that startled him in the river bottom the first time, but that was the only time.”

Just like last time, someone dropped approximately $200,000 to win on Heliskier on the final click of the tote board sending him off at 1-20.

Now to Cam Casby and her Keewatin Ice, a winner by eight lengths after Juan Rivera asked her at the head of the lane.

Casby never watches her horses race. She waits until the replay. “I can’t watch until I’m sure they’re home safely,” she said.

In that case, it was mentioned, she could have started watching at the head of the lane on Sunday.

Casby, who’ll be inducted into the Canterbury Park Hall of Fame in September, is battling a cold and hopeful that standing outdoors in the heat and humidity Sunday might assist in its demise.

Watching Sunday’s replay was enjoyable, particularly since Keewatin was on her game and made it easy on her owner.

A QUARTER HORSE HAT TRICK

Clyde Smith had a puzzled look on his face as he headed out the tunnel for Sunday’s final race of the day.

Smith had just been congratulated for his “hat trick” although either the intent or the meaning seemed to evade him.

Nonetheless, Smith and trainer Bob Johnson had just teamed up to win all three legs of the North Central Quarter Horse Futurity trials.

Some nice payoffs accompanied those wins.

Smith was on Dash Ta Ozona in the first of the three 350-yard dashes, finishing in 18.34 at odds of 6-1.

Jess Lika Blair finished in 18.24 under Smith in the next trial, winning easily with a return of $25 and change.

Hastabealeader was quickest of all with a time of 18:18 in the third trial of the card at 7-2 odds.

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