Blue Grass, Santa Anita Derby and Wood Memorial Saturday

The Kentucky Derby picture will come into focus by sundown Saturday as three major prep races, the Blue Grass at Keeneland, Santa Anita Derby at Santa Anita and the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct will have been run. Each race rewards the winner with 100 Derby-qualifying points which is a green light to the Derby starting gate. Second is 40 points, third 20 and fourth 10. Just one 100 point race, next week’s Arkansas Derby, remains.

Only 20 horses qualify for the Derby so the points matter, especially for a horse like Keepmeinmind, trained by Robertino Diodoro.  The colt is #20 on the Derby list now and will run in the Blue Grass. He will need to run well to make the gate and may need the points. There are many stacked up behind him that are also racing. Derby Fever is real. An owner that has a 3-year-old with sufficient points will more likely than not take that shot which means some are on the outside looking in.

The Road to Kentucky Handicapping Contest features all 11 races on the Keeneland program plus the other two prep races, which along with the Blue Grass offer double contest points.  The rules for this free-to-enter contest are here.

Deadline to enter is first post at Keeneland at noon.

Blue Grass entries

Santa Anita Derby entries

Wood Memorial entries

Louisiana Derby Featured In Road To Kentucky Contest

The Fair Grounds is in deep stretch of the 2020-2021 race meet with just eight days remaining.  This Saturday the New Orleans racetrack hosts the G2 Louisiana Derby along with six other stakes on a 14-race card that begins at 11:20am. The field of eight includes six runners from the Feb. 13 Risen Star. Mandaloun won that race by 1 ¼ lengths over Proxy; third was Midnight Bourbon and fourth O Besos. All are entered in the Louisiana Derby. Hot Rod Charlie ships in from Santa Anita where he most recently finished a close third in the Robert Lewis. The 1 3/16 miles of the Louisiana Derby will be the furthest any of the eight has run. The Risen Star was conducted at 1 1/8 miles.

The Road to Kentucky Handicapping Contest reached its midpoint last Saturday and this Saturday includes all 14 Fair Grounds races with the Louisiana Derby awarding double points. Points are earned based on mythical $20 across-the board payouts on each selection in each race. There is no cost to enter the contest and deadline is first post. The Racebook opens at 9am. It is possible to submit entry on Friday as well.

Kentucky Derby Day Ticket Sales

Canterbury Park is the best place to watch the Kentucky Derby in Minnesota. The day is presented by Maker’s Mark & Stella Artois.

Watch and Wager on the most exciting two minutes in sports Saturday, May 1 at Canterbury Park. Seating is limited, Advanced tickets required. Must be 18+ to attend Derby Day at Canterbury Park. Derby attire admired, not required.

Limited tickets are available for each area due to COVID-19 capacity restrictions. 

Tickets on sale Wednesday, March 24th @ 1 PM – Bronze, Silver & Gold MVP Members

Find the details here.   

The Derby Has Soule

You’ve seen him around Canterbury during a live racing day. Or if you haven’t seen him, you’ve seen his work. He’s Ryan Soule. He’s worked here as the finish line and paddock camera operator for 15 years. He provides that exciting finish line video you watch while the photo is being deciphered. Ryan’s year-round job is a graphic designer in motion and print for a local TV production company whose projects appear on Discovery Channel, History Channel and HGTV.

This week Ryan will be traveling to Louisville, Kentucky to work with the Coady Photography team as they document the Kentucky Derby. The connection came through Shawn Coady who handles the winner’s circle photography here. The Coady family has been in that business at tracks across the country for many years and also has the Churchill Downs contract. Shawn and Ryan became friends and Ryan was invited to work the Derby for the first time in 2017.

That year Ryan was assigned to infield still photography. “I brought my Go Pro video camera and captured some footage as well,” Soule said. That footage turned into a montage that impressed Coady.

Now his role on the team is primarily video, documenting the photography team as they document the Derby. “I capture video of them as they work at the biggest race of the year,” Soule said. “They use it for social media purposes.” But he is also a utility player. “I fill in if someone gets sick, needs a break or whatever.”

It’s a great gig.

“I get to watch some history. Use my skills and help out a great team of photographers,” he said.

Soule admits this year will be different.  The 150,000 sports fans, revelers, sharpies and frauds won’t be there. The stands will be empty thanks to COVID-19. Working at Canterbury this summer with a relatively silent apron has somewhat prepped him though. But when you document history, you take that history as it comes and that’s what Ryan Soule will be doing this weekend at Churchill Downs.

Canterbury Park Offers Advance Wagering On Kentucky Derby

Advance betting begins Thursday with Sept. 5 Derby Day capacity limited on track

In a sports world turned upside down this spring by the corona virus pandemic, thoroughbred horse racing continued on but even the Kentucky Derby could not escape postponement and will be run at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. on Saturday, Sept. 5 instead of the traditional first Saturday in May. Canterbury Park will be open for simulcast wagering, as it is each day, but will be operating under substantially different conditions as capacity is limited to 1,000 on a day that normally could draw a crowd greater than 10,000. Advance wagering on the Kentucky Derby is not new but will play a substantially more important role this year for an event that attracts more betting dollars at Canterbury than any other.

Canterbury Park will begin offering advance wagering on the Kentucky Derby program at noon on Thursday, Sept. 3. Walk-up wagering will be available at Canterbury’s outdoor ticket office leading up to the Derby.

“We want to make wagering as easy as possible for the one day of the year when all sports fans are tuned into horse racing,” Canterbury’s Vice President of Marketing John Groen said. “The experience will be different than in the past as we cannot all gather together to celebrate, but I know the excitement about the Kentucky Derby will still be there. We want fans to experience the excitement of the Derby as safely as possible.”

Advance wagering will be available Thursday from noon until 8:30 p.m. at walk-up windows located outside the ticket office. Walk-up wagering will be available both Friday and Saturday beginning at 8 a.m. through the completion of the Kentucky Oaks on Friday and Kentucky Derby on Saturday. Free parking is available adjacent to the walk-up wagering windows. Guests have up to two years to cash winning tickets in the Canterbury Park Racebook.

Churchill officials announced last weekend that the 146th running of the most popular horse race in the United States would be conducted with no spectators. Canterbury Park is allowed spectators and has been offering live horse racing each Monday through Thursday but Executive Orders issued over the past months reduce the number of guests allowed in the Shakopee, Minn. racetrack’s expansive grandstand. Admission inside the facility on Sept. 5 is by reservation only and tickets must be purchased in advance. A limited number remain at . Advance wagering at walk-up locations does not require ticketing.

“The Kentucky Derby is still the most exciting two minutes in all of sports, but it’s even more fun with a wager on it,” Groen said. “Our walk-up wagering will allow fans to safely place wagers without entering the facility and enjoy all the action from home.”

NBC will televise coverage of the Kentucky Derby and undercard racing from 1:30-6:30 p.m. The 146th running of the Kentucky Oaks will be televised Friday, Sept. 4 on NBCSN from 2-5 p.m. Advance wagering on the Oaks card is also available beginning at noon Thursday.

The traditional order of the Triple Crown races, Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Belmont Stakes, was shuffled with the Belmont already completed on June 20 and the Preakness slated for Oct. 3. The field for the Kentucky Derby will be determined Tuesday, Sept. 1 with Tiz the Law, winner of the Florida Derby, Belmont Stakes and Travers Stakes, expected to be the morning line favorite.

Free To Enter Handicapping Contest Saturday

The Road to Kentucky Handicapping Contest continues Saturday. There is no fee to enter. Prize money is paid to the top four players based on scores determined by the Win-Place-Show payouts of selections in each race at Saratoga.  In addition, the top two players earn an entry to the Grand Prize contest  which will award a $3 million National Handicappers Championship entry.

Saratoga has quite a card on Saturday, 11 races in all beginning at 12:10 p.m. There are four stakes on the program, including the G3 Saranac, the G2 Amsterdam, the G1 Forego and the G1 Win and You’re In Breeders’ Cup Turf Sword Dancer with a half a million dollar purse.

Road to Kentucky contest entry deadline is post time of the first race at Saratoga.

Kentucky Derby Day Tickets Available

Only eight day until the 146th running of the Kentucky Derby.  Although Churchill Downs will not have spectators, Canterbury Park will. There are capacity limits by Executive Order so anyone wishing to enter the grandstand that day will need a ticket. There are a few tickets remaining and they can be purchased with credit card or 500 MVP Rewards points here:

While limited capacity in not a great business model, what it does mean for guests is plenty of room to spread out and enjoy a wonderful day of simulcast racing. Churchill begins that morning at 10 a.m. Arrive before and enter the final Road to Kentucky Contest as well.

Those that can’t make it on the first Saturday in September can advance wager beginning Thursday at noon in the clubhouse or at the walk-up windows in the ticket office.

Three Derby Preps Saturday; R2K Handicapping Contest Features Tampa Bay Downs; Derby Future Pool 3 Opens Friday

Kentucky Derby prep races will be held from coast to the other Saturday with the Gotham at Aqueduct, the Tampa Bay Derby at Tampa Bay Downs and the San Felipe at Santa Anita. Canterbury’s Road to Kentucky Handicapping Contest will focus on the first 11 races at Tampa which begins at 11:15am but also includes the other preps. Always in this free weekly contest the Derby preps count as double points.  Find the contest details on the R2k webpage.  The entry box closes with the first race at Tampa at 11:15.

The Tampa Bay Derby is a major prep for the First Saturday in May. It drew a field of 12 featuring Sam F. Davis winner Sole Volante and Chance It, winner of the Mucho Macho Man at Gulfstream in January. Trainer Saffie Joseph, Jr. scratched Chance It from the Fountain of Youth due to his outside post and this Saturday has the four hole. The two will take the majority of the wagering action making others long odds for those looking to win the R2K contest with one fell swoop. The Tampa Bay Derby, one of five stakes on the card, is race 11.

Each Derby prep awards the top horses points and the 20 with the highest point totals can advance to the Kentucky Derby. The current leader is Ete Indien with 54 points, winner of last weekend’s Fountain of Youth Stakes but he will have company as each of the three preps Saturday will award 50 points to the winner.

The Grade 3 Gotham is the 10th race at Aqueduct with a 3:42 p.m. post and a field of 11. None of the entrants are included in this weekend’s Future Wager Pool 3 but the winner, despite his current credentials or lack thereof, will earn points sufficient to make the Derby field on May 2.  Mischevious Alex won the seven furlong Swale at Gulfstream by seven lengths. Based on his speed figure from the Swale, he should be one of the favorites in the Gotham. Flap Jack was the longshot winner of the Arlington Washington Futurity in September. He has been training at Fair Grounds and ships north to make his 2020 debut.

The San Felipe will also play an important role as Thousand Words, currently one of the top 3-year-olds, is entered along with Baffert stablemate Authentic, winner of the Sham Stakes. Storm the Court won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and is fourth on the Derby leaderboard. He ran fourth in the seven furlong San Vicente and needs to prove his BC win at 45 to 1 was not a fluke. All three are offered as betting interest in the Future Pool.

Anyone longing for the ‘old days’ when Santa Anita was king should appreciate the program assembled for Saturday. The 12-race card begins at 1:30pm. Four graded stakes include the San Felipe and the Big ‘Cap, the Santa Anita Handicap. Top to bottom the fields are full and the handle will be immense.

Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool 3 this Weekend

The third Kentucky Derby win and exacta future wager pool opens Friday and is playable at the Canterbury Racebook through Sunday afternoon. The first Kentucky Oaks pool is also offered along with the Oaks / Derby Double Future Wager.

The opening odds sheet along with rules is available here.

Mr. Jagermeister In Action At Oaklawn

Minnesota bred Mr. Jagermeister is entered in Saturday’s $150,000 Hot Springs Stakes at Oaklawn. The tight yet competitive field of six will race six furlongs. Leandro Goncalves has the mount. They combined Feb. 8 for a win in the Phoenix Gold Cup for trainer Valorie Lund covering six furlongs at Turf Paradise in 1:08.

One-two finishers in the Feb. 8 King Cotton at Oaklawn, Share the Upside and Whitmore, are also entered. The pair met in last year’s Hot Springs and Whitmore had the upper hand beating Share the Upside by a length and a half.

Mr. Jagermeister has an allowance win at Oaklawn in 2019 and a second in a stake in 2018. He posted a workout over the surface on Sunday.

Week 5 of Road to Kentucky Saturday

The Road to Kentucky Handicapping Contest this past Saturday began with favorites winning the first two races. There would be just one more betting choice victorious on the 12-race program as winning prices ranged from $13.80 to $50.80 in the other nine events.  Contest entrant Alberto Dabu found several of those longshots and recorded a season best single-day score of 3,294 points, 1,388 better than second-place finisher Halleck Peterson.

Week 5 of the free-to-enter handicapping contest is Saturday featuring the Fair Grounds 13-race extravaganza plus an added double-point Kentucky Derby prep race, the El Camino Real from Golden Gate Fields.  The prep race at Fair Grounds, the Grade 2 Risen Star at 1 1/8 miles, was so popular at the entry box that it will be run in two divisions as the final races on the card. For contest players that means three double-point races.

Post time at Fair Grounds, and entry deadline for R2K contest, is Noon.

Sleepy Eyes Todd, a two-time winner at Canterbury in 2019 for trainer Miguel Silva, is entered in the Grade 3 Mineshaft on Saturday.  After leaving CBY, Sleepy Eyes Todd ran second in the Oklahoma Derby and then won a $100,000 stake at Remington Park. Silva gave him a shot on turf in the Connally at Sam Houston but he faded to last after setting early fractions. Back on the dirt now at Fair Grounds, he should be able to use his tactical speed more efficiently.

In other handicapping contest news…..

None of the five horse players that qualified at Canterbury for last weekend’s $2.8 million National Horseplayers Championship finished in the money in the three-day event at Bally’s Las Vegas. The margin of victory or defeat is razor thin with many woulda-coulda stories to be told. Like many contests of the win-place variety,  longshot winners must be found.  For an interesting read on contest strategy, this recently posted story could guide you and then perhaps apply the strategy to your play in handicapping contests.   An NHC entry is up for grabs as the Grand Prize in R2K.

Saturday is the $100 Horse Player World Series Satellite Contest which will send the winner to Las Vegas to play in HPWS at The Orleans. The format allows for 10 mythical $2 Win Place wagers to be made on a horse in 10 races of choice from the opening bell until 5:30 p.m.

Qualifying for the 2021 NHC is underway at Canterbury with the $10 Spring Tune-Up Super Satellites. Rules can be found here.  Each week several players will qualify for the April 11 Satellite with the top six in that contest winning entry to either the Dog Days of Summer Contest or the Ultimate NHC Qualifier and a chance to get to the NHC 2021. Super satellites are offered Thursday through Saturday.

Presidents’ Day

Monday, Feb. 17 is Presidents’ Day and a full slate of racing from around the country offered in the Canterbury Park Race Book including at Oaklawn Park where three stakes are carded:  the Bayakoa (Gr. 3), Razorback Handicap (Gr. 3), and the Southwest, a grade Kentucky Derby prep race.  Oaklawn begins at 1:30 p.m.

Opening Weekend In Review

Derby Day A Success At Canterbury Park

The sun was shining brightly in Shakopee for Kentucky Derby Day festivities. The track began its 25th season of racing the night before, providing a test run for what was to come the following day. The third largest crowd in track history, 20,770, flocked to the facility to gamble and party, filling all three levels of the grandstand as well as the track apron on Saturday.

Robertson and Arrieta Lead Early

Twelve-time leading trainer Mac Robertson got off to a quick start, winning four races from nine starters. Mac also had a second and third place finish. Robertson was in Louisville saddling Amy’s Challenge in the $500,000 Grade 1 Humana Distaff Saturday. The 2017 Canterbury Horse of the Meet finished third after setting the early fractions. Alex Canchari was aboard for local owner Joe Novogratz.

Trainer Mike Biehler was the only other with multiple winners. He won two races from five starters.

Jockey Francisco Arrieta made the most of his 11 mounts, winning five times. Three other riders each won twice: new face Constantino Roman, Dean Butler, and Eddie Martin, Jr. Arrieta is named on four horses at Turf Paradise as they close out their meet today.

Claiming Slow To Go

Six of the 16 races run this weekend offered horses to be claimed yet no claims were dropped. Expect that to change next weekend and horses to begin changing hands via the claim box.

Rider Injured in Paddock Incident

Jockey David Lopez came to Canterbury Park last week for the first time, expecting to fit the jockey colony well and make a living. He rode three horses Friday and six of the first seven on Saturday. When preparing to climb aboard his mount Brandy Chaser in the eighth and final event of the weekend, Lopez was kicked in the chest by the colt.

Lopez, a graded stakes winning and leading rider in Northern California during a career that began in North America in 2001, spent the winter at Turf Paradise in Phoenix. He came north with agent Chad Anderson and a reputation as a hard-working and patient rider.

The medical team on hand in the paddock yesterday quickly tended to Lopez and prepared him for transport to HCMC.  Anderson reported this morning that Lopez suffered broken ribs and that there is concern from doctors about possible internal complications.  Early prognosis is that a minimum three months on the sidelines can be expected.

Support the Leg Up Fund which assists riders injured in the line of work as they recuperate and return to the saddle.

Mother’s Day Racing Ahead

Live racing takes place this coming week on Saturday and Mother’s Day Sunday. Both days first post will be 12:45 p.m.


Photo courtesy of Coady Photography

Not Everyone Was Stirring With Anticipation


20,770 at Canterbury Park for Derby Day…third largest crowd in track history

The grandest day in North American horse racing is not always a participant activity for the men and women who make their livings in the sport. They are simply too busy training horses, cleaning stalls and galloping their stock to spend much time analyzing the field of horses and riders who run in the Kentucky Derby.

“I’ve just been too busy to think about it,” said longtime trainer Troy Bethke. “Too busy to know who’s running.”

Hall of Fame trainer Bernell Rhone has kept a stable at Canterbury since the advent of horse racing in Minnesota, in 1985. Rhone leaves Canterbury each autumn for Florida, where he keeps a stable during the winter months, before returning each spring to Shakopee.

“Oh, I don’t know,” he responded about a Derby favorite Saturday. “I’ll watch the race, but I’m usually too busy training horses to get too involved.”

One of Rhone’s owners seemed a bit surprised when he discovered Rhone’s attitude about the one race even non racing fans can identify.  “He asked me who I liked best in the Derby,” Rhone said. “I told him I didn’t have a choice because I was too busy training his horse to worry about it.”

Many of the riders are quite the same, too involved in the routine of their daily lives to spend time analyzing the workdays of riders at other tracks in the nation, even when the subject is Kentucky Derby. Just the same, they are often aware of details surrounding the race.

A group of riders discussed the fate of Corey Lanerie Saturday afternoon. When the pre-race favorite, Omaha Beach, was scratched, Mike Smith, the rider of Triple Crown winner Justify last season, was left without a mount. Lanerie then found himself without a mount when he was replaced by Smith on the Todd Pletcher-trained horse Cutting Humor.

“Nothing to do with Smith or the trainer,” one rider said. “Pletcher said he wanted to keep Corey, but the owners wanted Smith.”

Cutting  Humor was a longshot at best to finish in the money Saturday, but that was not the issue with the Canterbury jockeys discussing the situation. “It could have been his (Lanerie’s) one chance to say that he rode in the Kentucky Derby,” one rider said.

Not every trainer or rider has the opportunity to get deeply involved with the Derby details, but the one thing riders all seem to want is the opportunity to say they have ridden in America’s most famous race.


Unlike the men and women who train and ride the horses,  horse owners seem to take an active interest in the Kentucky Derby. Take Curtis Sampson, chairman of the Canterbury Park board of directors who breeds and races horses.  He seemed enamored of, like so many others, Omaha Beach, the 3-year-old War Front colt who was the Derby favorite before being scratched with a breathing issue. Racing fans were rooting in this case as much for trainer Richard Mandella as they were the horse. Mandella was hoping to add a Derby win to his resume for the Hall of Fame.

“That’s really too bad about Mandella’s horse,” Sampson said. “I guess I’d go now with Improbable, although all three (including Roadster and Game Winner)  of Bob Baffert’s horses have a chance.”

Paul Sampson was a fan of Omaha Beach, too, but had to take a new look when the horse was scratched. “It’s wide open now,” he said.

Bruce Meyer, the Oracle of Canterbury, liked Omaha Beach and, like many others, gave him a chance, but liked Tacitus, trained by Bill Mott, all along. By Tapit from the First Defence mare Close Hatches, Tacitus has  been No. 1 on the Oracle’s list because of his breeding and ability to overcome trouble in a race.

As she watched the pre-race line change throughout the day, program coordinator and placing judge Peggy Davis became a bit dismayed about the wagering aspect on her choice, like Meyer….Tacitus. But as the betting on that horse increased she was well aware of the downside, too.  Even with a winner, not much of a return.


No one watched the Kentucky Derby at Canterbury Park on Saturday with more interest than Larry Cronin, a local horse owner with a special rooting interest. An hour before the race on Saturday, Cronin discussed his attempt to buy Maximum Security after he broke his maiden in a $16,000 race on Dec. 20, the first of four consecutive wins culminating with the Grade I Florida Derby on Mar. 19.

“I offered the owners $30,000 after that $16,000 race, but never got a return call,” Cronin said.

When the colt, by New Year’s Day, hit the wire first Saturday, Cronin bolted from his seat on the third floor of the racetrack to reach out to a friend who had wagered $800 to win on the horse, sent off at 9/2. “He’s a stone cold runner, isn’t he,” said Cronin.

He’s still a stone cold runner, but he was taken down for interference in the race, and the win shifted to Country House, trained by Bill Mott.

Opportunities are often fleeting in the game of horse racing. Sometimes, so are apparent victories.


“We got ourselves a great day… light breeze, lots of sun. You can call this a Chamber of Commerce special.”

That assessment was delivered in the smooth, dulcet tones forever associated with former paddock analyst Kevin Gorg, who spent Kentucky Derby Saturday in the pressbox, regaling the gathered group with his insight on the day’s races and on his concerns for Alexis Pearson, the woman who sells his tipsheet, Gorg’s Power Plays. He was concerned that most of the young men circling her stand on the first floor of the grandstand were not truly interested in buying his sheet and even more concerned about any of them who might have made more than one purchase.

Gorg was not on hand for the Kentucky Derby. He watched the race from the comfort of his home, having returned in time to let out his two dogs, Brooks and Fenway.  If you can guess the derivation of those names, you might be the grand prize winner of a high five from Gorg himself.

Canterbury and the Kentucky Derby

By Noah Joseph

Last Saturday, more than 19,000 fans came to Canterbury to watch this year’s running of the Kentucky Derby. Since it opened in 1985, Canterbury has had several horses that raced in Shakopee as 2-year-olds go on to race in the Kentucky Derby at age 3. While there were no horses to do so this year, here are some in the past that did.


Rampage, in 1985, was the first horse to race here at 2 years old and then run in the Kentucky Derby. He won his debut at Canterbury, and then at three won the Arkansas Derby, and finished fourth in the Kentucky Derby. His final start came that same year in the inaugural Saint Paul Derby, in which he ran fifth.


By far the most popular and successful of them all was Unbridled. The son of Fappiano was owned by 92-year-old Frances Genter, a resident of Minnesota. Unbridled made only one start at Canterbury in the 1989 Canterbury Juvenile, and finished second. Unbridled went on to win the 1990 Kentucky Derby. Following his racing career, he became a very successful stallion, producing runners such as Unbridled’s Song and Empire Maker.


In 2001, despite never winning at Canterbury, one horse took Canterbury on a Triple Crown chase. That horse was It’sallinthechase. Owned by local Darwin Olson and trained by Wilson Brown, It’sallinthechase made three starts at Canterbury in 2001, with his best finish being a second. He ran in the 2001 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile under jockey R.D Williams. He ran off the board in the Kentucky Derby the following year in what was his final race.

Jockey Mike Smith

While no horse that raced at Canterbury Park ran in the Derby this year, there was still a Canterbury connection. Mike Smith, the rider of the winner Justify, won the first riding title in Canterbury history in 1985.