Canterbury Fans Get Their Own Show

BY JIM WELLS

There was a race on the undercard of the Preakness Stakes Saturday that featured an astounding runner named Mitole, the swiftest 3-year-old sprinter in the country, a colt with a dazzling turn of speed.

Mitole put on a show for anyone watching, leaving an entire field of horses in his wake after switching gears in the stretch drive and pulling away so smoothly it looked effortless.

The patrons at Canterbury Park saw a similar race later in the afternoon, right there on the home track, when Mr. Jagermeister destroyed five rivals in the $50,000 10,000 Lakes Stakes, winning just as easily while looking equally impressive.

There is more to say about this comparison. Mr. Jagermeister, it so happens, lost by a similar margin in his last race to this very same Mitole.

Saturday, it was Mr. Jagermeister administering the whipping, drawing this thought from rival trainer Franciso Bravo, who saddled Smooth Chiraz and Hold For More:

“I knew  he’d be big trouble,” said Bravo. “He’s a monster.”

Mr. Jagermeister had 8 ½ lengths on Hot shot Kid at the wire and 11 ½ on Smooth Chiraz, with a final time of 1:10.81.

Indeed. Mr. Jagermeister, a three-year-old, delivered a thrashing to five rivals, racing against older horses for the first time. There is more to what seems to be a developing story with numerous elements to it.

Mr. Jagermeister still fools around on the track, takes his mind off business once he’s passed horses. “He thinks his job is done,” said winning rider Leandro Goncalves. “I have to keep after him.”

Despite those elements, Mr. Jagermeister is the real deal. Moments later, when the conversation had changed, Goncalves very expressively conveyed a deeper truth about the horse. “He’s a very nice colt, very, very talented,” he said.

The son of Atta Boy Roy from the Corinthian mare Frangelica is from a line of slow developers, so trainer Valorie Lund takes that element into consideration while laying out plans for her talented three-year-old.

“He’s still a baby, a big baby,” she said. “If he stays healthy, wait until next year.”

Well…local fans don’t want to wait that long, and it appears that won’t be a problem. Lund says she plans on keeping the horse in Shakopee this summer.

$50,000 LADY SLIPPER STAKES

A much more competitive race than it’s male counterpart, the Lady Slipper also had a surprise in store for bettors and the connections in the race.

Pinup Girl, sent off at 5-1, turned in the kind of effort trainer Sandra Sweere had envisioned but wasn’t positive she would get. After all, Pinup Girl can throw her weight around in certain instances.

Saturday afternoon, she confined that to the race track despite a makeup that might preclude such a demonstration at the distance. “She’s not a six-furlong horse,” said Sweere, “but she got a good ride from a good rider (Santiago Gonzalez).”

And was able to take advantage of the situation when odds-on favorite and defending champion Honey’s Sox Appeal didn’t fire in the stretch drive, after changing paths to get around Shipmate and Ta Kela.

The winner, running for the first time this year, finished two lengths in front of Ta Kela Warning and 6 ¾ ahead of Shipmate in a time of 1:12.3.

Despite a name that suggests otherwise, the winning filly can be a handful in the barn or outside of it. “She knocked me to the ground, knocked me out when I was taking her off the walker two years ago,” said Sweere, who had that on her mind after Saturday’s win.

“We have to go to the test barn with her,” she said. “Otherwise, she’ll rear up on the vets when they take a blood sample.”

That wasn’t a complaint by Sweere. She’ll take all the test barn trips she can get.

1990 PREAKNESS MEMORIES

On the morning before the 1990 Preakness Stakes, a rental car and its driver arrived at the hotel in which Minneapolis-Star Tribune columnist Pat Reusse was staying. He was there to cover the Twins against the Baltimore Orioles but while in town decided to take in the race as well. After all, a horse named Unbridled, the Kentucky Derby winner owned by Frances Genter of Bloomington, was running, giving Minnesota a stake in the action.

Reusse had agreed to an historical tour with the driver of the car, yours truly, then covering thoroughbred racing for the St Paul Pioneer Press. He had been given a vague heads-up of what he was about to visit.

He grew increasingly more interested when I pulled up to an old church and cemetery grounds. “What’s here,” he asked. “You are about to find out,” I replied.

The tombstones were ancient and the grounds included several above-ground crypts that resembled small airplane hangers.  The slate fronts on some of the moss-stained crypts were broken, allowing a glimpse inside with the aid of a cigarette lighter.

After examining a few burial sites in this manner, we arrived at the goal of the visit: the grave of poet Edgar Allen Poe, better known to modern day readers for his gothic tales of horror, the means by which he supported himself while writing legitimate literature. We would subsequently drive by the home where the poet lived as a young man. There was plenty of time for doing so, since our visit to the graveyard, an ancient, spooky place, was relatively short.

Time sometimes distorts and colors memory, but I am fairly certain of the following details:

Our visit at the final resting place of the immortal Edgar Allen was completed when I turned to see my companion heading toward the front gate.

I swear he was tip-toeing while uttering the following words, in a guttural tone: “Let’s get out of here, Wells.”

FOOTNOTE: Unbridled couldn’t contend with Summer Squall in the stretch drive and finished 2 ¼ lengths back in what was essentially a two-horse race that summer.

 

 

 

 

News and Notes after Four Race Days

By Katie Merritt

Perfection is a term rarely used in this sport. But for the moment, it fits Hall of Fame trainer Bernell Rhone who has saddled five horses thus far and each has visited the winner’s circle. Drop the Gloves won opening night. Maddymax won this past Friday and then Drive Sandy Drive, Justeveryday, and Smoltz kept the streak alive Saturday.  As would be expected, go-to jockey Dean Butler rode four of the winners and Martin Escobar, whose association with Rhone began two decades ago, was on Justeveryday.

Rhone spends the winter training at Tampa Bay Downs.

Is there a Tampa edge?   “I like coming out of Tampa,” Rhone said. “Horses from there go everywhere and run well.”

Rhone remembers winning six races on one card in 2003 and then saddling two more the next day. “I had multiple horses in a couple of those races.”  He has an opportunity to continue this current run of perfection Friday with Lucky Leroy Brown in race 2.

In June of 1995, the year Canterbury re-opened, David Van Winkle saddled seven consecutive winners over a period of several days. Van Winkle went on to be leading trainer that summer.

The battle for leading rider at Canterbury Park has already begun at the 2017 live racing meet. As expected, Alex Canchari and Dean Butler are vying for that lead, and are tied with 6 wins apiece and a 27 percent win percentage. The only thing that currently sets them apart is Canchari’s seven second-place finishes to Butler’s two, and Canchari’s earnings of $144,710 to Butler’s $88,798. Dean Butler is 3 for 3 on favorites, while Canchari is 4 for 6. With a lot of races left to run this summer, the title of leading rider will surely spend a lot of time flip-flopping between these two, as well as others. Orlando Mojica is only 2 wins behind them, with $98,007 in purses, so he is also in contention to make a bid at leading rider.

The Jockey Colony Continues To Grow

Jockey Cecily Evans, a newcomer to Canterbury Park, arrived in Shakopee this week after the completion of the Turf Paradise meet. Evans rode races primarily on the east coast before her venture to Turf Paradise last winter.

“It was my first meet at Turf Paradise and I really didn’t know that many people, so it took a little bit to get everything going. But the last couple of months, business really started picking up and I was winning races,” Evans said. “A lot of the trainers that I rode for told me that they were going to Canterbury Park for the summer, and that I should go, so here I am! I’m excited!”

She will be represented by agent Brandon O’Brien, who also has Chad Lindsay’s book.

Jockey Nik Goodwin is one win closer to 1,000 after a win on Fort Lewis Rivers on Friday night for trainer Joel Berndt. He is now only four wins away.

Stakes Races Saturday

The Lady Slipper Stakes and the 10,000 Lakes Stakes will be run Saturday. Both offer $50,000 purses and are conducted at a distance of six furlongs. Both stakes are restricted to Minnesota breds.

Bourbon County, winner of the past two 10,000 Lakes renditions, is on the nomination list. He began training this spring at Oaklawn and has continued to work forwardly at Canterbury Park. Finding his name on the entries after the draw Wednesday would be no surprise. Hold for More has also been nominated. He sprinted in the Paul Bunyan Stakes opening weekend but was never involved, finishing last in a field of six. Should trainer Francisco Bravo enter this former horse of the meet, he would be well supported by the betting public.

The Lady Slipper attracted 15 nominations including Rockin the Bleu’s who was a winner facing open company in April at Will Rogers Downs in a $50,000 sprint stakes. Last season this mare came off a layoff to finish second in the Lady Slipper. She has a pair of recorded workouts since arriving in Shakopee this spring.

Racing begins on Saturday with a later than normal post time of 1:45 p.m. to accommodate the running of the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico.

Friday racing begins at 6:30 p.m.

Rolling $1 doubles have been added to the wagering menu and will begin Friday.

Advance wagering on Preakness and Black-Eyed Susan

Available Thursday, 5/18/17:
– Advance wagers for Friday’s Pimlico card (Black Eyed Susan is race 11)
– Advance wagers for Saturday’s Pimlico card (Preakness is race 13)
– Black Eyed Susan/Preakness Double Wager (race 11 on Friday and race 13 on Saturday)

Available Friday, 5/19/17:
– Advance wagers for Saturday’s Pimlico card (Preakness is race 13)
– Friday’s Pimlico card (Black Eyed Susan is race 11)
– Black Eyed Susan/Preakness Double Wager (race 11 on Friday and race 13 on Saturday)

Opening Night Elicits Excitement

Opening DayThe planets are back in the proper orbits, circling the heavens in their celestial splendor. The stock market will take off like a rocket in the coming days. Peace has come to this little corner of the world. Just like that, horse racing is back on the Minnesota sports and entertainment calendar.

Under gray, wet, chilly skies (and intermittent winners for the fortunate), the 2013 race meet commenced on Friday night, initiating a season full of optimism and wonder.

The first full season under the business agreement with the Mdewakanton Sioux Community and Mystic Lake has attracted more horses – some curious trainers, too – than Canterbury Park has seen in years, perhaps dating to its first life in the 1980s when stables from Kentucky, California, Nebraska, Illinois and, you name it, arrived to test the new venue to horse racing.

In some ways, Canterbury Park is new once more, due to the agreement with its old rivals three miles down the road, announced last June 4. There is a new atmosphere at a track that opened in 1985. Funny how money can do all that, $12 million in total purse money for the meet to be exact.

Patrons, a mere 6,478, got their first look at the new, $1.5 million high-definition tote board with its tribute to Mystic Lake. “It’s gorgeous,” said trainer Bernell Rhone. Likewise with a $100,000 addition to the saddling paddock, a large video screen delivering tidbits of information from track announcer Paul Allen among numerous other things.

Opening night was chilly and wet, more like a duck opener, and certainly those conditions reduced the turnout, but not enthusiasm. Certainly not from trainer Gary Scherer, jockey Juan Rivera, a horse named Polar Plunge and its owner, Cam Casby, one of Canterbury Park’s newest members of the Hall of Fame.

If the turnout was reduced by the inclement weather, fields for the nine-race card were not. A field of 12 lined up for the feature race, the $50,000-guaranteed Lady Slipper Stakes, a six-furlong dash for fillies and mares.

As it turned out the horse to beat was indeed the horse to beat and nobody could do it. Polar Plunge, the 3/2 favorite, clearly enjoyed her long layoff. Friday’s race was her first since she won the Minnesota Distaff Sprint last Sept. 2.

There were moments when winning rider Juan Rivera wondered, however. Polar drew even with Happy Hour Honey at the top of the lane and appeared ready to glide home easily. Trouble was, she didn’t want to get on with it. “She pinned her ears back and kind of sat there,” Rivera said. “I thought ‘what the heck.’ ”

So, Rivera reminded his mare that there was business yet to do and Polar Plunge responded, hitting the wire ¾ length in front of Happy Hour Honey and Dean Butler who was three lengths in front of the next horse, Hidden Gold and Derek Bell.

Scherer exited the winner’s circle quickly, acknowledging the win with a quick perfunctory remark about how Polar Plunge benefitted from the layoff. He was a man on a mission at the time, with a horse to saddle in the next race.

He was back in the winner’s circle after that race as well, with Second Street City, owned by Al and Bill Ulwelling and ridden by Denny Velasquez.

The card got under way with a four-year-old gelding, Band of Silence, winning the first race of the meet under Eddie Martin, Jr., from the very competitive barn of Midwest Thoroughbreds.

Martin rode in Shakopee two years ago and is back for this meet, clearly attracted by the new purse standard. The same with Ry Eilkleberry, a former quarter horse riding champ at Canterbury, who was not in Shakopee last summer but returned and rode his first winner of the meet in the second race, Yodelin’ Angel.

Lori Keith, who has first call in the Mike Biehler barn this meet, brought in the winner of the third race, Marathon Moon out of the James Bends barn. A 6-1 outsider, Marathon Moon surprised even Keith, who had never laid eyes on the horse before the race but was confident of one thing afterward. “He certainly liked the mud, didn’t he,” she said.

Yes, Lori, a whole lot better than the rest of us.

Hilgers Find the Winner’s Circle on Opening Night

Jeff & Deb Hilger, owners of Bleu Valley Farm, also found the winners circle on Friday night with three-year-old Bleu Moon Magic in the night’s fourth race, a state-bred allowance race. The Hilgers, one of the state’s most prominent breeders, were featured on WCCO last night discussing the impact of the Cooperative Marketing Agreement with the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community.

Jeff & Deb Hilger Story

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.

Quality Racing on Opening Night

CBY ActionEntries have been posted for Opening Night and entries for Preakness Day are just around the corner! Opening Night drew some competitive affairs as 77 horses entered the 9 races for an average field size of just over 8.5 starters per race. Perhaps more impressive is the quality of the Opening Night card. The final six races are all either allowance, stakes or maiden special races. Total purses for the Opening Day card total an impressive $232,800. Certainly a dramatic change from past Opening Days.

While a previous blog entry hinted at what to expect this season, a previously mentioned newcomer should make their presence felt right away on opening night.  Midwest Thoroughbreds starts right off on their Minnesotan quest in the first race of the night. Their Band of Silence brings in a win from Prairie Meadows to enter a heat of N2Ls to kick off Friday with journeyman Eddie Martin, Jr. making his return to riding in Shakopee. The first race also brings Ry Eikleberry back to the local scene on a horse he’s ridden before in Live a Little for the Greg Tracy barn, another fresh face on the backside.

The new faces are present all night long. In the very next race Daniel Vergara will take to the track for Valerie Lund. He brings his tack from Arizona to the local grounds for the first time along with Juan Ochoa in the sixth.  He’ll leg up for a fresh Miguel Silva claim from California in the sixth event, an allowance with a kind $27,000 purse. The last also brings out two new riders from the jock’s room, Brandon Meier and Chris Fackler. I can tell you from watching both on track that they can ride given a little horse, and both end up on lives mounts in the final race opening night. Brandon Meier is in for the first time from Chicago, where he just concluded the spring meet along with yours truly at Hawthorne. Chris Fackler hails from Nebraska and went on a tear through his apprenticeship a few years ago, and will ride a Mac Robertson firster to take his first spin of the summer at Canterbury. Meier’s mount will come for new Michael McKenzie barn in the form of maiden De Bala.

Quite the opposite of the final field of the night do battle in the seventh. The featured Lady Slipper stakes has just about every salty MN-bred distaff sprinter you could think of in the gate to kick off the summer. Defending champ Hidden Gold will attempt to defend her title with a new jockey aboard, as Derek Bell takes over the riding duties for Francisco Bravo. The top three finishers from the Minnesota Distaff Sprint are all showing up to dance in this one, with Polar Plunge unraced since her success on Festival Day for Gary Scherer. There isn’t much to go on in the way of form this year – will one of the ladies be ready to fire off the shelf or is an upset with some seasoning in the works?

The opening night card is a solid one from start to finish. It appears the ball is rolling in the right direction already. Join us all season at Canterbury and enjoy the new and improved experience we have to offer!

This blog was written by Canterbury Paddock Analyst Angela Hermann. Angela Hermann serves as the Track Analyst for Hawthorne Racecourse in Cicero, Illinois and the summer of 2013 will mark her third year in a similar capacity at Canterbury Park.

Photo: Coady Photography

Quality Racing on Opening Night

CBY ActionEntries have been posted for Opening Night and entries for Preakness Day are just around the corner! Opening Night drew some competitive affairs as 77 horses entered the 9 races for an average field size of just over 8.5 starters per race. Perhaps more impressive is the quality of the Opening Night card. The final six races are all either allowance, stakes or maiden special races. Total purses for the Opening Day card total an impressive $232,800. Certainly a dramatic change from past Opening Days.

While a previous blog entry hinted at what to expect this season, a previously mentioned newcomer should make their presence felt right away on opening night.  Midwest Thoroughbreds starts right off on their Minnesotan quest in the first race of the night. Their Band of Silence brings in a win from Prairie Meadows to enter a heat of N2Ls to kick off Friday with journeyman Eddie Martin, Jr. making his return to riding in Shakopee. The first race also brings Ry Eikleberry back to the local scene on a horse he’s ridden before in Live a Little for the Greg Tracy barn, another fresh face on the backside.

The new faces are present all night long. In the very next race Daniel Vergara will take to the track for Valerie Lund. He brings his tack from Arizona to the local grounds for the first time along with Juan Ochoa in the sixth.  He’ll leg up for a fresh Miguel Silva claim from California in the sixth event, an allowance with a kind $27,000 purse. The last also brings out two new riders from the jock’s room, Brandon Meier and Chris Fackler. I can tell you from watching both on track that they can ride given a little horse, and both end up on lives mounts in the final race opening night. Brandon Meier is in for the first time from Chicago, where he just concluded the spring meet along with yours truly at Hawthorne. Chris Fackler hails from Nebraska and went on a tear through his apprenticeship a few years ago, and will ride a Mac Robertson firster to take his first spin of the summer at Canterbury. Meier’s mount will come for new Michael McKenzie barn in the form of maiden De Bala.

Quite the opposite of the final field of the night do battle in the seventh. The featured Lady Slipper stakes has just about every salty MN-bred distaff sprinter you could think of in the gate to kick off the summer. Defending champ Hidden Gold will attempt to defend her title with a new jockey aboard, as Derek Bell takes over the riding duties for Francisco Bravo. The top three finishers from the Minnesota Distaff Sprint are all showing up to dance in this one, with Polar Plunge unraced since her success on Festival Day for Gary Scherer. There isn’t much to go on in the way of form this year – will one of the ladies be ready to fire off the shelf or is an upset with some seasoning in the works?

The opening night card is a solid one from start to finish. It appears the ball is rolling in the right direction already. Join us all season at Canterbury and enjoy the new and improved experience we have to offer!

This blog was written by Canterbury Paddock Analyst Angela Hermann. Angela Hermann serves as the Track Analyst for Hawthorne Racecourse in Cicero, Illinois and the summer of 2013 will mark her third year in a similar capacity at Canterbury Park.

Photo: Coady Photography

Local Stakes & Preakness Elicit Excitement

Now the conjecture begins. Not since Affirmed outdueled Alydar in 1978 has horse racing had such potential for history to repeat itself… or not. The similarities are certain to be pointed out ad infinitum, even ad nauseam, in the coming days, right up to post time for the Belmont Stakes if both horses do indeed run.

If you liked the Kentucky Derby, you had to love the Preakness Stakes on Saturday. Visions of the great Triple Crown rivalry danced through the minds of anyone even vaguely familiar with that wondrous summer. Another year, Alydar likely would have been a Triple Crown champion, outdueled in each of the classics by Affirmed.

Now the scene is set for I’ll Have Another to do the same to Bodemeister. There is little doubt that those two horses are clearly at the front of the three-year-old crop this season right now. The Kentucky Derby finish left the racing public wondering if Bodemeister had simply outrun himself with blazing fractions, that I’ll Have Another took advantage of a tiring horse. Bodemeister had the front end to himself with a fractions more to his liking on Saturday and I’ll Have Another caught him once again.

A shot in the arm for racing?

“This is fabulous,” said Canterbury Park president/CEO Randy Sampson. “This might be the year things finally go our way.”

“This is the difference between 6,500 and 16,000 (fans) on Belmont Day,” said Canterbury announcer Paul Allen.

Comments of this nature are always difficult to pry from Media Relations director Jeff Maday.

“It was a good race. The best Triple Crown race of the day,” he said.

Who knows, Bodemeister might take the Belmont Stakes off. But for the immediate future, racing seems to be very, very healthy.

Preakness Stakes Saturday brought out a large number of colorful dresses and wide-brimmed hats. No group resplendent in such attire was any more festive than the group of young ladies gathered in the winner’s circle after the first race to celebrate the upcoming marriage of Danielle Theobald, to become Ellingson, she pointed out, on June 16 in Rochester.

She and 13 of her friends – six of them part of the upcoming wedding party – used the big day in racing as their bachelorette shindig and got the ball rolling minutes after three-time riding champ Dean Butler got his second win of the season, this one aboard Gone Digital.

Butler’s silks caught the attention of one of the bachelorettes, adorned as they are with the emblem of the owners, Hector Bulldog Partners.

“My boyfriend has a tattoo of a bulldog that looks just like that,” she said. “Could you let me get a picture.”

The Canterbury riding champ obliged, delaying his exit from the winner’s circle.

When a bystander commented on the bevy of attractive women surrounding him after the photo was taken, Butler rolled his eyes and headed for the jockeys’ room.

Canterbury’s defending riding champ got started with a win in the next to last race on Friday’s season-opening card. He followed up Saturday by winning aboard Gone Digital, trained by Tony Rengstorf.

So, Rengstorf has three wins for the season, a most auspicious start he refuses to let go to his head.

“Come see me in two hours,” he said, well aware of the vicissitudes of his sport. “I learned about that a long time ago.”

Veteran Hall of Fame rider Scott Stevens continues to make his presence felt. He had a winner on opening day and was aboard Downtown Delight for trainer Michael Biehler in race two on Saturday.

Stevens set a goal for himself a year or two ago of riding at least one winner a day as his riding career ostensibly winds down. “So far, so good,” he said Saturday behind wide grin.

“I just need more business now. I only have one mount tomorrow.”

BUTLER MINES HIDDEN GOLD

The $35,000 Lady Slipper stakes was a three-horse race until the 16th pole. Then Butler elicited the coup de grace kick from defending champ Hidden Gold (pictured above), who drew off to a solid 1 ¼ length victory over Sheso Dazzling with Polar Plunge claiming third.

“It was a great race,” said trainer Francisco Bravo. “I thought it came down to one of three horses, and we were the ones today. Dean gave the horse a great ride, terrific.”

Ann Sachdev owns the horse with Bravo’s wife, Lori. Ann’s husband, Sunil, provided another explanation for the victory.

He stood in the very same spot during the race that he did a year ago when Hidden Gold won.

“Superstition. That’s what did it,” he said.

Kayleigh Butler could have cared less. Her father had won the stakes race and she jumped into his arms for the winning photo in front of a crowd of more than 8,000.

2012 Lady Slipper and 10,000 Lakes Stakes Replays

THESE BOOTS ARE MADE FOR WINNING

Bet your Boots could have used some comfortable slippers after last year’s 10,000 Lakes Stakes. He got sore feet and needed some intensive doctoring to get right again for the race.

Saturday, it appeared that his feet were just fine and that he was in fact right again.

With Juan Rivera up, Bet Your Boots dug deep to finish a half-length in front of the 2010 winner of the 10,000 Lakes, with Samendra claiming third.

Owner-breeder Richard Bremer had terse instructions for Rivera. “Whatever you do, don’t give up the rail,” Bremer said.

Rivera hugged the rail as if it were a long-lost relative, and the son of Birdstone did the rest.

“His feet were so tender after last year’s race that he needed some rest,” said Bremer. That was last May 11, and Bet Your Boots was idle until April 29 when he finished third in a $35,000 optional claiming race at Prairie Meadows.

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