The freight train was approaching, in fact keen observers knew it had been for years; it was only a matter of when it would arrive. That train is Mac Robertson and the station the historical trainer win total at Canterbury Park and Downs. A couple of weeks back Robertson overtook Canterbury Park Hall of Fame trainer Bernell Rhone, the man responsible for bringing the first horse onto the grounds of the Shakopee, Minn. racetrack in 1985; the trainer that has operated a stable here every year the track has been open.
Robertson, a Hall of Famer himself, has 858 wins at Canterbury, 65 coming this season. Rhone has 841. With two days and 28 races remaining, Robertson entered 37 horses. He leads trainer Robertino Diodoro, who entered 34, by three wins as he seeks his 13th title. Diodoro is the only trainer to hold that title other than Mac since 2005. Diodoro did it in 2014 and 2015 and tied Robertson last season.
Robertson’s horses have already earned a record $1,982,427 this season, nearly 14 percent of the total purses projected for the entire meet. He has 10 of the top 11 single-season earnings totals. His previous high-water earnings mark came in 2017 with $1,763,068.
Robertson has been dominant with Minnesota bred runners in 2019, in fact his charges have won 12 of the 16 state bred stakes. Hot Shot Kid won the 10,000 Lakes, Minnesota Turf, Blair’s Cove, and Wally’s Choice Minnesota Classic Championship. Four stakes wins for a horse in a single season, state bred or not, is rare enough here and on Friday Hot Shot Kid could win his fifth, as he is entered in the $50,000 Tom Metzen Stakes.
Ready to Runaway won the Frances Genter, Minnesota Oaks, and Glitter Star Distaff Classic. Mister Banjoman won the Victor Myers and Minnesota Derby. First Hunter, Happy Hour Cowboy, and Honey’s Sox Appeal each won a state bred stake race as well.
Mac Robertson shows no signs of slowing down. His horses are well placed for closing weekend, with live runners in three of the final four stakes.
There is a new way, other than cloud seeding, to open the heavens and guarantee that rains will follow.
Canterbury Park simply needs to plan something special.
This could become an added revenue source for the Shakopee track. Nearby farmers need their crops watered ? Canterbury can guarantee it by simply planning a festival or big race card of some kind.
Take Saturday night as an example, Made in Minnesota Night, with 10 races, six of them stakes, restricted to Minnesota-bred horses. What at first appeared like a cool, comfortable evening for racing turned suddenly into a wet, muddy and soggy night.
So much for staying clean in the winner’s enclosure or the paddock. Both were surrounded by mud, as was the track, the hallway to the jockey’s lounge and those quarters as well.
It has happened time and time again this summer. The night or afternoon of something special and rain or storms of some kind are assured.
Still, Saturday’s card produced some tense, exciting finishes and good racing all around. Despite losing the two turf stakes, the Blair’s Cove Stakes and the Princess Elaine Stakes, which were moved to main track, both produced thrilling runs to the wire.
The night belonged to trainer Mac Robertson and jockey Orlando Mojica. Robertson won five races, sweeping all four thoroughbred stakes. Mojica, who won the richest race of the summer in June, the $200,000 Mystic Lake Derby, has been on a stakes tear this meet. He won three of them for the Robertson barn on Saturday.
The first two thoroughbred stakes produced tight finishes. Mojica brought in Honey’s Sox
Appeal for owner Bob Lindgren, holding off a furious stretch challenge from Maywood Hope with Ry Eilkeberry up, the difference a short neck in the $50,000 guaranteed Princess Elaine.
Then, Mojica rode Warren Bush’s Hot Shot Kid to a similar victory over Fireman Oscar, again with Eikleberry up.
Although the Fireman made a strong bid late and possibly had a shot with another 20 yards,
Eikleberry didn’t think so. “He wasn’t going to let us pass,” he said.
The $100,000 Minnesota Oaks had a somewhat different storyline. The winning horse, Ready to Runaway, who lived up to her name, was claimed by John Mentz earlier in the meet for $25,000. He got a great return on that investment Saturday with the winning share of $60,000. “Best claim I’ve ever had,” said Mentz.
The winning rider in this case was Jareth Loveberry, who took a deep breath as he entered the winner’s enclosure, stifling the rising emotion he felt. He had been sidelined a week by a
concussion, returning only Friday. He originally tried to ride after the incident, but then the symptoms appeared. “I wanted to be sure I was OK and not come back too soon,” he said. It didn’t hurt that he was on filly that was much the best in the Oaks.
Mister Banjoman, with Mojica up, made the $100,000 Minnesota Derby an easy win, too, closing out a blockbuster night for Robertson. Sent off the 78/5 favorite, Mister Banjoman was much the best in the eight-horse field for the Novogratz Racing Stables.
THE CASH CARAVAN STAKES
The older brother finally got the best of his sibling, but it took a lost stirrup for it to happen.
The last five times these brothers met, it ended up the other way around
PYC Jess Bite Mydust, after a poor break, turned on the afterburners in the stretch drive to catch defending Cash Caravan defending champion Dickey Bob.
“It wouldn’t have happened if Cristian (Esqueda) hadn’t lost a stirrup,” said Jason Olmstead, who trains both horses. Owner Bruce Lunderborg agreed, pleased nonetheless that his horses have finished one-two the last four times they raced against one another.
The winning time was 19.70, with Holy Storm and Streak N Sparks finishing third and fourth.
Watching the proceedings was Dale Haglund, who not only had a rooting interest in the outcome, but strong ties to the horse for which the race was named.
Haglund’s Streak N Sparks got fourth place money in the $38,600 added event. He is the owner who rounded up eight other Minnesotans to buy half interest in Cash Caravan after trainer Jimmy Winkle offered it to him in 1986.
One of those investors was a man Haglund knew in his hometown of Hector, Curtis Sampson. “He thought about it a long time before getting in,” Haglund said. “Yeah, and now he owns the racetrack,” a bystander added.
INAUGURAL CAM CASBY FUTURITY
Saturday’s first race was the inaugural running of the Cam Casby Futurity, a tribute to the Hall of Fame owner who raced both thoroughbreds and quarter horses, not only at Canterbury Park but also at various venues around the country.
Casby died in 2014 having left a legacy of racing success and devotion to the sport. Cristian Esqueda brought in the first winner of the 300-yard dash, Beep Beep Zoom Zoom.
Beep Beep had a half length on Capos Hero and Julian Serrano, with a time of 15.729. Capos had a head on Jess A Lil Cash.
Trainer Mac Robertson has favored runners in four thoroughbred stakes
A 10-race program, with all races restricted to Minnesota-bred racehorses, begins at 5:00 p.m. Saturday at Canterbury Park. The card includes two quarter horse stakes and four thoroughbred stakes. Trainer Mac Robertson has horses entered in all eight thoroughbred races, with a total of 15 drawing in. The 12-time leading trainer will saddle the morning line favorite in the four thoroughbred stakes.
The richest races of the evening are the Minnesota Derby and Minnesota Oaks for thoroughbreds, each offering a $100,000 purse and conducted at one mile and seventy yards on the main track. Also to be run Saturday are the $50,000 Princess Elaine and $50,000 Blair’s Cove, both one and one-sixteenth mile turf races. Quarter horses will compete in the $35,000 Cash Caravan Stakes at 400 yards and the $20,000 Cam Casby Futurity at 300 yards.
Mister Banjoman is the 3 to 1 favorite in the Minnesota Derby. The 3-year-old has won four of seven lifetime starts under trainer Robertson but has never raced further than three-quarters of a mile. The second and third favorites on the morning line, Astronaut Oscar at 7 to 2 trained by David Van Winkle and Dame Plata at 4 to 1 trained by Francisco Bravo, also are stretching out in distance for the first time.
Ready to Runaway, claimed by Robertson for $25,000 for owner John Mentz of Lakeville, Minn. in June, is the 5 to 2 early favorite in the Minnesota Oaks. She won the $50,000 Frances Genter Stakes on July 4 for the new connections and like Robertson’s Minnesota Derby entrant will be routing for the first time. First Hunter is favored in the Princess Elaine. Robertson trained her to a win in the July 3 Minnesota Turf Distaff. The 6-year-old mare will face six others including two-time defending champion Some Say So from the Joe Sharp barn.
Robertson has dominated in the Blair’s Cove having won the last four editions and nine of the last 11. He has two entered this year: Hot Shot Kid, 5 to 2, and A P Is Loose, 7 to 2. A P Is Loose, owned by Joel Zamzow of Duluth won the Blair’s Cove in 2015 and 2016, was second to a stablemate in 2017, and beat Hot Shot Kid by 2 1/4 lengths in 2018. Hot Shot Kid and A P Is Loose drew the outside posts in the nine-horse field.
Leading quarter horse trainer Jason Olmstead appears to have a lock on the Cash Caravan Stakes
where he has entered four of the seven runners including full brothers Dickey Bob and PYC Jess Bite My Dust. They are owned and bred by Lunderbog LLC. The 5-year-old PYC Jess Bite Mydust has earned $228,231 in purses, the most ever by a quarter horse bred in the state. Dickey Bob, a 4-year-old, beat his older brother by a head in this race in 2018 and has never lost to his sibling in several meetings. Olmstead also entered the 2018 Northlands Futurity winner Jess Doin Time who lost by a nose to Dickey Bob when they met in the 350 yard Bob Morehouse Stakes.
The owner of Honey’s Sox Appeal visits the barn where she and two of her relatives reside for now, two and sometimes three times a day. It is fortunate that he lives a mere six miles of congestion free-highway from the stable area.
Sometimes he is there after most of the equine residents have shut down their enormous engines for the day, well past nightfall. Frequently he will take a few apples along for Honey Sox or one of her relatives, the two year old, Happy Hour Cowboy, awaiting his maiden debut, perhaps a month away, and the four-year-old, Red Hot Candy.
Bob Lindgren owns eleven horses in all, including those three, and they all share a common background.
“They are all daughters, sons or grandchildren of A Js Honey,” he said. Two of her daughters, Thunder and Honey and Happy Hour Honey are currently in foal themselves.
Although it’s not written in stone, those foals have the following names awaiting them: Happy Hour Honey’s “baby is probably going to be Happy Hour Bobby,” he said. “they are all going to be Happy Hour something.”
One big “happy” family, to borrow an adjective not unfamiliar to this bunch.
Thunder and Honey has a weanling who is likely to be named Thundering Rockstar, as a nod to his sire, MacLean’s Music.
The other members of Lindgren’s brood are all with Canterbury Hall of Fame owner Paul Knapper, at his Daylight Ranch in Kentucky.
Honey’s Sox Appeal was the morning line favorite in Wednesday night’s $50,000 Minnesota Turf Distaff. The six-year-old daughter of Successful Appeal from A J’s Honey went into the race with a career record of 9-7-3 from 22 starts and earnings of $353,370… a win and two seconds from three starts in 2019.
It was not her night, however. She tired badly on the soft turf and ran out of the money. “She didn’t like it, the soft ground,” said rider Orlando Mojica.
Trainer Mac Robertson, who also sent out the winner, First Hunter, agreed. “She just didn’t like the surface,” he said.
So, her next win will have to await another day.
Lindgren bought A Js Honey as a broodmare. She was advancing in years but Lindgren was confident she had some good breeding seasons left.
There is another element to Lindgren’s stable he emphasizes. From the day they are foaled, his horses get a “human” touch.
“When I go the barn tonight,” he said the other evening, ” I’ll give a little signal when I walk in.”
Honey Sox Appeal will respond immediately to the distinctive smooch he delivers and come to the door of her stall. “It’s something all of my horses learn,” he said. “I touch them in a certain way..hopefully they know it’s me. I always wonder if these horses really know.”
He thinks they do.
He entered the barn on one time last year, in the morning, around 8 a.m., an unusual time for him to visit. Honey Sox was out of stall and on a stroll around shed row.
“All of a sudden she stopped and swung her head around,” he said. “Like she was wondering what are you doing here, it’s 8 a.m.”
The apples, carrots and peppermints he offers her throughout the rest of the day are certain reinforcements for such responses.
In the meantime, he will continue to do as he’s doing, breeding horses that will one day have a for sale tag on them.
$50,000 MINNESOTA TURF DISTAFF
Sometimes history repeats itself in strange ways, or in this case, simply adds another chapter to an existing story several years in the making.
Twelve years ago, a horse named Hunter’s Tiger Paw was a winner at Canterbury Park, delighting the five-year-old girl (and her father, of course) who named her, Hunter Zamzow.
Wednesday night, Hunter, one of her friends and the father, Joel, watched Tiger Paw’s first foal, a six-year-old mare named First Hunter add to her mother’s legacy by winning the Turf Distaff under Jareth Loveberry, finishing 2 ½ lengths in front of Maywood Hope, who was a head in front of Some Say So, the winner of the inaugural running of this race, in 2017. The winning time was 1:30.31.
“She’s a grinder and never gives up,” said Joel Zamzow. “Jareth got her on the rail (near the 3/16ths pole) and gave her a great ride.”
Zamzow also cited another factor, the scratch of Firstmate. “With her out, there was no one left to close on (First Hunter),” he said. “That, and Jareth’s great ride when they claimed the shortest way home.”
Double Bee Sting was fourth, in front of Honey’s Sox Appeal.
Zamzow was delighted with the win, naturally. “This is why I love breeding horses,” he said. “But we’re a small operation and so we have to do things right.”
He was completely understanding of Lindgren’s role in that regard.
“Yes, he has a small operation, too. We’re not much different.”
$50,000 MINNESOTA TURF
The champ defended his crown in the third running of this race, finishing ¾ length in front of his stablemate to do so.
Hot Shot Kid, ridden by the boy of summer, Orlando Mojica, who won the Mystic Lake Derby a week ago, got to the wire in front of A P Is Loose, giving the Robertson barn a one-two finish in that race and a sweep of the Minnesota-bred stakes.
“They’re both good horses and ran well,” Robertson said, in reference to his winners.
Hot Shot took over at the head of the stretch and held off his stablemate to win this race once again as a second choice to his stablemate,who won the inaugural running of the race.
A P had a head on Twoko Bay for second.
Owned by Warren Bush, the winner finished in 1:11.94 and pushed his career earnings over $400,000
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.
The 2019 live racing season is upon us! Every year brings a unique excitement for the season to come, as horses arrive from all parts of the country. The ever-challenging handicapping puzzle brings these horses together, and it’s up to us to predict what will happen once the gates open.
Here’s a look at some final statistics for the thoroughbred races run at Canterbury Park in 2018, as we prepare to unlock the 2019 Canterbury Park handicapping puzzle. Good luck in 2019!
The public correctly selected the winner 36% of the time in all thoroughbred races run at Canterbury Park last year. That is 1-percentage point below the national average for winning favorites at all racetracks in North America in 2018, and is consistent with how favorites fared at Canterbury Park in 2017. The most formful races last year were the races for 2-year-olds, which produced winning favorites 47% of the time (15/32). Conversely, the claiming races proved to be elusive to the betting public last year, as only 32% of the favorites prevailed.
Last year, heavy favorites that were bet down to 7/5 odds or lower won 141 races out of 314 attempts. That’s a 45% win rate, but it also shows that these “locks” lost more often than they won.
On the other end of the spectrum, there were 14 winners at 20-1 odds or higher last year, but nearly 1,000 runners went to post at those high odds. Historically, Canterbury Park has not been a “longshot” paradise, and last year 78% of the thoroughbred races were won by horses at odds below 6-1.
Ry Eikleberry and Orlando Mojica battled it out for the riding title last year, with Eikleberry prevailing 87 to 79.
Despite the win total, Eikleberry was not a profitable jockey to wager blindly on last year, as his mounts only returned $0.70 on the dollar. He was solid with favorites though, (42% winners) and he showed a flat bet profit in dirt routes with a 27% win rate and an ROI of $1.05 for every dollar wagered.
Orlando Mojica had a slightly better ROI of $0.78 with his mounts. His most profitable category was in turf sprints (<1 mile) where he won 25% of the time with a positive ROI of $1.26 for every dollar wagered.
Neither Eikleberry nor Mojica were known as longshot riders last year. Combined, they were 5 for 190 with an ROI hovering around $0.30 on the dollar.
McLean Robertson and Robertino Diodoro tied for the top trainer honors last year with 57 wins. Both trainers have their strengths which tend to carry over from year to year.
Mac Robertson won with 24% of his starters last year, including 38% of the time his horses were favored. Robertson showed a flat bet profit in turf routes, and easily beat the takeout in State-bred races and maiden special weight races. Historically, Robertson has not been one to win with longshots at Canterbury Park, as he was only 4% with horses off at 8-1 and higher last year and those plays returned only $0.34 for every dollar wagered. Robertson is also campaigning Amy’s Challenge, who was voted the Canterbury Park Horse of the Meet in 2017, and is currently one of the fastest female sprinters in the country. Expect another strong performance by Robertson in 2019, as he looms the favorite to repeat as leading trainer once again.
Robertino Diodoro won with 23% of his starters last year, but only won with 28% of his horses that went to post as the favorite. Diodoro’s main game is claiming races and that is where he is the most dangerous. He won with 29% of his claimers and maiden claimers last year, showing a flat bet profit in both categories. Diodoro’s highest price winner last year was 9-1, so he is another trainer not prone to connect with longshots. Expect him to be near the top of the trainer standings throughout the season.
Good luck playing the 2019 live racing meet at Canterbury Park!
It had not happened before in 24 seasons of Canterbury Park racing: a tie for the leading trainer title. When the 2018 meet concluded, trainer Mac Robertson and Robertino Diodoro had each won 57 races. Mac notched his 12th title and Robertino his third.
Mac was top trainer for nine seasons from 2005 to 2013. Robertino earned the honor the next two, followed by two more for Robertson. Then came last year’s dead heat where combined, their charges won nearly $2.7 million in purses or 20 percent of the total thoroughbred purses paid during the 69-day season, while accounting for 11 percent of the total thoroughbred starters.
Expect both trainers to have full barns and well-rounded stables with horses fitting many conditions as Canterbury begins its 25th year. Robertson has for years trained many of the best Minnesota bred runners and will return with several familiar names like A P Is Loose and Hot Shot Kid. Robertino arrives off a very successful Oaklawn Park meet and also won the Turf Paradise training title. Both will be involved in the 2019 leading trainer conversation.
Arguably the most anticipated horse race in the past five years at Canterbury Park was conducted Sept. 16, 2017, the final day of that meet. The $80,000 Shakopee Juvenile at a distance of six furlongs. A showdown between Amy’s Challenge and Mr. Jagermeister.
Amy’s Challenge was a 2-year-old filly that had raced just once five weeks earlier. It was a scintillating display, that lone start. She dismantled her foes with a front-running 16 ½ length victory, earning a 91 Beyer Speed Figure, making her one of the fastest 2-year-olds in North America. Adding to the hype was that she came from the barn of Hall of Fame trainer Mac Robertson.
Mr. Jagermeister was a 2-year-old colt, bred in Minnesota, the son of Atta Boy Roy, trained by Valorie Lund. He had raced three times, winning his debut, finishing second with excuses in a stake at Prairie Meadows, and then winning the Northern Lights Futurity by 15 ½ in a walk.
It may as well have been a match race that September afternoon. The fans bet it that way. Amy’s Challenge was 4 to 5 and Mr. Jagermeister 6 to 5.
The filly broke on top while the colt was a step slow. He tracked her throughout, sticking his nose in front at the head of the lane with the rest of the field eight lengths or further behind. Amy’s Challenge dug in and edged away to win by three-quarters of a length over Mr. Jagermeister. It was another three seconds before the third place finisher hit the wire.
The two went their separate ways that fall. Mr. Jagermeister was turned out on an Arizona farm while Amy’s Challenge was shipped to Keeneland to run, but due to complications did not race the rest of the year.
She did make her return at Oaklawn in January of 2018, winning the $125,000 Dixie Belle. Mr. Jagermeister showed up in February in the Grade 2 San Vicente at Santa Anita where he contested a blistering pace before fading.
Meanwhile Amy’s Challenge ran twice more at Oaklawn that winter, finishing second and third in grade 3 route races that could have led to the Kentucky Oaks. Robertson opted not to try the Oaks however but instead the Eight Belles at Churchill Downs going seven furlongs. She drew the rail, never looked comfortable, and regressed to finish last.
Lund took Mr. Jagermeister back home to Turf Paradise where he was given a confidence booster, beating up on an allowance optional claiming field 16 days after that Santa Anita race. Then it was on to Oaklawn for the Bachelor Stakes in April where Jag finished a well-beaten second to Mitole, who it turned out may have been one of the best sprinters in the land at that time. He summered in Minnesota winning four times against state breds, dominating in all.
Amy’s Challenge also found the winner’s circle last summer at Canterbury, beating a non-descript field in a turf allowance. She did finally get that Keeneland race, a grade 2, got a bad start, and ran unremarkably sixth in legitimate company.
Now for 2019
Yesterday morning Mr. Jagermeister worked for the eighth time since returning to training in Phoenix. This work a quick six furlongs in 1:10.80.
A few hours later, Amy’s Challenge was warming up on the track at Oaklawn for the $100,000 American Beauty six furlong sprint. She looked her old self. A huge filly full of confidence. She broke alertly under Alex Canchari, was never tested, never really asked, and won by nearly six lengths in 1:09.32.
Lund is plotting the first start for Mr. Jagermeister which likely comes Feb. 9 in the $75,000 Phoenix Gold Cup.
“He will have one more half-mile blow out [next Saturday at Turf Paradise],” Lund said. “He’s ready to run the race. He’s fit.” He continues to train enthusiastically and grew two inches since the Fall but did not gain a lot of weight. He was 16 hands when he was turned out.
She chose the Phoenix Gold Cup to allow Mr. Jagermeister to “get one under his belt at home” where they do not have to ship. Lund expects the race to be very competitive. “This race always comes up tough for the amount of money,” she said. Rumors are that Chief Cicatriz, who won the Gold Cup in 2017 and 2018 before eventually winning the Grade 3 Aristides Stakes at Churchill Downs in June, might be entered and that another from California is pointed that way. Nominations close Wednesday.
Lund is plotting a campaign for 2019 that could lead to the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita. She did the same with Atta Boy Roy in 2010. The Breeders’ Cup was to be run at Churchill Downs that year so she planned to give Atta Boy Roy a race there and did. He won a grade 2 and was second in a grade 3. He also made it into the BC Sprint field that year. Lund will look at Santa Anita for a spring race before coming to Shakopee. She won’t hold the San Vicente against him but if he does not run well at Santa Anita, if he does not take to the surface, then the BC becomes less likely. She would not run if she wasn’t going to see “her best horse” in the race.
Mr. Jagermeister is likely to race every six or eight weeks, maybe six or seven times in 2019. He would train at Canterbury and ship to run. While there likely is not a dirt race for him this year at Canterbury save Festival Day, maybe something changes. The Dark Star Cup, run for $50,000 last year, could attract some serious sprinters, including Jag, were that purse doubled. As Dark would say, “It makes all the sense in the world.”
After yesterday in Arkansas, Robertson has to be thinking about November as well. He was quoted thusly following the American Beauty: “She ran like a Breeders’ Cup contender here today and it’s just January at Oaklawn.”
It is hard to conceive a situation where Amy’s Challenge and Mr. Jagermeister ever meet again on the racetrack. But how about something just as good? Each entered in a Breeders’ Cup race this November. That is an eternity from right now and Mac knows it. So does Valorie. But you don’t get there by accident. If Amy’s Challenge retains form and Mr. Jagermeister makes strides, why not both of them in a Breeders’ Cup race?
Racing at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas begins this Friday afternoon. The winter/spring meet with huge purses and many of the best trainers from across the country should again provide not only exciting action but large betting pools. Oaklawn has extended its meet from the traditional mid-April end date up to May 4, Kentucky Derby Day, for a total of 57 days.
Track officials announced total purses of nearly $32 million including “Maiden Special Weight races of $77,000 escalating up to $87,000 on three premier race days and open allowance races beginning at $78,000 and going up to as high as $88,000 on premier race days. ” Purses of that size do not exist anywhere else in the country during that time frame.
Three-year-olds prepping for the Kentucky Derby get their first chance to earn qualifying points on opening day with the $150,000 Smarty Jones. A field of nine has been entered for the one-mile test. From there is it on to Monday, Feb. 18 and the $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3); followed by the $1 million Rebel Stakes (G2) in March and the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) in April.
Several trainers that you will find at Canterbury Park are again at Oaklawn including Robertino Diodoro, Joe Sharp, Bruce Riecken, Karl Broberg, and Nevada Litfin. And of course Canterbury Park Hall of Famer Mac Robertson has for several seasons raced successfully in Hot Springs. He has entered Canterbury’s 2017 Horse of the Year Amy’s Challenge, owned by Joe Novogratz, in Saturday’s $100,000 American Beauty at six furlongs. The 4-year-old filly has been tearing up the track in morning workouts. Unseen since October when she finished sixth at Keeneland, Amy’s Challenge will be ridden by Shakopee’s own Alex Canchari.
Also on the opening day card are Jareth Loveberry and Orlando Mojica.
Robertino Diordoro, trailing Mac Robertson by three wins for the trainer’s title, saddled five winners Friday night and has a 55-54 advantage heading into the final day of racing.
Robertson, meanwhile, saddled one winner on the card to set up what promises to be a shootout for the championship.
Diodoro capped off his hot streak with victories in the $50,000 John Bullit Stakes a mile and 1/16th and then, in one of the most exciting races of the season, the $50,000 Tom Metzen HBPA Sprint at six furlongs.
Orlando Mojica rode Patriots Rule in the John Bullit, and Leslie Mawing had the mount on Bourbon Cowboy in the Tom Metzen, edging favored Hot Shot Kid by a head.
Today’s showdown should be a classic. Robertson has 16 horses entered in 10 races; Diodoro has nine in eight races.
The race for leading owner is a dead heat heading into the final card, between Joe Novogratz and Charles Garvey.
MEET COMES TO CLOSE
The passage of time is a slippery item to get a handle on; the hours slide by quietly, often without notice.
As they did for numerous horsemen who considered Friday night that another meet is at its end, another segment of their lives is over, so on to the next.
The meet, scheduled for 70 days of racing but reduced to 69 with a weather cancellation, ends Saturday with a 14-race card.
“This one seemed really fast,” said trainer Troy Bethke. “It went spinning by.”
Fellow conditioner Bernell Rhone couldn’t have agreed more.
“Where did it go,” he said. “Where did it go.”
Time, of course, is always a factor at the race course, where horsemen are constantly in use of stopwatches, timing this workout and that .
Friday night humidity was once again a factor, although most horsemen brushed if off; after all many of them train and compete at southern racetracks, so Minnesota humidity at its worse can’t always match up to what transpires elsewhere.
“I’m just getting acclimated is all,” said Rhone, who will head next to Florida where he will compete during the coming months.
Still, there is much to be determined Saturday concerning races for leading rider, leading trainer and leading owner.
Perennial training champ Mac Robertson will empty the barn today in pursuit of another title, leading Robertino Diodoro by a single win.
For all intents and purposes, Ry Eikleberry has the riding title locked up, leading Orlando Mojica by eight wins.
OLIVER COMES DOWN FROM THE MOUNTAIN
Doug Oliver, a three-time training champion at Canterbury, is in Shakopee this weekend to watch a horse in which he has an interest run in the $75,000 Shakopee Juvenile Saturday
The horse is trained by his niece, Kim Oliver, and will be ridden by Scott Stevens.
Oliver is retired, for an intents and purposes, but still saddles a few now and then. He has been camping in the Colorado mountains with his son, Brian, and will return to Phoenix for the meet at Turf Paradise in October.
WE MISS YOU!
We've scrubbed our building from top to bottom, cleaned and disinfected every chair, rail, carpet, table, poker chip and wagering terminal because we want to be ready when it's safe for all of us to re-open.
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