State’s Best Horses Race Wednesday in MN Festival of Champions

12-race program with $850k in purses begins at 4:10 p.m.

Minnesota’s top thoroughbreds and quarter horses will race Wednesday at Canterbury Park in the 28th Minnesota Festival of Champions. The 12-race card, restricted to horses bred in the state, includes six $100,000 stakes and will pay a total of $852,450 in purses. First post is scheduled for 4:10 p.m.

The Festival began in 1992 when Minnesota horsemen were determined to show then-owner Ladbroke Racing Corp., who clearly had little interest in operating the track in the future, that horse racing could thrive in the state. Horse breeders, trainers and owners, including current track CEO Randy Sampson, banded together to present a day of racing that would feature horses bred in the state. The event drew a large crowd and was televised in the Twin Cities. As feared, Ladbroke closed what was then Canterbury Downs at the end of the year. The success of the first Festival however kept the flame alive and two years later Sampson, his father Curtis and South St. Paul businessman Dale Schenian purchased the Shakopee property and returned racing to Minnesota in 1995 at a newly branded Canterbury Park. Minnesota Festival of Champions has been a focal point each summer since.

Leading trainer Mac Robertson, who has won a record 37 Festival races, is represented in

Mac Robertson

each of the six thoroughbred stakes and will saddle the morning line favorite in four. Jockey Roimes Chirinos will be aboard each of those including 2-year-old Honey Bella in the Debutante, Ready to Runaway in the Princess Elaine, Cinco Star in the Blair’s Cove and Clickbait in the Bella Notte Sprint.

Pete Mattson of Prior Lake looks forward to this night each season. He owns and bred eight horses competing in four of the races and is also breeder of the Northern Lights Futurity favorite Love the Nest that he sold at the Keeneland September sale last fall. Fireman Oscar, entered in the Crocrock Sprint, accounts for both of Mattson’s Festival victories. Now seven, he won the 2020 Crocrock and the Futurity as a 2-year-old.

“Festival shows who the best 2-year-olds are. Everything points to these last races,” Mattson said. “You really don’t know until they race each other.” The lucrative purses are important to those investing extensively in Minnesota racing as well. “There is a big financial reward if they win,” he said.

While Mattson has a pair of fillies in the Debutante he is higher on his 2-year-old colts, Doctor Oscar and Ben’s Malice, in the Futurity. “Both are going to be very exceptional race horses,” he predicts. The Futurity’s field of 10 is the largest of the thoroughbred stakes.

Jason Olmstead

In the quarter horse stakes, Jason Olmstead, who has won seven consecutive training titles at Canterbury, is favored to win both the Minnesota Futurity and Minnesota Derby. Relentless Courage, a three-time winner this summer is 2 to 1 in the 350-yard Futurity and Jess Rocket Man is 8 to 5 in the 400-yard Derby.

The card will offer two pick five wagers, beginning in the first and sixth races. Canterbury offers an industry low 10 percent takeout on the 50 cent pick five as well as the $1 pick six which begins in the fifth race. Additional information is available at .

Stakes Race Line-Up

Race 5 – $100,000 Northern Lights Debutante

Race 6 – $100,000 Princess Elaine Minnesota Distaff Turf

Race 7 – $100,000 Blair’s Cove Minnesota Turf

Race 8 – $100,000 Northern Lights Futurity

Race 9 – $100,000 Crocrock Minnesota Sprint

Race 10 – $100,000 Bella Notte Minnesota Distaff Sprint

Race 11 – $62,900 Minnesota Quarter Horse Futurity

Race 12 – $60,550 Minnesota Quarter Horse Derby

Trick And Treat

By Noah Joseph

A racehorse’s success and career consistency is often looked at when judging whether that horse is considered to be an all-time great. Many of the greatest horses to run at Canterbury were very consistent during their time here, however very few came close to the consistency of Sir Tricky.

Sir Tricky was bred in Minnesota by William Hobbs, who also owned him during the early stages of his career. Sir Tricky was a son of Sir Cat, a multiple graded stakes winner, and his dam was Tricky Sugar, a modest race mare. Unlike most Minnesota breds, Sir Tricky did not break his maiden at Canterbury, but rather at Prairie Meadows in Iowa in his 2nd career start for his trainer Kelly Von Hemel. He finished 6th in his debut at Canterbury. Following his maiden breaking score, Sir Tricky returned to Canterbury to compete in the 2003 Northern Lights Futurity where he was sent off as the favorite. He bobbled coming out of the starting gate and went four wide on the turn but came on to finish 3rd. Rested up for his three-year-old season, Sir Tricky returned the following year with a gutsy victory in an allowance at Canterbury in which he held on by a nose to win. He would later go on to finish 3rd in the Victor S. Myers Stakes that same year. Sir Tricky did not race at all in 2005, but when he did return, a change was made that would reshape racing in Minnesota.

In 2006, Sir Tricky joined the barn of trainer Mac Robertson, who claimed him for his father Hugh that April at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas. Mac then brought Sir Tricky back to Minnesota where he won an allowance race before running 4th in the 10,000 Lakes Stakes. As this season went on, Sir Tricky came close to winning many of his races, but just couldn’t quite get over the hump, however that was about to change.

Sir Tricky – 2006 Festival

In one of those previous races, Sir Tricky ran on the grass for the first time and seemed to take a liking to it. With that in mind, Sir Tricky was entered in the Minnesota Turf Championship on Festival of Champions Day and sent off as the favorite in a field of eight. He won by over a length under jockey Israel Ocampo for new owners Barry and Joni Butzow. Now Sir Tricky was a proven horse that could run well on turf and dirt, and that victory was a sign of things to come, as he won the 10,000 Lakes Stakes on the dirt in 2007, as well as placing in three other stakes events that season at Canterbury on both surfaces.

2008 was another great year for Sir Tricky, as he won three stakes races that season. He won the Blair’s Cove Stakes on the grass along with the Minnesota Sprint Championship and Kenny Schoepf Stakes on the dirt. In 2009, Sir Tricky won the 10,000 Lakes Stakes for the 2nd time in his career. But he was getting older, and that would be the only win of the year for him. The following year started off as a massive disappointment for Sir Tricky as he struggled to find victories, but once again, the turf changed the trajectory of how his season would go. A win in a claiming race on the grass seemed to pick him up and return him to his old form. A follow-up victory in another claiming race on the lawn confirmed that theory.

Now nine years old, Sir Tricky was entered in the Minnesota Turf Championship for the 2nd time in his career, and just like when he won in 2006, the crowd made him the favorite. The old veteran proved just how good he was, winning the race by a length under Seth Martinez. Sir Tricky was back on the top of his game, and he knew it too. This win would be the final race and final victory for Sir Tricky, as he was retired soon afterwards, but not before being named the 2010 Champion Grass Horse during the Canterbury season.

All in all, Sir Tricky raced 44 times in his career and won 13 times with 12 of those wins coming at Canterbury. He won seven stakes in his career on both turf and dirt, as well as in sprints and route races. He is also tied for 7th in numbers of wins at Canterbury Park and Downs, and 11th in all-time earnings in Canterbury history, and the 2nd highest Minnesota-bred money earner in track history. Because of these accomplishments, Sir Tricky is a member of the Canterbury Hall of Fame.

Canterbury Returns To Horse Racing Wednesday After Nine-Day Break

First 36 days of season show handle increases and stability

Horse racing resumes Wednesday at Canterbury Park following a nine-day break while the Shakopee, Minn. entertainment facility hosted Twin Cities Summer Jam, a three-day music festival held in the racetrack infield. The pause allowed horse trainers and their equine counterparts to prepare for the final 29 days of the 65-day season. Canterbury officials are pleased and encouraged by several metrics, including wagering numbers, from the first 36 days.

Average daily handle, the amount of money wagered, increased 12.8 percent compared to 2020 and 153.2 percent compared to the first 36 days of 2019. In 2020, due to the pandemic, Canterbury ran a shortened, Monday through Thursday season and was allowed no more than 750 spectators per day. This was a deviation from the 25-year tradition of racing Thursday through Sunday with an average of 6,500 spectators. The shift in days of the week attracted an increased national wagering audience during a timeframe with much less competition resulting in a dramatic increase in daily average out-of-state handle, a trend that continues in 2021 as Canterbury runs a hybrid schedule of Sundays at 1:00 p.m. and Tuesdays through Thursdays at 5:00 p.m. Out-of-state average handle increased by 8.3 percent over last year, and 221.8 percent over 2019, to $1.3 million per day. On-track handle, with no spectator capacity limits, is nearly double the 2020 average and down just 19.7 percent compared to the pre-pandemic 2019 season, an average racing officials are content with as spectators begin to adapt and return to post-pandemic events.

“We are very pleased with the mid-season figures,” Vice President of Racing Operations Andrew Offerman said. “We have thoroughly enjoyed the return of the energy and excitement of live racing fans although we knew there would be an adjustment period following such a dramatic schedule shift. Our participants have remarked about the renewed energy and excitement in the facility so it is clear that everyone is pleased to be getting back to normal.

“Additionally, our product has continued to be popular across the country which is very rewarding to see in the year following the pandemic. In the second half of the race meet we continue to look for ways to entertain the local live racing fan while cultivating a strong racing product for the national audience,” Offerman said.

The stability of purses paid to horse owners has been a major factor in the success of the season thus far. Purses have averaged $235,237 per day, an increase of 29.6 percent over last year when business-level decreases necessitated lower purses. The 2021 average is 4.8 percent more than 2019. The purse structure has created competiveness and an average of 7.15 starters per race, a figure consistent with the past two seasons.

“There is no doubt that our careful purse management in 2020 proved beneficial in 2021 as we have been able to return purses to their pre-pandemic levels,” Offerman said. “Our participants have responded by continuing to fill competitive race cards, a trend I anticipate will continue throughout the season.”

Offerman views the level of claiming activity as an indicator of a healthy race meet as well. There is a demand for horses and increased participation by owners with a total of 143 horses having been claimed compared to 72 and 74 in the past two seasons during the same time. A claiming race is a race in which horses may be purchased by a licensed owner for the claiming price listed for that race.

Past meet leaders congregate near the top of the thoroughbred trainer and owner standings. Robertino Diodoro and Mac Robertson vie for top trainer honors. Diodoro won three races on July 18 and has a 32 to 31 lead over Robertson. Empire Racing Stables, LLC has 15 wins, two more than 2020 leading owner Lothenbach Stables, Inc. Novogratz Racing Stables also has 13 wins.

Lindey Wade, new to Canterbury this season, is the leading jockey through 36 days, winning with 37 of 165 mounts. Alonso Quinonez has 32 wins and 2020 leading rider Ry Eikleberry has 30.

Canterbury continues to offer an industry-low 10 percent takeout rate on the $.50 Pick 5 wager and the $1 Pick 6 wager. Both the Pick 5 and Pick 6, offered daily, are traditional wagers distributing the full pool less takeout to bettors selecting the first-place horse in each leg of the wager.

Post time Wednesday and Thursday is 5:00 p.m.

Mac Robertson Wins Two Stakes on Hall of Fame Night

Ready to Runaway wins MN Distaff; Cinco Star best in Strangis Stakes

The Ralph Strangis Stakes has been run five times at Canterbury Park and trainer Mac Robertson

Ready to Runaway

has won all five renditions. On Wednesday, Cinco Star strode through the mud to win the $50,000 race, run at one mile on the main track after rain forced it to be transferred from the turf. Roimes Chirinos was aboard the 6-year-old Minnesota bred for owner John Mentz. Cinco Star, 2 1/4 lengths the best, was the wagering favorite and returned $4.60. The result was fitting on a night when the Shakopee racetrack was honoring new members of its Hall of Fame, as Robertson, the all-time leading trainer in wins and purses at Canterbury, is a Hall of Fame member himself. The trainer, owner and jockey were not done for the evening. In the next race, they joined forces to win the $50,000 Minnesota Distaff, also transferred to the main track and run at one mile, with Ready to Runaway. “It seems like her confidence is building now,” Robertson said, “and I think she’ll run good until the end of the meet.”

The 5-year-old mare has now won 11 of 21 races lifetime and $427,735. She paid $5.80.

Star of the North

Earlier on the 12-race card, 3-year-old filly Star of the North raced gate to wire to win the $50,000 Frances Genter Stakes by an effortless 3 3/4 lengths. Trained by Francisco Bravo and owned by Michael Grossman, the Minnesota-bred improved her record to six wins from seven starts and $239,500 in earnings. Her six consecutive victories have all been by open lengths. “Someday someone is going to test her,” Bravo said. “We don’t know how good she is just yet.” Star of the North, ridden by Ry Eikleberry, covered six furlongs in 1:10.07 and paid $2.60. Bravo, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2019, explained after the race that he had recognized the talent in this filly after working her a half mile for the first time, talent that could someday lead Star of the North to the Hall herself. Bravo is known for developing young horses but was quick to point out that “the horse makes the trainer, the trainer doesn’t make the horse.”

The $50,000 Victor S. Myers went to Thealligatorhunter, a 3-year-old Minnesota-bred trained


by Tim Padilla who is the co-owner and breeder along with Pete Mattson. The colt has now won five of eight starts and $117,825. Alonso Quinonez rode the $3.20 winner in 1:10.95.

Jess Rocket Man won the inaugural $28,000 North Star State Quarter Horse Derby by 1 1/4 lengths for owners Lunderborg LLC and trainer Jason Olmstead. Leading rider Edwin Escobedo was aboard the 3-year-old Minnesota bred gelding. Jess Rocket Man broke on top in the six-horse derby and covered 400 yards over a muddy track in 19.779 seconds returning $2.80 as the wagering favorite.  Change N Gears was second and Living in the Past finished third.

Jess Rocket Man

Jess Rocket Man, out of the mare Paint Or More, is a full brother to stakes winners Dickey Bob and PYC Jess Bite Mydust who were also bred by Judy and Bruce Lunderborg of Weber, Minnesota.

Racebook Action Galore

Santa Anita delayed its autumn race meet due to fires in the nearby hills but commences Friday at 2:30 p.m. with a 10-race program that includes the G3 Chillingsworth Stakes and the G2 Eddie D.

On Saturday, Santa Anita rolls out five graded stakes, all with Breeders’ Cup implications: G2 Chandelier, G1 Rodeo Drive, G1 American Pharoah, G2 John Henry Turf and the G1 Awesome Again.  The $300,000 Awesome Again attracted only five runners but the quality is high and it is the second leg of the late pick five wager. Both Maximum Security and Improbable are entered by Bob Baffert. Of local interest is Sleepy Eyes Todd whose second and third career wins came at Canterbury Park in the summer of 2019.

The 4-year-old colt is trained by Miguel Angel Silva and is owned by Thumbs Up Racing. His most recent effort was a gate to wire win in the G2 $600,000 Charles Town Classic, providing the first graded stakes win for the horse and the trainer who has maintained a stable at Canterbury for several seasons.

Top CBY Quarter Horse Connections Compete At Prairie Meadows Friday and Saturday

Trainers Jason Olmstead and Ed Ross Hardy, fixtures in Shakopee, are well represented at Prairie Meadows on their premiere evenings of quarter horse racing Friday and Saturday. Olmstead saddles the morning line favorite in both the G3 $218k Valley Junction Futurity , Signs of a Blue Moon, and the Iowa bred $137k Jim Bader Futurity, Cr Appollitical Joe.

Pyc Jess Bite Mydust

Olmstead also placed Minnesota bred Pyc Jess Bite Mydust in the 440 yard Two Rivers Stakes, a Grade 3 with a $35,000 purse on Friday.

Hardy has the favorite, B Booujee, in Friday’s second, the Valley Junction Juvenile consolation. He will also face Olmstead Saturday in the Jim Bader with Df Fabulous Flare.

Owner and breeder Dan Kjorsvik never ducks a challenge, with quarter horses or thoroughbreds. His Q, Holy Storm will run in Friday’s opener, the Grade 3 Covered Bridges at 870 yards. Bred by Kjorsvik in Minnesota, Holy Storm improved when trying the hook, winning a pair at Remington this spring and another at Prairie. A troubled trip last time earns him a shot Friday where he faces a horse familiar to Canterbury fans, Faster Than Hasta for Bob Johnson. He too found a new calling at 870 with two impressive wins at the distance this year in Iowa.

Robertson Runners Surface at Arlington

Mac Robertson

If you are reading this Thursday morning, note that several Mac Robertson runners can now be found at Arlington Park running under his father Hugh’s name including three on Thursday. All the action can be bet in the Canterbury Park Racebook where there is plenty of spacing for the racing.

Trainer Mac Robertson Daunting In Four State-Bred Stakes Wednesday At Canterbury Park

Monday through Thursday Racing Schedule Underway

After Hot Shot Kid defeated Mr. Jagermeister by 1 1/2 lengths in the 10,000 Lakes Stakes on June 17, winning trainer Mac Robertson predicted a rematch was in the future for the two richest Minnesota-bred thoroughbred racehorses in history. That prophecy did not take long to be realized as both are entered in Wednesday’s Ralph Strangis Memorial Stakes at 7 1/2 furlongs on the turf. The Strangis is one of four $50,000 state-bred stakes on the 10-race card that begins at 4:40 CDT including the Frances Genter, Victor S. Myers and Minnesota Turf Distaff. In 2019, Robertson trainees won all four. He saddles the morning line favorite in three of the races this year.

Hot Shot Kid, the 8 to 5 morning line favorite, has one turf win from three tries. The victory came in this stake last summer when he beat four horses the 6-year-old will face again in a 10-horse field, including 11-time turf winner A P Is Loose also trained by Robertson. The speedy Mr. Jagermeister, trained by Valorie Lund, is winless in two turf attempts and is likely to dictate the pace while being pressured by Robertson’s third and fourth entries, Mister Banjoman and Cinco Star.

Mac Robertson

Robertson is also represented by four entries in the Minnesota Turf Distaff with Carriage and Honey’s Sox Appeal along with 8 to 5 morning line favorite Ready to Runaway and Clickbait both making their turf debut.  First Hunter, winner of this race last year when trained by Robertson, enters off a third-place finish for trainer David Van Winkle in an allowance race won by another in the Minnesota Turf Distaff, Maywood Hope.

“I want to see Clickbait and Ready to Runaway run on the grass before [Minnesota Festival of Champions on Sept. 7] to see if they can,” Robertson said. “I’d like to win as many [Festival] races as I can obviously, so I need to know.” Robertson has won 35 Festival races, 15 more than any other trainer.

Ready to Runaway had great success in 2019 after being claimed by Robertson and owner John

Ready to Runaway

Mentz for $25,000. She went on to win the Genter, the $100,000 Minnesota Oaks, and the $100,000 Minnesota Distaff Classic Championship. This year she hit the board in three Oaklawn Park starts before winning the $50,000 Lady Slipper Stakes at Canterbury.

“She’s run short, long, muddy, fast; I think she will handle the grass,” Robertson said. “She could run better. We’ll know after Wednesday.”

Minnesota-bred 3-year-olds are featured in the Myers and the Genter Stakes, a pair of six furlong sprints. Rush Hour Traffic, winner of the Northern Lights Debutante, is favored on the morning line at 8 to 5. She is trained by Gary Scherer. Robertson entered Defend the Rose, second to Rush Hour Traffic in the Debutante.

Robertson, 13 times the leading trainer at Canterbury, also conditions the favorite in the Myers, Happy Hour Cowboy, winner of the 2019 Northern Lights Futurity. Alex Canchari has the mount on Happy Hour Cowboy, Ready to Runaway and Defend the Rose, while Francisco Arrieta has the return engagement aboard Hot Shot Kid.

“I think I’ll run them all,” Robertson said. “I like what Canterbury is doing for the Minnesota breds. It’s good for the owners. Gives them opportunity. If it’s good for the owner and for the horse, it’s good for me.”

Racing at the Shakopee, Minn. facility begins a Monday through Thursday schedule after racing eight days over the past three weeks. Post time each afternoon is 4:40 p.m. CDT. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Canterbury Park suspended all operations in mid-March but on June 10 live racing, which had been delayed from its original May 15 start, returned with limited spectators. Through eight racing days, total handle has increased 163.8% per race compared to 2019 with on track per race handle declining 61.9% per race due to the restriction on spectators and out of state per race handle increasing 266%.

Simulcast racing operations returned to a daily schedule June 10 and the Canterbury Card Casino reopened table games June 15.

State-Bred Stakes Highlight Wednesday Action at Canterbury Park

Three-day racing week Tuesday through Thursday; Two richest Minnesota-breds meet in 10,000 Lakes.

The two Minnesota-bred thoroughbreds with the highest career earnings, Mr. Jagermeister and Hot Shot Kid, will face off in the 10,000 Lakes Stakes Wednesday at Canterbury Park, racing six furlongs for a purse of $50,000. The 5-year-old Mr. Jagermeister, winner of 11 of 23 starts and $578,627 in purses, and 6-year-old Hot Shot Kid, who won five stakes, including the 10,000 Lakes, at the Shakopee, Minn. racetrack in 2019 and has amassed $545,404 in purses from 29 career starts, meet for the first time since the 2018 running of this same stake race. That year Mr. Jagermeister got the best of it finishing 8 1/2 lengths in front of second-place Hot Shot Kid. He then went on to win three additional stakes that summer before being named the Canterbury horse of the meet, an honor bestowed on Hot Shot Kid last year.

“This is going to be a very exciting race; a very competitive race,” Mr. Jagermeister’s trainer and co-owner Valorie Lund said. Leandro Goncalves has the mount. “[Mr. Jagermeister] is ready,” Lund said, but questions the prohibitively favored 2 to 5 morning line hung on her horse. “I’ve watched Hot Shot Kid training both here and at Oaklawn. He looks great,” she said.

Mac Robertson, perennial leading trainer at Canterbury Park and conditioner of Hot Shot Kid, is also quick to acknowledge the competition.  “Mr. Jagermeister is very good,” Robertson said, speaking Sunday from Delaware Park where he is preparing his East Coast string. He intended to run Hot Shot Kid at Keeneland but when that meet was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he changed plans and entered at Oaklawn where Hot Shot Kid ran a distant tenth in a sprint. Robertson has named last year’s leading jockey Francisco Arietta to ride. He also entered Cinco Star in the five-horse field.

The 10,000 Lakes is the second race on an 11-race program that begins at 4:30 p.m., while the co-featured $50,000 Lady Slipper Stakes is the sixth. Robertson and Lund are also represented in the Lady Slipper. Robertson will run 7-year-old Honey’s Sox Appeal and Ready to Runaway. Lund has entered Firstmate, a 5-year-old mare previously trained by Joe Sharp, for owners Barry and Joni Butzow of Eden Prairie, Minn. They must beat Lady Slipper defending champion Ari Gia and trainer Jose Silva, Jr.

“I’m tickled to have her,” Lund said of Firstmate. “There is a ton of speed in the race. I like the outside [post position] draw.”   Firstmate recorded the fastest four furlong workout of the morning on June 10 in preparation. “She did it so easy,” Lund said.

Robertson has a very strong hand in the Lady Slipper. “I wouldn’t trade my two for any of them,” he said. Honey’s Sox Appeal is a multiple stakes winner who Robertson said “was in a brutally tough race at Oaklawn and she didn’t run that bad.”

Ready to Runaway, claimed for $25,000, subsequently won three consecutive stakes last year at

Ready to Runaway

Canterbury. She raced three times at Oaklawn this spring with two third-place and one second-place finish, earning speed figures better than last year. “She’s never run a bad race really,” Robertson said. Not one to be without a plan, he considered potential strategy for Wednesday while examining the field. “We’ll probably send one and take one back. This is a really good race.” He also entered Clickbait, but she will be a scratch and is reentered for Thursday. The field includes 2017 Minnesota Oaks winner Double Bee Sting and Pinup Girl, winner of the 2018 Lady Slipper.

Racing resumes Tuesday and runs through Thursday with first post at 4:30 p.m. each afternoon.

2020 Canterbury Park Live Meet Preview from The Oracle

Opening day of the 2020 Canterbury Park live racing meet is tomorrow, Wednesday, June 10!  That means it’s time to look back at the 2019 Canterbury Park live meet from a statistical standpoint and use that data to help us better predict the outcomes of the 2020 Canterbury Park races.

Also, please note that the Canterbury Pick 5 wager this year is no longer a jackpot bet and it offers the lowest takeout in the country, and likely the universe, of 10%.  This is absolutely the best bet in racing!

Here’s a look at some final statistics for the thoroughbred races run at Canterbury Park in 2019, as we prepare to unlock the 2020 Canterbury Park handicapping puzzle.  Good luck in 2020!

The Favorite

The public correctly selected the winner 39% of the time in all thoroughbred races run at Canterbury Park last year.  That is 1-percentage point above the national average for winning favorites at all racetracks in North America in 2019, and is 3 percentage points above how favorites fared at Canterbury Park in 2018.  The most formful races last year were the races for maiden claimers, which produced winning favorites 49% of the time (37/76).  Despite the high percentage of winning favorites in this category, betting them all still produced a 2% net loss.  This has been a trend that has held up well the past several years.  A lot of favorites seem to get their picture taken in the maiden claiming ranks at Canterbury Park.  Conversely, the maiden special weight races proved to be elusive to the betting public last year, as only 30% of the favorites in that category prevailed.  Let’s see if that trend carries forward to 2020.

The Odds

Last year, heavy favorites that were bet down to 7/5 odds or lower won 152 races out of 332 attempts.  That’s a 46%-win rate, but it also shows that these “locks” lost more often than they won.

On the other end of the spectrum, there were 12 winners at 20-1 odds or higher last year, but over 800 runners went to post at those high odds.  Betting them all would have returned a paltry 38 cents on the dollar.  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.

The “sweet spot” for win betting last year was the 6-1/7-1 odds range.  That was a break-even proposition for the 343 runners if you played them all.

The Jockeys

Francisco Arrieta won his first riding title at Canterbury Park last year as he led all jockeys with 79 wins.  Orlando Mojica finished second with 74 wins and Ry Eikleberry was third with 60 wins.

Arrieta won with 23% of his mounts last year, and returned 95 cents on the dollar overall.  When the leading rider is still able to beat the takeout by 12 percentage points, that indicates that it is still possible to find some value out there for his mounts.  We will see if the public is more tuned in to Arrieta in 2020, as he figures to be in contention for leading rider once again.  He was solid with favorites (43% winners) and he showed a flat bet profit in dirt sprints (ROI = $1.07) and turf routes (ROI = $1.03).  His win percentage on the dirt was higher than on the turf last year (26% to 16%).  Also, Arrieta was 0/18 with horses above 20-1, but he did bring in a 19-1 winner in a dirt sprint.

As of now, Orlando Mojica will not be back at Canterbury Park this summer, but 2018 leading rider Ry Eikleberry is returning after finishing third in the standings last year.  Eikleberry has had a lot of success at Canterbury over the years, and he attracts a lot of wagering dollars.  Therefore, finding value with his mounts is a difficult task.  Wagering on all of Eikleberry’s mounts last year would have returned only 74 cents on the dollar.  He rode 91 favorites last year, winning with 29 of them (32% win and ROI = 0.73).  Eikleberry has a reputation as an excellent gate jockey who puts his mounts on the lead.  Therefore, it’s no surprise that his best category has historically been in dirt sprints.  Last year was no exception as he won with 23% of his mounts in sprint mounts and beat the takeout by 8 percentage points.

Of the top 10 jockeys last year, Quincy Hamilton led all riders with an ROI of 0.96.  The “flaming wallet” award went to Constantino Roman, who’s mounts returned only 40 cents on the dollar in 2019.

The Trainers

For the past several years, McLean Robertson and Robertino Diodoro have battled it out for leading trainer honors at Canterbury Park, with Robertson prevailing last year 73 wins to 71 wins.  Both trainers have their strengths which tend to carry over from year to year.

Mac Robertson won with 25% of his starters last year, including 42% of the time his horses were favored.  Robertson showed a flat bet profit in dirt routes and maiden claiming races, and easily beat the takeout in allowance races and maiden special weight races.  Historically, Robertson has not been one to win with longshots at Canterbury Park, as his highest price winner last year paid $23 dollars.  Roberston was especially strong last year with his fillies and mares, winning with 33 of 90 (37%) with an ROI of 1.19 for every dollar wagered.  Expect another strong performance by Robertson in 2020, as he looms the favorite to repeat as leading trainer once again.

Robertino Diodoro won with 26% of his starters last year, and also won with 42% of his horses that went to post as the favorite.  In a rare feat, betting on Diodoro favored runners to place and show last year produced a positive ROI of 1.07 and 1.05, respectively.  Diodoro’s main game is claiming races and that is where he is the most dangerous.  He won with 31% (44 of 144) of his claiming runners last year, showing an ROI of 1.10 for every dollar wagered.  Diodoro’s highest price winner last year was 14-1, and he had 3 winners of 8-1 and higher from 39 tries.  He did not have much luck in the maiden special weight ranks, winning just 1 race in 19 attempts and the winner paid $4.  Expect him to be near the top of the trainer standings throughout the season.

Honorable mention goes to Tony Rengstorf who had 25 wins at Canterbury and posted a positive ROI of 1.11 for all his mounts.  Rengstorf was an impressive 60% with favorites (12/20 and ROI 1.41) and also posted a positive ROI with longshots 8-1 and higher (7/70 and ROI 1.27).  His highest price winner last meet was 16-1.

The “flaming wallet” award went to Valerie Lund, with an ROI last year of 0.61.  While she was dominant with favorites (7/9 and ROI 1.62) thanks in large part to her top runner Mr. Jagermeister, she was only 1/50 at 8-1 and higher last year at Canterbury (ROI = 0.18).

Best of luck playing the 2020 live racing meet at Canterbury Park!

by The Oracle

Mac Robertson Breaks Records

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.

Robertson, Mojica Shine On A Cloudy Day


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

Honey’s Sox Appeal

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,

Hot Shot KId

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

Ready to Runaway

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 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.

Pyc Jess Bite Mydust

“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.


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 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.