BY JIM WELLS
Droplets of rain opened the race card Saturday night, but disappeared quickly, allowing the richest day of summer racing to proceed without interference and, most importantly, kept the turf races on the grass.
That produced at least an internal smile in Canterbury’s braintrust, but none quite as large as the one that crossed Orlando Mojica’s face after he piloted the winning horse to the wire first in the richest race of the summer.
Mojica has had a solid, profitable meet this season, but it got even better when he found room along the rail aboard Faraway Kitten and sailed smoothly past the finish line with room to spare in the $200,000 Mystic Lake Derby.
“So, Orlando, that must make a good summer great, huh?” he was asked.
“No, no, no,” he responded. “Money goes so fast. I must keep winning.”
With good reason.
There to greet him in the winner’s circle were his wife, Vanesa, and children Niya, Alex and Leilany.
Yes, the money does go fast with that number of mouths to feed, but, just the same, winning the Derby is rich in so many ways. The winner’s connections are no strangers to Canterbury Park.
Trained by Mike Maker and owned by Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey, Faraway Kitten is just one of several horses who have drifted into town and left with rich purses for those connections in the last decade.
In fact, this particular colt saved the day for Maker, who was in danger of getting skunked on this trip after missing the winner’s circle in three earlier stakes races.
Save the day, eh, Mike.
“Yes it did,” he said.
Faraway Kitten, sent off the even money favorite, accomplished the feat with a lightning move to the rail when a spot opened, drawing a comment of amazement from former rider Mark Irving, who watched the race from the winner’s circle.
“What a move,” he said. “I’ve never seen a horse move so quickly to the rail.”
Mojica tried to push his mount through near the quarter pole and was blocked, then veered in at the three-sixteenths marker before driving through on the rail with a swift move and finished a length in front of Bizzee Channel and two ahead of Dunph, in 1:35.45.
“Oh, yeah, it’s great to win,” Mojica said, “but, like I said, I need to keep winning.”
Mojica is third in the rider standings behind Francisco Arrieta and Ry Eikleberry and picked up his 17th win of the meet in the Derby.
$100,000 MYSTIC LAKE MILE
The ownership designation for a four-year-old colt named Nobrag Justfact is Super XLIV (Mike Heitzmann et al). Eric Heitzmann, who trains the colt, also owns him in partnership with his brothers, Mike and Roger. The Super XLIV name is a reference to the New Orleans Saints win over the Colts in the Super Bowl.
“Yeah, they beat the Vikings to get there,” Heitzmann added.
He was actually more interested in another kind of win on Saturday night, the one that Nobrag Justfact claimed moments earlier under Leandro Goncalves.
Goncalves waited patiently to ask his horse after running at midpack, in this mile turf event, and made his move approaching the head of the stretch. He had a 1 ¾ lengths on Ibaka, who had a head on Giant Payday, at the wire, in a time of 1:34.38.
“I had a bad trip on him last time,” said Goncalves, “but I had so much horse sitting off the pace. We just needed to get through.”
They got through in the upper stretch with clear sailing from there.
$100,000 LADY CANTERBURY
This race has a rich history dating to 1986 when a horse named Sauna, owned by Allan Paulson, trained by Richard Cross and ridden by Hall of Fame jockey Chris McCarron took the winner’s share of $109,000.
That race was the first turf race in Minnesota thoroughbred history and has been run each racing season since.
Neil Drysdale brought a horse to Shakopee, Balbonella, in 1988 and won the race. Michael Stidham saddled three winners as did Mike Maker, who sent out I’m Betty G last year.
This time the money stayed in Shakopee for the most part following Dean Butler’s ride aboard 10-1 longshot Beach Flower, owned by Hugh Robertson and trained by Mac Robertson.
Beach Flower broke smartly and then tracked front-runniner Lovely Loyree to the top of the stretch, taking the lead under Butler to finish 3 ½ lengths in front of Remember Daisy, with another 1 ½ lengths back to Lovely Loyree in 1:34.96.
$50,000 HOIST HER FLAG STAKES
“Who do you want in this race,” a bystander asked of the person next to him. “I don’t care, just so a jockey, owner or trainer from here is involved,” was the reply.
Success came threefold in this case.
Spring Steen, trained by Francisco Bravo and owned by Michael Grossman was a clear winner under Ry Eikleberry, finishing a solid 1 ¼ lengths in front of Lake Ponchatrain, who had three lengths on Aiken to Be.
Spring Steen made it look easy.
“Yes, she did,” said Eikleberry.
“She can do that,” said Grossman.
“She’s a running son of a gun,” said Bravo.
This was Spring Steen’s race from quarter pole on. She had 3 ½ lengths at the head of the stretch and was in charge to the wire, with a winning time of 1:10.34.
So Long Seoul, trained by Noel Hickey, better known in Shakopee as the trainer of Hall of Fame horse Blair’s Cove, won the first running of the Hoist Her Flag in 1990, and the race has been run every racing season since.
$50,000 DARK STAR CUP
Shawn Davis saddled the winner of this race for the second consecutive year. Creative Art won the race in 2018 and was named the champion older horse of the year.
Saturday, sent out Creative Art once again, but also saddled Chief Cicatriz, who bested his stablemate and five other rivals as well.
Under leading rider Francisco Arrieta, Chief Cicatriz took charge early in this one was 2 ¾ lengths in front of Cowboy Creed and had another 2 ¾ on Malibu Max, with a winning time of 1:15.98.