Difficult But Doable Double

By Noah Joseph

In the history of Canterbury, only two horses have won the biggest race for three-year-olds (originally the Saint Paul Derby, and now the Mystic Lake Derby) in one year, and then have gone on to win biggest race for older horses (originally the Canterbury Cup, and now the Mystic Lake Mile) the following year. It’s rare, because things can change during a course of a year, but Secret Hello and Hammers Terror did just that.

Secret Hello came into the 1990 Saint Paul Derby as one of the top choices in the field. The son of Private Account won the Arlington-Washington Futurity (at that time a Grade 1 race) the previous year as a two-year-old, and began 1990 with a fourth-place finish in the Withers Stakes in New York. Under jockey Pat Day, Secret Hello had to deal with 1989 Canterbury Juvenile winner Appealing Breeze, the speedy Sound Of Cannons, and the Arkansas Derby winner Silver Ending. Secret Hello tracked Sound Of Cannons for much of the race, before taking the lead in the shadow of the wire to win by a head. While not quite a deja vu, Secret Hello came into the 1991 Canterbury Cup Handicap off a fourth-place finish in a graded stakes race. He finished fourth in the Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs, behind future Breeders’ Cup Classic, and 1991 Horse of the Year Black Tie Affair. Secret Hello, this time under local rider Chris Valovich, took the lead from the onset and skipped away from the field to win by 3 ¼ lengths on the muddy track.

About a month ago, Sniper Kitten won the Mystic Lake Derby. While there is no answer on whether he’ll run in next year’s Mystic Lake Mile, if he does run in and win, he won’t be the first to do it. That honor belongs to Hammers Terror. A son of Artie Schiller, Hammers Terror entered the inaugural Mystic Lake Derby in 2012 as one of the favorites. He came into the race with a third in the Grade 3 Lexington Stakes at Keeneland, and a win in the Charlie Barley Stakes at Woodbine for trainer Michael Stidham.To win, he had to defeat the likes of the then undefeated Delegation, and Gung Ho, who finished third in the Grade 1 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes. Hammers Terror broke sharply from the two post under jockey Lori Keith and went wire to wire, and had to survive an inquiry for veering out and interfering with Delegation…..but the result stood.

Hammers Terror

The following year, Hammers Terror came in as the favorite for the inaugural Mystic Lake Mile, this time ridden by Dean Butler. Breaking from the outside post nine, Hammers Terror led for most of the race, and won by a length, making him the first horse to win back-to-back inaugural stakes at Canterbury.

Diamonds Are an Owner’s Best Friend

Mister Marti Gras

By Noah Joseph

One of the most recognizable silks at Canterbury Park in recent times has been blue silks with a red diamond cluster and red diamonds on the sleeves. Those are the silks of Bob Lothenbach, who races under Lothenbach Stables. Lothenbach Stables is a top owner of horses throughout the Midwest and parts of the East Coast. Lothenbach has owned and raced some top quality horses over the years at Canterbury. The two that come to mind only raced in Minnesota a couple of times, but both have made their mark in Minnesota racing history. They are Mister Marti Gras and Nun the Less.

If you were to look up the word consistent, you’d probably find a picture of Mister Marti Gras. The son of Belong to Me raced 58 times, winning 11 and finishing in the top three 32 times, and earning over $1 million in a career that spanned from 2009 to 2016. A four-time stakes winner, Canterbury fans will remember him as the winner of the inaugural Mystic Lake Mile in 2013. Mister Marti Gras took the one mile off the turf contest in 1:38 for Lothenbach, trainer Chris Block, and jockey Francisco Torres.

Nun the Less, at the time he came to Canterbury, was a horse that could perform well but just couldn’t do it when it counted. He won at the maiden and allowance levels as a two-year-old and allowance level as a three-year-old, but couldn’t win a stakes race no matter how hard he tried. He placed in many stakes, including graded stakes against the best grass three-year-olds of 2015, but he needed to find a race he could win. That race was the 2015 Mystic Lake Derby. Trainer Chris Block shipped the son of Candy Ride to Canterbury after a 3rd place finish in Chicago. Nun the Less, sent off as the 4-1 third choice, came from last to first with a burst of energy combined with a well-timed ride by Florent Geroux to take the richest race of the meeting. Nun The Less raced at Canterbury two more times last year, both in stakes, and finished 3rd both times. Nun the Less is still racing today, recently finishing 3rd at Arlington Park. Hopefully he will come back to Canterbury again.

This year at Canterbury, Lothenbach has five winners from nineteen starts, putting him 4th on the list of leading owners. He currently has the impressive maiden winner Diamondize; the Minnesota bred Mines Made Up, and last Friday, he won with Look Out Baby.

Noah Joseph is a longtime Canterbury Park and horse racing fan. He’s been attending races at Canterbury since 2000 when he was 3 years old and has enjoyed every minute of it. Noah provides a weekly piece on CanterburyLive.com.



The connections in horse racing are sometimes astounding as well as confounding and on a strange afternoon at the racetrack some of that played out during a card that featured exceptional stakes racing and some mind-boggling vignettes as well.

Highlights are simple to point out: The two $100,000 stakes on the card, The Lady Canterbury and the Mystic Lake Mile, arguably the best in many years and among the best ever. Granted, the Mile was only run for the fifth time on Sunday, but the Lady Canterbury made its 25th appearance.

Mingled with heart-pounding finishes in those races and heart-warming stories to go with them were the unceremonious unseating of four riders during the card. One at the start of the fifth race resulted in a loose horse whose interference with the remaining field caused stewards to declare it a non-race.

Those episodes were balanced by some of the finest racing yet this summer in two exceptional stakes events that included parallels with the past and unexpected, much appreciated phone calls to the winner’s circle.

Sweet Tapper


Think back to 1990 and the Kentucky Derby, trainer Carl Nafzger and Minnesotan Frances Genter celebrating their Kentucky Derby winner Unbridled, trainer and owner featured in a heart-warming video that played over and over again on sports networks across the nation. It was the biggest win at that point for a woman involved in racing for decades.  Trainer and owner were later inducted into the Canterbury Park Hall of Fame.

Now, shift to the winner’s circle at Canterbury Park on Sunday and  a 4-year-old filly named Sweet Tapper, a 4-year-old daughter of Tapit owned by Lorie Michaels of Wayzata, whose celebration included a phone call from none other than Carl Nafzger.

The trainer of record for the winner is Ian Wilkes, once an understudy to Nafzger who is trying his best to retire without complete success.

Michaels and her husband, Bob, have been in racing for about a dozen years but celebrated the biggest win of their racing involvement on Sunday, their first stakes victory.

“It was absolutely wonderful. I couldn’t be any happier,” Lorie told Nafzger.

She gave this victory to her husband. “It’s his father’s day gift,” she said.

It was a victory, too, another victory, for jockey Orlando Mojica, who won two stakes races and finished second in a third last weekend.

Sweet Tapper,8-1, was hemmed in along the rail coming out of the turn, but his rider was not concerned. “I had plenty of horse and I found an opening inside.”

Just in time. Mojica made his bid from there and caught Insta Erma, the even-money favorite, at the wire by a neck, finishing in 1:35.88. Seeking Treasure at 6-1 was next, 1 ¼ lengths further back.



Local trainer, local rider, owner a neighbor from South Dakota.

That connection provided the winner for the fifth running of the mile, an aptly named Hay Dakota, a Kentucky-bred son of Haynesfield.

The race included 5/2 Majestic Pride, last year’s Horse of the Year and One Mean Man, winner of the 2016 Mystic Lake Derby and the 2-1 favorite.

Hay Dakota, meanwhile, was sent off by the crowd of 14,150, at 6-1. Sixth out of the gate in the eight-horse field, Hay Dakota under Denny Velazquez tracked the leaders from the second flight, came four wide on the turn and made his bid from there, finishing a head in front of Majestic Pride and another half length in front of Way Striking, finishing in 1:35.37.

Asked how his heart held up during the stretch run, winning trainer Joel Berndt seemed more concerned about his vocal cords. “It’s my voice,” he said. “I was riding the race from the quarter pole on. If you recall, I lost the Mystic Derby last year by a neck.” By that, he meant that Hay Dakota had finished third in the race, a neck out of second place and another nose from first.

Moments earlier Sunday, Canterbury Hall of Fame trainer Doug Oliver had been to the winner’s circle to visit old friends. He once trained for old friends. He once trained for Alice Mettler of Wall, S.D., owner of Hay Dakota.


The Fiscal Cliff, a 4-year-old Pyc Paint Your Wagon colt, had his way with nine rivals in Sunday’s opening stakes race, named for a long-time contributor to Minnesota’s horse industry.

Bet too much against Sunday’s winner and a person might end up falling off a fiscal cliff himself.

Eighteen races. First or second seventeen times. Eleven wins. A Grade II winner and runnerup in races at Remington Park.

He could have spotted his competition a length or two and still won this race, although he needed a rare reminder from his rider after shifting his weight in the gate and not breaking cleanly.

Not that he needed the tap as everything turned out. The Fiscal Break appeared to do all that was necessary under the circumstances.

“He didn’t break real well. Couldn’t get hold of the ground,” said owner Thomas Lepic of Iowa City, Iowa. “We rarely touch him, but he did take hold.”

Winning trainer Kasey Willis had even more to celebrate. He also saddled Streakin PR, the second-place horse.

Winning rider Benito Baca told Lepic afterward that his horse didn’t break in a straight line after shifting in the gate but acquired his footing and took charge of the competition, finishing in 17.75 seconds.

Lepic said he will continue training his horse here in preparation for the Bank of America Canterbury Park Challenge on July 4.

Sunday’s race is named for Skip Zimmerman, a quarter horse and thoroughbred owner and breeder who was a charter member of the Minnesota Quarter Horse Racing Association and a member of the HBPA board of directors. Zimmerman died of a heart problem on March 6, 2007.


Two $100,000 Turf Stakes Headline Father’s Day Racing

By Katie Merritt

Sunday’s 10-race program at Canterbury Park includes two $100,000 turf stakes, the 25th running of the Lady Canterbury will be the 7th race and the Mystic Lake Mile, now in its fifth year, will be run as the 8th race. Both stakes will be run at a distance of one mile on the turf course. Racing begins on Father’s Day at 12:45 p.m.

The Lady Canterbury dates back to the spring of 1986 when it was the first race to be run on the turf course at the Shakopee, Minn. racetrack. The inaugural Lady Canterbury was won by Sauna with jockey Chris McCarron aboard for owners Allen Paulson and Summa Stables. Over the years the race has continued to draw top connections from around the country.

The 2017 rendition is no exception as 10 fillies and mares have been entered. Several nationally-known trainers are shipping to Canterbury to compete for the $100,000 purse. Mike Maker has entered morning line favorite Gianna’s Dream, who has run 12 times, at 7 different racetracks, and has only finished off the board twice. Being the favorite in the Lady Canterbury may not be the best position to be in, however, as the favorite has only won the race three times since 1986.  This will be Gianna’s Dream’s first start since December of last year. Maker won the Lady Canterbury two years in a row in 2013 and 2014 with Awesome Flower. Bill Mott, who also won the Lady Canterbury in 2003 with Stylish, has Zayat Stables’ Insta Erma, who has a second and a third so far this year amongst tough allowance company at Keeneland and Belmont. Insta Erma will be ridden by Dean Butler. Ian Wilkes ships in with Sweet Tapper, to be ridden by Orlando Mojica, who is also looking for her first win this year after a second and a third in solid allowances at Churchill and Arlington – both races that were originally scheduled to be run on the turf, but were moved to the main track.

The morning line favorite in the Mystic Lake Mile is 2014 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) winner Hootenanny for trainer Wesley Ward. The 5 year old horse by Quality Road has hit the board 8 out of 13 times. In addition to his Breeder’s Cup win, Hootenanny is also known for being one of the few American shippers to win a stake race at Royal Ascot. Hootenanny most recently finished fourth in the Grade 3 Hanshin at Arlington Park, three lengths behind longshot winner Crewman, who he will face again Sunday in the Mystic Lake Mile. Julio Garcia has been named to ride.

Bernie Flint-trained One Mean Man, winner of the 2016 Mystic Lake Derby at Canterbury, is also entered to run, looking to win his first race since the Woodchopper Stakes at Fair Grounds in December. The four-year-old grey colt will be ridden by Orlando Mojica. Locally-stabled Hay Dakota, trained by Joel Berndt and ridden by Denny Velazquez, is another top choice in the Mystic Lake Mile. The four-year-old bay gelding has not won in three starts this year, but was the winner of the Grade 3 Commonwealth at Churchill Downs last November.

The Quarter Horses will also contest a stake race earlier in the card. The $20,000 added Skip Zimmerman Memorial Stakes will be run as the first race and has drawn a field of 10 horses. The Fiscal Cliff, trained by Kasey Willis and ridden by Benito Jude Baca, hi-lights the race. The four year old colt has 17 lifetime starts to date, with 10 wins and 6 seconds. His last race was a win in the Grade 2 Bob Moore Memorial Stakes on April 22 at Remington Park. Eagles Span, Jr Rock Star and Streakin Pr will likely by vying for second choice on the tote board. The Olmstead-trained Eagles Span enters the race off of an Allowance Optional Claimer here at Canterbury Park and will be ridden by Brayan Velazquez. Jr Rock Star, also trained by Olmstead was most recently 4th in Optional Claimer at Remington in May, but won an Allowance at Canterbury last August. Streakin Pr, trained by Kasey Willis and ridden by David Pinon was 4th last out in the Boyd Morris Memorial Handicap at Remington Park, after winning an Allowance there in his prior start.


Leg Up Fund Poker Tournament is Monday

Lady Canterbury Stakes and Mystic Lake Mile draw fields of 11

Sunday’s Father’s Day race program at Canterbury Park features a pair of $100,000 stakes races: the 24th running of the Lady Canterbury and the fourth edition of the Mystic Lake Mile. Both races, conducted at one mile on the turf course and run as the seventh and eighth races respectively on the 11-race card, drew 11 entries.

Trainer Joe Sharp, who operates stables at several tracks and has a string at Canterbury this summer, has entered three horses in the Lady Canterbury and one in the Mystic Lake Mile. His Mile entry, the speedy Aztec Brave, has won five of 16 career starts on the turf including stakes wins last year at Aqueduct and Mountaineer. The 5-year-old most recently finished third in a May 21 Churchill Downs stakes after setting the early pace. Chris Rosier will ride Sunday.

“He’s just an honest horse,” Sharp said. “He got a bit aggressive in that last race and opened up a big lead on the backside and came up a little short. This is his third start off a layoff and I expect a big effort.”

One of Sharp’s three Lady Canterbury entries is Calypso Run, owned by Barry and Joni Butzow of Eden Prairie, Minn. The 4-year-old filly figures to be part of the early pace over a course that is not unkind to frontrunners. She too will be ridden by Rosier.

“She’s pretty quick. I expect her to be competitive in here,” Sharp said. “She doesn’t need the lead but if she is there I won’t be unhappy about it. She is getting better and better and can be successful around two turns.”

Sharp also trains Mexican Miss, the 7 to 2 morning line favorite in the Lady Canterbury, who he claimed from a maiden race for owner Brad Grady in the fall of 2014. Since the claim, Mexican Miss has three wins, including one in the Jersey Lilly Stakes at Sam Houston, three seconds, and one third from seven starts. Mexican Miss will be ridden by Denny Velazquez.

“She’ll be tough to beat,” Sharp said.

If the morning line holds true and Mexican Miss is the wagering favorite, she will need to defy history, as the favorite in the Lady Canterbury has won just 3 of the 23 editions of the race.

Sunday’s races begin at 12:45 p.m. For more information visit www.canterburypark.com .


Saturday post time changed to 12:15 p.m.

With 12 races including six trials for the $165,600 Mystic Lake Northlands Futurity, racing officials have changed first post on Saturday to 12:15 p.m. The purse for the Northlands is a record for the race which has been run 28 times dating back to 1986. The 10 fastest horses from the six trials combined will advance to the final July 10.


Kitty Wine Wins Lady Canterbury
Kitty Wine Wins Lady Canterbury



The purse is $100,000, the racing is close the entire way. You separate from the field and set your horse’s nose toward the wire, only to discover there is another horse at your shoulder, eyeball to eyeball, stride for stride, over the final 150 yards of the stretch drive.

You are certain you’ve won until the jockey on the opposing horse contradicts the thought. It will take a calipers to determine a winner.

Racing doesn’t come any better.

Ask anyone who watched the Mystic Lake Mile on Saturday. Maybe even trainer Gary Scherer, who found himself running toward the winner’s circle. “And I don’t run,” he said. Later, he thrust his arms skyward when the results of the photo finish were announced and jumped in the air. “And I don’t jump,” he said.

A winner in a $100,000 race abrogates the word can’t from a person’s vocabulary. You still are unable to do many things you couldn’t do previously…but you’re willing to try, at least, to believe in anything. “I think I lost two pounds running,” Scherer said.

The chart of the race declares Scherer’s horse, Pumpkin Rumble, winner by a nose over Az Ridge, the defending champion in the race, the Mystic Lake Mile. That’s only because there isn’t another term to denote even smaller margins.

The start was the third of the year for the winner and first time he has finished on the board, enhancing his career earnings by $60,000 for a total of $181,806.

The horse’s owners, Al and Bill Ulwelling, were not present, reportedly at their lake cabin, but Scherer’s exclamatory response was all the representation necessary, enough enthusiasm to fulfill a requirement of this sort.

There were four horses favored in front of Pumpkin Rumble, sent off at 9-1. Az Ridge was favored at 2-1. Red Zeus, a 16-1 choice, finished third. The win gave rider Corey Lanerie a sweep of the two stakes on the card. The Mystic Lake Mile was preceded by the $100,000 Lady Canterbury, also at a mile on the turf.

Lanerie guided 7/5 favorite Kitty Wine to a 1 ¼ length victory over third choice Notte d’Oro in that one. A sweep of the two stakes made Lanerie’s trip from Churchill Downs a worthwhile journey. “Absolutely,” he said.

Kitty Wine ran just off the pace from the gate to the turn for home, where she rallied to take the lead at the stretch call and sustain it to the wire.

Lanerie had not expected Parc Monceau to be at the front, but his strategy remained the same nonetheless. He intended to run just off the lead and did just that.


Pumpkin Rumble and Corey Lanerie Win Mystic Lake Mile
Pumpkin Rumble and Corey Lanerie Win Mystic Lake Mile



Racing Hall of Fame trainer Jack Van Berg, who signed copies of his book at Canterbury Park on Saturday,  went to New York in June of 1987 with a chance to saddle a Triple Crown winner.

Alysheba had won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, and Van Berg was certain he was superior to anyone in the Belmont field. “He could gallop faster than those other horses could run,” Van Berg recalled.

Which is precisely what he told jockey Chris McCarron in the paddock that day.

The question most asked of Van Berg in the years since, and a reasonable one it seems, was whether Alysheba could have won the race had he been allowed to run with Lasix, which he did in the two earlier Classic races.

New York did not allow Lasix at the time and many analysts figured that was a factor in Alysheba’s fourth place finish. Van Berg was asked Saturday if Alysheba would have won the  Belmont had he been allowed the anti-bleeding drug.

“He would have won if he had had a jockey that day,” Van Berg said.

Van Berg was convinced Alysheba could have simply outrun the field, but McCarron put a hold on him and let Bet Twice, the eventual winner and second place horse in the first two legs of the Triple Crown, go to the front. Alysheba, rated most of the way, not only did not respond with his usual vigor when given his head but got caught in a traffic jam at the top of the stretch. Bet Twice went on to win by 14 lengths.

“Somehow he (Chris) got it in his head to hold the horse and he choked him and choked him,” Van Berg added. “Then he got turned sideways…”

The consequence was clear.

“We could have had a Triple Crown winner,” Van Berg added.


Two $100,000 Races Saturday at Canterbury Park

Mystic Lake Mile

23rd Lady Canterbury attracts field of nine; Mystic Lake Mile with 11

Two of Canterbury Park’s premier races, each offering a $100,000 purse, will be run Saturday: the Lady Canterbury Stakes and the Mystic Lake Mile. Both will be run at one mile on the turf course as part of a 10-race program that begins at 12:45 p.m.

The Lady Canterbury, now in its 23rd running, dates back to 1986 when it was the first race ever run on the Shakopee, Minn. racetrack’s grass course. The race was won by Allen Paulson’s Sauna with Chris McCarron aboard.

On Saturday, Mac Robertson, who won the Lady Canterbury in 2007 with Honour Colony, will saddle the 5 to 2 morning line favorite Stoupinator. The 5-year-old mare, owned by Joe Novogratz of Excelsior, Minn., is undefeated on this turf course and most recently won the $75,000 Minnesota HBPA Distaff on June 6. Canterbury’s leading jockey Dean Butler will be aboard.

Other notables in the nine-horse field include Parc Monceau, saddled by Bill Mott, who won this race in 2003 with Stylish, and Notte d’Oro, who finished less than a length behind Stoupinator on June 6 and is trained by Michael Stidham, a two-time Lady Canterbury winning trainer.

The co-featured Mystic Lake Mile originated in 2013. This year’s 11-horse field includes the winners of the first two editions: Mister Marti Gras, who won the inaugural Mystic Lake Mile, and Az Ridge, last year’s winner.

Eduardo Perez, based at Arlington Park in Chicago, has the mount on Mister Marti Gras for trainer Chris Block. Local rider Geovanni Franco will ride Az Ridge, winner of four consecutive races, for Dan McFarlane.

Dorsett, whose last win was in the 2013 Mystic Lake Derby, will be reunited with jockey Lori Keith who was aboard for that win nearly two years ago.

The Lady Canterbury Stakes and the Mystic Lake Mile will be run as the eighth and ninth races respectively.

Canterbury Park will be giving away a craft beer glass to the first 4,000 adults. General admission is $8. Children 17 and younger are admitted free. Parking is free. Gates open at 11:30 a.m.


Sauna - 1986 Lady Canterbury winner
Sauna – 1986 Lady Canterbury winner

Broadway Empire Update

Broadway Empire in Canterbury paddock prior to Mystic Lake Mile
Broadway Empire in Canterbury paddock prior to Mystic Lake Mile

At one point Saturday track veterans were decrying the weather and the untimely arrival of heavy rain that significantly reduced attendance and all but destroyed the two feature races.

Yet there was still the anticipation of seeing Broadway Empire, who ran sixth against some of the top horses in the game in the Metropolitan Mile and was making his first appearance since as the odds-on favorite in the second running of the Mystic Lake Mile.

The switch from the drenched grass to dirt was not an issue. Broadway had never run on the grass before, and everyone knows what he can do on the dirt.

Even with multiple scratches from the Lady Canterbury and Mystic Lake Mile there was still that factor. “Well, at least we get to see Broadway,” fans agreed.

Then, just moments before the horses loaded into the gate came the news on the public address system that Broadway Empire had been scratched.

Speculation traveled fast. He was lame. Minutes earlier he was kicking and doing his thing in the paddock in anticipation of running. Now he was lame?

He certainly looked lame a number of horsemen agreed.

At one point trainer Robertino Diodoro feared the horse had broken a bone in his leg. “He was just standing and couldn’t move.”

Rider Scott Stevens gave Broadway every opportunity to straighten himself out as they awaited the signal to load. The horse didn’t provide conclusive evidence.

“It was strange,” said Diodoro. “He was good. Then he was bad. OK then he wasn’t. Back and forth like that.”

Under those conditions everyone agreed Stevens had done the right thing. You don’t take a chance in that situation.

“I felt bad for Scott,” said Diodoro, who clearly had a multitude of people and things to feel bad about.

Then, Broadway kicked and squealed all the way back to the barn. “I thought he was going to run away from the handlers,” Diodoro said. “We still got an X-ray of the foot, to be sure,” said Diodoro. “Nothing was wrong.”

Broadway Empire is OK. So what exactly was wrong with him during the post parade and shortly before?

Well, Diodoro has a theory. There is a small hole near the coronet on Broadway Empire’s right front foot. “I don’t know, maybe sand gets in there and irritates it and then gets cleared out,” he said. “The same thing happened to him in the Canadian Derby and then he went out and wins by six lengths. It’s an old quirk.”

So on Sunday, despite the emotional hangover from Saturday’s letdown, there was good news in the Diodoro barn. As handlers and others connected to the horse made their personal peace with Saturday’s unfortunate event, there was the comforting news that Broadway Empire is OK and will run again.

When is still a question for consideration according to Diodoro.



Awesome Flower blossoms again


Saturday’s rain drenched the racetrack, dampened spirits and put a damper on the day and its scheduled events, turning an expected festive occasion into a damp and disappointing drudgery on several fronts.

Normally the Lady Canterbury and Mystic Mile turf races, both $100,000 events,  could be expected to attract an enthusiastic turnout. Throw in the Human Cannonball and we’re talking a crowd of 10,000 or more. Many of them because of the Cannonball alone.

            It was not to be.  The rain forced postponement of the Human Cannonball presentation for two weeks to July 26 and drove the two feature races off the grass. “This is a damn shame,” said one horseman. “We could have had a huge crowd today, but nobody’s here.”

            There was that, too, a turnout of only 5,026.

The disappointment continued. Officials held off as long as feasibly possible after moving the fourth race from the grass to the main track but eventually had to relent and moved the co-feature events also.

Thus, a host of scratches ensued.

The Lady Canterbury, scheduled for about a mile on the turf, was moved to a mile on the dirt and Stoupinator, Enlightened and I Dazzle scratched, reducing the field to seven.

The winner was defending champion Awesome Flower, ridden last year by Chris Landeros, this time by Francisco Torres, who drove the horse in the final strides past 3/2 choice Gold Medal Dancer with Canterbury Hall of Fame rider Luis Quinonez in town for the mount.

The winner was sent off at 3-1 as was the third place horse, locally owned Eden Prairie.

Torres was delighted to get the mount from Mike Maker, who trains for the owners, Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey. He had reason for confidence. Awesome Flower, by Flower Alley, won the Lady Canterbury last year, and Torres rode Kune Kune, the third place horse. Thus, Torres knew what he was riding, the defending c hampion. “She ran past us (last year) like we were standing still,” he said.

Awesome Flower, it seems, likes Canterbury Park and blossoms in the Lady Canterbury.

Forecasts called for some rain Saturday, but no one expected the deluge that drenched the racetrack and caused four scratches immediately after the Mystic Lake Mile was moved to the dirt.

Another completely unexpected scratch took place moments before post time. Broadway Empire, the prohibitive favorite, turned up lame in the post parade and was scratched moments before the horses entered the gate, a huge disappointment to rider Scott Stevens and trainer Robertino Diodoro.

Stevens descended the steps to the jockeys room clearly upset, deprived of what most observers considered a sure thing, along with the winner’s share of the $100,000 purse, or $60,000 that went to the winning connections.

            Alas, one person’s loss is often another’s gain. Trainer Dan McFarlane, who scratched Red Zeus when the race was moved to the dirt, also considered scratching Az Ridge. He held off.

Good thing.

With Ry Eikleberry riding as if there were no tomorrow in the stretch drive, Az Ridge held off a hard-trying Stachys to win the second running of the Mystic Lake Mile by 1 ½ lengths.

The ironies of the moment and recent past were immediately on McFarlane’s mind. “It’s funny,” he said. “This horse is better on the dirt than on the grass but was named Turf Horse of the Year at Turf Paradise last winter.”  And yet he considered scratching Az Ridge because Saturday’s race was moved to the dirt.

But he didn’t.

He and Eikleberry were quite pleased with that decision. “You hate to see anything happen to another horse,” said Eikleberry. “But they made the right decision with that horse. They took care of him.”

And, of course…

“We have to ride for the money when we get the chance,” he said.

Which is precisely what Eikleberry did in those final strides.


             Dirt Road Queen didn’t win a race in three 2013 outings. The best she could do was a third place finish in her maiden start.

            That was last year.

            “She’s really come on, really improved,” said Bob Petersen, who owns the horse with his wife, Julie. The Petersens are Canterbury Park Hall of Fame owners, and demonstrated one more reason for their presence with this result.

The Minnesota-bred daughter of Country Chicks Man was sent off the odds-on favorite in this $20,000-added event at 400 yards and made it look easy under Seth Martinez. She out-finished five rivals with a mid-stretch burst.

            She was still pulling away at the wire, finishing in front of Furys Folly and Little Bit Brandy.

            Dirt Road Queen blew past her rivals  for her third win in four 2014 starts, finishing the final 100 yards in 20.540 without so much as a slap from Martinez.

“She’s a really nice horse,” he said. “She can really run.”

Dirt Road has filled a void for the Petersens, who lost Sport Wagon last winter in Phoenix. He cut a leg, developed an infection and was put down.

            Dirt Road’s emergence couldn’t have come at a better time.

            “She’s filling his shoes very nicely,” Petersen said. “She had some problems last year but has really come around.”

Story by Jim Wells

Broadway Empire in Mystic Lake Mile

Broadway Empire - wells

The horses had departed the paddock for the racetrack on a recent afternoon when another one seemed to appear out of nowhere, circling the oval at the hand of an assistant trainer, on his toes one minute, then back at a gentle walk whenever his handler shook the lead rope.

 The horse in question was Broadway Empire. He was being schooled, and a few remaining onlookers began paying attention.

“He just looks like a real racehorse,” said media relations director Jeff Maday.

“Sometimes they just have that appearance.”

 Broadway certainly does have a certain air about him that commands attention and respect, the suggestion that he’s the man and he knows it.

 “He acts like it’s his world and the rest of us are just living in it,” said paddock analyst Angela Hermann, one of the onlookers. “He’s certainly no cupcake.”

Not by any stretch.

 Broadway Empire is a four-year-old gelded son of Empire Maker ( a son of Unbridled, by the way) and the mare Broadway Hoofer. He has raced a mere 11 times and is 6-1-0 with total earnings of $474,491.

 He will make his first start on grass Saturday in the $100,000 Mystic Lake Mile and is favored to increase his career bank account by, oh, around $60,000, the winner’s share of the pot.

 “He’s one classy dude,” said his most recent rider, Scott Stevens, who has been on Broadway in two of his last three outs, the most recent a sixth place finish in the Metropolitan Mile against some very classy competition, including Breeders’ Cup winner Goldencents and Belmont Stakes winner Palice Malice.

 Stevens knows just what to expect from Broadway each time he hits the racetrack. “He’s a professional racehorse. He gives you everything he has and he’s just naturally fast. It’s nothing you have to make him do.”

 Broadway has some quirks but they are not evident once during a race.

 “He relaxes then,” said Stevens. “Even when he’s running fast, he’s relaxing.”

Broadway’s athletic ability has been well documented. He commands attention also for his appearance. He exceeds 16 hands in height, has solid conformation and a certain regal look in his bay coat.

 “He’s really a good looking horse,” said Hermann.

 Despite his professional attitude on the track, he gets constant attention to detail, constant schooling in the aspects of his trade, simply to keep his mind focused.

 “He was a little high strung in the paddock at Belmont (before the Met Mile) but once he reaches the track he’s all business,” Stevens added.

 Broadway came to the racetrack at age two, as part of a package sent to the Arizona desert.

Trainer Robertino Diodoro received six horses from California to evaluate and wound up keeping three. Broadway was one of them.

 “They were all decent horses,” Diodoro said. “Two of them were claimed from me.”

 As for those bad habits.

 “He’s a bit quirky,” said Diodoro. “He can be a handful in the paddock and has once or twice in the post parade. That’s one of the reasons we’ve kept him with Kent (Knudsen). He’s a good hand and has been everywhere with that horse.”

 Broadway was not destined for the claiming ranks like his two stablemates, not after breaking his maiden at first asking in impressive fashion at Turf Paradise in Phoenix.

 “He won by 16 ½ lengths,” said Kent Knudsen, assistant to Diodoro and the man in charge of Broadway’s daily care. “He won that one in 1:07, about a tenth of a second off Lost in the Fog’s track record. He won the Canadian Derby by three lengths, sitting off the pace on a deep, sloppy track. He won the Oklahoma Derby by four.”

 Knudsen has been with Broadway every step of the way and agrees that the horse is indeed full of himself. “At Santa Anita for the Breeders’ Cup he just stood in front of the cameras, in front of everybody. The photographers were trying to get shots of Game On Dude and horses like that but he just stood there and pinned his ears. He’s a real showoff.”

 Imagine his temperament before the gelding process.

“He was really green when he came to the track, a real handful,” said Knudsen. “He was a stud colt when he arrived at two and he came off that trailer bucking, kicking and squealing. The first time I worked him he was all over the track and didn’t work fast enough to get a time.”

 Broadway began to focus once he was gelded but he still requires blinkers when he works. They come off when he races. “He trains in the morning with them. Otherwise he wants to gawk and look around,” Knudsen said. “He wore them in the first time he ran in Phoenix but we took them off when he ran in Canada.”

 They will be off for his first race on the grass, as well.

He might act up a little bit in the paddock. He might prance a little in the post parade. But in his third and closing act he will run his heart out, finishing what is best described as the definitive Broadway show.