Bushrod Wins 1st Mystic Lake Turf Express

By Jim Wells

Only in horse racing do the storylines sometimes seem to come out of a children’s storybook, heroes emerging from unlikely places under unusual circumstance;  little guys being lifted to the level of those who dominate the world up above; heartwarming tales of the men and women who keep the world turning but are seldom given a share of the spotlight.

It happens, though, on the racetrack and the biggest race of the night Saturday, the first running of the $100,000 Mystic Lake Turf Express at five furlongs, is a first-hand example.

The winner, Bushrod, wasn’t overlooked at 7/2. He was given his share of respect in a contentious field of seven. Yet, you can’t help a slight grin, a positive nod of the head when you consider his story.

Originally handled by Canterbury Park Hall of Fame trainer Doug Oliver, Bushrod was claimed by Hall of Fame conditioner Mac Robertson and then by Judd Becker for $18,000 on May 11 at Arlington Park.

Becker trains a handful of horses at his farm outside Pardeeville, Wisconsin, 30 miles north of Madison. He races largely in Chicago but likes taking the 4 ½-hour trip to Canterbury Park on occasion, as he did for Saturday’s race.

He arrived with this thought in mind. “We thought we had a chance.”

With good reason. Bushrod beat a horse named Good By Greg _ a real monster, Becker said _ on August 12 in a 5 1/2 furlong race in Chicago.

“That horse would have been the favorite if he had run here in this race,” he added.

Saturday’s race was a half-furlong shorter, and Bushrod loved it. Although he was slowed in tight quarters leaving the gate, he essentially went gate-to-wire under Quincy Hamilton, holding off a late bid from Show Bound (5/2) under Francisco Arrieta to win by  three-quarter lengths in 56.20.  Fireman Oscar (16-1) was next, three-quarter lengths out of second.

Creative Art, the leading thoroughbred at Canterbury throughout much of the meet, had won four straight races this summer on the dirt, but is now 0-5 on the turf after finishing in front of only Sky T on Saturday.



Gate to wire under the leading rider in Shakopee in what is being called perhaps the best race of the 2018 meet.


.           That sizes up the effort of Ibaka and the ride given him by Ry Eikleberry in a a thrilling four-horse finish that drew a collective gasp from the enthusiastic crowd.

Here is what it looked like at the wire:

Ibaka, in 1:35.27,  a head in front of Majestic Pride, a half length in front of Hay Dakota, who had a head on Patriots Rule.

“One of the best races of the meet,” said director of racing Andrew Offerman.

“Yeah, it was a good one,” said Eikleberry. “I knew there was a ton of them together at the wire.”

Most of the fans in attendance needed the results of the photo to determine if they should celebrate or moan, but Scott Garrison, assistant to trainer Francisco Bravo did not.

“I thought his head was there first,” he said. “He’s a very big hearted horse and Ry gave him such a good ride.”

The horses around him were closing hard, but Ibaka had enough, just enough, to hold them off in a scintillating finish.

           $50,000 MINNESOTA HBPA DISTAFF

Late to the paddock but not to the wire.

That sums up jockey Leslie Mawing’s itinerary before and during this race for three-year-old and older fillies and mares.

Mawing’s arrival in the paddock was delayed _ for a call of nature _ but there was nothing late about the wire-to-wire effort of Molecules. The three-year-old filly angled inside from the break and stayed there until the wire, holding off a late, hard charging effort from defending champion Beach Flower to win by a head, with a time of 1:35.63. In third, another 1 ½ lengths out of second was Some Say So, the Princes Elaine winner.

This was a family enterprise. The owner, Morgan Thilo, was home in Indiana with sick children, so her mother, Dawn Fontenot, who once trained the horse, took over in her absence, with her mother Jackie Todhunter along for support.

And best yet, the winning horse was a gift, from the former owner who became ill, to Fontenot, who gave up training because of a conflict of interest; her boyfriend is the starter on the gate back in Indiana.

“It really is a family effort,” said Fontenot, who got the horse last October.


An accident on the racetrack sidelined Brew Crew rider Brian Beetum in Friday night’s semifinal round of competition.

So, 18-year-old Sylvan Brown took over in Saturday’s championship round and wound up a winner.

Brown, it so happens, is a nephew to Beetum.

In what was perhaps the best Relay Race competition in its six years, Brew Crew brought home another title, and the team stood in the winner’s circle afterward, posing for pictures while admiring the buckles awarded them for the championship.

How long has Brown been competing? He wasn’t certain. “I’ve been doing this, riding, since I was very young,” he said.

Brew Crew represents the Oglala band of the Sioux Nation on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota.

Brew Crew and Little Badger, a Blackfeet team, battled it out over the final mile of the three-mile race.

The win should make the 10-hour drive home a bit easier to take for Brown and the rest of the Oglala crew: mugger Will Brewer, back holder Steve Brewer, Jr., and team captain and set-up man Stanley Brewer, Jr.


Riley Prescott was beaming afterward.

He had just wrapped up the consolation for Omak Express, beating out the Long Feather team from Standing Rock and rider Jace Long Feather.

Prescott overtook Long Feather during the final mile, letting him take the lead by design.

“I knew he was going to blow out his horse, so I just let him go past me,” Prescott said.

2013 Champions Determined

Sleep%20Walking%20-%20Senator%20Howe%27s%20Run%20for%20the%20Red%20Wing%20Roses%20-%2009-14-13%20-%20R04%20-%20CBY%20-%20Inside%20FinishThe skies were forbidding and dark much of the day, but the finish was one of the most colorful in Canterbury Park history as the 2013 race meet came to a stirring conclusion.

The weather was really not a factor until light rain began falling midway through the card. It was somewhat heavier by the eighth race.

The card included perhaps the most colorful and athletic promotion ever conducted on the premises, the championship race of the three-day Indian Relay Races.

An impressive turnout of 12,160 bid adieu to the season and reacted enthusiastically to the excitement of the relay races, won by a 23-year-old rider from the Shoshoni-Bannock Nation in Fort Hall, Idaho.

Most of them were gone by the time the trophy was presented to the leading rider this summer, Dean Butler.

The riding title for the meet came down to race four, in which Sleep Walking, ridden by Butler, held off Dakota Dusty and Alex Canchari. That increased his lead over Canchari to four at the time.

Canchari kept it interesting, nonetheless, hand-riding Theatre of Dreams to an easy win in race five to pull once again to within three and punctuating that with a win in the 10th race. Canchari and Butler were the only two riders to finish with total earnings of more than $1 million each. Butler’s total heading into Saturday’s card was $1,267,955. Canchari’s was $1,248,479.

Butler intends to take a couple of months off and then head to home to Tampa. Canchari intends to drops his tack at Hawthorne Race Course in suburban Chicago.

Mac Robertson had an 18-win lead over Bernell Rhone and Mike Biehler heading into the final card, his ninth consecutive training title safely in the bag. He added Saturday’s fifth and 10th races to increase his total wins for the meet to 51.

Lori Keith, who wound up as the meet’s fourth-leading rider, won her 41st race of the meet aboard Cap and Trade in the sixth. She intends to head to Oklahoma and then Arkansas and is sure to recall Canterbury 2013 as the meet in which she won a second consecutive Mystic Lake Derby, the biggest race of the summer.

Eddie Martin, Jr., had a solid meet, winning 37 races, as did Canterbury Hall of Fame rider Scott Stevens, who won the seventh race, a $35,000 overnight stake, aboard National, trained by Miguel Angel Silva. Stevens concluded the meet with 34 wins and will return to Phoenix for the meet that begins on Oct. 5 at Turf Paradise. Martin was undecided about his next stop.

For 23-year-old rider Jerrad Serino the next stop is home. Serino was a convincing winner of the relay races, due largely to near perfect horse exchanges during both pit stops of the three-mile race. Three miles, three horses for each of the nine riders in the final, and the importance of the exchange after each mile became obvious as miscues during dismounting and engaging an awaiting exchange horse proved to be the difference.

“That was the most important,” said Serino, who stressed the importance of training and staying fit for these grueling races, all conducted bareback.

The win was the third of his career for Serino, whose twin brother got him interested in the sport three years ago. His entire family, everyone but Jerrad, has been involved with horses. “I didn’t like them as a kid. I wanted to play basketball,” said the 5-7, 145-pound Serino. What he did mostly was boxed, throughout his youth.

Riders frequently train for these races, not only by riding and conditioning their horses, but by using small trampolines, a foot or two off the ground, to strengthen their lower legs for bounding from one horse and onto another during exchanges.

Second place went to the His Bad Horse team and rider Lynwood His Bad Horse, Jr., a mere-16-year-old from the Northern Cheyenne Tribe.

Third was Holds The Enemy, a Crow team, and rider Ferlin Blacksmith, who won two heats preceding the final.

In the first race of the last day of racing, Jake Barton picked up a check for the return trip to Phoenix aboard Smarty Gras, winning by two-plus lengths. Barton was a new addition to the jockey colony late in the season and intends to return again for the 2014 meet.

Until then, he will ride at Turf Paradise and, in his spare time, hunt the arroyos and washes of the Arizona desert for quail, his chief devotion outside of racing.

Martin Escobar brought in Lady Ban Shee in race two, rallying in the final 16th to shade Santa Fe Sue and Butler by a solid neck.

Strange things happen on closing day, such as…

Hi Prim, under Ken Shino, got up in the final jump to provide trainer Nancy Sheehan her first win of the meet, in her 51st try, and at 38-1 in race three. There was not much more than a half-length separating the top four finishers in that thrilling finish.

Immediately thereafter, paddock analyst Angela Hermann and track president/CEO Randy Sampson presented trainer Cory Jensen with the award for his leading owners of the meet, Midwest Thoroughbreds.

There were, of course, additional awards for the stars of the summer show – the horses.

Heliskier, owned by Marlene Colvin and trained by Robertson, was named Horse of the Year for the second straight meet, joining Hoist Her Flag as the only other horse in Canterbury history to win the title twice.

His dominance at Canterbury was demonstrated by two additional awards. Heliskier was named sprinter of the meet as well as the champion Older Horse.

Dorsett, trained by Michael Stidham and owned by Terry Hamilton, was selected champion Three-year-old Colt or Gelding on the strength of his Mystic Lake Derby win.

Badge of Glory, owned by Richard Bremer and Cheryl Sprick and trained by Rhone was selected champion Three-year-Old Filly, and Dontrattlemycage, owned by Nicholas Raver and trained by Nevada Litfin, was voted Grass Horse of the meet. Second Street City, owned by Al and Bill Ulwelling, second in the owner standings, was voted champion Older Filly or Mare.

Wayne Simon owned and Robert Johnson trained Appeal to the King is the champion Two Year Old. Machorina, owned by Emerald Bay Stables and trained by Mike Biehler, is the Claimer of the meet, and Stone Cottrell, owned by Terry Riddle and trained by champion conditioner Stacy Charette-Hill, is Champion Quarter Horse.

Still competitive despite his near miss at a title, Canchari brought in Grizzled Robert, the final winner of the 2013 season. That cut Butler’s final margin to two. The horse is trained by, who else, Robertson.

This blog was written by Canterbury Staff Writer Jim Wells. Wells was a longtime sportswriter at the Pioneer Press and is a member of the Canterbury Park Hall of Fame.

Relays & Riding Title Drama

Indian Relay_17 9-13-13 BLOGThe spectacle is every bit as good the second time around, although a miscue before the first heat of Friday night’s Indian relay racing shortened the field to three teams.

A horse reared up while his rider attempted to mount and then disappeared into the gloaming of the overhead lights with an outrider in hot pursuit and the rejected rider limping toward the sidelines.

The winning rider put on a show as he strode toward the wire, galloping home easily in front of his two opponents, his back straight as a pillar, his seat a picture of riding precision and unity with the horse.

The winner was LeGrand Coby, a Sho-Ban from Fort Hall, Idaho, riding for the Coby team.

Eliminated was Lynwood His Bad Horse, Jr. from Lame Deer, Mont., a member of the Northern Cheyenne Nation. Second was Miles Murray, of the Blackfeet tribe from Browning, Mont. Third was Lil Muncie, also of the Browning Blackfeet.

The second heat of the night went to a repeat winner. Ferlin Blacksmith of the Montana Crow Agency, riding for the Holds The Enemy team, won a heat on Thursday night’s card also.

Second in that heat was Ashton Old Elk, a Crow from Lodge Grass, Mont, and third was Josh Osborn of the Tissidimit team from Fort Hall, Idaho, a Sho-Ban.

Looking ahead to today’s nine-team championship race, Blacksmith, 21, anticipated a competitive finish. “It’s going to be pretty tough out there tomorrow,” he predicted. He expected the Tissidimit, Coby and White Calf teams to present the biggest challenges.

“This will probably end the relays this year for us,” he added with a trace of sadness.

He plans to return home following today’s championship race and then, perhaps, return to the North Dakota oil fields, where he worked last year.

“I can make some pretty good money there,” Blacksmith said, “working the oil rigs. I’ll do that if I can.”

The relay races, as on Thursday’s card, were conducted after the third and sixth races on the card, which presented an interesting sidebar to the season. As recently as a week ago, Dean Butler, the Canterbury riding champion three consecutive years starting in 2009, had a seven-win lead over Alex Canchari, who was serving a suspension at the time.

Just like that, Canchari came roaring back and with a win aboard Russian Dancer in Friday’s first race cut the margin to one.

Butler wasn’t prepared to stand still with his young rival breathing down his neck and claimed that win back in race four with B J’s Angel. Then he added what might have been the coup de grace, winning the final race on the card with L G Suprem, nipping Lookin at Larry and Canchari at the wire.

Butler and Canchari have mounts in each of Saturday’s 10 races.

And so it went, right into the final day of the 2013 racing season, the 69th day of racing.

Mac Robertson claimed another training title, his ninth straight, the most dominating streak in track history. Midwest Thoroughbreds went into the final day of racing with a four-win lead on Al and Bill Ulwelling, who have no horses running on the final card of the season.

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This blog was written by Canterbury Staff Writer Jim Wells. Wells was a longtime sportswriter at the Pioneer Press and is a member of the Canterbury Park Hall of Fame.

A Slight Canadian Detour

Jake%20Barton%208-16-13The last time Jake Barton spent any time in Shakopee, the racetrack was called Canterbury Downs and he was called every other hour by an agent in Canada who wanted him there.

Long story short. Barton left Shakopee for a weekend trip to Assiniboia Downs, wound up falling in love, getting married and now, 24 years later, is back in Shakopee.

The story began unfolding in 1989. Barton spent 1 ½ months in Shakopee riding for Doug Oliver among others. He couldn’t seem to shake an agent named Roger Oleksiw, encouraged to call the rider by the owners of Assiniboia Downs, who knew Barton from trips to Turf Paradise in Phoenix.

“He’d call me at 1 a.m., 2 a.m., constantly. Basically, I went up there to get the guy off my back,” Barton recalled with a chuckle. Barton met the agent’s daughter, Cheryl, the day he arrived, dated her the next day and wound up marrying her a year later. And the guy he wanted off his back became his father-in-law.

Barton In the meantime had to do some shopping after leaving Canterbury in 1989. He brought only enough clothes for the weekend.

In the last two decades, Barton has raced throughout Canada and the Southwest, settling at Prairie Meadows for recent summers after the Phoenix meet.

He decided to try Canterbury Park after the purses were increased through the partnership with the Mdewakanton Sioux Community of Mystic Lake.

“It fits better with the meet in Phoenix, too,” he said.

For the record, Barton did return to Canterbury two years ago to ride in a stake race.

He displays two of his life’s loves on his shoulders – the Browning logo tattooed on one, his wife’s name on the other.

People who know him say he disappears immediately whenever he’s done riding for the day at Turf Paradise. “Yeah, if I don’t ride the last race I can still get in an hour of hunting when I get home,” he said.

His residence in Surprise is near a patch of state land that offers ample opportunity for bird hunting, quail and dove.

“Every chance I get,” he said.

His weapon of choice is a Browning 12-guage, and it has been useful in various ways over the years.

“I always wear snake boots when I’m out,” he explained. “I’ve stepped on rattlers more than once.”

On one occasion, traipsing through desert shrubs and grass the barrel head of his Browning came in direct contact with a rattler. “That snake was about 6 ½ feet long,” he said. “He was traveling through the grass so he wasn’t coiled and couldn’t strike.”

Nonetheless, the Browning was put into service on the spot.

The Bartons have two children, Jessica who is on a full ride soccer scholarship at Grand Canyon University, and Justin, a senior at Willow Canyon High School in Surprise.

There is one other love that Jake and Cheryl share – dancing. Two-step, swing, you name it. “I can hunt in the daylight and dance when it gets dark,” Jake said.

As Barton carried on a conversation Friday night, young Alex Canchari, hoping to overtake Dean Butler for the riding title this summer, stopped momentarily to discuss a race with the veteran rider.

Barton has won titles in the past in Canada but such pursuits are not part of his goals at age 46. “I’m more of a money rider now,” he said.

Making a living.

The purses at Prairie Meadows provided that opportunity, yet there is another factor today not present during Barton’s trip to Canterbury Downs in 1989.

“This just fits better,” he said. “You only have to move once if you come here after the Phoenix meet,” he said. “And then you go back when Canterbury is done.”

Shakopee in the summer. Phoenix all winter.

Hard to beat.

This blog was written by Canterbury Staff Writer Jim Wells. Wells was a longtime sportswriter at the Pioneer Press and is a member of the Canterbury Park Hall of Fame.