BY JIM WELLS
While many Minnesotans were gathered around the grill in their backyards, around the cabin at the Lake, or visiting the local American Legion or VFW, patrons at Canterbury Park honored the servicemen and women for whom the day is reserved, while taking in a card that included two stakes races as well as the annual running of the bulldogs.
Memorial Day at the racetrack has come to be mean saluting veterans of the armed services, cheering bulldogs of the Twin Cities and surrounding communities and wagering on stakes races named for Hall of Fame champions’ from Canterbury’s past.
Such was the case on Monday as 12,893 patrons arrived and among their number was an occasional bulldog in tow, here and there one pulling on the bit, so to speak, while slobbering lavishly in anticipation of the awaiting festivities, or perhaps nothing more than a bone or treat.
Imagine for a moment the picture of a bulldog bearing any one of these names: Duke, Lugnut, Angus, Boomer, Pork Chop, Grimace or Meatball. They were all on hand, competing for the fastest bulldog of 2017.
The winner last year was a dog named Winston, one of three with that name, or one less than entered the contest with such an appellation this time. As a matter of fact, dogs named Winston finished first, second and third in 2016 and were ganging up to repeat the effort this time.
Although three of the four Winstons advanced to the final on Monday, the title this time was claimed by a fellow named Frank the Tank, owned by Tricia Olson of Lester Prairie. The cliff notes on Frank the Tank seemed nearly to eliminate him from consideration: “It’s surprising Frank is the ‘The Tank’ considering he never stops running. Add a ball to the equation and you may never get him back.”
The only thing Frank ran off with on Monday, however, was the 2017 bulldog title.
It was another dog who required the services of an outrider to run him down. Owned by Jenny Price, a 72-pound fellow named Chesty proved difficult to corral after the fourth heat. His bio included this information: “Named after the Marine with the most accolades, Chesty’s goal in life is to become the most decorated bulldog.” If not the most decorated, he was certainly the most chased.
The two stakes races on the card honored former champions at Canterbury. Northbound Pride had a rich history in Shakopee, winning 10 times from 21 starts at Canterbury Downs, victories that included the Frances Genter Stakes, the Minnesota Breeders’ Oaks and the Aquatennial Stakes.
Honor the Hero was not only a star at Canterbury but became a world traveler with career earnings approaching $700,000. He competed in the 1994 Breeders ‘ Cup sprint and as well as the Japan Cup the same year. Honor the Hero still holds the Canterbury track record for seven and one-half furlongs on the turf.
The Northbound Pride Oaks was first run in 1985 and was won by a ship-in from California named Savannah Slew, from the Alan Paulson stable. Savannah Slew was trained by Ron McAnally and ridden by one of the sport’s truly legendary jockeys, Bill Shoemaker. The Oaks was twice run as a Grade III race, in 1988 and again the next year.
$50,000 NORTHBOUND PRIDE OAKS
Eight fillies and mares lined up for this race, run at a mile on the grass, and the post-time favorite proved to be a winner at 8/5 under a solid ride from Alex Canchari, who put his horse, Hotshot Anna, in position along the rail, just off a front-running trio much of the way before making his bid at the top of the stretch.
The winning move required Canchari to swing his horse out from the rail to overtake the trio in front of him as they came out of the turn.
“I was just hoping he wouldn’t stand up at the three-eighths pole,” winning trainer Mac Robertson cracked. “No, it was a good ride. I knew then (at the 3-8ths) that we were good.”
As Canchari overtook the front-runners, he recorded his horse’s strengths. “She doesn’t have a huge kick,” he said, “but she picked it up very nicely.”
The winning margin was a neck in a time of 1:36.70, with Starr Bear, ridden by Jareth Loveberry, second by three-quarters of a length over Super Marina and Nik Goodwin.
$50,000 HONOR THE HERO
Deshawn Parker was headed to a shower after this race when approached by a fellow offering his congratulations and an invitation to a meal later that evening consisting of elk ribs.
Not a bad way to celebrate a stakes victory, if you enjoy elk ribs that is, and Parker was indeed in a celebratory mood. He rode the winner Shadow Rock, a seven-year-old gelded son of Distorted Humor, but had to await the outcome of a claim of foul by Robertino Diodoro, the trainer of Wildfire Kid who finished second by ¾ length.
The first and second-place horses had light contact in the upper stretch but not sufficient enough, the racing stewards ruled, to have altered the outcome.
There was a head’s difference between Wildfire Kid and Shogood at the wire.
The winning horse is trained by Mike Maker, and when Parker was asked how he acquired the mount he laughed and said, “I’ve good a good agent.”
He rode four horses for Maker at Belterra on Sunday with nothing better than a second place to show for it, so the winning mount Monday, in his mind, “made up” for those efforts.