Shakopee Juvenile winner Sassy Seneca returns Saturday in Oaklawn stake

Sassy Seneca won the $75,000 Shakopee Juvenile on closing day of the 2019 Canterbury Park meet, her second win in as many starts.  The 3-year-old filly owned by Novogratz Racing Stables Inc. has been training well for Mac Robertson, working a bullet six furlongs at Oaklawn Park on Feb. 9.

Robertson entered Sassy Seneca along with stablemate Ring Leader, also owned by Novogratz, for Saturday’s $125,000 Dixie Belle six furlong stake restricted to 3-year-old fillies. Ring Leader broke her maiden in one try on a June evening in Shakopee. She returned to action January 24 at Oaklawn and won on the lead at 12 to 1 odds. Only three others are entered in the Dixie Belle. That a Shakopee Juvenile winner might go on to bigger things is not out of the question based on past performances.

General Jack won the first Shakopee Juvenile in 2013, a race for some reason run on the turf. He eventually won a $200,000 stake at Indiana Grand and $278,358 in total earnings.  Native American dead heated with Grand Full Moon in 2014 when the race became a sprint. Both were trained by Robertino Diodoro. The former retired undefeated in five starts with $110,280 in purses, while the latter never won a stakes again but had a long career on the East Coast earning $122,759.

Stormation was the sensation in the 2015 Shakopee Juvenile. He entered the race three for three winning a maiden at Canterbury followed by a stake at Prairie Meadows and another here. He never regained the glory of that 2-year-old season but raced 32 times into 2019 with earnings of $217,121.

Even Thunder, the 2016 winner, is still racing and scheduled to start Friday at Laurel for trainer Jamie Ness. He was trained by Dan McFarlane in 2016 when he won the Shakopee. He was sold privately and won a $100,000 stake at Aqueduct that December. He also has earned six figures with a total of $296,466 in purses.

Amy’s Challenge battled with Mr. Jagermeister in 2017. The careers of both have been well chronicled here. She is a multiple stakes winner of $474,406 and Mr. Jagermeister last Saturday became the all-time leading Minnesota bred money earner with $547,460.

Mister Banjoman victorious in 2018, went on as a 3-year-old to win the Minnesota Derby. He is entered to run Saturday at Oaklawn in the race prior to the Dixie Belle and has amassed $203,121 in purses.

Robertson won his third consecutive Shakopee with Sassy Seneca.  A win Saturday would put her into six figure earnings, a number that is now expected of the winner of the Shakopee Juvenile.

Oaklawn Park Opens Friday; Canterbury Regulars Galore

Racing at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas begins this Friday afternoon. The winter/spring meet with huge purses and many of the best trainers from across the country should again provide not only exciting action but large betting pools. Oaklawn has extended its meet from the traditional mid-April end date up to May 4, Kentucky Derby Day, for a total of 57 days.

Track officials announced total purses of nearly $32 million including “Maiden Special Weight races of $77,000 escalating up to $87,000 on three premier race days and open allowance races beginning at $78,000 and going up to as high as $88,000 on premier race days. ” Purses of that size do not exist anywhere else in the country during that time frame.

Three-year-olds prepping for the Kentucky Derby get their first chance to earn qualifying points on opening day with the $150,000 Smarty Jones. A field of nine has been entered for the one-mile test. From there is it on to Monday, Feb. 18 and the $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3);  followed by the  $1 million Rebel Stakes (G2) in March and the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) in April.

Several trainers that you will find at Canterbury Park are again at Oaklawn including Robertino Diodoro, Joe Sharp, Bruce Riecken, Karl Broberg, and Nevada Litfin.  And of course Canterbury Park Hall of Famer Mac Robertson has for several seasons raced successfully in Hot Springs. He has entered Canterbury’s 2017 Horse of the Year Amy’s Challenge, owned by Joe Novogratz, in Saturday’s $100,000 American Beauty at six furlongs. The 4-year-old filly has been tearing up the track in morning workouts.  Unseen since October when she finished sixth at Keeneland, Amy’s Challenge will be ridden by Shakopee’s own Alex Canchari.

Also on the opening day card are Jareth Loveberry and Orlando Mojica.

Oaklawn has an excellent website with informative barn notes, stories, stats, schedules and everything else you might need.

Racing begins Friday with a 1:30 p.m. first post.

Photos by Coady Photography

Kelsi Harr Makes A Dream Come True

By Rebecca Roush

Growing up around horses, Kelsi Harr had always “dreamed of becoming a jockey,” but she always saw that idea as being “a little far-fetched,” she said. After her father purchased a horse for her when she was just 5-years-old, Harr took every chance she could to work with and ride horses. She later took up barrel racing at local rodeos. “I couldn’t get enough of it,” Harr recalled.

Harr’s mother was walking horses at Oaklawn Park when Harr began attending college in 2010. She was invited to hot walk and work with the horses part-time. Enamored with the atmosphere, Harr made the decision to change her career path and take on the job full-time that winter. It was at the track that she met her now fiancé, Robert Cline, a horse trainer at Canterbury Park. She continued to take on various jobs at Oaklawn over the years before making the decision to begin her professional riding career weeks ago at Canterbury Park.

Her first career mount also brought Harr her first win while riding Bandit Point on June 17, Father’s Day. “It was a very special moment,” Harr said. “My dad was here cheering me on and I couldn’t have asked for a better way to kick off my riding career.” The 25-year-old rider credits her father for piquing her interest in horses and says it “all started with him.”

Being new to Minnesota, Harr says she enjoys the area and finds it a good place for her daughter, Lacey (6) to be. “Everything I do is for that little girl,” Harr said. Harr plans to stay riding at Canterbury for the meet and then head back to the family’s home in Arkansas when school starts up for Lacey.

Having the ability to work with the horses before riding them is something that Harr believes gives her an advantage. “By working in the barn and being around these horses as much as I am, I really get to know them,” she said.

In the days leading up to a race day, Harr says that there is a lot of excitement while things come together in the barn. “It really gives you something to look forward to,” Harr commented. “There is a lot of energy in the air as everyone anxiously hopes that the horse does well.”

Since receiving her first horse Harr has had a “love for the animals and a passion for riding,” she said. “It took me a while to realize that this could all be a reality, but I am sure glad that I did.”

Jockey Profile: Jareth Loveberry

Jockey Jareth Loveberry arrived on the Canterbury scene for the first time in 2017 and on the second day of that season won with a horse that paid $112.20. When the meet ended he had won the riding title, winning 77 times and compiling purse earnings of $1.59 million.

“Glad to be back,” he said about the 2018 meet that will last 70 racing days, three more than last year.

Loveberry worked the 2018 Oaklawn Park meet before coming back to Shakopee. He had 11 wins and more than a half million in purses.

“I had a decent meet. Won the right races.”

By the ‘right’ races he means allowance and stakes. Jareth was aboard Amy’s Challenge when she won the $125,000 Dixie Belle and again when the 3-year-old filly, who was the 2017 Canterbury Horse of the Meet, finished second in the Grade 3 Honeybee.

Loveberry joins a colony here that, in the opinion of most observers, is deeper than in past years.  Four riding champs are in the mix: Loveberry, Dean Butler (who has five titles), Ry Eikleberry, and Leandro Goncalves. Winning the right races, when this is how you earn your living, will be crucial this summer as well. Jareth began the meet with one win over opening weekend from 12 mounts, but the win was in the $50,000 Paul Bunyan Stakes. A ‘right’ race.

The Bunyan win was aboard Malibu Max for trainer Mac Robertson and owner Joe Novogratz. That trio was victorious often in 2017. In fact they took leading jockey, trainer, and owner honors for the meet. On Saturday they also teamed up to run second in the $50,000 L’Etoile du Nord Stakes Saturday with Hotshot Anna. Loveberry, who quickly became a popular rider in 2017, rode for five different trainers last weekend, hitting the board five times.

Loveberry’s career began in 2005. He has compiled more than 1,100 wins while riding at several tracks around the country.  “Canterbury is great. Great atmosphere. Good people. You get people at the races for the races,” he said. That was evident on opening night when a crowd of more than 7,500 fans celebrated the return of live racing. The next day, Kentucky Derby Day, more than 19,000 were in attendance.

“It’s going to be a good meet. It’s always competitive,” he said. “It brings out the best in you.”

Mr. Jagermeister Ready for The Bachelor

Minnesota bred Mr. Jagermeister faces six other 3-year-olds in the $150,000 Bachelor Stakes today at Oaklawn Park. This kicks off the three-day Racing Festival of the South at the Hot Springs, Ark, racetrack.

Mr. Jagermeister arrived at Oaklawn earlier this week from his Phoenix base with trainer Valorie Lund and has settled into the shedrow of Mac Robertson. Yesterday Lund schooled the colt along with several of Robertson’s stakes runners that will compete in the Festival. Mac provided some pointers along the way about the Oaklawn facility. All went well according to Lund in both the enclosed paddock and the grassy area where stakes horses parade.

“I couldn’t ask him to be any better,” she said. “He is full of himself.”

Mr. Jagermeister galloped a mile and a half on Wednesday and was scheduled to jog this morning.

“He looks and feels marvelous,” Lund said.

Jockey Andrew Ramgeet, who has been aboard in five of six career starts, winning three of them including the Northern Lights Futurity, is due in town this morning from Phoenix.

The speedy favorite Mitole from the Steve Asmussen barn is the horse to beat. He has won two of four starts at Oaklawn and most recently romped in an allowance earning a 97 Beyer Speed Figure, the best of any entered.

Fans of racing in Shakopee know that Mr. Jagermeister looked Amy’s Challenge in the eye in the Shakopee Juvenile last September before grudgingly conceding. Amy’s Challenge, one of Robertson’s stakes horses who races in Friday’s $400,000 Fantasy Stakes, is one of the best fillies in the country. Lund is hoping today’s Bachelor unfolds like the Shakopee Juvenile with Mr. Jagermeister sitting off the pace early.  Of course that was the plan in the San Vicente before he broke on top and dueled through grueling fractions and faded. Today could be different with the right trip. Lund is hoping Mr. Jagermeister can “sit, engage, and go on.”  It all unfolds in the ninth race on the Oaklawn program slated to run at 5:10 p.m.

Terry Thompson Always A Top Jockey

Terry Thompson began riding and winning races in the ’90s. He is a graded stakes winning jockey that has won titles at Oaklawn and Prairie Meadows. When the Iowa meet concluded he shifted his tack to Canterbury and made an already deep colony that much deeper. In this interview Terry discusses his past and future.

 

 

Chairman Heads Juvenile

Chairman Crooks -  06-16-13 - R01 - CBY - Stretch FinishThere are two distinguishable features about this precocious two-year-old – his name and his physical appearance. He is stout, muscular and powerful looking. He is Chairman Crooks; and If that sounds familiar, it should.

The horse was named for the late Stanley Crooks who died last August, the chairman of the 420-member Mdewakanton Sioux Community and the son of Norman Crooks, the tribe’s first chairman.

The name came about because of a promise made by Canterbury Park’s Curtis Sampson, the man responsible for returning racing to Minnesota who became a friend of Crooks in the final weeks of his life, after the Mdewakanton Community and the racetrack struck their historic deal.

“He knew we were going to name a horse for him,” said Sampson. “I said we would.”

Sampson wanted the name bestowed on the best two-year-old he could find, and he did just that after trainer Mac Robertson bought this horse for him at the Keeneland fall sale.

This son of After Market and grandson to Storm Cat is from Overly Tempting, and proved to be just that when Robertson first saw him.

The purchase was made and the horse was sent straight to Ocala to begin training. By the time his new owner saw him, Chairman Crooks looked like a body builder tuned up for the Olympics. “He was a real specimen already. In fact, he was only a two-year-old but he looked like a stallion,” Sampson added.

When the horse was then shipped to Arkansas to join the Sampson’s stable of youngsters, Chairman Crooks stole the show. “He was clearly the standout,” Sampson said. “He’s not a tall horse. He’s more like a quarter horse.”

Chairman Crooks has one race to his credit, a maiden-breaking effort at Canterbury Park his first time out, on July 14, in which he went gate to wire, winning by four lengths.

It gets a whole lot tougher Saturday in the $100,000 Shakopee Juvenile at 7 and ½ furlongs on the turf. A tall order indeed, with two-year-olds trained by respected trainers arriving for the race, which is 2 and ½ furlongs further than the Chairman’s only other outing.

“There is a question of distance,” said the horse’s trainer Tony Rengstorf, who became the beneficiary of a horse already broken and ready to go when he took charge. “We’re going to learn a lot about him (on Saturday).”

There are factors to support Rengstorf’s belief that Chairman Crooks might be better suited to a shorter race. “He’s not very big, more like a quarter horse,” he said. “You might say he has more the makeup of a sprinter. We don’t know how far he can go. We’ll find out.”

Distance is not the only issue. General Jack is also. So is My Corinthian.

General Jack, a maiden son of Giant’s Causeway, ran his only race at Belmont Park, finishing second by a half length in a six-furlong debut clocked in 1:09 and 4/5.

My Corinthian is 1-1-1 from three starts after breaking his maiden at Colonial Downs. And there are six other starters.

“He’s a little young to tackle horses this tough,” said Sampson. “But we’re not backing off at all as far as our confidence. We only worked him once on the grass. He worked 7 and ½ furlongs and ran out a full mile and was strong at the end.”

The Juvenile is one of three stellar stakes on a card, highlighted by the $200,000 Mystic Lake Mile on the turf, the richest race in Canterbury Park annals.

A field of eight, headed by Dorsett and Officer Alex will line up for that one.

The first of the stakes trio is the $100,000 Northbound Pride Oaks at a mile on the turf. Eden Prairie and Kipling’s Joy head a field of eight.

Three races worth a guaranteed $400,000 with $270k of that amount from the Mystic Lake Purse Enhancement Fund that resulted from the agreement between Mystic Lake and Canterbury.

Chairman Crooks was named to honor the late chairman of the Mdewakanton Community but he might just as easily have been named for his father, too.

Norman Crooks bought a string of horses to race at Canterbury when the track opened in 1985. When he died, nine horses were turned over to his son.

“Stanley was working for Whirlpool at the time,” said Sampson, “and he couldn’t afford to keep the horses. He told me that he had wanted to do a deal (with Canterbury) of some kind for a long while that would help horse owners, the horsemen. He knew something about what it took to have horses.”

Today, Chairman Crooks will discover what he knows about stretching out and taking on the big boys.

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.

Mystic Lake Derby Day Nears

MysticDerby_LogoGo ahead and pick up the champagne, dig out the attire you wore last year for the race, careful to assure everything is the same, not a single accoutrement out-of-place, cross your fingers and don’t say anything that might be construed as a jinx.

“My dad’s superstitious,” said Lori Keith. “It will have to be the same shirt, everything.”

The topic at hand is the second running of the Mystic Lake Derby on Saturday and the preparations of Mr and Mrs. Keith – William and Philomena (or Bill and Phil as they’re known) – for Saturday’s race.

For the uniformed, Lori Keith, a native of England and a regular rider at Canterbury Park, won the first running of the biggest race in Canterbury Park history last year aboard Hammers Terror, owned by Terry Hamilton and trained by Michael Stidham.

Bill asked his daughter in a recent conversation whether she would ride in the race again this year. When she informed him that the chances appeared good, he began making plans. “He wanted to know if he should get the champagne,” Lori said.

Keith’s parents, who own a restaurant in the South of France, watched the inaugural running down the street from the restaurant, at an acquaintance’s home. Good viewing, just a matter of connecting the laptop to the telly, as they say, and they saw their daughter win the biggest race of her career.

They plan on looking in again on Saturday.

Keith will ride a horse named Dorsett, owned once again by Hamilton and trained once again by Stidham. And, get this, she is breaking from the No. 2 hole in an eight-horse field, just as last year.

A year ago, Keith took the morning line second choice to the winner’s circle after surviving a stewards’ inquiry for interference in the stretch. This time she is on the 5/2 morning line favorite.

“I think he has a great shot,” she said. “On paper he looks very good, but I think it will be a very competitive race.”

Dorsett, a son of Artie Schiller from Dontgetnmyway, has two wins, a second and a third from eight career starts with earnings of $74,670. He is part of a field of eight that will engage at one mile on the turf.

$200,000 Mystic Lake Derby Field & Morning Line
PP Horse Trainer Jockey ML
1    Impassable Canyon Michael Maker Victor Lebron 5-1
2 Dorsett Michael Stidham Lori Keith 5/2
3 Finding Candy Michael Biehler Denny Velazquez 12-1
4 Coastal Breeze Wayne Catalano Channing Hill 4-1
5 Kale’s Kourage Kelly Von Hemel Ry Eikleberry 10-1
6 Evan’s Calling Neil Pessin Eddie Martin Jr. 8-1
7 Red Zeus Dan McFarlane Alex Canchari 6-1
8 Officer Alex Lynn Whiting Leandro Goncalves 9/2

Last year the purse was for a guaranteed $150,000 and produced a total of $162,000 and change after adding in the entry fees. This year the race offers a guaranteed $200,000. The lion’s share of that funding, $150,000, is provided by the Mystic Lake purse enhancement fund.

The inside post was drawn by Impassable Canyon, a colt by Tapit from Anna Forever, owned by F. Thomas Conway and trained by Mike Maker.

Finding Candy will line up in the No. 3 hole. He is a colt by Candy Ride, owned locally by Al and Bill Ulwelling and trained by Mike Biehler.

The No. 4 hole will go to Coastal Breeze, a colt by Empire Maker that is owned by Barry Golden and trained by Wayne Catalano. The No. 5 hole belongs to Kale’s Kourage who has earned $85,511 lifetime and has won three of his seven career starts. He is owned by Pam Von Hemel and trained by Kelly Von Hemel.

Lining up in the No. 6 spot will be Evan’s Calling, with one win in 11 career starts. The No. 7 belongs to Red Zeus, who has earned $112, 426, running primarily at Turf Paradise in Phoenix with two starts locally, including a win at six furlongs his last out. He is owned by Peggy Hopwood and trained by Dan McFarlane.

Officer Alex drew the outside post. He has earned $163,000 running on the circuit between Churchill Downs and Oaklawn Park. He is trained by Lynn Whiting, who saddled Lil E. Tee, the winner of the 1992 Kentucky Derby.

So, there you have it, the lineup for the richest race in Canterbury Park history, a whopping $200,000 guaranteed and an opportunity for Lori Keith to top last year’s take.

“Oh, I can’t believe it,” she said. “I’m keeping my fingers crossed.”

Is superstition a genetic trait?

SHAKOPEE JUVENILE AND NORTHBOUND PRIDE OAKS

Both races offer $100,000-guaranteed purses.

The Oaks at a mile on the turf has been run in some form, fashion or name since 1985 and was won in 2012 by Soonerette, ridden by riding champion Tanner Riggs for Donnie Von Hemel.

$100,000 Northbound Pride Oaks & Morning Line Odds
PP Horse Trainer Jockey ML
1    Eden Prairie Neil Pessin Channing Hill 3-1
2 Kipling’s Joy Michael Stidham Dean Butler 9/2
3 Stoupinator Mac Robertson Alex Canchari 5-1
4 I’m Already Sexy Wayne Catalano Scott Stevens 4-1
5 Seeking Treasure Larry Dunbar Ry Eikleberry 10-1
6 Raising Dakota Tevis McCauley Luis Garcia 8-1
7 Kissmeimdanish Valorie Lund Derek Bell 8-1
8 American Sugar Kenneth McPeek Victor Lebron 6-1

Saturday’s edition has a field of eight, including the Ken McPeek-trained American Sugar, who is trying the grass for the first time and is 5-0-3 from 13 starts with earnings of more than $200,000. Robert Lothenbach’s Eden Prairie is 2-0-1 from six grass starts and earnings of $70,000-plus. Michael Stidham’s Kipling’s Joy is 2-0-3 from nine career starts, both wins on the grass, with earnings of $62,200.

I’m Already Sexy arrived from Arlington Park and has won twice from three turf starts, is three-for-six overall, and earned $81,141. Wayne Catalano trains. Locally-owned Stoupinator, trained by Mac Robertson, has hit the board three times in three turf starts and is 2-1-2 overall from six career starts with earnings of $76,000. Here’s a look at the field:

The Juvenile, for colts/geldings and fillies, is being run for the first time, at 7 and 1/2 furlongs on the turf and has attracted a field of nine boys.

$100,000 Shakopee Juvenile Field & Morning Line Odds
PP Horse Trainer Jockey ML
1    A P Is Loose Michael Biehler Lori Keith 6-1
2 Aft Michael Lauer Leandro Goncalves 8-1
3 Rumbauer David Van Winkle Ry Eikleberry 6-1
4 My Corinthian Dane Kobiskie Luis Garcia 7/2
5 Fling Orrin Cogburn Eddie Martin Jr. 12-1
6 Clarisimo Sandra Sweere Nik Goodwin 10-1
7 General Jack Michael Maker Victor Lebron 3-1
8 Chairman Crooks Tony Rengstorf Dean Butler 6-1
9 Pure Surprize Vic Hanson Jenna Joubert 10-1

Among those is a 2-year-old colt named General Jack, a Kentucky-bred son of Giant’s Causeway who is looking to break his maiden on Saturday after running second among maiden special weights for $70,000 at Belmont Park.

He had a bullet work in late June and is trained by Mike Maker who has made a habit of winning big races at Canterbury.

Aft, trained by Michael Lauer, broke his maiden last time out in Indiana. Lauer tried to run Aft on the lead his first out and finished second. He ran him off the pace in his second start with improved results.

My Corinthian has hit the board three times in three career starts and was the first of the shippers to arrive, stabling here on Monday. He is trained by Dane Kobiskie. He is 1-1-1 from three career starts and is 1-1-0 from two outs on the grass.

Mike Biehler will saddle A P Is Loose, who ran third in his first start, at Canterbury on July 11. Clarisimo, trained by Sandra Sweere, is another local horse who broke his maiden here on June 16. Dave Van Winkle will saddle locally stabled Rumbauer, who broke his maiden under Ry Eikleberry on July 11 in his second start.

Vic Hanson will send out Pure Surprize, a local juvenile who broke his maiden at first asking on July 14. Fling, trained by Orrin Cogburn, did not hit the board in two previous starts.

Curtis Sampson’s Chairman Crooks, named for the late leader of the Mdewakanton Community, is trying the grass for the first time. He broke his maiden first time out, on June 13.

Wagering Opportunities Abound

The three races will be run as races 6, 7 and 8 on the card with the Oaks leading off, followed by the Juvenile and then the 2nd running of the Mystic Lake Derby. Post times are 4:10 CDT, 4:40 CDT and the Mystic Lake Derby will go off at 5:12 CDT. The three races anchor Saturday’s late pick 4 which continues to feature a 14% takeout, among the lowest in the country. Additionally, the three stakes comprise an all-turf Pick 3 also featuring the same low takeout rate of 14%.

Check back here often to learn more about the participants for Saturday’s big races over the coming days.

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.

Any Day Now…

snowThe Canterbury Park stable area was scheduled to open Monday with the training track opening Tuesday. Mother Nature dropped the hammer this week in the form of a snowy mess, necessitating a delay to the scheduled opening. The backside will open April 19, the training track April 20 and the main track April 22 as originally planned (WEATHER PERMITTING).

There is however no truth to the rumor that new track superintendent Javier Barajas, upon seeing the weather forecast, immediately caught a return flight to Dubai where he spends his winters.

While the arrival of horses mid-month will be a trickle, by the end of May it should be a steady flow and by opening day nearly a full barn area is expected. The 2,500+ stall applications were a record for Canterbury Park and for the first time in nearly forever the 1,600 stalls will be filled. For horse players this is a cause to rejoice as it will translate to larger, more competitive racing and better wagering. The days of 42% winning favorites should be gone.

We will keep readers informed as trainers and horses arrive for the meet. Expect those that have been here for years, including Mac Robertson, to return along with many new barns. The jockey colony should take on a new look but until riders pull through the stable gate you never know for sure that they will ply their trade in Shakopee. Jockey agent Pete Antonucci did make it known that he will be representing Dean Butler and Lori Keith, a solid one-two punch.

Road to Kentucky

This week’s free-to-enter Road to Kentucky Contest features all races from Oaklawn Park plus the Blue Grass from Keeneland. Remember that Oaklawn has an earlier post time for their 12-race card and will begin at noon.

This is the final weekend of major prep races for the Derby with the Arkansas Derby and the Blue Grass each offering qualifying points of 100-40-20-10 to the first four horses. The standings indicate that 20 is the current cutoff for the field of 20. There will be defections along the way but those lacking at least that level need to get serious this weekend.

In the Arkansas Derby, Den’s Legacy, from the Baffert barn, is sitting on that number. He closed well on the rail in The Rebel and figures to make another bid Saturday. War Academy, also a Baffert animal, has zero points but is receiving attention from various handicappers including one very prominent Canterbury analyst. A top two finish puts him in the Derby, a third puts him on the fence, and anything worse makes him a Preakness possibility. He is the 2-1 morning line favorite.

Frac Daddy showed promise as a 2-year-old but has not delivered at three. As a contest play, he might be worth a look and is 15-1 on the line.

Local ‘capper The Oracle suggests that the Kentucky Derby winner is contained in this Arkansas Derby field; however, he will not reveal who exactly that is.

The Blue Grass attracted a full field of 14 led by morning line favorite Uncaptured. The Casse trainee has 30 points. Rydilluc drew the 13 hole. He is three for four with all his wins on the turf. Keeneland is synthetic so conventional thought is that his form transfers well. Tough post in a tough field.

West Hills Giant at 20-1 is an interesting colt. He is a cut below but has speed and might find the front like he did in the Gotham. Getting nine furlongs is the question.

Palace Malice, off a troubled trip in the Louisiana Derby, is 8-1. Horses find trouble but his was enough to merit a long look here and likely at a better price than the 7/2 at Fair Grounds.

Win Willy poised to surpass $1 million in earnings

Owned by Jer-Mar Stables of Minneapolis, Win Willy is entered in the $500,000 Oaklawn Handicap Saturday. A top four finish will put him over the $1 million mark in earnings. The big closer trained by Mac Robertson has his work cut out for him as he faces multiple stakes winning Optimizer and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Fort Larned along with a host of other top older horses. Cliff Berry is named to ride.

If the Glove Fits…

Contrary to what you’ve heard previously, you can go home again. Not only that, but you can arrive on a triumphant note with everything just short of blaring trumpets.

Alex Canchari did just that Friday night. He came home and rode the winning horse in the fifth race, at the same racetrack where his father rode, at the same racetrack where he worked the concession stands from the time he was 14 years of age, selling tacos and making friends of just about everyone who knew him.

“All the kids loved him,” said track president/CEO Randy Sampson. “He has a smile a mile wide whenever you see him.”

Sampson began receiving text messages and phone calls shortly after Canchari brought in Rack Daddy for leading trainer Mac Robertson.

“We’re happy as can be to see him here, someone who started out here as a kid working the concession stands and now he has come back as a rider,” Sampson continued.

Alex used to accompany his dad, Luis ‘The Glove’ Canchari, to Canterbury Downs, watching the races, hanging out on the backside, dreaming a boy’s dreams.

He grew up in the shadow of the race track, in Shakopee, attended high school there through his sophomore year and then graduated with online courses while galloping horses for Moises Yanez and Brian Williamson in Chicago.

His riding career got under way there, then shifted to East Coast tracks, then to the south, at Oaklawn Park, then back East.

But yes indeed that was Canchari, now 18, on Friday night steering an erratic Rack Daddy across the finish line, just a couple of miles from where he grew up dreaming of becoming a jockey one day, seeing the racetrack lights at night as he fell asleep.

“I wanted to become a jockey from the time I was a little boy,” he said in the jockeys lounge afterward. So, he practiced every chance he got. He had a practice horse at home, on which he learned the rudiments of the trade before going to the real thing.

“My dad helped me a lot. I was about 13 years old and he would tell me how to relax a horse. He told me to watch the New York and the California riders for tips on what to do.”

On June 2 this year Canchari amazed himself with a win at Belmont Park on a horse named Dr. Wesley.

“I couldn’t believe it,” he recalled. “I was riding in a race against all my idols – Javier Castellano, John Velasquez, Ramon Dominguez, David Cohen, Eddie Castro and Rosie Naprovnik, all in the same race.”

He rode against his idols and he won the race.

Canchari arrived home five days ago, having driven from New Jersey with his mother, Ann. He had planned to come home all along to visit his sister, Ashley, who was pregnant and about to give birth, but the details of the trip changed suddenly three weeks ago.

He had been riding at Belmont and Monmouth parks and drove to Delaware Park to work a horse, a single horse, but he was injured during the work, breaking a bone and tearing a ligament in his left shoulder.

“It was next to the growth plate and the orthopedic surgeon told me no horses for two weeks,” Canchari related. “I started working some here five days ago.”

Canchari left Chicago for the East early this year after making contact with a stable that put him on mounts in Philadelphia, Monmouth and Belmont Park and also worked some horses at Saratoga.

Alex left New York to give Oaklawn Park a try in January, second guessing himself the entire way. “I didn’t know if I was doing the right thing,” he said. “I took a big risk going there.”

He didn’t second guess the decision long. Canchari rode winners on his first two mounts in Arkansas, on opening day, Jan. 13.

There wasn’t much risk coming home, to where he is known so well. He had four mounts, although one scratched, on Friday’s card, has mounts in the Princess Elaine and Hoist Her Flag stakes today for Robertson and has mounts in every race on Sunday.

His Chicago connections obviously stretch all the way to Shakopee. “I rode in Chicago for Mac’s dad,” Canchari explained. “I rode before for Charlie Smith, too.”

About that time, Adolfo Morales stepped into the silks room where Canchari was carrying on his conversation and gave him a congratulatory fist bump, recognition of the bugboy’s first win on the home turf.

Canchari’s first professional mount came last Dec. 26 in Chicago and through Friday night’s card he has won 30 races from 319 mounts. His bug will be extended by three weeks, because of his injury, to next March.

And now that he’s here, Canchari’s plans are to stay through the end of the meet. He has an agent, Jodie Sinclair, and, of course, there is a very recently arrived niece, Nova Ley.

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.

Photo Credit: Coady Photography