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

Opening Day at Canterbury Park: A Rite Of Spring

By Noah Joseph

It is that time of year again. It’s the day we’ve all been waiting for since September of last year. It’s opening day at Canterbury Park!

Crowd at Canterbury Park.After a long, cold winter filled with snow (which overstayed its welcome), it has all given way to a warm spring at Canterbury Park. The Shakopee track kicks off another season of live racing, its 32nd, and 24th year since reopening in 1995.

If you’ve never been to Canterbury, you are in for a treat. Quality racing, combined with its family friendly entertainment, not only make it one of the state’s best attractions, but also one of the best tracks in the country.

First Time at Canterbury Infographic

From the hardcore bettor, to the casual fan, to the first time visitor, to the young and the old, Canterbury has something for everyone to enjoy. This year, Canterbury has a meet for the ages planned, full of exciting activities and events. Yes, the popular fixtures of the season, like wiener dog and bulldog races, Extreme Day, and the Indian Horse Relays, will continue, but brand-new events are coming, too.

Basset Hound RacingRelease the hounds! This year, basset hound races will be run for the first time in the history of the track. Fans can unleash their inner artist with Paintings and Ponies day, in which fans can take a course and paint what they see at Canterbury.

In August, Canterbury will race on Wednesdays, something the track hasn’t done regularly since it was Canterbury Downs in the ’80s and early ’90s.

And for fans of horse racing, not just at Canterbury but around the country, Canterbury will have the first ever Mystic Lake Northern Stars Racing Festival. This racing extravaganza features five stakes races worth $500,000 in prize money, and will feature some of the best owners, trainers, and jockeys in the country, right here in Minnesota. It also coincides with the Jockeys & Jeans fundraiser, an annual traveling event benefitting the Permanently Disabled Jockey Fund.

So, once again, it is that time. It is time to return to the track for great racing and fun at Canterbury Park, because that is our rite of spring.

A Grand Opening

Joshua’s Journey was a great deal smoother Friday night than the one his trainer had last weekend. Smoother, easier, trouble-free. The four-year-old gelded son of Good Journey got a perfect ride from Patricia Trimble to win the first race of the 2012 racing season, going gate to wire with a trouble-free trip.

So Trimble, who married rider Rusty Shaw in the winner’s circle at Turf Paradise last autumn, started the meet the same way she ended last year’s in Shakopee – in the winner’s circle.

Total wagering totaled $477,514 for the season-opening card, up 30 percent over opening night a year ago. Additionally, a crowd of 8,844 took in the opening night festivities.

Joshua’s Journey started off the 2012 season for Trimble and trainer Valorie Lund on a positive note, just as Just In Time ended last year’s meet for her.

Joshua’s Journey (photo above) had clear sailing in the mile event for $5,000 claimers. That was not the case last weekend for Lund.

Lund made three trips to get 18 horses here from Phoenix. The last one was a doozy. Her 2010 Ford 350 diesel began making clunking sounds on the interstate in Kansas, about 500 miles from the stable gate in Shakopee.

Another trucker informed her when she stopped for advice that she’d probably make it if the problem was merely a lifter, certainly not if she had blown a rod.

So Lund did what any far-thinking horsewoman would do. “I called everyone in my family and said they needed to start praying,” she said.

On a more practical note, she contacted a friend at Prairie Meadows in Des Moines, Iowa, just in case.

Once she got through Des Moines, the same friend agreed to watch her back until she got halfway from there to Canterbury. A friend from Canterbury agreed to take over from there.

The Lund stable had been alerted to her difficulties and the hands knew the minute she reached the stable gate in Shakopee. “It was probably about 1 a.m. and they could hear the truck; it was making that much noise,” Lund said.

The solution. “Well, I need a new short block, turbo and injectors,” Lund said. She hopes to get her vehicle back in the next week or so.

As for the advice… “I did blow a rod,” she said.

Shaw arrived with his wife fully intending to ride this summer but is sidelined six to eight weeks with a broken left shoulder. He was breaking a two-year-old 10 days ago who dislodged him unceremoniously.

So, next week Shaw will begin a temporary new assignment. “I’m going to take Patricia’s book for a while,” he said.

A final note on Lund and her stressful final trip from Phoenix:

She and her 75-year old mother, Mary Lou, made the journey together. “We are a praying family,” Lund said.

So, she contacted sisters in Oregon, Idaho and Phoenix and her dad in Idaho and asked for their spiritual assistance. “They prayed me in,” Lund said.

TRIMBLE DIDN’T QUIT

Trimble won the second race on the card in addition to the first, riding Patriate for Bob Johnson. She laughed when told a pressbox wag had announced after race two that the jockey race was over for the season.

“I like that,” she said.

STEVENS TOUGH AS EVER

Many of his friends thought his racing days were over last year after serious injuries sidelined Hall of Fame rider Scott Stevens. Not a chance.

Stevens had a solid meet last winter in Phoenix and got his first winner of the Canterbury meet in race four Friday, guiding front-running Limo, trained by David Van Winkle, to a photo-finish win over Bobble Doit and Dean Butler in a thrilling stretch duel.

Stevens had no doubts that he had won, crediting Limo for his tenacity. “He wasn’t going to let that horse him pass,” he said.

Several Canterbury observers were in agreement upon seeing Stevens for the first time this season: He looks as good as he has in years.

PHOENIX HORSES, TRAINERS HOT ON A WARM EVENING

Joshua’s Journey got the ball rolling for horses shipped in from the Grand Canyon state. He was saddled by Lund. Eurasian, owned and trained by Turf Paradise trainer Doug Oliver, won the third race. “I don’t know if it’s good luck or bad to win on opening night,” Oliver said. “But it sure takes the pressure off.”

Limo kept the ball rolling. He ran at Turf Paradise and is trained by Van Winkle, a regular in Phoenix.

LONGSHOTS PAY BIG

The first big winner of the evening was in race five. Go Go Jill, ridden by Carlos Castro, trained by Tony Rengstorf and owned by Curtis Sampson, was a clear winner in race five at 24-1.

The card wound up with another big winner. Cherryful Lady, owned and trained by Luis Canchari and ridden by Jose Rivera, Jr., closed the first card of the new season with a win at 16-1.

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

2012 Meet Begins With Optimism

There was a certain familiarity about the scent that wafted on the morning air throughout the stable area earlier this week. It was clearly, distinctly, matter-of-factly, the heady aroma of hope and change.

Hope always accompanies a new season. But this was something more. Hope that at long last Canterbury Park may have found a way to keep its doors open for the foreseeable future. Hope that purses will expand. Hope that thoroughbreds and quarter horses will once again be worthwhile foaling in Minnesota. Hope that the equine industry in Minnesota will now get the shot in the arm it has long been seeking.

The racing season gets under way tonight at 7 p.m. The overnight for Saturday’s card included this hopeful message to horsemen: “If the recently approved legislation results in a purse increase during the 2012 race meet, purses for both stakes and overnight races will increase retroactively.”

Stall superintendent Mark Stancato and trainer Franciso Bravo found levity in the promise of what the trainer had heard along the grapevine. Bravo was prepared to leave Texas for the meet that begins Friday night with a small trailer. Then news about the potential for increased purses filtered in on the humid southwestern air. Bravo claimed he switched immediately to a much larger trailer.

He, Stancato and a bystander laughed deeply over such invigorating wit on this hopeful morning.

One trainer referred to the shutdown last July that had numerous horsemen wondering if racing was done in Minnesota

“From that to this,” he said. “A world of difference.”

Solid evidence of change on this promising morn?

In the lobby of the racing office, jockey Adolfo Morales shared a video of a 2011 race at Canterbury with Juan Rivera… on his iPhone nontheless. “This is better than the Racing Form,” Morales said as the dulcet tones of Paul Allen reminded anyone within earshot that live racing is nigh.

And to think an eavesdropper watching this show was convinced the world was at an end 16 years ago when he first spotted a cowboy on horseback with a cell phone plastered to his ear.

There are changes of another sort, too. The HBPA is replacing its trainer/groom of the week program this season with a tribute instead to owners who’ve helped the sport of racing in a myraid of ways over the seasons.

And for the patrons: Takeout on the pick 3 and pick 4 wagers will be reduced from 23 percent to 14 percent. Who doesn’t like a better payoff?

The 2012 meet will run 62 days and include a claiming series, celebrating most of the horses that occupy Canterbury stalls on any given day. That number was 1,009 on Thursday and Stancato expects as many as 1,300 in the next couple of weeks.

There will be as many as 10 new riders in the jockey colony. There are 24 new faces in the training ranks, replacing the 24 that won’t return.

So there it is. Difference and optimism, too.

Hope and change.

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.

Pick 3 & Pick 4 Takeout Cut to 14%

Canterbury Park is introducing a wagering friendly 14% takeout for its Pick 3 and Pick 4 pools this summer. The reduction in takeout from 23% to 14% make these some of the lowest takeout rates in the country, and in my view players should absolutely be focusing on these wagers over the course of the summer. Canterbury Park will offer rolling Pick 3s and an early and late Pick 4 each day. A Pick 4 carryover will occur if nobody correctly selects all four winners in the sequence. This article will focus on the Pick 4, and offer a few strategies for tackling this popular and challenging wager.

Check out Opening Day Entries by Clicking Here

The Pick 4 involves selecting the winner of four consecutive races. The wager carries a 50-cent minimum bet, which allows for multiple combinations to be played at a reasonable price. The Pick 4 is quite a bit more complex than the Pick 3, mainly because the extra race provides so many more possible outcomes. For example, a Pick 3 sequence of three consecutive eight horse fields would offer a total of 512 possible outcomes (8*8*8=512), whereas a Pick 4 sequence of four consecutive eight horse fields offers a total of 4,096 possible outcomes (8*8*8*8=4,096). It’s not easy to hit but the rewards are potentially great!

Last year, the average Pick 4 pool size at Canterbury Park was approximately $5,000. The new 14% takeout rate will hopefully increase that pool size this summer! A modest investment could possibly return thousands of dollars, something that can’t be achieved with a single win bet. Let’s take a look at a few different approaches to constructing a Pick 4 ticket.

The Caveman: Coined by Steven Crist of the Daily Racing Form, this approach is simplistic in that it involves playing all your contenders from the entire sequence on one ticket. If you like 4 horses in the first leg, 2 horses in the second leg, 4 horses in the third leg, and 2 horses in the final leg, you would simply put them all on the same ticket and the cost would be $32 dollars (4*2*4*2=64 combinations * 50-cents = $32 dollars). The advantage to this strategy is that if one of your contenders wins all four races you will definitely win the bet. The disadvantage to this strategy is that you are playing each horse equally in the sequence, without any preference for your stronger plays. Here are a few additional methods of play worth considering:

The Solid Single: In the above example, let’s assume the two races where we used 2 horses included a favorite and a longshot. We could use each favorite as a “single” and play two tickets as follows: (4*1*4*2 and 4*2*4*1). The total cost is still $32 but we have the opportunity to win the wager twice if both singled favorites happen to win, and we can still do as well as we would have done with the “Caveman” approach if one of the two singles wins. We are only vulnerable if both longshots win, which is not a pleasant scenario to contemplate!

The Longshot Single: If you want to swing for the home run, singling longshots in Pick 3’s and Pick 4’s is certainly a good way to go. Longshots, or “separators” as they are also called, really drive these wagers into big overlay territory. Putting $20 to win on a 10-1 shot is great when the horse wins and you collect $200, but singling that same 10-1 winner in the Pick 4 could result in a pool sweeper or a potential 4-figure score. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it’s something to consider when looking at options for your wagering dollar.

One last thing, the Pick 4 generally results in a payoff greater than the win parlay for the sequence. It’s another thing that makes the wager attractive. Here’s a real life example from a recent Pick 4 sequence.

The win payoffs were $6.60, $6.20, $6.00 and $4.40. This is certainly a hittable sequence with a 6/5 shot and three 2-1 shots. The $2 win parlay would have returned approximately $135 dollars. The $2 Pick 4 in this case returned nearly $350, a huge improvement over what the win parlay paid. Assuming similar pool sizes with Canterbury Park, the lower takeout rates at Canterbury would have pushed this same payoff up near $400!

Play the Pick 3 and Pick 4 wagers at Canterbury Park. Good Luck!

This blog was written by Canterbury Regular “The Oracle”. The Oracle is a longtime Minnesota race fan that has handicapped Canterbury’s races religiously for more than 20 years. He writes about handicapping and statistical trends in Canterbury’s races.

Pick 3 & Pick 4 Takeout Cut to 14%

Canterbury Park is introducing a wagering friendly 14% takeout for its Pick 3 and Pick 4 pools this summer. The reduction in takeout from 23% to 14% make these some of the lowest takeout rates in the country, and in my view players should absolutely be focusing on these wagers over the course of the summer. Canterbury Park will offer rolling Pick 3s and an early and late Pick 4 each day. A Pick 4 carryover will occur if nobody correctly selects all four winners in the sequence. This article will focus on the Pick 4, and offer a few strategies for tackling this popular and challenging wager.

Check out Opening Day Entries by Clicking Here

The Pick 4 involves selecting the winner of four consecutive races. The wager carries a 50-cent minimum bet, which allows for multiple combinations to be played at a reasonable price. The Pick 4 is quite a bit more complex than the Pick 3, mainly because the extra race provides so many more possible outcomes. For example, a Pick 3 sequence of three consecutive eight horse fields would offer a total of 512 possible outcomes (8*8*8=512), whereas a Pick 4 sequence of four consecutive eight horse fields offers a total of 4,096 possible outcomes (8*8*8*8=4,096). It’s not easy to hit but the rewards are potentially great!

Last year, the average Pick 4 pool size at Canterbury Park was approximately $5,000. The new 14% takeout rate will hopefully increase that pool size this summer! A modest investment could possibly return thousands of dollars, something that can’t be achieved with a single win bet. Let’s take a look at a few different approaches to constructing a Pick 4 ticket.

The Caveman: Coined by Steven Crist of the Daily Racing Form, this approach is simplistic in that it involves playing all your contenders from the entire sequence on one ticket. If you like 4 horses in the first leg, 2 horses in the second leg, 4 horses in the third leg, and 2 horses in the final leg, you would simply put them all on the same ticket and the cost would be $32 dollars (4*2*4*2=64 combinations * 50-cents = $32 dollars). The advantage to this strategy is that if one of your contenders wins all four races you will definitely win the bet. The disadvantage to this strategy is that you are playing each horse equally in the sequence, without any preference for your stronger plays. Here are a few additional methods of play worth considering:

The Solid Single: In the above example, let’s assume the two races where we used 2 horses included a favorite and a longshot. We could use each favorite as a “single” and play two tickets as follows: (4*1*4*2 and 4*2*4*1). The total cost is still $32 but we have the opportunity to win the wager twice if both singled favorites happen to win, and we can still do as well as we would have done with the “Caveman” approach if one of the two singles wins. We are only vulnerable if both longshots win, which is not a pleasant scenario to contemplate!

The Longshot Single: If you want to swing for the home run, singling longshots in Pick 3’s and Pick 4’s is certainly a good way to go. Longshots, or “separators” as they are also called, really drive these wagers into big overlay territory. Putting $20 to win on a 10-1 shot is great when the horse wins and you collect $200, but singling that same 10-1 winner in the Pick 4 could result in a pool sweeper or a potential 4-figure score. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it’s something to consider when looking at options for your wagering dollar.

One last thing, the Pick 4 generally results in a payoff greater than the win parlay for the sequence. It’s another thing that makes the wager attractive. Here’s a real life example from a recent Pick 4 sequence.

The win payoffs were $6.60, $6.20, $6.00 and $4.40. This is certainly a hittable sequence with a 6/5 shot and three 2-1 shots. The $2 win parlay would have returned approximately $135 dollars. The $2 Pick 4 in this case returned nearly $350, a huge improvement over what the win parlay paid. Assuming similar pool sizes with Canterbury Park, the lower takeout rates at Canterbury would have pushed this same payoff up near $400!

Play the Pick 3 and Pick 4 wagers at Canterbury Park. Good Luck!

This blog was written by Canterbury Regular “The Oracle”. The Oracle is a longtime Minnesota race fan that has handicapped Canterbury’s races religiously for more than 20 years. He writes about handicapping and statistical trends in Canterbury’s races.

2012 Jockey Rumor Mill Begins

You know the live race meet is near when the Canterbury stable begins coming to life. Trainers are now sending in their advance teams to prepare barns for the imminent arrival of horses this week. Lay down the mats, hang the tubs, bed the stalls, sharpen the pitch forks.

The main track will open for training on Friday as the sprint to opening day begins in earnest.

All of the top trainers are planning to return. Mac Robertson should hit Shakopee soon in defense of his training title. Bernell Rhone, enjoying a bang-up meet at Tampa Bay Downs, is expected here in the first week of May.

The jockey rumor-mill is churning as it does each spring. Word is Ry Eikleberry will remain in slots-rich New Mexico. Jockey agent extraordinaire Richard Grunder has indicated that he will handle the book of Tanner Riggs, last seen here as a regular member of the jockey colony in 2007. Unconfirmed yet buzzing is that Paul Nolan will go to Assiniboia Downs. Paul has been a mainstay in Shakopee for decades. The all-around good guy would be missed here if that pans out. Bobby Walker Jr. is also rumored to be coming to Canterbury this spring.

With all these rumors, the only thing we know for sure is that nothing is for sure until the subject of said rumor drives through the stable gate, or in some cases doesn’t.

Good news for those that dine in the stable area as the track kitchen will be run by a local restaurant specializing in authentic Mexican cuisine.

This blog was written by Canterbury Media Relations Manager Jeff Maday. Maday has filled multiple positions including Media Relations and Player Relations Manager since the track’s reopening in 1995.

2012 Jockey Rumor Mill Begins

You know the live race meet is near when the Canterbury stable begins coming to life. Trainers are now sending in their advance teams to prepare barns for the imminent arrival of horses this week. Lay down the mats, hang the tubs, bed the stalls, sharpen the pitch forks.

The main track will open for training on Friday as the sprint to opening day begins in earnest.

All of the top trainers are planning to return. Mac Robertson should hit Shakopee soon in defense of his training title. Bernell Rhone, enjoying a bang-up meet at Tampa Bay Downs, is expected here in the first week of May.

The jockey rumor-mill is churning as it does each spring. Word is Ry Eikleberry will remain in slots-rich New Mexico. Jockey agent extraordinaire Richard Grunder has indicated that he will handle the book of Tanner Riggs, last seen here as a regular member of the jockey colony in 2007. Unconfirmed yet buzzing is that Paul Nolan will go to Assiniboia Downs. Paul has been a mainstay in Shakopee for decades. The all-around good guy would be missed here if that pans out. Bobby Walker Jr. is also rumored to be coming to Canterbury this spring.

With all these rumors, the only thing we know for sure is that nothing is for sure until the subject of said rumor drives through the stable gate, or in some cases doesn’t.

Good news for those that dine in the stable area as the track kitchen will be run by a local restaurant specializing in authentic Mexican cuisine.

This blog was written by Canterbury Media Relations Manager Jeff Maday. Maday has filled multiple positions including Media Relations and Player Relations Manager since the track’s reopening in 1995.