The accomplished race mare Puntsville will return to Canterbury Park for the third time, with her connections hoping to win the $50,000 Hoist Her Flag Stakes for the third consecutive time. The Hoist Her Flag is the first of five stakes races and the fourth of 11 races, on Saturday night’s Northern Stars Racing Festival program. First post is 5:15 p.m. Total stakes purses are $500,000, with the Mystic Lake Derby offering $200,000 alone.
“They changed the dates at Arlington so I was forced to ship to Prairie Meadows to get a race,” Puntsville’s trainer Michele Boyce said. For the past two years, the now 7-year-old Illinois bred has run in the Isaac Murphy Handicap prior to the Hoist Her Flag victories. She won that state bred race in 2018 and was second in 2017. On May 23 of this year Puntsville finished fourth in the Prairie Rose Stakes, 2 ¾ lengths behind the winner Lake Ponchatrain, who she must face again Saturday night.
“She is ready,” Boyce said. Puntsville was turned out for the winter in Florida before returning to training. “She seems to thrive on that.” Boyce would know. Puntsville has won more purse money for the trainer, $410,512, than any other in a career that began in 1995 at Sportsman’s Park in Cicero, Illinois. Puntsville will break from post five in the Hoist Her Flag under jockey Carlos Marquez, Jr. She is owned by S D Brille Ltd Partnership.
The field of nine in the six furlong main track sprint is deep in quality.
Minnesota bred Ari Gia has post two. The speedy mare was claimed for $6,250 on November 5, 2018 at Turf Paradise by trainer Jose Silva, Jr. and has since won six races and $107,196 in purses, including $30,000 in the May 18 lady Slipper Stakes.
“I think I’ve got her the best she’s ever been. She’s really good right now,” Silva said. Silva called his father, who taught him everything he knows, to seek input. “I called my dad to see what he thought. He said ‘You’ve got to try her.'” Leading jock Francisco Arrieta will be aboard as the mare seeks her fourth straight win at this meet.
Also entered is graded stakes winner Hotshot Anna, trained by Mac Robertson. Lake Ponchatrain, winner of 20 of 48 starts, is the 5 to 2 morning line favorite.
Spring Steen is listed at 12 to 1 and speaks to the depth of this field based on an impressive race record. She has speed figures that match up with most in the race, all earned facing Oklahoma breds. Spring Steen is trained by Francisco Bravo. Bravo’s assistant trainer Scott Garrison, tending to business as the boss makes his way back to Minnesota from the Sooner State, is quite fond of the 4-year-old filly. “She is nice to be around. You might mistake her for the pony horse,” he said. “She’s as sweet as can be, until they open the starting gate.” Spring Steen has won four of seven races and $120,000 in purses for owner Michael Grossman. Those wins came the hard way, battling on the front end. Expect the filly to be in the mix from the start with Ry Eikleberry aboard.