Puntsville Tries For Third Hoist Her Flag Win

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.

Great Grays

By Noah Joseph

In the colorful world of horse racing, there is one piece that really sticks out; gray horses. It’s amazing to see them, considering that only about 4 percent of horses born are gray. Over the years, gray horses have made their presence felt at Canterbury.

By far, the most famous gray to run at Canterbury was Hoist Her Flag. The daughter of Aferd, Hoist Her Flag was the terror of the track, beating almost all her female foes and running against the best of the males. She won 19 times in 49 starts in career that lasted five years and was twice named Horse of the Meet. She has a race named after her every year at Canterbury.

Hoist Her Flag

This year’s Hoist Her Flag Stakes winner drew a striking resemblance to the race’s namesake. Puntsville, a gray daughter of Cashel Rock, won the race in a style similar to Hoist Her Flag. She broke on top, held the lead, and won going away, with her gray tail swaying and waving like a flag of victory. The Hoist Her Flag Stakes was the ninth career victory for Puntsville, along with her second win this year, and her third career stakes victory.


The appropriately named Skatingonthinice was a horse who looked like ice. Just like ice, she left usually left her competition slipping while she slid to victory. Twice, she did in stakes. In 1990, she won the Minneapolis Handicap at Canterbury. She was also a successful broodmare.

Lastly, most gray horses usually inherit their gray coats as they age, but one filly was born with it. Sentimental Charm inherited her ghostly look by her father, Kentucky Derby winner Silver Charm, and her mother River Cache, an unraced daughter of Unbridled. Sentimental Charm was a successful runner, finishing in the top three 15 times in 17 starts, winning seven stakes. As a broodmare, she produced three foals, all gray, but only one raced at Canterbury. That was her daughter Sentiment Gray, sired by Holy Bull, who was also gray.


Owner Dan Mjolsness with Hoist Her Flag



For a couple of moments on Sunday, the past became the present, history became real time, and one of the grand dames of Minnesota racing history was alive on the track.

The long gray tail floated behind her in a steady breeze, and her rivals saw only clods of damp earth and her behind. She was first out of the gate and no one even drew abreast as she glided easily to the finish line under Victor Santiago.

A five-year-old gray mare named Puntsville floated through swift fractions to win the 25th running of the $50,000 Hoist Her Flag Stakes, named for the gray Canterbury Park Hall of Fame mare. Although perhaps a shade darker, Sunday’s winner bore striking resemblance to the two-time Canterbury Downs horse of the year.

“We were just saying that,” said Canterbury Park President/CEO Randy Sampson. “She’s a big good looking gray mare.”

Hoist Her Flag won 17 times from 43 starts in Shakopee and was named the outstanding horse on the grounds in 1987 and again in 1989.

Puntsville at 5/2 finished 3 ¼ lengths in front of 6/5 favorite Thoughtless and another 4 ½ head of Malibu Princess after setting all the fractions: 22.02, 44.79, 57.01 and 1:09.87.

“She’s very quick,” said Santiago, who had ridden the winner in nine of her previous 10 starts. “I was just praying to God that we would get a good quick jump.”

She did just that, and the race essentially was over.

The theme of the afternoon was hope and there were plenty of things covered under that umbrella. Hope that the sun would make an appearance, that the rain would hold off until the card was complete. There was, as always, hope at the windows as patrons placed their wagers, hope right up until a winner hit the finish line.

Despite iron-gray skies throughout the afternoon, there was plenty of pink throughout the premises on annual Fillies Race for Hope day, dedicated to the understanding, treatment and hope for eradication of breast cancer.

The feature event on the card annually is the Hoist Her Flag Stakes.

Messages promoting the theme of the day could be found throughout the grounds. The tote board from time to time advised the crowd that “Early Detection is Key.” There was a thank you message from the Fillies Race for Hope committee.

Valets to the riders wore shirts celebrating the occasion. The outriders and pony horses and their riders were festooned in pink accouterment, wraps, tack and other related items.

Raffles, drawings and donations contributed to the fund that supports this endeavor.

Patrons could be found in pink slacks, hats, dresses, shoes accompanied in some cases by pink purses. Employees in the Coady photography studio, the finest enterprise of its type in all of racing, wore pink suspenders and ties, did Shawn Coady and Senor Oscar Quiroz, who also helped work the gate at times without sullying his shirt or pink tie.

Coady was moved early in the day to loan his bowtie to a forgetful member of the Fourth Estate who arrived prepared to attack the day in conventional attire.

Pressbox magistrate Jeff Maday’s black suit was nattily set off with fashionably muted pink tie and cufflinks. Breast cancer survivors assembled in the paddock to offer thanks and encouragement in pink western hats and other attire.

A debate ensued over the true color of the dress worn by pressbox assistant Katie Merritt. Was it really pink or closer to coral?

Ultimately, it didn’t matter. It was in keeping with the colors and the spirit of the day.