STEEPWOOD FARM'S GRAND SUMMER

cheryl-sprick-richard-bremer-7-25-15

BY JIM WELLS

Steepwood Farm, located on the bluff outside of Lake City, offers a commanding view of the Mississippi River that extends across Lake Pepin into Wisconsin.

Absolutely gorgeous scenery, this sweeping panorama of the distant countryside and local waterways.

What you cannot see from this dramatic vantage point, however, is the future. There was no way four months ago, for instance, that the owners of Steepwood Farm envisioned what has happened to them at Canterbury Park this summer.

In fact, they were startled upon picking up a daily program at the track a couple of weeks ago and began examining statistics for the meet.

Yes, indeed, there there were, Cheryl Sprick and husband Richard Bremer, leading the owner standings. “Hey, will you look at this,” she said. “This is something we’ve never thought about. We’ve never even been close.”

They were surprised, Sprick added, because they tend to focus on individual horses, not in a collective sense of any kind. “It was really kind of shock,” she said. “Usually there are a whole bunch of names ahead of ours. We feel lucky to make the top ten.”

Sprick and Bremer are realists, a result of the work and the ups and downs involved in a stable they have been building for nearly three decades.

“We’ve become a 27-year overnight success,” Sprick said on Thursday by cell phone, en route to Shakopee to watch two of Steepwood’s horses perform.

“It’s taken that long to put everything together. With the horse business, you have to be willing to problem solve.”

This has been a most unusual year for Steepwood’s owners. With 14 wins, they have one more than Joe Novogratz, two more than Curtis Sampson, and three more than Al and Bill Ulwelling. Their horses have won more money, $306,980, than anyone else this meet. Their in-the-money ratio, 73 percent, is also best among the top five owners.

Better yet, all of Steepwood’s horses are homebreds, all of them bred and raised right there at the farm on the bluff. “That’s what makes it all the more remarkable for us,” Cheryl added. “When you breed your own, you’re stuck with what you get.”

Steepwood has 10 horses at Canterbury Park, nine of them with trainer Karl Broberg and the 10th with Tony Rengstorf.

One didn’t fit on the trailer and that’s the one that wound up in Rengstorf’s barn.

“That’s just the way it worked out,” Sprick added. That horse, Sassy Prance, had run second eight times before finally winning.

Steepwood had two horses entered on Thursday’s card, has two more running today and a fifth on Saturday. Sprick said they are waiting to see what kind of races come up next week to determine how many more they can start before the end of the meet on September 17.

“We know this could change at any time,” said Cheryl. “We’re incredibly happy this year, though. The horses have really come into their own, really done well. They look better than they ever looked.”

A title would be nice, of course, but regardless of what transpires over the final six days of racing, the season has turned out remarkably well for the stable from Lake City.

“Anything is (still) possible,” Sprick added, “but we know that Sampson has a lot more horses than we do and Novorgratz has some really well-bred horses.”

Breeders who race their own often are more closely connected to those horses, if for no other reason than they know their stories, beginning with their foaling.

“Every horse has its own story,” Cheryl said. In that case, of the 10 Steepwood is running at Canterbury this meet, which story is the most compelling?

It has to be Shipmate, Sprick says. This two-year-old was given a 50/50 chance of survival after undergoing colic surgery at 2 ½ weeks. Now she is three-for-three, including two stakes wins.

Two of the 10 Steepwood horses are winless this meet, yet Sprick says that as a whole they have outperformed expectations.

“We’re happy with every win we get,” Cheryl added. “A lot of times it’s a surprise.”

As it was two weeks ago when she looked at the owner standings that day. As of Thursday, fourteen of those surprises had Steepwood at the top of the heap.

Badge of Glory Captures Rare Triple, Lil’ Apollo Wins Derby

Badge%20Of%20Glory%20-%20Minnesota%20Oaks%20-%2008-10-13%20-%20R08%20-%20CBY%20-%20Inside%20FinishThere was an answer to the most asked question among the daily players, breeders, owners, trainers and anyone else with an interest in the race.

YES.

EASILY.

The question, of course, concerned Badge of Glory, the most accomplished horse in the $75,000 Minnesota Oaks on Saturday. Could she stretch her talent to a mile and 70 yards, quite the reach for a proven sprinter yet to race more than six furlongs.

She did it easily, despite getting her heels clipped heading into the first turn. She could have gone even further and won.

She was on the lead to the turn where Sweet Tango clipped heels with her and she dropped back to third, recovered and put herself in command again.

It was really her race from start to finish. She was much the best. There had been no reason for concern, but, like doting parents, horse owners worry just the same.

“We didn’t know if she could go that far,” said owner Cheryl Sprick. “Then she clipped heels,” said Richard Bremer, the other half of the owner team.

In spite of the incident, Badge of Glory might have won by even more, except…

“After she passed everyone she started easing herself up,” said winning rider Scott Stevens, who has been on Badge of Glory for her four career wins, including the Northern Lights Debutante and the Frances Genter Stakes, an achievement only two others have accomplished, Chick Fight (2008) and Samdanya (1997).

She hit the wire 1 ¾ lengths in front of Sweet Tango and 6 ¼ in front of B J’s Angel in 1:46.16 for the mile and seventy yards.

$75,000 MINNESOTA DERBY

This race was a tossup but Lil’ Apollo, trained by Randy Pfeifer, owned by Alice Theisen and ridden by Dean Butler, turned it into a one-horse race.

The winner took charge in the stretch drive and simply left six rivals eating his dust, providing Pfeifer with his first stakes win and the Theisen family with much to celebrate, perhaps even a short vacation for Alice.

This was an all-Albany win.

Albany is home to Pfeifer and the Theisens, who have been in the thoroughbred business for the past 16 years.

“We had a good rider. That helped a lot,” said Theisen, whose daughter, Shaley, was on hand to help celebrate the win.

It played out thusly:

Breaking from the inside post, Lil’ Apollo settled behind six rivals through the turn, began moving down the backstretch and came into the turn four wide to take command at midstretch. He finished 3 ¾ lengths in front of Evert and 12 ¾ ahead of Jantzesfancyfriend.

Pfeifer, who also saddled his own horse, Stormy Bull, who finished last, felt his confidence grow at the 3/8 pole. “We were running easily and everybody else had dinged up their engines pretty good,” he said.

Theisen is an over-the-road trucker who makes frequent trips to the West Coast and Northwest U.S., putting on plenty of miles in a month. Lil’ Apollo’s win just might provide her with a respite at home on the ranch in Albany.

“I don’t know, I just might take a couple of weeks off,” she said.

Why not. Lil’ Apollo, who paid $16.40 to win, picked up a check for $45,000.

And he only had to travel a mile and 70 yards, right, Alice.

Handle Records Fall on Thursday and Friday

A Thursday night import handle record was set on Thursday when $646,399 was wagered on the 10-race card through various out-of-state racetracks and online wagering sites. The previous Thursday record import of $634,407 was set August 12, 2004 when nine races were offered.

As if that wasn’t good enough, Friday night’s total off-track handle of $473,189 set a Friday night record besting the previous record of $463,455 which was set on August 3, 2007.

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.

The 4th of July

Badge Of Glory - Frances Genter Stakes - 07-04-13 - R08 - CBY - Under Rail FinishNo one in the public eye of American Racing captured the hearts of the thoroughbred world more convincingly than a 92-year-old woman from Minnesota in 1990.

Frances Genter, the grand dame of American racing, is still recalled for her Kentucky Derby win with Unbridled and the emotional race call of trainer Carl Nafzger that year at Churchill Downs.

Her lack of height and advancing years prevented Mrs. Genter from seeing clearly over the heads of fans in front of her, so Nafzger, at her side, called the race as Unbridled brought home the roses that afternoon.

Although the Kentucky Derby win thrust her into the national spotlight, Frances Genter and her deceased husband, Harold, were widely credited with helping build the Florida thoroughbred industry.

They owned some of the legendary horses of racing and breeding including champion two-year-old filly My Dear Girl, 1951 Santa Anita Derby winner Rough ‘n Tumble, 1967 Florida Derby winner In Reality, and 1980 Flamingo Stakes winner Superbity.

Canterbury Park annually stages a race named for the Eclipse-Award winning Mrs. Genter, as it did on Thursday in front of more than 14,000 fans with the $50,000-guaranteed Frances Genter Stakes.

It is certainly appropriate that a jockey who was riding at Canterbury Park the year Unbridled won the Derby was also aboard the winner of this race named for the owner of the 1990 3-year-old North American Horse of the Year. It is also fitting that he won this race only once before in its 23 runnings, in 1990 aboard Superb Sympathy.

Hall of Fame jockey Scott Stevens, who put in the ride of the season so far, in an obscure race on Wednesday, had to change plans quickly during the course of the race after strategy A was dismantled quickly.

The plan for his horse, Badge of Glory was simple. “We wanted the lead,” Stevens said. “But we couldn’t keep up with Mac’s horse (Hall of Fame trainer Mac Robertson’s Blue Moon Magic).”

Then the plan disintegrated as Stevens’ horse began taking dirt in the face. “By the time I got her to settle, I think we only had two horses beat,” Stevens added.

His observation was exact.

With a half mile to go in the six-furlong event, Stevens was in front of only Top Vow and Adorkable. It was a glory run from there. “When I asked her, she really came running,” Stevens said.

Running indeed. Badge of Glory, owned by Cheryl Sprick and Richard Bremer, picked off horses one by one, eight in all, to finish one length in front of 54-1 outsider Sultry Queen with Anne Von Rosen up and 1 ½ in front of the tiring even money favorite Blue Moon Magic and Derek Bell.

The win was the third in the Frances Genter Stakes for trainer Bernell Rhone, who won last year with Happy Hour Honey and in 1997 with Anisha.

Badge of Glory wanted the lead on Thursday but benefited from the swift early pace up front when Sentiment Gray and Juan Rivera went right at Bleu Moon Magic to create fractions of 21.67, 44.66 and 57.98. The winner, a chestnut filly by Badge of Silver from Dracken, caught the tiring horses in front of her with a winning time of 1:12. 74.

The victory made Badge of Glory the fifth Minnesota-bred filly of all time to complete the Northern Lights Debutante/Frances Genter Stakes sweep capturing both the two-year-old and three-year-old Minnesota Sprint Stakes joining Her Sweet Saint (2010), Chick Fight (2009), Sentimental Charm (2006) and Samdanya (1998).

LUCKY DOESN’T ALWAYS MEAN THE SAME THING

Trainer Randy Weidner, a native of Rosemount, was back in the winner’s circle Thursday with a horse named Track A Tac, his first winner since a tornado devastated his barn in Moore, Okla.

Track A Tac won the 350-yard dash, Thursday’s 10th race, just as his trainer and owner, M and M Racing Stables had hoped.

“This horse was waiting for me when I got here (after the tornado),” said Weidner. Originally, the horse was supposed to go to Oklahoma but the owner , Pat Krieg of Tucson, arranged for the horse to pick up a ride to Minnesota from Turf Paradise in Phoenix.

Pat was in North Dakota this week to attend her brother’s funeral. Her brother, Greg Marquardt, 63, was a jockey and raced in his younger days against Bernell and Russ Rhone and Gary Scherer.

So, the victory was bittersweet for Krieg.

And Weidner, too.

“When we got her we had a one-horse stable,” said Weidner, who is batting .500. Track A Tac is his second starter at Canterbury.

The horse’s barn name, by the way, is Lucky.

PICK YOUR PUPPY

Oscar appears to have some competition this year from a hippy cousin in the Dachshund ranks.

Oscar, the defending Wiener Dog race winner from 2012, was a little restive on Thursday but still beat nine rivals to the wire first in the warm-up for the Labor Day finals.

On his heels was Philly, a wirehair Dachsund, who hasn’t raced in nearly two years but looked in rare form nonetheless.

Philly is owned by Mike Linnemann and Emily Gage and is not to be taken lightly. He has two third-place finishes in this race and would like to change that this time around.

THE VIDEO SAYS IT ALL

Last, but certainly not least, let’s not forget that Canterbury held its annual hot dog eating contest on the fourth. However, the display of gluttony was too much for this blogger to overcome. Watch the video:

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.