The $200,000 Mystic Lake Derby is the crown jewel of the racing season at Canterbury Park, an annual race for 3-year-olds that creates a certain type of anticipation and excitement. Wet, chilly weather threatened to dampen much of that anticipation when it moved into the area late this week.

Yet, as if on cue, the rains retreated Saturday and the signature race of the season was run without a hitch.

The Derby is fast acquiring a distinctive Minnesota flavor, a certain Wayzata flair that has played out in two of the last three editions of the race.

The connection, of course, is Bob Lothenbach, whose Nun the Less won the 2015 Derby. Saturday night, he made it two winners after Giant Payday made a giant move in the stretch drive to claim the star blanket, annually awarded by the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community to the winner of the race.

Trainer Ian Wilkes was at Saratoga where he saddled McCracken on Saturday in the Travers Stakes. Told a day earlier in a telephone call that Giant Payday was the morning line favorite, Wilkes responded, “does that make us a winner.”

Well, it is now possible to respond with an emphatic “yes.”  Wilkes, in fact, was on the phone moments after the Derby with Lothenbach in the winner’s circle to talk about the race. The conversation was short and sweet with a triumphant undertone.

It was evident earlier on the card that late-running horses seemed to be in favor, on the main track. As it turned out that trend translated onto the turf.

Giant Payday, a son of Giant’s Causeway, was last out of the gate in the 10-horse field and was chasing five horses at the top of the stretch. He went six horses wide under Chris Landeros to begin his drive and reached the wire a length in front of My Bariley and another half length in front of Sakonnet. The winning time was 1:40.39 after fractions of 24.68, 49.12 and 1:14.48.

“He wants to run late. You can’t push him too early,” Lothenbach said. “We’ve learned that about him.”

Landeros said he picked up that cue in the Arlington Classic when he pushed Giant Payday early and the colt simply ran out of gas. “When I let him run like he did tonight, when I let him dictate what he wants, he settles, he relaxes and runs his best race,” Landeros said.

The prerace conversation on Friday was mostly concerned with the weather. Would the race stay on the turf and be washed out and run on the dirt, a factor that possibly would have included some horses scratching from the lineup.

Although two earlier stakes on the card, the $50,000 Brooks Fields Stakes and the $50,000 HBPA Distaff, were moved to the dirt, the Derby stayed put and was run on a yielding course.

No Minnesota-bred has won this race, although there was one entered on Saturday for the first time in three years. Hot Shot Kid, ridden by Alex Canchari, drew the outside post in the 10-horse field. He did not hit the board, although he was among the leaders until flattening out in the stretch drive.

Lothenbach joined Terry Hamilton as the only other two-time winner of the race. Hamilton owned the first two winners of the Derby, Hammers Terror and Dorsett.

During that brief telephone conversation in the winner’s circle Saturday, Lothenbach summed up his feelings as he talked with Wilkes. “That was awesome,” he said. “Chris rode a great race. Just awesome.”


Andrew Ramgeet shook hands with a connection to the winning horse he had just dismounted. “Send him the dry cleaning bill,” a bystander shouted.

The reference was to Ramgeet’s rather muddy appearance after guiding his horse from last to first in the six-horse field, picked up considerable layers of mud in the process.

“Hey, what did you do, plan your move with the third change of goggles,” he was asked.

Not exactly, but the picture fit, as Patriots Rule circled the field five wide on the turn and inched his way to the front, finishing 1/2 length in front of second-choice Way Striking and two lengths ahead of (12/1) Malibu Pro.

Patriots Rule

Trainer Robertino Diodoro said the horse appeared to be in decline running on the West Coast, but closer examination told him that racing conditions and luck were largely responsible.

“He had a number of bad trips,” he said. “He needs to run back, but with a horse like this you need a pace and everything else has to be right, too.”

It went just as hoped, if not planned, on Saturday.


Few expected this outcome, not at 11-1, not in this field, but there she was in the winner’s circle, a longshot named Beach Flower who was certainly no wall flower when it came to performing on a muddy but, for her, favoring track.

“Moving to the dirt helped,” said winning rider Martin Escobar, whose victory was applauded by most of his colleagues as well as trainer Mac Robertson.

Beach Flower

“He’s worked hard for me all the time I’ve known him,” said Robertson. “I’m happy for him.”

Beach Flower worked her way from the back of the 10 horse field and made her bid at the top of the stretch and reached the wire ¾ length in front of Seeking Paradise with Landeros up another 1 ¼ lengths ahead of Kera Kera.



The best races yet in this annual tradition:

Championship: They don’t come any more exciting than this one.

In a thrilling race to the wire, Brew Crew, from the Oglala Sioux Tribe, claimed the title by a nostril or less with a late charge to catch Tissidimit.

But wait a minute. Brew Crew’s rider Sylvan Brown was charged with grabbing the inside rein of his competitor in the stretch drive and was disqualified.

Brown got a late charge from his third runner in the race to catch the Tissidimit horse and rider Jared Cerino, who won this race two years ago.

But the infraction was upheld and Cerino and Tissidimit, representing the Sho-Ban tribe of Fort Hall, Idaho, claimed the crown and a first place prize of $10,000.


A purse of $2,000 went to second place.

Consolation Title: C/M Warparty reached the wire first but was later disqualified because one of the team’s horses had escaped the clutches of the mugger and had run off. The title was subsequently awarded to Dolphus Racing and rider Jo Jo Yellowfat.

The one consolation in the reversal of winners? Both teams are from the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe.


NUN THE LESS -  08-29-15 - R06 - CBY - 005


The pageantry, colors and festive nature of the Mystic Lake Derby, replete with more and more aspects of American Indian Culture, have made this day the piece de resistance of the summer racing season in Shakopee.

The Derby is the race of the season because of Mystic Lake’s financial involvement, and the elements of Indian culture that now accompany the program in an ever increasing number have become a natural and attractive addition to the day’s racing.

Indian relay racing, dancing, songs and demonstrations, including arrow throwing, kept Saturday’s crowd of  10,485 in awe in those many moments that surround each race. The race of the day did its part as well.

The Derby and its appealing $200,000 purse drew a field of seven for the fourth running from various locations in the country, but it was a local owner who took home the goods.

A colt named Nun the Less was more or less relegated to a secondary role and sent off at 4-1. Not even his owner, Bob Lothenbach of Eden Prairie, expected much more than a spot among the top three or four, much less a trip to the winner’s circle.

Yet, Nun the Less, sent off at 4-1 with Florent Geroux in the irons, took advantage of a perfect pace, set up in part by his stablemate , Flashy Jewel, who applied pressure at the front end of the race from the break to the top of the stretch.

Nun the Less, meanwhile, had begun his rally on the turn and came into the stretch four wide with plenty left in the tank to hit the wire a length in front of 9/2 Gallery and Carlos Marquez, Jr. Syntax, sent off the 7/5 favorite, was next under Christopher DeCarlo, two additional lengths back.

“I was surprised,” said Lothenbach. “I thought we’d finish maybe fourth. But the pace set up perfect for us.”

The fractional times of 23.22, 46.48 and 1:10.38 were precisely what Nun the Less was looking for and he finished in 1:34.82.

Nun the Less, sired by Candy Ride from Nunnery, had previous earnings of $129,092 and was bred at Claiborne Farm in Kentucky.




Kalan Hammond, a 24-year-old member of the Sho-Ban tribe from Fort Hall, Idaho, won the championship round of this competition in grand fashion for the Tissidimit team, which included Toby Tissidimit as the mugger, Lance Tissidimit as the set-up man and Keinan Tissidimit as the back holder.

He became the team’s third rider after the first two were injured earlier this season.

The consolation winner was James Real Brid from the Crow Tribe of the Montana Crow Agency in Medicine Tail, Mont.




If Brian Akipa could distribute CDs of his music, there would be no need for sleeping pills or any other kind of drug to shut out the troubles of the day. Akipa, a Sisseton Sioux, has accompanied various events during the this week of American Indian celebration at Canterbury.

He was seen frequently in the winner’s circle playing his flute, emitting such dulcet tones that not the most perplexed of humanity could resist succumbing to his songs at the end of a long day.

He has mastered the flute after taking it up several years ago and now can project the peaceful nature of his culture as well as anything found in music stores throughout the nation.


Told you Pharoah, but you wouldn’t listen, would you! Did you even notice the grave markers in the infield upon arriving there. You had your chance. The track in Shakopee would have been much kinder, not to mention the competition. But nooooooo…you couldn’t leave the bright lights, could you, even though it’s been the undoing of a multitude of superstars.

You knew that the Jim Dandy Stakes was named after the horse that derailed Triple Crown winner Gallant Fox. You could still smell Onion in the air this many years after he knocked off Secretariat. And how about Upset, the horse whose name became a verb and a noun in all of sports after he handed Man o’ War his only loss in 21 races on this racetrack.

But no, Pharoah, you had to snub your nose at Canterbury Park and the enticing offer made to get you here. You had to stay with the big boys in the limelight, and look what happened. And those fractions set it up nicely for you and you still got caught in the final strides.

Don’t expect anyone to feel sorry for you after such a poor career choice.


Moe Man Takes Bullit

Moe%20Man%20-%20John%20Bullit%20Overnight%20Stakes%20-%2008-16-13%20-%20R08%20-%20CBY%20-%20Inside%20FinishQuite appropriate. Very fitting. The trainer of a Breeders’ Cup Classic winner saddles the winning horse in a $35,000 overnight stake named for John Bullit, Canterbury Downs champion claimer in 1986, a horse ridden by Mike Smith, Julie Krone, Chris Antley, Scott Stevens and Dean Kutz among others.

Ian Wilkes, who conditioned 2012 Classic winner Fort Larned, sent out Moe Man, owned by Robert Lothenbach and ridden by Justin Shepherd.

The instructions were simple: “Ride your race.” Ride the race as it comes up.

“He’s a good rider. I know him from Kentucky,” said Wilkes, after Moe Man left a field of seven rivals eating his dust in a stretch burst, finishing 4 ½ lengths in front of Coconino Slim with Wild Jacob in third.

The easy victory left even Wilkes a bit stunned. “That was surprising, the way he came down the lane,” said Wilkes.

Wilkes, an Australian trainer, learned under a man well known to Canterbury fans – Carl Nafzger, who trained 1990 Kentucky Derby winner and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Unbridled.

If Wilkes was surprised by Moe Man’s easy win, so also were the Canterbury fans, who let him get away at 7-1. The favorite at 2-1 was Diamond Joe, who finished fourth.

John Bullit, incidentally, set track records in 1986 that still stand: on July 25, he ran 1 ¼ mile on the main track in 2:04 1/5. On Sept 26, he turned in a 3:11 2/5 for 1 7/8 on the turf.

He was trained originally by Clayton Gray, who bought the horse in a package deal and loved thereafter telling stories about how John Bullit would introduce himself to a new rider the same way each time: by sending the individual headlong into the rafters of the barn or the dirt in an arena.

The grand old gelding ran 31 times at Canterbury Down, winning 17 times.

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.