One day after a record turnout of 20,000-plus crammed the nooks and crannies of the place, Canterbury Park took on a relaxed and casual demeanor, but there were three winners on this particular day, at least their connections, who didn’t fall in line.
Winners have every right to carry on a bit. They are forgiven their peccadilloes for a given period of time after having their pictures taken.
Especially first-time winners and those still paying off their purchase price.
Especially first-time winners running for a guaranteed $35,000 purse and first-time winners trying for the 40th time.
And, in particular, horses trying to pay off their $40,000 claiming price.
So, there you have it – a breakdown of gleeful winners on a quiet Sunday, a day without Zebras, Camels or birds sometimes associated with a nice pair of boots.
B.J.’s Angel, pictured above, was the first of the three to get the cameras flashing, winning the MTA Stallion Auction Stakes, and the first-place share of $35,000, with leading rider Dean Butler up.
A 3-year-old filly by Stormy Business from Demiparfait, B.J.’s Angel erased any lingering doubts about the left back tendon she tore running into a fence by outrunning four rivals, finishing 4 and ¾ lengths in front of Tra Kela and another head in front of Kerisma.
Owner/breeder Dave Astar talked afterward about the incident in which his horse ran into a fence, tearing a tendon that was later repaired by Anoka Equine surgeons. He, himself, twice tore an Achilles tendon in athletic events, so he had a first-hand experience with which to view the situation.
“It’s a funny-looking left foot,” he said in reference to the horse. Similar to the description he applied to his own appendage.
One race later, a horse named Bet Your Life, with Lori Keith aboard, took charge on the turn, stayed in command thereafter, and won by 1 and ¼ lengths over Sugar Business, who had 4 and ½ lengths on Lil’ Apollo.
Keith didn’t need much direction from trainer Mike Biehler before this one. “He just wished me good luck,” she said.
When you are “much the best” even that much “direction” might be construed as redundant.
The winner was claimed for $40,000 at Oaklawn Park by Al and Bill Ulwelling and picked up more than half its purchase price with the victory, worth $21,000.
“We got lucky with the rain,” said Al.
“Well, a three-year-old often is better than he was at two,” said Bill.
The track was officially “sloppy” for the first five races but dried steadily from the first race onward
It had hardened just enough to benefit a 6-year-old mare named Dear Hrishi to break her maiden in her 40th start during four years of racing.
Yes, that is correct, she had started 39 times without finishing first.
She had 12 seconds and 11 thirds in those previous starts but had banked $84,223. Thus, when she claimed the winner’s share of Sunday’s $25,000 maiden special weight purse, her earnings exceeded $100,000.
Each time Dear Hrishi ran a race without a win, owner/breeder Rodney Miller was assured of some commentary from acquaintances on the first floor of the grandstand.
He was reminded on Sunday that he had taken away that specific needle from his colleagues, but had also broken the (maiden) bank that Dear Hrishi had been filling with checks.
“I think she benefitted from the rain and the track was drying out,” said Miller.
“She hadn’t run well on a (really) off track.”
Despite her previous failure to post a win, Dear Hrishi always put on a game face. Miller would take her home for the winter and she put on a face. “She wouldn’t let me touch her,” he said. “She come up to me but always stay about six inches away. I couldn’t pet her like I did my other horses.”
Once she reached the track in the spring, however, it was another matter. “She was ready to go,” he said.
That was the case again on Sunday, but with a different outcome.
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.