What does the perfect day consist of? To many, the answer to that question involves Canterbury Park, beautiful weather and bulldog races.
The annual Running of the Bulldogs was held on May 26 with 16,064 visitors. The day consisted of 72 bulldogs and six heats. The winner of each heat will be invited back on Labor Day for the Bark in the Park championship races.
These four-legged friends put on quite the show and smiles filled the crowd as each heat took place. Bulldogs and running don’t always go together well, but it does make for a comical and memorable experience. Some of the bulldogs even proved everyone wrong by speeding down the track, especially if there was a bribe involved.
“We bring Lucy a cheeseburger from McDonald’s to help get her to the finish line,” said owner Mandi Brown. “It worked last year so we are trying it again.”
Hazel, a bulldog from heat 1, was bribed by owner Lisa Kachmarek with a hot dog. Talk about a royal treatment.
The selected bulldogs travel near and far to participate in this event. “We came all the way from Chicago for this so I am thrilled that Gus took first,” said owner Mackenzie Green. “We are excited to come back in September for the finals.”
Near and far, old and new. For a lot of the bulldogs, this race becomes a tradition. “This is Bo’s second time racing. Last year he finished in last place so we came back to redeem ourselves,” said the Brooks family, Bo’s owners.
Running of the Bulldogs is a family-friendly event that will definitely have the kids asking to stop at the pet store on the way home.
No one can turn down a cute dog so stay tuned for other dog races at Canterbury Park throughout the summer. Next up is basset hound racing. Bring the old man out to Canterbury on Father’s Day and enjoy floppy ears and tons of fun.
While many Minnesotans were gathered around the grill in their backyards, around the cabin at the Lake, or visiting the local American Legion or VFW, patrons at Canterbury Park honored the servicemen and women for whom the day is reserved, while taking in a card that included two stakes races as well as the annual running of the bulldogs.
Memorial Day at the racetrack has come to be mean saluting veterans of the armed services, cheering bulldogs of the Twin Cities and surrounding communities and wagering on stakes races named for Hall of Fame champions’ from Canterbury’s past.
Such was the case on Monday as 12,893 patrons arrived and among their number was an occasional bulldog in tow, here and there one pulling on the bit, so to speak, while slobbering lavishly in anticipation of the awaiting festivities, or perhaps nothing more than a bone or treat.
Imagine for a moment the picture of a bulldog bearing any one of these names: Duke, Lugnut, Angus, Boomer, Pork Chop, Grimace or Meatball. They were all on hand, competing for the fastest bulldog of 2017.
The winner last year was a dog named Winston, one of three with that name, or one less than entered the contest with such an appellation this time. As a matter of fact, dogs named Winston finished first, second and third in 2016 and were ganging up to repeat the effort this time.
Although three of the four Winstons advanced to the final on Monday, the title this time was claimed by a fellow named Frank the Tank, owned by Tricia Olson of Lester Prairie. The cliff notes on Frank the Tank seemed nearly to eliminate him from consideration: “It’s surprising Frank is the ‘The Tank’ considering he never stops running. Add a ball to the equation and you may never get him back.”
The only thing Frank ran off with on Monday, however, was the 2017 bulldog title.
It was another dog who required the services of an outrider to run him down. Owned by Jenny Price, a 72-pound fellow named Chesty proved difficult to corral after the fourth heat. His bio included this information: “Named after the Marine with the most accolades, Chesty’s goal in life is to become the most decorated bulldog.” If not the most decorated, he was certainly the most chased.
The two stakes races on the card honored former champions at Canterbury. Northbound Pride had a rich history in Shakopee, winning 10 times from 21 starts at Canterbury Downs, victories that included the Frances Genter Stakes, the Minnesota Breeders’ Oaks and the Aquatennial Stakes.
Honor the Hero was not only a star at Canterbury but became a world traveler with career earnings approaching $700,000. He competed in the 1994 Breeders ‘ Cup sprint and as well as the Japan Cup the same year. Honor the Hero still holds the Canterbury track record for seven and one-half furlongs on the turf.
The Northbound Pride Oaks was first run in 1985 and was won by a ship-in from California named Savannah Slew, from the Alan Paulson stable. Savannah Slew was trained by Ron McAnally and ridden by one of the sport’s truly legendary jockeys, Bill Shoemaker. The Oaks was twice run as a Grade III race, in 1988 and again the next year.
$50,000 NORTHBOUND PRIDE OAKS
Eight fillies and mares lined up for this race, run at a mile on the grass, and the post-time favorite proved to be a winner at 8/5 under a solid ride from Alex Canchari, who put his horse, Hotshot Anna, in position along the rail, just off a front-running trio much of the way before making his bid at the top of the stretch.
The winning move required Canchari to swing his horse out from the rail to overtake the trio in front of him as they came out of the turn.
“I was just hoping he wouldn’t stand up at the three-eighths pole,” winning trainer Mac Robertson cracked. “No, it was a good ride. I knew then (at the 3-8ths) that we were good.”
As Canchari overtook the front-runners, he recorded his horse’s strengths. “She doesn’t have a huge kick,” he said, “but she picked it up very nicely.”
The winning margin was a neck in a time of 1:36.70, with Starr Bear, ridden by Jareth Loveberry, second by three-quarters of a length over Super Marina and Nik Goodwin.
$50,000 HONOR THE HERO
Deshawn Parker was headed to a shower after this race when approached by a fellow offering his congratulations and an invitation to a meal later that evening consisting of elk ribs.
Not a bad way to celebrate a stakes victory, if you enjoy elk ribs that is, and Parker was indeed in a celebratory mood. He rode the winner Shadow Rock, a seven-year-old gelded son of Distorted Humor, but had to await the outcome of a claim of foul by Robertino Diodoro, the trainer of Wildfire Kid who finished second by ¾ length.
The first and second-place horses had light contact in the upper stretch but not sufficient enough, the racing stewards ruled, to have altered the outcome.
There was a head’s difference between Wildfire Kid and Shogood at the wire.
The winning horse is trained by Mike Maker, and when Parker was asked how he acquired the mount he laughed and said, “I’ve good a good agent.”
He rode four horses for Maker at Belterra on Sunday with nothing better than a second place to show for it, so the winning mount Monday, in his mind, “made up” for those efforts.
Time has its own dimension, governed by rules that stretch human understanding, the cerebral grasp of mere mortals. Look over one shoulder and it’s 1995. Look over the other and its Memorial Day 2015, and horses are lining up for the 21st running of the Honor The Hero Stakes, a six-furlong sprint worth $75,000 .
In the winner’s circle prior to the race are Rebecca Ueland and Allen Burdick, owners of Hall of Fame sprinter Honor The Hero who once thrilled thoroughbred fans in Shakopee with his remarkable talent. In fact, he still holds the record on grass at Canterbury Park for 7 ½ furlongs. Also there is trainer Doug Oliver, who not only trained The Hero but saddled a two-time winner of this race named Thatsusintheolbean.
Time seemingly stood still, but a horse named El Seventyseven did not, outrunning six rivals and withstanding an objection under Leandro Goncalves, who is making an impact with his first-time presence at Canterbury.
The objection came from trainer Tammy Domenosky, who sent Silver Lining John from Arlington Park and gave Ry Eikleberry the mount.
` “Ry was just riding his race but said he just didn’t have enough horse,” said Goncalves, who was confident of a favorable ruling but pounded the air softly with a two-handed fist pump nonetheless when the decision was announced. The win was Goncalves’s second and he won the nightcap too for a hat trick.
Winning trainer Mac Robertson had a similar take. “There was a little bumping,” he said, “but it was good race.”
And a good decision according to winning rider and trainer.
El Seventyseven finished in :57.36, 1 3/4 lengths in front of Rockin Home, who finished a head in front of Castletown, the second place horse in last year’s race.
While turning back the clock it certainly seems appropriate to recall the first winner of this race, a horse named Auggie My Dad, trained by Tim Muckler and ridden by Hall of Fame rider Scott Stevens.
And Honor the Hero? Oliver is reasonably certain the horse is still alive on a ranch in either South or North Dakota.
THE BULLDOGS WERE A HIT ONCE AGAIN
There was a crowd of 11,323, the majority of them on hand to see the bulldogs race, and they weren’t disappointed.
There was a dead heat for first place in the championship heat after Henry, who got out of the gate slowly, left the ground with a dramatic leap and crossed the finish line still in the air to share the title with Gixxer. “He’s a slow starter,” said Steve Gleason, who owns Henry with his wife Pamela. “But he can run.”
“We tried to get into this race last year but were only reserves and didn’t get to race,” said Josh Blair of Cottage Grove who owns Gixxer with his wife, Melissa
The earlier heats that determined the 12 finalists added their own element to the proceedings.
At first blush, it seemed that diet might have had something to do with the win by Isabella, who simply ran away from the competition in the first heat of the bulldog competition.
“She loves sweet potatoes and salmon,” said one of her owners, Lacey Hoffner of St. Cloud.
Alas, how do you then explain Winston’s narrow victory in heat two?
“He likes to eat underwear,” said co-owner Kate Vogl of Minneapolis.
So much for the diet theory.
Winston does get his vitamin C, however. “Yes, he likes berries and watermelon also,” she added.
Diet seemed to have little if anything to do with the next two heat winners.
Ozzy, owned by Tom and Crystal Haas of Northeast Minneapolis, likes to snack on string cheese and summer sausage, and ran his heart out as Tom shook a Tupperware container full of enticing tidbits.
Henry, owned by the Gleasons of Excelsior, doesn’t have a favorite snack but did consume an entire pan of Rice Krispie bars on one occasion.
So how could you ask for a better Father’s Day _ sunshine, steady breezes to dry the track and surrounding area and, for the ladies and his fans, none other than Toby Keith.
On top of all that, a crowd in excess of 13,000 people.
Keith, you might recall, has had Country-Western hits that include I Love This Bar, Beer for My Horses and I Should’ve Been a Cowboy.
He also had horses in both stakes races on the card, the $75,000 Dark Star Cup and the $75,000Northbound Pride Oaks, although the Oaks was taken off the turf because of the wet conditions. Keith’s Bobcat Jim finished second in the Dark Star. Witch Alert finished out of the money in the Oaks.
That did not seem to affect the fans who gravitated to his vicinity whenever the opportunity arrived after word leaked out about his presence, even though he was dressed so nondescriptly in nylon jacket and Oklahoma cap that his mother might not have recognized him.
Rider James Graham simulated a long drink from the large glass vase trophy after his mount, Ghost is Clear, was in fact clear at the wire to win the Dark Star Cup. Graham sized up the race as he watched a replay. “Watch him, right there, turn it on when I hit him,” he said. And win the race as a result. The winner is owned and trained by Mike Maker.
Early in the card, a bystander said to Seth Martinez as he walked past. “Hey, there, the track’s leading quarter horse rider.” Martinez chuckled and walked on.
Then he rode Ice For The Lady to a win in the Northbound Pride, picking up a nice stakes check for the day, for himself, for trainer Gerald Bennett and owner W. Kenan Rand, Jr.
A FATHER TO BE WINS ON FATHER’S DAY
Kool Wagon has about a year left on the race track and then his days will be relegated entirely to breeding. In the meantime, he’s determined to go out with a bang.
That’s the way it appeared at least in Sunday’s $20,000-added Skip Zimmerman Stakes at 350 yards, a win on Father’s Day for the father to be.
With Stormy Smith in the irons, Kool Wagon was first out of the gate and first at the wire in 17:77 for Stacy Charette-Hill, yes the defending champion quarter horse trainer from 3013.
“It helps to have good horses,” Charette-Hill likes to say. “That’s why I did so well here last year. It’s all about the stock.”
Not much has changed, although the win on Sunday was just her second of the meet – for good reason, but first the details of the race:
Winning rider Stormy Smith was brimming with confidence after the break. “Oh, yeah,” he said. “He broke really well and never looked back.”
The winner is owned by Michael Pohl, an attorney in Montgomery, Texas.
Charette-Hill, meanwhile, got a late start with her training this year to help her husband, Randy Hill, through some medical issues. “Sometimes you have to step away from the horses for your family,” she said.
Thus, she stood in the winner’s circle on Sunday with Hill after claiming her second win of the meet.
A fellow approached Jerry Livingston after the race with the news that the first race winner might blow the Zimmerman result right out of the headlines. Livingston had earlier saddled the winner of the card’s first race, Leadore with Marcus Swiontek up to force a three-way tie for second in the quarter horse trainer standings with his third win of the meet.
BULLDOGS TAKE THE STAGE
The first running of the bulldogs got a response not unlike that afforded the wiener dogs when they race each year.
It goes without saying that there is a distinctive difference in appearance between the two breeds even if they run at about the same clip.
But wiener dogs don’t drool as if they’ve just seen a dripping tenderloin.
Nonetheless, the bulldog owners are every bit as enthusiastic about their animals. The Jordans of Shakopee were hoping for a first place finish from their dog, four-year-old Pork Chop but had to settle for also ran.
The Jordans primed Pork Chop before the race with a few chicken treats, hoping that would provide the difference.
Ah, well, maybe prime rib next time.
Then there was 1 ½-year-old Bella from St. Clout, owned by Adam Stevens and Lacey Hoffner. “I think she got third or fourth,” Adam said afterward.
Many of the jockeys left their lounge to watch the races, including Scott Stevens, who tried to enter his 10-year-old bulldog, Angus, when he arrived at Canterbury this spring.
“The entries were already closed,” he said.
At that disclosure it was mentioned to Stevens that perhaps that might preclude a career later as a trainer. “Ha,” he said. “Good point.”