2020 Canterbury Park Live Meet Preview from The Oracle

Opening day of the 2020 Canterbury Park live racing meet is tomorrow, Wednesday, June 10!  That means it’s time to look back at the 2019 Canterbury Park live meet from a statistical standpoint and use that data to help us better predict the outcomes of the 2020 Canterbury Park races.

Also, please note that the Canterbury Pick 5 wager this year is no longer a jackpot bet and it offers the lowest takeout in the country, and likely the universe, of 10%.  This is absolutely the best bet in racing!

Here’s a look at some final statistics for the thoroughbred races run at Canterbury Park in 2019, as we prepare to unlock the 2020 Canterbury Park handicapping puzzle.  Good luck in 2020!

The Favorite

The public correctly selected the winner 39% of the time in all thoroughbred races run at Canterbury Park last year.  That is 1-percentage point above the national average for winning favorites at all racetracks in North America in 2019, and is 3 percentage points above how favorites fared at Canterbury Park in 2018.  The most formful races last year were the races for maiden claimers, which produced winning favorites 49% of the time (37/76).  Despite the high percentage of winning favorites in this category, betting them all still produced a 2% net loss.  This has been a trend that has held up well the past several years.  A lot of favorites seem to get their picture taken in the maiden claiming ranks at Canterbury Park.  Conversely, the maiden special weight races proved to be elusive to the betting public last year, as only 30% of the favorites in that category prevailed.  Let’s see if that trend carries forward to 2020.

The Odds

Last year, heavy favorites that were bet down to 7/5 odds or lower won 152 races out of 332 attempts.  That’s a 46%-win rate, but it also shows that these “locks” lost more often than they won.

On the other end of the spectrum, there were 12 winners at 20-1 odds or higher last year, but over 800 runners went to post at those high odds.  Betting them all would have returned a paltry 38 cents on the dollar.  Historically, Canterbury Park has not been a “longshot” paradise, and last year 78% of the thoroughbred races were won by horses at odds below 6-1.

The “sweet spot” for win betting last year was the 6-1/7-1 odds range.  That was a break-even proposition for the 343 runners if you played them all.

The Jockeys

Francisco Arrieta won his first riding title at Canterbury Park last year as he led all jockeys with 79 wins.  Orlando Mojica finished second with 74 wins and Ry Eikleberry was third with 60 wins.

Arrieta won with 23% of his mounts last year, and returned 95 cents on the dollar overall.  When the leading rider is still able to beat the takeout by 12 percentage points, that indicates that it is still possible to find some value out there for his mounts.  We will see if the public is more tuned in to Arrieta in 2020, as he figures to be in contention for leading rider once again.  He was solid with favorites (43% winners) and he showed a flat bet profit in dirt sprints (ROI = $1.07) and turf routes (ROI = $1.03).  His win percentage on the dirt was higher than on the turf last year (26% to 16%).  Also, Arrieta was 0/18 with horses above 20-1, but he did bring in a 19-1 winner in a dirt sprint.

As of now, Orlando Mojica will not be back at Canterbury Park this summer, but 2018 leading rider Ry Eikleberry is returning after finishing third in the standings last year.  Eikleberry has had a lot of success at Canterbury over the years, and he attracts a lot of wagering dollars.  Therefore, finding value with his mounts is a difficult task.  Wagering on all of Eikleberry’s mounts last year would have returned only 74 cents on the dollar.  He rode 91 favorites last year, winning with 29 of them (32% win and ROI = 0.73).  Eikleberry has a reputation as an excellent gate jockey who puts his mounts on the lead.  Therefore, it’s no surprise that his best category has historically been in dirt sprints.  Last year was no exception as he won with 23% of his mounts in sprint mounts and beat the takeout by 8 percentage points.

Of the top 10 jockeys last year, Quincy Hamilton led all riders with an ROI of 0.96.  The “flaming wallet” award went to Constantino Roman, who’s mounts returned only 40 cents on the dollar in 2019.

The Trainers

For the past several years, McLean Robertson and Robertino Diodoro have battled it out for leading trainer honors at Canterbury Park, with Robertson prevailing last year 73 wins to 71 wins.  Both trainers have their strengths which tend to carry over from year to year.

Mac Robertson won with 25% of his starters last year, including 42% of the time his horses were favored.  Robertson showed a flat bet profit in dirt routes and maiden claiming races, and easily beat the takeout in allowance races and maiden special weight races.  Historically, Robertson has not been one to win with longshots at Canterbury Park, as his highest price winner last year paid $23 dollars.  Roberston was especially strong last year with his fillies and mares, winning with 33 of 90 (37%) with an ROI of 1.19 for every dollar wagered.  Expect another strong performance by Robertson in 2020, as he looms the favorite to repeat as leading trainer once again.

Robertino Diodoro won with 26% of his starters last year, and also won with 42% of his horses that went to post as the favorite.  In a rare feat, betting on Diodoro favored runners to place and show last year produced a positive ROI of 1.07 and 1.05, respectively.  Diodoro’s main game is claiming races and that is where he is the most dangerous.  He won with 31% (44 of 144) of his claiming runners last year, showing an ROI of 1.10 for every dollar wagered.  Diodoro’s highest price winner last year was 14-1, and he had 3 winners of 8-1 and higher from 39 tries.  He did not have much luck in the maiden special weight ranks, winning just 1 race in 19 attempts and the winner paid $4.  Expect him to be near the top of the trainer standings throughout the season.

Honorable mention goes to Tony Rengstorf who had 25 wins at Canterbury and posted a positive ROI of 1.11 for all his mounts.  Rengstorf was an impressive 60% with favorites (12/20 and ROI 1.41) and also posted a positive ROI with longshots 8-1 and higher (7/70 and ROI 1.27).  His highest price winner last meet was 16-1.

The “flaming wallet” award went to Valerie Lund, with an ROI last year of 0.61.  While she was dominant with favorites (7/9 and ROI 1.62) thanks in large part to her top runner Mr. Jagermeister, she was only 1/50 at 8-1 and higher last year at Canterbury (ROI = 0.18).

Best of luck playing the 2020 live racing meet at Canterbury Park!

by The Oracle

2018 Leading Thoroughbred Jockey Ry Eikleberry

Ry Eikleberry won the 2018 thoroughbred jockey title at Canterbury Park, a feat he also accomplished in 2014. Last season he won 87 races from 441 mounts, a healthy 20 percent clip. His mounts earned $1.714 million in purses, the third highest in Canterbury history. Ry has returned to Shakopee with his eye on another title.

The 5-foot-9-inch rider began racing at Arapahoe Park in suburban Denver when he was just 16-years-old and came to Canterbury a year later in 2006. Since then, he has had more than 13,000 career starts, riding both thoroughbred and quarter horses, and won more than 2,250 races.

He won the quarter horse title at Canterbury three times from 2008 through 2010.

Eikleberry also is a jockey on the New Mexico circuit in the fall, winter, and spring. After riding here opening night he flew there the next morning to ride Saturday and Sunday at Sunland Park.

The fourth-generation horseman grew up in Cave Creek, Arizona watching his father and grandfather raise and train racehorses. “I loved to spend my summers in the barn helping my dad and learning new things,” he said. He also enjoyed spending time at Turf Paradise where the family ran horses.

Ry met his future wife Jilique during his first year at Canterbury. The couple now has two daughters, Revy and Roan.

The Oracle Provides Insight

By The Oracle

The 2019 live racing season is upon us!  Every year brings a unique excitement for the season to come, as horses arrive from all parts of the country.  The ever-challenging handicapping puzzle brings these horses together, and it’s up to us to predict what will happen once the gates open.

Here’s a look at some final statistics for the thoroughbred races run at Canterbury Park in 2018, as we prepare to unlock the 2019 Canterbury Park handicapping puzzle.  Good luck in 2019!

The Favorite

The public correctly selected the winner 36% of the time in all thoroughbred races run at Canterbury Park last year.  That is 1-percentage point below the national average for winning favorites at all racetracks in North America in 2018, and is consistent with how favorites fared at Canterbury Park in 2017.  The most formful races last year were the races for 2-year-olds, which produced winning favorites 47% of the time (15/32).  Conversely, the claiming races proved to be elusive to the betting public last year, as only 32% of the favorites prevailed.

The Odds

Last year, heavy favorites that were bet down to 7/5 odds or lower won 141 races out of 314 attempts.  That’s a 45% win rate, but it also shows that these “locks” lost more often than they won.

On the other end of the spectrum, there were 14 winners at 20-1 odds or higher last year, but nearly 1,000 runners went to post at those high odds.  Historically, Canterbury Park has not been a “longshot” paradise, and last year 78% of the thoroughbred races were won by horses at odds below 6-1.

The Jockeys

Ry Eikleberry and Orlando Mojica battled it out for the riding title last year, with Eikleberry prevailing 87 to 79.

Despite the win total, Eikleberry was not a profitable jockey to wager blindly on last year, as his mounts only returned $0.70 on the dollar.  He was solid with favorites though, (42% winners) and he showed a flat bet profit in dirt routes with a 27% win rate and an ROI of $1.05 for every dollar wagered.

Orlando Mojica had a slightly better ROI of $0.78 with his mounts.  His most profitable category was in turf sprints (<1 mile) where he won 25% of the time with a positive ROI of $1.26 for every dollar wagered.

Neither Eikleberry nor Mojica were known as longshot riders last year.  Combined, they were 5 for 190 with an ROI hovering around $0.30 on the dollar.

The Trainers

McLean Robertson and Robertino Diodoro tied for the top trainer honors last year with 57 wins.  Both trainers have their strengths which tend to carry over from year to year.

Mac Robertson won with 24% of his starters last year, including 38% of the time his horses were favored.  Robertson showed a flat bet profit in turf routes, and easily beat the takeout in State-bred races and maiden special weight races.  Historically, Robertson has not been one to win with longshots at Canterbury Park, as he was only 4% with horses off at 8-1 and higher last year and those plays returned only $0.34 for every dollar wagered.  Robertson is also campaigning Amy’s Challenge, who was voted the Canterbury Park Horse of the Meet in 2017, and is currently one of the fastest female sprinters in the country.  Expect another strong performance by Robertson in 2019, as he looms the favorite to repeat as leading trainer once again.

Robertino Diodoro won with 23% of his starters last year, but only won with 28% of his horses that went to post as the favorite.  Diodoro’s main game is claiming races and that is where he is the most dangerous.  He won with 29% of his claimers and maiden claimers last year, showing a flat bet profit in both categories.  Diodoro’s highest price winner last year was 9-1, so he is another trainer not prone to connect with longshots.  Expect him to be near the top of the trainer standings throughout the season.

Good luck playing the 2019 live racing meet at Canterbury Park!

Ry Eikleberry Approaches A Milestone

Jockey Ry Eikleberry‘s professional riding career began in 2005, at the age of 16, at Araphoe Park in suburban Denver. His first victory came that summer with his eighth mount on July 8 aboard Chopins Crescendo, trained by his father Kevin Eikleberry, who owned the gelding along with former NBA player and coach Dan Issel. Ry’s connection to Chopins Crescendo ran deeper than just that win. He foaled the colt at his family’s farm in Arizona three years earlier.

Fast forward to today as Eikleberry nears a milestone. He has 1,996 thoroughbred wins and will attempt to reach 2,000 before the year ends as he rides at Sunland Park beginning Saturday. Add to that record 202 quarter horse wins and you have a journeyman rider that has had no problem finding the winner’s circle no matter where the sport has taken him.

Many thought he would not have a long riding career due to his size. At five feet nine inches he is taller than most. “A lot of people told me I wouldn’t ride all that long,” he said. He practiced a disciplined diet at an early age and works hard to maintain riding weight. “I’ve always been thin, so that helps too,” he said.

Eikleberry arrived at Canterbury Park in 2006 and won his first race in Shakopee early that meet riding for trainer Justin Evans. He also became skillful with the quarter horses, winning his first mount aboard Sociabull for trainer Jerry Livingston. They teamed up again later that meet to win the Minnesota Quarter Horse Futurity. Eikleberry went on to win three quarter horse riding titles in Shakopee, from 2008 to 2010.

He broke into the Top 5 of Canterbury thoroughbred riders for the first time in 2008 and stayed there in all but one season, winning the riding title for the first time in 2014. Following that season, Eikleberry did not return to the Canterbury colony on a regular basis until this past season where he again won the thoroughbred riding title with 87 victories and a meet leading $1.7 million in purse earnings.

Eikleberry will turn 30 in January and plans to continue riding into the future. “I started my professional career at 16. Many people do not start working until 23 or 24. So I’ve been at it a relatively long time already.”

Eikleberry has eight mounts Saturday, three Sunday, and six Tuesday at Sunland. On Monday he will squeeze in a trip to Turf Paradise where he is named on four horses for his father. Somewhere in there could be four wins or more.

“I hope to get it done this weekend,” he said.

Eikleberry will return to ride in Shakopee for the 2019 season.

Canterbury Park Live Racing Season Concludes Friday and Saturday

Purses and handle reach record numbers

Canterbury Park’s 2018 live racing season concludes with 13 races Friday and 14 on Saturday. In all, 318 horses have been entered for the final two days where more than $660,000 in purses will be awarded, bringing total purse disbursement during the 70-day season to record heights of more than $15.2 million, an average of approximately $220,000 per day.

Total handle, the amount of money bet on each live program, will also reach a new high. Through last Saturday, nearly $45 million, including on and off track dollars, has been wagered on Canterbury’s races, a jump of 9.4 percent compared to last season.

“We have had a very good summer of racing with solid attendance and wagering,” Canterbury President Randy Sampson said. “The month of May was difficult due to weather but we quickly hit our stride and made great gains in June, July, August, and September. We will conclude the meet with an exceptional two days of racing.”

Increases in purse payments is a direct result of a 2012 cooperative purse enhancement and marketing agreement between Canterbury and the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community which owns and operates Mystic Lake Casino Hotel, located just three miles south of the racetrack. The agreement, which calls for $75 million to be added to purses over 10 years, immediately drew the attention of racehorse owners and bolstered the state breeding program.

The increase in the quality of racing at the Shakopee, Minn. racetrack produced a rise in handle as more horseplayers took notice locally and nationally. Total handle has more than doubled since 2010, the last full racing season prior to the SMSC agreement, with revenues from the increased wagering also helping to grow purses.

“Our partnership with SMSC has been tremendous for the racing industry in Minnesota,” Sampson said. “Racing and breeding in the state can be done with confidence.”

Friday’s program begins at 5:00 p.m. and Saturday’s at 12:45 p.m. General admission is $7 for adults. Children 17 and younger are admitted free. Additional information is available at www.canterburypark.com .

Jockey Ry Eikleberry, with 83 victories, enters the final weekend with a 10-win lead over Orlando Mojica. Eikleberry last won the riding title in 2014.

Mac Robertson, who has won 11 training titles at Canterbury, leads Robertino Diodoro by three wins, 53 to 50. Robertson has entered 29 horses for the final two days while Diodoro, who has twice been top trainer, has 28.

Trainer, Owner Races Nip and Tuck

BY JIM WELLS

The autumnal atmosphere that settled over Shakopee on Saturday hinted at a variety of things immediately ahead, none more pressing to the riders and horsemen than closing day.

There are travel plans to be completed, respites to be taken and, for some, immediate hookups with trainers and agents where needed after the Canterbury meet concludes with cards next Friday and Saturday.

Without fear of overstatement, we can say this: It is impossible to surpass the weather that greeted race-goers on Saturday, the best of the entire meet.

How does 72 degrees, a 16 mph breeze and 39 percent humidity grab you !

It grabbed the riders, the grooms, the valets and the trainers just fine, and several small-time dramas began their final scenes under those conditions. Trainer, rider and owner championships are still on the line.

The race for leading rider is probably settled, but don’t tell Orlando Mojica, who began the day trailing Ry Eikleberry for the lead by 11 wins.

That story-line picked up an additional layer in the first race when Mojica won aboard Jonny’s Choice but then was taken down because his whip struck the second-place horse, ridden by _ yup _ Eikleberry.

Mojica shook his head afterward, saying that in his entire career _ 19 years _ he had never before been taken down for such an infraction.

“I guess there’s a first time for everything,” he said.

In the very next race, Mojica took Jack Mormon gate to wire to erase that earlier mistake, yet…had he kept better control of his whip, Eikleberry’s lead at the juncture would have been nine, and suddenly we would have had the start of a conversation, particularly because Mojica also rode the winner of the third race, Star of Kobol.

The trainer’s race is offering much more drama, with Mac Robertson starting the day with a two-win lead over Robertino Diodoro.

Diodoro would have had wins in two of the first three races, but it was his horse, Jonny’s Choice, that was taken down in the opener. Robertson put his lead back at two with a win from First Hunter in race four and increased it to three when Jareth Loveberry brought in Hurricane Force in race six.

Eikleberry’s itinerary will keep him busy in the days following the Canterbury meet. There is first a trip to Hot Springs, Ark., for his sister-in-law’s marriage. Immediately after Jenna Joubert’s marriage to Terry Thompson, he will depart for Zia Race Track and begin working horses upon his arrival.

LEADING OWNERS

The race for leading owner will come down to the final day as well.  Joe Novogratz began the day with 14 wins, one more than Miguel Silva and two ahead of Charles Garvey.

Garvey lost a win when his Jonny’s Choice was taken down but picked one up with Star of Kobol in race three, as did Silva with Gabo in race five, to move into a tie for second place.

A FINAL WORD ON WEATHER

There is surely something unfair about the best weather of the entire meeting being analyzed in some quarters as a harbinger of unpleasant things to come, yet that is exactly how Minnesota pessimists consider it. Instead of basking in the most glorious weather of year, they think, instead, of what it precedes. “Yeah, we all know what comes next,” the perpetual grouches respond.

If anyone projected beyond Saturday’s 72 degrees, 16 mph breeze and 38 percent humidity, he should be rounded up, drawn and quartered and his severed limbs sent to the far corners of the country, just as those of Mel Gibson once were.

22nd Annual Dog Days Handicapping Contest & more….

The 22nd annual Dog Days of Summer Handicapping Tournament takes place this Saturday and Sunday. The event dates back to the 90s before handicapping contests were as popular as they have become today.  Dog Days is perhaps the first, but most certainly the longest running, live bankroll contest in the country.

In the early years, cash was the main prize. One year the winner received entry to the old World Series of Handicapping at Penn National, at the time one of the most prestigious contests going.  The National Horseplayers Championship , sponsored by the NTRA, came along soon after that and since then the coveted NHC seats have been the prize to the top two Dog Days players. A couple of years ago, a $10,000 entry to the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge was added to the winning prize.

Here are the details:

$650 Entry of which:

$150 is Entry Fee

$100 to prize pool

$400 for Live Bankroll betting

First prize: $10,000 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge (BCBC) entry AND National Horseplayers Championship (NHC*) entry plus 15% of prize pool.

Second prize: NHC* entry plus 35% of prize pool.
*To be eligible to win an NHC berth, entrants must be NHC Tour members. NHC membership is $50

Third: 25% of prize pool

Fourth: 17.5% of prize pool

Fifth: 7.5% of prize pool

The contest rules allow entrants to wager, using the $400 bankroll, on any track and pool offered throughout the day on Saturday. On Sunday, the same rules apply but the contest ends around 5:30 or 6pm. Each entrant must wager at least $200 each day.

The entrants with the largest bankrolls at the conclusion win the prizes.

Here are the complete rules.

On Friday, handicappers also have a chance to win one of two NHC entries via the Ultimate NHC Qualifier.  Entry fee is $500 of which 4400 is live bankroll.  In use is the Ultimate Format where entrants wager at least half of the bankroll in each of six mandatory Canterbury races. All the details can be found here.

Odds and Ends

With just four days of racing remaining, the battle for top thoroughbred trainer could not be any more intense. Mac Robertson, who leads by one with 49, erased a six-win deficit over four days of racing and passed Robertino Diodoro. Both are firing with quality horses the next two days.

The owner title is up for grabs as well. Novogratz Racing Stables, who employs Robertson, has 14 wins. Silva Racing and trainer Miguel Silva has 13. Diodoro trains for Charles Garvey who has 12 wins. One more back are the Butzows.

Orlando Mojica would need to really tear it up to catch Ry Eikleberry in the jockey standings. Ry is 10 in front and would have to go ice cold not to hang on.

Nominations to the four stakes on closing weekend, Sept. 14 and 15, can be found here.

Pigskins & Ponies
PICK 6 CONTEST
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In this free to enter contest, you can win cash prizes each Sunday from Sept. 9 to Dec. 30.
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To win, you have to handicap six select races and choose which of two horses will have the better finish. Then, choose the winning team from six select NFL games.

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Get your selections in by noon on Sundays to get your dose of football and horse racing action with our Pigskin & Ponies Pick 6!

Bushrod Wins 1st Mystic Lake Turf Express

By Jim Wells

Only in horse racing do the storylines sometimes seem to come out of a children’s storybook, heroes emerging from unlikely places under unusual circumstance;  little guys being lifted to the level of those who dominate the world up above; heartwarming tales of the men and women who keep the world turning but are seldom given a share of the spotlight.

It happens, though, on the racetrack and the biggest race of the night Saturday, the first running of the $100,000 Mystic Lake Turf Express at five furlongs, is a first-hand example.

The winner, Bushrod, wasn’t overlooked at 7/2. He was given his share of respect in a contentious field of seven. Yet, you can’t help a slight grin, a positive nod of the head when you consider his story.

Originally handled by Canterbury Park Hall of Fame trainer Doug Oliver, Bushrod was claimed by Hall of Fame conditioner Mac Robertson and then by Judd Becker for $18,000 on May 11 at Arlington Park.

Becker trains a handful of horses at his farm outside Pardeeville, Wisconsin, 30 miles north of Madison. He races largely in Chicago but likes taking the 4 ½-hour trip to Canterbury Park on occasion, as he did for Saturday’s race.

He arrived with this thought in mind. “We thought we had a chance.”

With good reason. Bushrod beat a horse named Good By Greg _ a real monster, Becker said _ on August 12 in a 5 1/2 furlong race in Chicago.

“That horse would have been the favorite if he had run here in this race,” he added.

Saturday’s race was a half-furlong shorter, and Bushrod loved it. Although he was slowed in tight quarters leaving the gate, he essentially went gate-to-wire under Quincy Hamilton, holding off a late bid from Show Bound (5/2) under Francisco Arrieta to win by  three-quarter lengths in 56.20.  Fireman Oscar (16-1) was next, three-quarter lengths out of second.

Creative Art, the leading thoroughbred at Canterbury throughout much of the meet, had won four straight races this summer on the dirt, but is now 0-5 on the turf after finishing in front of only Sky T on Saturday.

 

    $50,000 BROOKS FIELDS STAKES

Gate to wire under the leading rider in Shakopee in what is being called perhaps the best race of the 2018 meet.

Ibaka

.           That sizes up the effort of Ibaka and the ride given him by Ry Eikleberry in a a thrilling four-horse finish that drew a collective gasp from the enthusiastic crowd.

Here is what it looked like at the wire:

Ibaka, in 1:35.27,  a head in front of Majestic Pride, a half length in front of Hay Dakota, who had a head on Patriots Rule.

“One of the best races of the meet,” said director of racing Andrew Offerman.

“Yeah, it was a good one,” said Eikleberry. “I knew there was a ton of them together at the wire.”

Most of the fans in attendance needed the results of the photo to determine if they should celebrate or moan, but Scott Garrison, assistant to trainer Francisco Bravo did not.

“I thought his head was there first,” he said. “He’s a very big hearted horse and Ry gave him such a good ride.”

The horses around him were closing hard, but Ibaka had enough, just enough, to hold them off in a scintillating finish.

           $50,000 MINNESOTA HBPA DISTAFF

Late to the paddock but not to the wire.

That sums up jockey Leslie Mawing’s itinerary before and during this race for three-year-old and older fillies and mares.

Mawing’s arrival in the paddock was delayed _ for a call of nature _ but there was nothing late about the wire-to-wire effort of Molecules. The three-year-old filly angled inside from the break and stayed there until the wire, holding off a late, hard charging effort from defending champion Beach Flower to win by a head, with a time of 1:35.63. In third, another 1 ½ lengths out of second was Some Say So, the Princes Elaine winner.

This was a family enterprise. The owner, Morgan Thilo, was home in Indiana with sick children, so her mother, Dawn Fontenot, who once trained the horse, took over in her absence, with her mother Jackie Todhunter along for support.

And best yet, the winning horse was a gift, from the former owner who became ill, to Fontenot, who gave up training because of a conflict of interest; her boyfriend is the starter on the gate back in Indiana.

“It really is a family effort,” said Fontenot, who got the horse last October.

       INDIAN RACES ALL IN THE FAMILY

An accident on the racetrack sidelined Brew Crew rider Brian Beetum in Friday night’s semifinal round of competition.

So, 18-year-old Sylvan Brown took over in Saturday’s championship round and wound up a winner.

Brown, it so happens, is a nephew to Beetum.

In what was perhaps the best Relay Race competition in its six years, Brew Crew brought home another title, and the team stood in the winner’s circle afterward, posing for pictures while admiring the buckles awarded them for the championship.

How long has Brown been competing? He wasn’t certain. “I’ve been doing this, riding, since I was very young,” he said.

Brew Crew represents the Oglala band of the Sioux Nation on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota.

Brew Crew and Little Badger, a Blackfeet team, battled it out over the final mile of the three-mile race.

The win should make the 10-hour drive home a bit easier to take for Brown and the rest of the Oglala crew: mugger Will Brewer, back holder Steve Brewer, Jr., and team captain and set-up man Stanley Brewer, Jr.

RELAY CONSOLATION CHAMPIONSHIP

Riley Prescott was beaming afterward.

He had just wrapped up the consolation for Omak Express, beating out the Long Feather team from Standing Rock and rider Jace Long Feather.

Prescott overtook Long Feather during the final mile, letting him take the lead by design.

“I knew he was going to blow out his horse, so I just let him go past me,” Prescott said.

Wednesday Night Racing Joins Scene

BY JIM WELLS

Something is about to happen at Canterbury Park that hasn’t taken place since the facility was known as Canterbury Downs.

Wednesday racing.

Wednesday cards were a regular occurrence in the Downs days, at least when the allure of racing and pari mutuel betting were new to the sports scene in Minnesota and there was no competition for the wagering dollar.

For the most part _ with certain exceptions, such as this summer when the Fourth of July fell on a Wednesday _ Canterbury Park has conducted a Thursday through Sunday schedule.

That changes with the next four Wednesdays replacing Sundays during August, post time, 6:30 p.m..

The reason is simple economics. “The four  Sundays in August last year were the worst four Sundays of the entire meet,” said director of racing Andrew Offerman, referring to attendance and wagering.

The reasons seem clear, Offerman added, and are distinctly Minnesotan. Families are closing up the cabins on weekends and preparing for the return to school, the Minnesota Vikings begin training camp and, of course, the Minnesota State Fair takes place in August.

“There weren’t enough people here on some Sundays last August to get a decent fight going,” quipped one trainer.

The change has some horsemen confident or at least hopeful that it will have positive results.

“Horsemen don’t like working nights,” said trainer Valorie Lund, “but this is our business. This is what we choose to do. And this is something that could work. I hope it does.”

There is considerably less simulcast competition on Wednesdays, so the hope is, Offerman said,  that Canterbury will corner a piece of that market while gaining additional exposure for its racing on other days of the week as well.

The change might also attract a live audience unable to attend other days of the week.

Trainer Mike Biehler was clearly optimistic about the changes. “I’ll bet it works,” he said. “I don’t know about the live crowd, but it should really help the simulcast wagering, running on that day especially.”

So  today’s (July 29) card is the last on Sunday of the meet, with one exception _ the Festival of Racing on September 2.

RACING

A conversation took place in the winner’s circle Saturday regarding the race for leading rider.

Ry Eikleberry, the leading thoroughbred rider in 2014, has set the pace from the start this meet and seems clearly headed to a second title with a single caveat.

“I think it’s his if he stays healthy,” went the argument.

“I think so, too,” was the response.

The conversation took place with Eikleberry having ridden one winner on the card. He would ride four before the day ended.

With 25 days left in the scheduled 70-day meet, Eikleberry has built a 15-win lead in the standings.

Two of his four winners Saturday are conditioned by Miguel Silva.

His win in the third race with Path of Exile required constant urging to overtake Vested Creek inside the final 16th.

Path Of Exile

“Yeah, he fired a little and the other horse stopped. A perfect combination,” Eikleberry said.

Silva had another take. “That’s why he’s the leading rider,” he said.

Belmont’s Size Makes It A Rider’s Race

BY JIM WELLS

It is one-of-a-kind, the only racetrack in the United States with such vast dimensions, awe-inspiring if not intimidating to anyone who has not dealt with its sweeping turns and long straightaways.

Its forbidding size can swallow a horse and rider whole if he’s not prepared, doesn’t calculate its differences and transfer them to what he asks of his mount.

It is the Green Monster of racetracks and has brought great horses and riders to their knees when they haven’t understood its idiosyncrasies.

Belmont Park.

Differences? A mile and 1/8 is a one-turn race at Belmont. A mile race begins in front of the grandstand on Canterbury Park’s mile oval. It begins near the start of the backstretch at Belmont.

“The turns are so big, way bigger than on a mile track,” said former Canterbury riding champion Scott Stevens, who has raced there. “The half mile pole sits where the 3/8ths is on a normal (mile) track.”

Thus, the Belmont Stakes is often referred to as a rider’s race and Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith, of course, finds himself the center of attention in that regard, paired as he is with Justify and a chance at the Triple Crown.

Smith won the first riding title at Canterbury Downs in 1985 while serving out his apprenticeship, was second to Sandy Hawley in 1986 and rode only half of the meet the following year, when he began testing other, larger venues on the East and West Coasts.

He has won the most Breeders’ Cup races (26) in history and has two wins in each of the Triple Crown races, among countless other achievements.

“Mike Smith is a real pro, one of the best if not the best,” said five-time Canterbury riding champ Dean Butler. “I’ve always admired him.”

That was Butler’s way of saying that Smith’s talent and experience will serve him well, enable him to deal with whatever challenges he encounters.

At a 1 ½ miles, a sense of pace is crucial. “You have to know how much horse you have under you and how much you have left,” Butler added. “And if you go too slow, there’s a good chance your horse won’t come back to you. You have to be aggressive and patient at the same time.”

Canterbury champ Ry Eikleberry sizes up the race and sees the possibility of what is sometimes known as paralysis through analysis, creating too many scenarios for yourself.

“You don’t want to overthink it too much,” he said. “Obviously, this horse (Justify) has a lot of speed and I don’t think you can change his running style,” Eikleberry said.

Eikleberry’s thought is to let the horse run his race, to do what he’s good at. “Don’t take his tactical speed away,” he explained. The best approach, he says, is simply to let Justify do his thing. There are scenarios, of course, that might take this Triple Crown contender out of contention __ say, if he gets trapped in a speed duel.

Stevens hadn’t seen the past performances but offered this thought on that possibility:

“My concern is that they might send someone out there to kill him off,” he said. “I think he’s the best horse and I don’t know that he has to be on the lead, though.”

Too fast, too early and the long stretch drive might become insurmountable for the frontrunners as they give way to horses closing from behind.

There is another scenario, Stevens points out, should no one challenge Justify and give him early ground.

“He’s the kind of horse that if he gets a big lead we just might have another Secretariat,” he added. (Secretariat won by a record 31 lengths in record time on the dirt of 2:24.) “He might open up so far that nobody can catch him.”

Everything points to a Justify win, his heritage, speed, toughness, heart, talent…so much so that a countervailing axiom has taken hold in some racing minds:

He looks like a sure winner, so he’s bound to lose.  What seems more likely is that Belmont itself will play a role in the outcome.