Quarter Horse Racing Winding Down

Canterbury’s 2012 quarter horse meet has essentially come to a close with only a couple of stakes races remaining. If you’ve become attached to these sprinters, don’t despair: the quarter horse meet at Prairie Meadows begins this weekend and runs through the end of October.

Just four hours away in Altoona, Iowa, Prairie Meadows is a logical next step for some of Canterbury’s quarter horses. The meet includes a long list of unrestricted stakes races, and has attracted some of the best horses in the country; among them, a few notable Canterbury connections.

Prairie Meadows was the home track of champion aged mare Spit Curl Diva winner of multiple graded stakes across the country in her career, including the 2010 Grade 1 Merial Distaff Challenge Championship at the Fair Grounds, the 2010 Grade 1 Refrigerator at Lone Star Park, and the Grade 3 Keokuk Stakes at Prairie Meadows last year, in which Canterbury perennial Six It Up finished third. Six It Up is in her fourth year at Canterbury and most recently appeared in the Cash Caravan Stakes on August 12th, in which she lost by a nose to Streak N Hot.

One of the best older horses in training last year, Jess A Runner, raced at Canterbury before continuing his campaign in Iowa. Jess A Runner, five years old at the time, shipped in for the Great Lakes Stakes, an event for older horses at 440 yards. Jess a Runner not only won, he broke the track record at that distance by nearly a second. Jess A Runner moved to Iowa after that win, where he won the Grade 3 Two Rivers Stakes and settled into the top ten poll of older horses for months to come.

Last year, Prairie Meadows hosted the Valley Junction Futurity, which was the richest quarter horse race ever held at the track to date, with a purse of $229,000. 39 two-year-olds competed in five trials at 350 yards to determine the field for the Grade 3 event, including fastest qualifier One Famous Hero at 17.690. One Famous Hero was the near even-money favorite heading into the final, but he finished fifth. The winner was a certain Pyc Paint Your Wagon filly fresh off her win in Canterbury’s Northlands Futurity: Cruzin the Wagon. Cruzin the Wagon defeated the field by an entire length in 17.481 and earned a 99 speed index.

Cruzin the Wagon appeared at Canterbury earlier that summer for the Northlands Futurity Trials; she won her trial easily and came back to win the $64,000 final, defeating Painted Lies and Red Hot Zoomer, who would each come back as strong three-year-olds in 2012. Cruzin the Wagon was even more impressive at Remington Park this year, winning three of her four starts, including the Grade 3 Jack Brooks Stakes, where she set a track record for 350 yards despite a sloppy surface. She has earned over $280,000 in her 11 starts.

Another familiar name appeared in the Valley Junction: Huckleberry Mojito. Huckleberry Mojito finished third in her trial and entered the final as the tenth fastest qualifier. She had never been worse than third in her four previous starts, but the Feature Mr Jess filly improved substantially as a three-year-old after her disappointing performance in the Valley Junction, and returned as one of the best horses of the 2012 Canterbury meet. Huckleberry is three for three here, including a three-length derby trial victory, a two-length win in the Canterbury Park Quarter Horse Derby, and a win against older fillies and mares in the Race for Hope Bonus Challenge.

The Bonus Challenge was a race open to horses enrolled in the AQHA Bank of America Challenge program. Challenge-nominated horses are eligible to compete in a variety of restricted races across the country, and winners of regional races gather at the end of the year in the Challenge Championship. The final races are the Breeders’ Cup of quarter horse racing, and like the thoroughbred event, the finals are held at different tracks. This year, Prairie Meadows is hosting the final event on Oct 27th. They are also hosting a full set of regional qualifiers, offering local horses the perfect opportunity to qualify for the final event.

Huckleberry Mojito is nominated to this program, and it is a possibility that she will show up for one of these qualifying events to have a chance to run in the final. The only question is, which one? As a three-year-old filly, she has her choice of the Adequan Derby, the Merial Distaff, or even the Bank of America Challenge for three-year-olds and up.

If Huckleberry Mojito continues to improve, one may be able to draw parallels between her and the great Spit Curl Diva. Both based in the Midwest, the two fillies developed later in their career, dominated stakes races against older horses and open company and have set track records. Spit Curl Diva earned a berth in the Merial Distaff Challenge final by winning a regional qualifier at Arapahoe; she returned the following year to qualify for the Bank of America challenge final and later that year, appeared in the Grade 1 Champion of Champions.

The retirement of Spit Curl Diva left big horseshoes to fill in the fillies/mares division, the older horses division, and among graded stakes contenders in general. It is impossible to predict the future, and if possible, even harder to predict the future in horse racing, but Huckleberry Mojito has the breeding, talent, and connections to make a name for herself on the national scene. When she does, you can say that you knew her way back when she raced at Canterbury. In the meantime, follow her and the rest of the pack to Iowa for two months of quality quarter horse racing, and save the date for the Challenge Championships on Oct 27th.

The Cash Caravan Returns

Sunday marks the return of a race that has not been held at Canterbury Park in four years: the Cash Caravan Stakes. The Cash Caravan is restricted to Minnesota-breds, three-year-olds and up, running at the classic distance of 440 yards.

Cash Caravan’s racing career spanned three years; the Welika Cash gelding earned over $80,000 in his 38 lifetime starts and his victories here included the first running of the Minnesota Stallion Breeders’ QH Futurity in 1986 and the 1987 Canterbury Park Quarter Horse Derby. Cash (pictured above) was bred by the late Hall of Fame quarter horse trainer Bob Morehouse, though the horse was retired years before he could have had the opportunity to run in the stakes race named in his breeder’s honor. Cash Caravan himself was the first horse to enter the Canterbury Park Hall of Fame.

Sunday, August 12th: The Cash Caravan Stakes, $19,000, 440 yards

Leading Trainer: Asher Murray (3), Ed Ross Hardy (3)

Leading Jockey: Kym Espy (4)

Record Purse: $25,000, won by Stone Cold Roller in 2007

When the race was last contested in 2008, it was won by Sociabull, a four-year-old gelding trained by Jerry Livingston, ridden by Ry Eikleberry and owned by James Olson. Sociabull made his mark at Canterbury early in his career when he won the $20,000 Minnesota Quarter Horse Futurity as a two-year-old in August of 2006. Sociabull went on to race at Sunland Park, SunRay Park and Ruidoso Downs to wrap up his 27-8-4-1 career.

In 2007, Stone Cold Roller won the Cash Caravan with some familiar connections: owned by Robert and Julie Peterson, the three-year-old gelding was trained by Ed Ross Hardy and ridden by Nik Goodwin, a preview of what would become a particularly profitable trainer/jockey combination in the years to follow. Stone Cold Roller defeated post-time favorite and 2007 Bob Morehouse Memorial Stakes winner First Class Smarty. Sociabull finished fifth in the 2007 race; Stone Cold Roller would run third behind him the following year. Stone Cold Roller stamped his equine passport at over ten tracks in his five-year career, ending with a 37-8-9-4 record and earning over $100,000.

No horse’s record could compete with that of Cracklin Cash in this race, however. James Murray’s gelding won the race three consecutive years, from 2000 to 2002. In 2000 he also won the Minnesota Quarter Horse Derby, and as a two-year-old in 1999 he won both the Minnesota Quarter Horse Futurity and North Central Quarter Horse Racing Association Futurity.

The last time the Cash Caravan was run, some of the horses in this field hadn’t been born yet, including #3 Western Fun (4-1), a three-year-old Tres Seis filly from the Ed Hardy Barn, owned and bred by Robert and Julie Peterson and ridden by Nik Goodwin, who has hit the board in 41 of his 50 quarter horse starts this year. Western Fun is attempting 440 yards for the first time, but the distance shouldn’t be a problem given her mare’s thoroughbred bloodlines. The filly only has two wins in her 13 lifetime starts, neither of which was at Canterbury, but she runs almost exclusively in stakes and trials and has more back-class than many in this field. Her last two efforts earned her second place finishes, each against older horses.

#5 Streak N Hot (3-1) will go up against older horses for the first time; the Hotdoggin colt trained by Dale Hagland is 3 for 11 lifetime and is rarely out of the money at Canterbury. He has yet to match the spectacular form he displayed as a two-year-old, but for the first time this year will be entering a race in the absence of Painted Lies or Huckleberry Mojito, who have each outrun him twice in his four starts this year.

Morning line favorite #4 Six It Up (5-2) returns for yet another stakes appearance. The five-year-old Tres Seis mare has not won a race since June of 2011, but is also the only horse to have run against a national racing champion when she finished third behind Spit Curl Diva in last year’s Grade 3 Keokuk at Prairie Meadows. Whether she can avenge her recent losses to horses in this field remains to be seen, but never leave trainer Amber Blair out of consideration when handicapping quarter horse stakes.

Vic Hanson has trained several upset winners this year and has the perfect opportunity to take this race as well with #1 Cs Arc Light (7-2), a four-year-old colt out by the First Down Dash sire A Regal Choice. Cs Arc Light has come into perfect form late in the meet, having won his last two starts by closing late in the race. His latest victory was the Bob Morehouse Memorial Stakes, in which he defeated Western Fun and Six It Up. Cs Arc Light has not attempted this distance, but in recent races has shown that he finds his stride late in the race, and he may use the extra yards to only pull further away from his competition.

There may not be a horse in this field that has the same kind of cult following as Cash Caravan did in the height of his career, but this race could become a key performance for another talented MN-bred to join him one day in the Hall of Fame.

Good luck, and may the odds be ever in your favor.

This blog was written by AQHA Q-Racing Ace Jen Perkins. Jen travels to tracks across the country to educate fans about handicapping and Quarter Horse racing, and shares her perspective on Canterbury Quarter Horse racing as well as insider information on America’s fastest athletes.