Brooks Fields Stakes on Tap

Brooks FieldsWhen you walk into Churchill Downs the history of its most famous race is displayed along the upper reaches of the grandstand outside the paddock, one Kentucky Derby winner after another, starting with Aristides in 1875.

Thoroughbred racing is empty without its history, without the stories of its great horses, sires and broodmares, jockeys, trainers and founding figures.

Brooks Fields is one of them, a man who forever will be associated with Canterbury Downs and the arrival of pari-mutuel racing in Minnesota in 1985. It is not a stretch to call him ‘Founding Father.’ It seems the perfect appellation under any circumstances but even more so on Father’s Day.

He will be remembered again on Sunday, as he is each year, with the running of the Brooks Fields Stakes, a $50,000 race this time thanks to a $15,000 endowment from the Mystic Lake Purse Enhancement Fund.

Fields made his mark in the grain business and took on horse racing as a retirement endeavor. An entire industry is indebted to him for that commitment and will salute before and after the eighth race.

The likely favorite in the 7 and ½ furlong dash on the grass is 4-year-old colt Hammers Terror, the Kentucky-bred winner of the inaugural Mystic Lake Derby last summer who has shipped in from Arlington Park. Winless in two starts this year, in five since the Derby, Hammers Terror will be ridden by locally based Dean Butler.

The chief competition will likely emerge from the Mac Robertson barn, a horse named Slip and Drive who shares blood with the favorite. Both are by Artie Schiller.

Red Lead’s speed makes him part of this picture, too. Lori Keith, who rode Hammers Terror in the Mystic Lake Derby, has the mount here.

Meanwhile, family members and friends will be on hand for the Brooks Fields Stakes. Sarah Neesan, Brooks’ daughter, will present the trophy to the winning connections after the race.

Fields had a reputation as a people person. “They were his passion,” said Sarah. “He loved people.”

Even though he knew little about horse racing when he set the groundwork for its place in Minnesota, he learned to love the sport as well.

SKIP ZIMMERMAN MEMORIAL STAKES

Another tribute on today’s card will honor Skip Zimmerman, a former owner who was once the president of the Minnesota Quarter Horse Racing Association.

HUCKLEBERRY MOJITO

The $20,000-added race has drawn a field of eight for the 350-yard event. A 4-year-old filly named Huckleberry Mojito (above), trained by Ed Ross Hardy and ridden by Nick Goodwin gets a slight nod over the competition here. Mojito proved dominant last summer at Canterbury notching victories in the Canterbury Derby and Fillies Race for Hope Distaff.

Iris Cartelsbadnews, Bf Farm Boy and Red Hot Zoomer, another Hardy horse, are the likely challengers.

The MQHRA will honor its former president with this edition of the annual race. Zimmerman grew up with horses in North Dakota and got into the racing business in the early 1970s .

LOCAL IDOL GETS OUTSIDE TEST

Maybe more compelling than the feature race on Sunday is the matchup of 2012 Canterbury Horse of the Year Heliskier (below) outside of state-bred competition for the first time.

Heliskier

Unbeaten in seven starts, Heliskier is the prohibitive favorite in an 11-horse field, his largest to date.

Owned by Marlene Colvin, trained by Robertson and ridden by Derek Bell, the 4-year-old gelding is by Appealing Skier from Plana Dance.

RIDER, TRAINER WIN FOUR OF SIX MYSTIC LAKE FUTURITY TRIAL RACES

Hall of Fame rider Scott Stevens had back-to-back winners on the card, piloting The Flying Whizzer at 17-1 to the winner’s circle in the second race. Stevens was on the winner in the very next race, too, Sentiment Gray.

ML Futurity Trial

Jockey Jorge Torres and trainer Stacy Charette-Hill won four of Saturday’s six quarter horse trial races for the $133,525 Mystic Lake Northlands Futurity. Charette- Hill qualified five of her six runners for the July 5 final, including fastest qualifier High Ace (pictured above) who covered the 350-yard distance in 17.692 seconds.

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.

Photo: Coady Photography

Quarter Horse Racing Set to Begin

Quarter Horse racing officially kicks off at Canterbury this weekend! Trials for the Minnesota Stallion Breeders’ and NCQHRA Derby will be held on Sunday, and Monday’s race card features the $15,000 Added Skip Zimmerman Memorial Stakes.

Monday, May 28th: Skip Zimmerman Memorial Stakes, Race 9

Leading Trainer: Ed Ross Hardy, 4 wins

Leading Jockey: Ry Eikleberry and Tad Leggett, 3 wins each

Record Purse: $30,600 in 2008; winner, Silver Fastbac

In 2011, Mr Hempens Feature (pictured above) brought home a victory for owner Cynthia Besser, trainer Brent Clay, and jockey Ry Eikleberry. The Feature Mr Jess colt covered the 350 yards in 17.452, narrowly missing the track record of 17.411. This record was set by the winner of the 2009 running of the same race, Whirling Cleat. Mr Hempens Feature defeated post time favorite A Sweet Gamble by over two lengths in 2011, preventing the filly from scoring consecutive wins after her Zimmerman victory in 2010.

This open race has attracted competitive fields and produced high-performing horses. After his 2011 win, Mr Hempens Feature finished fourth in the G3 Two Rivers Stakes at Prairie Meadows behind first place finisher Jess A Runner. In 2010, A Sweet Gamble went on to win the $40,000 Iowa Double Gold Derby that fall, and her lifetime earnings topped $150,000 in her 19 starts.

The field for Monday will not disappoint, drawing nine horses from across the country. Several have been racing at Remington and Hialeah this year; others will be starting for the first time since their 2011 campaigns at Lone Star, Prairie Meadows and Canterbury.

The advantage in this event may go to horses that have previously raced over this track, including #8 Red Hot Zoomer (9-2), the three-year-old Azoom filly that was second in the NCQHRA Futurity and fourth in the Northlands Futurity last summer. She is the youngest horse in the race, but has run exclusively in trials, stakes or allowance races since breaking her maiden in her debut. She excels at 350 yards, hitting the board in six of her seven attempts at this distance.

To her inside is another Canterbury veteran, #7 Six It Up (8-1), who finished a length behind Mr Hempens Feature in the 2011 running of this race. Six It Up is a Tres Seis mare with 20 lifetime starts and six wins, including the Bob Morehouse Memorial Stakes at Canterbury in 2010. She finished third in the Keokuk Stakes at Prairie Meadows behind 2011 Champion Aged Mare Spit Curl Diva. Five of her six wins have been at Canterbury, and she has only missed the board once in her nine lifetime starts here.

A case can be made for each of the horses in this field, and the shippers look particularly tough. #4 Wheres Your Wagon (4-1) last raced in 2011 at Prairie Meadows, where he won his last three races by a combined 6 lengths.

#2 Show Me the Wave (6-1) ships in from Remington Park, unbeaten in his two starts of 2012. Both starts were in high-level claiming events, but he won his last race by over a length and earned a 90 speed figure.

#6 Iris Cartelsbadnews (8-1) will also make her first start here; the five-year-old Agouti gelding won two of his three 2011 starts at Prairie Meadows, finishing second last time out to Wrs Special Shoe.

Sunday, May 27th: Minnesota Stallion Breeders’ and NCQHRA Derby Trials, Races 1 & 2

Many quarter horse stakes races rely on time trials to determine the entries for the final event. Two such races will be held on Sunday, and the ten fastest horses will go on to run in the final two weeks later. Because there are only two races, multiple horses will qualify from each race; a horse does not necessarily have to win to make it into the final.

On paper, #1 Painted Lies (2-1) is the horse to beat in the first trial, having run against tough company at Remington Park and coming off an allowance win earlier this month. Painted Lies has little to prove and should easily qualify for the final. Other horses in this race have potential, but their past performances are mixed. For example, #3 Ivory Celebration (6-1) has solid speed figures and raced against competitive horses at Canterbury last year, but only recently broke his maiden and often finds traffic problems in the race. He is capable of a good performance, and will likely turn in a strong effort Sunday in an attempt to qualify.

In the second trial, the pair of Ed Ross Hardy-trained entries #2 Western Fun (2-1) and #3 Howdedoit (7-2) are the proven horses in this field; they have drawn post positions 2 and 3, respectively, which could result in a speed duel to the wire.

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 will share her perspective on Canterbury Quarter Horse racing as well as insider information on America’s fastest athletes.