There is nothing like horse racing for destroying a person’s spirit one instant and then restoring it a few minutes later. These are the vicissitudes of a sport that can present more ups and downs, more highs and lows, than the Wild thing at Valley Fair. You can be a dejected loser one moment and an exuberant winner the next.
That’s exactly how the feature events played out on a glorious Father’s Day at Canterbury Park Sunday. The unbeaten Heliskier went to his knees, reportedly cut his face, on the break and was taken by van from the track. Then the odds-on favorite in the feature event of the day, the $50,000 Brooks Fields Stakes, did all that was expected of him to balance the scales for the day.
For whatever reason, much of the crowd of 14,455 departed immediately following Heliskier’s race. Perhaps that answers a question for Marlene Colvin, Heliskier’s owner, who wondered before the race: “Do you think this large crowd is here to see him?”
Well, the case now can be made that perhaps it was.
Perhaps Father’s Day and a solid card were factors, too.
In any event, Heliskier’s (pictured above winning the Minnesota Derby in 2012) unbeaten winning streak ended at seven, and a tearful Colvin approached the winner’s circle afterward seeking information on her horse.
Rider Derek Bell, visibly upset, made conflicting statements afterward but left the strong impression that Heliskier was probably OK but that erring on the side of caution was the best approach in this case. Reading between the lines it seemed apparent that Bell was cautiously confident he horse would recover but wasn’t willing to push his luck after the gate incident.
The day’s activities included a horseshoe toss that included Daily Racing Form correspondent Ted Grevelis. “I didn’t realize how far that toss was,” he said afterward. His efforts drew a comment from a pressbox know-it-all who said, “I had a horse who could throw a shoe with more accuracy than that.”
Grevelis later took umbrage with the behavior of several fans during the running of Heliskier’s race. “When they saw him go to his knees they yelled and clapped,” he said.
Grevelis was appalled and reacted with this response. “A horse or a rider could have been severely injured and they’re clapping. I don’t get it.”
With Heliskier out of the mix, a 19-1 choice named Rainier Ice, ridden by Alex Canchari, cashed in, finishing in front of Jamaican Memories and Bizet.
Then, under sunny skies, Hammers Terror (pictured at top), winless in five races since the Mystic Lake Derby in Shakopee last July, got healthy again, leading seven others to wire, repelling challenges in the stretch run from Slip and Drive and Wild Jacob to finish in front of those two.
With three scratches in the race including the far outside two, the outside spot was left to the winner.
“That was a concern,” said winning rider Dean Butler, who had four winners on the card, “But once I brought him over he settled nicely.”
Butler moved his horse up gradually to the front where he prefers to run and the son of Artie Schiller took charge on the lead (full race replay below).
SKIP ZIMMERMAN MEMORIAL STAKES
Trainer Stacy Charette-Hill considered sending Stone Cottrell, a five-year-old gelded son of Sc Chiseled in Stone back to the farm to freshen up when the Remington Park meet concluded this spring.
Then her husband and assistant trainer, Randy, intervened. “There is a stakes race at Canterbury Park called the Skip Zimmerman that he could run in,” he said.
Stacy had a response. “This horse can’t run 350 yards,” she said. Indeed, he had not gone more than 350 yards in some time.
Then Stacy began weighing the odds. Stone Cottrell is the first baby from the dam Rainbow Riches to run at a track. “I figured if he could even get a third up here it would help his mare,” Stacy said.
Stone Cottrell did more than that in Sunday’s co-feature, withstanding a late, hard rush from A Splash of Hell to win by a head in 17.73.
“He couldn’t have gone 355 today, though,” Stacy said happily.
The win was fifth in two days at Canterbury for her stable and rider Jorge Torres, riding for the first time this year.
“He comes from a racing family,” Stacy said. “He’s ridden in some match races but hadn’t ridden this way until this year.”
The Hills are from outside Lexington, Okla., and have liked all they’ve seen of Canterbury Park since arriving. “It’s wonderful here,” she said. “The people are exceptionally cordial and nice. I’d consider bringing a big stable here if they had more than two quarter horse races on their regular cards.”
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
Video: Michelle Benson & Canterbury Television Department