BY JIM WELLS
On a day clearly designed for ducks, there they were…a mother and her ducklings swimming across the track near the 16th pole, ostensibly headed for the infield pond late Monday morning.
A random poll of long-time race fans determined that for the first time in Canterbury history, dating to its days as the Downs, a nine-race card was conducted on an afternoon that included rain, in varying amounts, from start to finish.
Yes, the racetrack was wet enough for ducks to swim, an hour before first post, but it had been ”hermetically” Sunday night and workouts over it were cancelled Monday morning.
That created the small window of hope that at least some of the races might be run before the riders were issued life jackets on Memorial Day.
Although some employees were guessing the card would be called after a couple of races, somehow all nine were run, which was excellent news for trainer Dave Van Winkle and rider Jareth Loveberry who combined to sweep the two $50,000 stakes on the card, the Northbound Pride Oaks and the Honor the Hero Stakes.
“Bet that makes the day, eh,! ” a bystander said to Loveberry.
“The day? It makes the week,” he said.
It was special for Van Winkle, too. When was the last time he swept the stakes on a race card ?
“Ah, probably never,” he responded.
James Thares, the owner of Beach Getaway, the Northbound Pride winner, watched Eddie Martin, Jr., take command on the backstretch aboard O’Keeffe and shook his head. “I thought he was going to win it,” he said.
Yet, Loveberry had not asked his horse at that point, and when he did, the complexion of the race changed dramatically, with Beach Getaway orchestrating a getaway of his own to win by a solid two lengths.
Thares has raised horses in Aberdeen, S.D., for more than two decades and has been racing them in Shakopee that long. Monday’s stakes win, he guessed, was probably his third over the years. He and Van Winkle liked their horse’s chances since she had run well, finishing second, in the slop at Kenneland Race Course on April 26.
Van Winkle and Loveberry teamed up again for the Honor the Hero, that time with Fireman
Oscar, a 25-1 outsider who won easily, by four lengths, while benefiting from the absence of Winning Envelope, a scratch after races were taken off the turf Monday morning. Owned by Pete Mattson, Fireman Oscar won for the first time this year and fourth overall.
So, the races were conducted but were also altered when they were re-assigned to the dirt. The Honor the Hero lost Sonic Boom, Luvin Bullies and Savage Battle; the Northbound lost Stormy Music, Full of Grace and Winning Envelope.
Water accumulated at times, up to an inch or more deep along the rail, but the track itself ran well, according to a majority of riders, although understandably it didn’t garner high approval.
How was it ?
“Ahh, ahh….not great,” said Quincy Hamilton half way through the card.
Not great but passable for its first real test this spring since undergoing 100 grand worth of work during the off season.
The card got under way during heavy rain showers and wind that whipped wet gusts up and down before they found a place to land in undesirable places…race goers’ faces, heads, arms and legs as they rushed from their cars to the grandstand, many balancing umbrellas in the wind.
Meanwhile the ducks and other avian creatures found their way to the pond in the infield, on a day made just for them.