Races Of The Past, and A New One For The Present

By Noah Joseph

This Saturday, Canterbury Park is introducing a new stakes race, the $100,000 Mystic Lake Turf Express. The race is five furlongs on the turf and has attracted a competitive field nine. Since Canterbury opened in 1985, many big stakes have been held at the Shakopee, Minn. racetrack. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular stakes races of the past.

In 1985, world-renowned jockey Bill Shoemaker came to Canterbury to ride Savannah Slew in

Savannah Slew arrives in Minnesota

the inaugural Canterbury Oaks for trainer Ron McAnally. The daughter of Seattle Slew came into Minnesota after running in the Kentucky Oaks that year. Savannah Slew, due to her racing experience and the presence of Shoemaker, was sent off as the heavy favorite, and won easily. She closed out her career with two Grade 3 wins at Santa Anita. In later years, the Canterbury Oaks was moved from the turf to the dirt, and was won by horses such as Tappiano, Do So (also trained by McAnally), and Capades. The race was discontinued in 1990, but returned when Canterbury re-opened in 1995, and was won by Fluffkins. Current Canterbury trainer Troy Bethke won the race in 1998 with Sibling Song. The Oaks was renamed the Northbound Pride Oaks and is still being held.

The Canterbury Cup, like the Canterbury Oaks, debuted in 1985, as a race to bring the best older horses to Minnesota in a race designed as a prep for the Breeders’ Cup. In 1986, Smile came to Canterbury to run in the race. Smile, owned by Minnesotan Frances Genter, was a Grade 1 winner at three and ran in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint in 1985, finishing second to Precisionist. Smile, under jockey Jacinto Vasquez won the race over Dramatic Desire. Smile then went on to win the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, becoming the first horse to race at Canterbury to win a Grade 1 race. In later years, the Canterbury Cup was won by horses such as Present Value, Dispersal, and Secret Hello, who won the last running of the race in 1991.


In the early days, Canterbury’s crowning race was the Saint Paul Derby. A race that featured the best three year olds in the country, it quickly became an important race during the summer. The inaugural running was won by Cheapskate, at 72-1 odds under jockey Marco Castaneda, defeating Broad Brush and Gary Stevens by a nose. The following year, Lost Code defeated a small but select field of horses, including one of the top three year olds in the country in Cryptoclearance, who ran in all three Triple Crown races that year. Lost Code won the race, his sixth race in a row, and went on to run against the likes of Alysheba and Bet Twice. Longshot Fourstardave took the 1988 running at 50-1 under jockey Daryl Montoya. Fourstardave later became one of the most popular horses to race at Saratoga in New York, in which he won at least one race there from 1987-1994, earning him the nickname “The Sultan of Saratoga”. The Saint Paul Derby was last run in 1991 as the Minnesota Derby. Olympio won, driving by Richman in the final yards, in what would be one of seven stakes wins in 1991 for Olympio, five of which were graded stakes. He also ran fourth in the Preakness earlier that year.

Olympio wins 1991 Minnesota Derby

Over the years, Canterbury has had many big races come and go. But this new big race just might stay.

Unbridled: Canterbury’s Star

By Noah Joseph

On Sunday, September 24, 1989, race nine was the Canterbury Juvenile Stakes. Despite being a fairly new race, in just three previous editions it produced several top 2-year-olds including 1987 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner, Success Express.

The winner of the ’89 Canterbury Juvenile, Appealing Breeze, also ran in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile that year, but it was the colt that finished second in the Canterbury race that was on to bigger and better things.

That colt was Unbridled. The son of Fappiano was owned by Frances Genter, a 92- year-old woman from Minnesota who had owned racehorses, including 1986 Breeder’s’ Cup Sprint winner and Canterbury winner Smile, for several decades. The trainer of Unbridled was Carl Nafzger, who had stables around the country, including at what was then Canterbury Downs. Unbridled finished 1989 with two wins in six starts and never finished worse than third.

However, it was during his 3-year-old season when the magic happened. Unbridled won the 1990 Kentucky Derby after running well in several preps. His win was very special for Genter and Nafzger, for Nafzger called the race for the elderly owner.


Unfortunately, Unbridled didn’t win the Triple Crown, he finished second in the Preakness and  fourth in the Belmont, but he capped off his championship season with a win in that same year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic at Belmont Park and was voted champion 3-year old colt of 1990.


After a sub-par 1991 campaign, Unbridled was retired to stud, where his record was outstanding. Unbridled died in 2001, but not before he left his mark in the racing world. His son Unbridled’s Song is the sire of Arrogate, the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner along with the Pegasus and Dubai World Cups, while another son, Empire Maker, produced Bodemeister, the sire of this year’s Kentucky Derby winner, Always Dreaming, and Pioneerof the Nile, who gave us 2015 Triple Crown, Grand Slam, and Horse Of The Year American Pharoah. It’s hard to believe that a colt that finished second in a stakes race at Canterbury would grow up to be one of the best and produce some of today’s greatest horses.

Frances Genter’s Smile in the Canterbury winner’s circle after winning the 1986 Canterbury Cup.


Noah Joseph is a longtime Canterbury Park and horse racing fan. He’s been attending races at Canterbury since 2000 when he was 3 years old and has enjoyed every minute of it. Noah provides a weekly piece on CanterburyLive.com.