ST. PAUL DERBY WINNER CLEVER TREVOR DIES

Clever Trevor

BY JIM WELLS

The news arrived as if it had been delivered by carrier pigeon, from a window sill in the past to a ledge in the present, connecting a part of Canterbury history to the summer of 2016. A message winging its way across time:

Clever Trevor is dead.

The name stirred up memories of the richest race in track history, the St. Paul Derby, which paid $315,000 that Sunday afternoon in 1989 and attracted horses and well-known riders from across the nation.

The headline in the St. Paul Pioneer Press the next day read, simply, “Clever Trevor smokes derby foes.”

From gate to wire, by a widening seven lengths.

His was a name that conjured up a sense of affection, in fans and his young namesake, 10-year-old Trevor McNeil, whose father, Don, and mother, Cheri, owned and bred the horse at their Oklahoma ranch.

Young Trevor was troubled before the race after his beloved horse drew the inside post, just as he had in the Kentucky Derby a few weeks earlier, when he stopped badly on the last turn in a race won by Sunday Silence.

Yet, he was a solid horse with speed and stamina, had won the Remington Park Derby, would later win the Grade I Arlington Classic. In perhaps the greatest race of his career, the Travers Stakes, he ran a strong second to Easy Goer and led much of the way. The gelded son of Slewacide and Little Mary Beans retired at age six, having won 15 of his 30 career starts with earnings of $1.3 million.

Dave Miller, the current Equibase chart caller in Shakopee, was at Canterbury Downs for the fourth running of the St. Paul Derby that day and recalls the race and specific characteristics of the winner.

“He had such a clean action, was the kind of racehorse everybody wants,” Miller said. “He could be rated but he had so much natural speed that many times he found himself on the lead. He had such efficiency of action and a good mind.”

As support for his statement, Miller recalled a picture of the horse in which all

four feet are off the ground, as if he’s gliding on air.

“It’s a picture used all the time,” he said. “What a glib horse he was, such a clean mover, like speed guys in the NFL, like a Lynn Swann. He looked like a gazelle.”

Donnie Von Hemel said Clevor Trevor is among the top five, and can be argued as No. 1, among horses he’s trained during his career. The McNeils had kept Clever Trevor at Von Hemel’s farm since the horse retired. Don’s wife, Robin, and daughter, Tess, were devoted to the horse, particularly as he aged and needed additional attention.

On Saturday, at age 30, 24 years after retirement, it became necessary to put him down. He was no longer able to regain his feet .

There is a hole that won’t soon be filled at the Von Hemel farm or with the McNeil family. Over the years, McNeil grandchildren and others would visit the old fellow.

“My daughter is 17 now,” Von Hemel added, “and she doesn’t remember life without him.”

Tess and Robin performed like medical aides to the horse as he aged, keeping him on schedule and interested in life via treats and other attention.

Certainly the decision to euthanize the beloved racehorse took a toll on the two women, but they were not alone. “I can hardly talk about it without choking up,” said Clever’s trainer.

Don Von Hemel was 27 years old when he brought Clever Trevor to Canterbury for the Derby that June afternoon in 1989. The race included $100,000 in bonus money for a Grade I winner who also won the derby. Music Merci was a Grade I winner who collected an extra $15,000 for a third place finish.

Here is one account of that race:

“There is a simple explanation for what happened in the St. Paul Derby on Sunday at Canterbury Downs.”

“Clever Trevor by a Scott County mile.”

“He was the first horse to leave the paddock, the first horse in the gate and the first horse at the wire. _ by seven widening lengths in a wire-to-wire performance.

“He did it so easily that jockey Don Pettinger didn’t once go to his whip.”

With six horses behind him, Pettinger brought his horse in under a hand ride.

Clever Trevor Finish

The derby attracted the largest crowd of the season to that date in 1989: 15,863, and the second largest handle of the year: $1,801,972.

The race itself was the first simulcast from Canterbury to other sites in the country and attracted wagering of $469,613. Remington Park bettors, despite the horse’s Derby win there, made Clever Trevor a co-second choice with Western Playboy and Music Merci the 3-2 favorite. Canterbury patrons bet $319,854 on the derby and made Clever Trevor a third choice to Music Music Merci and Western Playboy.

Chris Antley rode Tricky Creek in the race, Gary Stevens was on Music Merci, Randy Romero rode Western Playboy, Alex Solis was aboard First Play, Scott Stevens was in the irons on Faultless Ensign and Dean Kutz rode Termez.

None of them could keep pace with the winner, who, on a surface listed as good, tied the track record at the time for a mile and 1/8, 1:48.

And earned a place in Canterbury history at the same time.

Sunday Saratoga Connections

Designer%20Legs%20-%20%2006-28-13%20-%20R06%20-%20CBY%20-%20FinishMost of the attention Sunday in the $20,000-added Cash Caravan Stakes was on defending champion Streak N Hot, Bob Morehouse winner Western Fun and a well-rested Naketa, making her first start in 13 months.

That’s the fun of a 440-yard quarter horse dash, as Explosive Guns demonstrated with an explosive burst under Jorge Torres, enabling him to put the tip of his nose in front of Tres My Tracks and Ry Eikleberry in the final jump

“He broke a little slowly,” said Torres, the leading quarter horse rider at Canterbury. “I gave him a little smack and he picked it up from there.”

Explosive Guns was a 6-1 choice in the six-horse field, behind Western Fun at 2-1, Tres My Tracks at 5-2 and Streak N Hot at 7-2. Western Fun was third under Stormy Smith and Naketa, 5-1, next with Mark Luark up.

The winner, timed in 22:09, is owned by Fred Pelzer of Royalton.

In the winner’s circle was Doug Hoseck of Hector, the owner of Beauty’s Prince, the No. 6 horse in the race and also the owner of Cash Caravan, who raced three seasons during the Canterbury Downs era.

Fourstardave Brings Back Fond Memories

Remember Fourstardave, the winner of the third St. Paul Derby and second New York-bred to win the most prestigious race in Canterbury Downs history?

Well, the folks in New York certainly do. Known as the Sultan of Saratoga, Fourstardave is one of three horses buried in Claire Court at Saratoga, honored thusly because he won at least one race at the Spa from 1987 to 1994.

Fourstar finished his career with a 21-18-16 record from 99 starts and earnings of $1.636 million.

He was preceded as a St. Paul Derby winner by another New York-bred named Cheapskate, who won the inaugural race in 1986 as a 72-1 longshot.

All of that is a long way of saying that $500,000 Grade II Fourstardave Handicap was run at Saratoga on Saturday. Earlier run as the Daryl’s Joy Handicap, Fourstardave won the race himself. It was renamed in his honor for the first time in 1996.

The winner on Saturday was the current horse of the year, Wise Dan, who took charge in midstretch to win easily by a length over King Kreese despite carrying 129 pounds, 12 more than the second place horse.

CANTERBURY MAIDEN-BREAKER TACKLES SARATOGA

The 97th running of the $200,000 Grade II Adirondack drew special attention from a number of folks at Canterbury Park on Sunday. The race included a two-year-old filly named Designer Legs (pictured above) who broke her maiden in Shakopee on June 28 with Denny Velazquez up.

Trained at that point by Gary Scherer, Designer Legs is owned by John and Sally Valene, long-time participants in Minnesota’s thoroughbred industry. The two-year-old daughter of Graeme Hall from Elegant Designer is currently trained by Dallas Stewart.

The Valenes watched the race at Canterbury Park and were delighted with the win, which required a stewards’ inquiry to alter the outcome.

Designer Legs finished maybe a long nose behind Who’s In Town. However, that one was involved in a significant bumping incident with the heavy favorite Fiftyshadesofgold. The stewards determined that Who’s In Town caused Fiftyshadesofgold a chance at a better placing and a defeat by a nose for Designer Legs became a victory via disqualification.

Velazquez was asked about the horse shortly before Sunday’s race. After breaking her maiden in Shakopee she won for a second time at Prairie Meadows.

“She’s a very nice filly. A fast filly,” he said.

He had a chance to ride her at Prairie Meadows as well.

“Yeah, you liked her so well you stayed here to ride an ostrich,” Scott Stevens joshed the young rider.

Small consolation, but Velazquez did win the ostrich race on extreme day.

Paddock analyst Angela Hermann was on the right horse on the right day, however. She was on Designer Legs like a Wall Street broker on an inside tip.

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.

Mystic Lake Derby Day Nears

MysticDerby_LogoGo ahead and pick up the champagne, dig out the attire you wore last year for the race, careful to assure everything is the same, not a single accoutrement out-of-place, cross your fingers and don’t say anything that might be construed as a jinx.

“My dad’s superstitious,” said Lori Keith. “It will have to be the same shirt, everything.”

The topic at hand is the second running of the Mystic Lake Derby on Saturday and the preparations of Mr and Mrs. Keith – William and Philomena (or Bill and Phil as they’re known) – for Saturday’s race.

For the uniformed, Lori Keith, a native of England and a regular rider at Canterbury Park, won the first running of the biggest race in Canterbury Park history last year aboard Hammers Terror, owned by Terry Hamilton and trained by Michael Stidham.

Bill asked his daughter in a recent conversation whether she would ride in the race again this year. When she informed him that the chances appeared good, he began making plans. “He wanted to know if he should get the champagne,” Lori said.

Keith’s parents, who own a restaurant in the South of France, watched the inaugural running down the street from the restaurant, at an acquaintance’s home. Good viewing, just a matter of connecting the laptop to the telly, as they say, and they saw their daughter win the biggest race of her career.

They plan on looking in again on Saturday.

Keith will ride a horse named Dorsett, owned once again by Hamilton and trained once again by Stidham. And, get this, she is breaking from the No. 2 hole in an eight-horse field, just as last year.

A year ago, Keith took the morning line second choice to the winner’s circle after surviving a stewards’ inquiry for interference in the stretch. This time she is on the 5/2 morning line favorite.

“I think he has a great shot,” she said. “On paper he looks very good, but I think it will be a very competitive race.”

Dorsett, a son of Artie Schiller from Dontgetnmyway, has two wins, a second and a third from eight career starts with earnings of $74,670. He is part of a field of eight that will engage at one mile on the turf.

$200,000 Mystic Lake Derby Field & Morning Line
PP Horse Trainer Jockey ML
1    Impassable Canyon Michael Maker Victor Lebron 5-1
2 Dorsett Michael Stidham Lori Keith 5/2
3 Finding Candy Michael Biehler Denny Velazquez 12-1
4 Coastal Breeze Wayne Catalano Channing Hill 4-1
5 Kale’s Kourage Kelly Von Hemel Ry Eikleberry 10-1
6 Evan’s Calling Neil Pessin Eddie Martin Jr. 8-1
7 Red Zeus Dan McFarlane Alex Canchari 6-1
8 Officer Alex Lynn Whiting Leandro Goncalves 9/2

Last year the purse was for a guaranteed $150,000 and produced a total of $162,000 and change after adding in the entry fees. This year the race offers a guaranteed $200,000. The lion’s share of that funding, $150,000, is provided by the Mystic Lake purse enhancement fund.

The inside post was drawn by Impassable Canyon, a colt by Tapit from Anna Forever, owned by F. Thomas Conway and trained by Mike Maker.

Finding Candy will line up in the No. 3 hole. He is a colt by Candy Ride, owned locally by Al and Bill Ulwelling and trained by Mike Biehler.

The No. 4 hole will go to Coastal Breeze, a colt by Empire Maker that is owned by Barry Golden and trained by Wayne Catalano. The No. 5 hole belongs to Kale’s Kourage who has earned $85,511 lifetime and has won three of his seven career starts. He is owned by Pam Von Hemel and trained by Kelly Von Hemel.

Lining up in the No. 6 spot will be Evan’s Calling, with one win in 11 career starts. The No. 7 belongs to Red Zeus, who has earned $112, 426, running primarily at Turf Paradise in Phoenix with two starts locally, including a win at six furlongs his last out. He is owned by Peggy Hopwood and trained by Dan McFarlane.

Officer Alex drew the outside post. He has earned $163,000 running on the circuit between Churchill Downs and Oaklawn Park. He is trained by Lynn Whiting, who saddled Lil E. Tee, the winner of the 1992 Kentucky Derby.

So, there you have it, the lineup for the richest race in Canterbury Park history, a whopping $200,000 guaranteed and an opportunity for Lori Keith to top last year’s take.

“Oh, I can’t believe it,” she said. “I’m keeping my fingers crossed.”

Is superstition a genetic trait?

SHAKOPEE JUVENILE AND NORTHBOUND PRIDE OAKS

Both races offer $100,000-guaranteed purses.

The Oaks at a mile on the turf has been run in some form, fashion or name since 1985 and was won in 2012 by Soonerette, ridden by riding champion Tanner Riggs for Donnie Von Hemel.

$100,000 Northbound Pride Oaks & Morning Line Odds
PP Horse Trainer Jockey ML
1    Eden Prairie Neil Pessin Channing Hill 3-1
2 Kipling’s Joy Michael Stidham Dean Butler 9/2
3 Stoupinator Mac Robertson Alex Canchari 5-1
4 I’m Already Sexy Wayne Catalano Scott Stevens 4-1
5 Seeking Treasure Larry Dunbar Ry Eikleberry 10-1
6 Raising Dakota Tevis McCauley Luis Garcia 8-1
7 Kissmeimdanish Valorie Lund Derek Bell 8-1
8 American Sugar Kenneth McPeek Victor Lebron 6-1

Saturday’s edition has a field of eight, including the Ken McPeek-trained American Sugar, who is trying the grass for the first time and is 5-0-3 from 13 starts with earnings of more than $200,000. Robert Lothenbach’s Eden Prairie is 2-0-1 from six grass starts and earnings of $70,000-plus. Michael Stidham’s Kipling’s Joy is 2-0-3 from nine career starts, both wins on the grass, with earnings of $62,200.

I’m Already Sexy arrived from Arlington Park and has won twice from three turf starts, is three-for-six overall, and earned $81,141. Wayne Catalano trains. Locally-owned Stoupinator, trained by Mac Robertson, has hit the board three times in three turf starts and is 2-1-2 overall from six career starts with earnings of $76,000. Here’s a look at the field:

The Juvenile, for colts/geldings and fillies, is being run for the first time, at 7 and 1/2 furlongs on the turf and has attracted a field of nine boys.

$100,000 Shakopee Juvenile Field & Morning Line Odds
PP Horse Trainer Jockey ML
1    A P Is Loose Michael Biehler Lori Keith 6-1
2 Aft Michael Lauer Leandro Goncalves 8-1
3 Rumbauer David Van Winkle Ry Eikleberry 6-1
4 My Corinthian Dane Kobiskie Luis Garcia 7/2
5 Fling Orrin Cogburn Eddie Martin Jr. 12-1
6 Clarisimo Sandra Sweere Nik Goodwin 10-1
7 General Jack Michael Maker Victor Lebron 3-1
8 Chairman Crooks Tony Rengstorf Dean Butler 6-1
9 Pure Surprize Vic Hanson Jenna Joubert 10-1

Among those is a 2-year-old colt named General Jack, a Kentucky-bred son of Giant’s Causeway who is looking to break his maiden on Saturday after running second among maiden special weights for $70,000 at Belmont Park.

He had a bullet work in late June and is trained by Mike Maker who has made a habit of winning big races at Canterbury.

Aft, trained by Michael Lauer, broke his maiden last time out in Indiana. Lauer tried to run Aft on the lead his first out and finished second. He ran him off the pace in his second start with improved results.

My Corinthian has hit the board three times in three career starts and was the first of the shippers to arrive, stabling here on Monday. He is trained by Dane Kobiskie. He is 1-1-1 from three career starts and is 1-1-0 from two outs on the grass.

Mike Biehler will saddle A P Is Loose, who ran third in his first start, at Canterbury on July 11. Clarisimo, trained by Sandra Sweere, is another local horse who broke his maiden here on June 16. Dave Van Winkle will saddle locally stabled Rumbauer, who broke his maiden under Ry Eikleberry on July 11 in his second start.

Vic Hanson will send out Pure Surprize, a local juvenile who broke his maiden at first asking on July 14. Fling, trained by Orrin Cogburn, did not hit the board in two previous starts.

Curtis Sampson’s Chairman Crooks, named for the late leader of the Mdewakanton Community, is trying the grass for the first time. He broke his maiden first time out, on June 13.

Wagering Opportunities Abound

The three races will be run as races 6, 7 and 8 on the card with the Oaks leading off, followed by the Juvenile and then the 2nd running of the Mystic Lake Derby. Post times are 4:10 CDT, 4:40 CDT and the Mystic Lake Derby will go off at 5:12 CDT. The three races anchor Saturday’s late pick 4 which continues to feature a 14% takeout, among the lowest in the country. Additionally, the three stakes comprise an all-turf Pick 3 also featuring the same low takeout rate of 14%.

Check back here often to learn more about the participants for Saturday’s big races over the coming days.

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.

10,127 Watch Inaugural Mystic Lake Derby

There were employees, guests and dignitaries from Mystic Lake, ladies in wide-brimmed hats, bowls of chocolate-covered strawberries, just about everything except mint juleps Saturday afternoon for the biggest race in Shakopee since 1991.

The occasion was the $161,250 Mystic Lake Derby at about a mile on the turf, and the grandstand was festooned with paraphernalia and excitement missing on the grounds for two decades.

The excitement among race lovers was palpable, no matter with whom one talked. It was Derby Day 2012, the start to a new era of Minnesota racing, an era not remotely possible without the marketing deal struck between Canterbury Park and Mystic Lake.

The gods of racing were smiling on some local folks, namely Canterbury Park based rider Lori Keith, who not only rode the biggest winner of her career but survived a controversial finish in the process.

Keith was in the irons on Hammers Terror (replay below) for trainer Michael Stidham and owner Terry Hamilton, with whom she developed a relationship the last couple of years at Turf Paradise in Phoenix and at Canterbury.

She was on the right horse Saturday afternoon. Hammers Terror commanded this race, although he and Keith had to survive a stewards inquiry and jockey’s objection that left assistant trainer Chris Davis, the rider and Hamilton sweating it out.

Keith had gone to a left-handed whip at the head of the lane without negative reaction from her mount but when she applied it liberally inside the 16th pole, Hammers Terror veered sharply across the path of Delegation, who finished second, one length back.

The inquiry sign went up moments later and track announcer Paul Allen told the eager crowd that the stewards would undertake a review of the finish.

“Sweating it out. I certainly was,” Keith said anxiously after learning that the order of finish would stand.

Controversy swirled, as it always does in such instances, with sides divided about 50-50, in the grandstand, the jockeys’ room and anyplace else one cared to check.

About half the folks thought the winner should come down. The other half agreed with the apparent conclusion of the stewards and many fans that under no circumstances would Delegation have gotten past the winner.

Jockey Jermaine Bridgmohan got away from the assembled media types before he could be questioned about his take on the race.

Officially, Hammers Terror had one length on Delegation and 2 and ½ on the third place horse, Take Heart, ridden by Derek Bell.

The winning time was 1:37.18 and the payouts were $9, $4.80 and $3.40 on the 7-2 winner. A crowd of 10,127 sent Delegation off at 3-1 and Take Heart at 17-1. The favorite at $1.90-1, Gung Ho, never fired and finished behind all six rivals.

Davis didn’t have anything profound to share with Keith before the race. “Get him to settle, wherever he is,” Keith said. She did exactly that, relaxing the horse on the front end for a gate-to-wire effort.

The race was reduced from an eight-horse field to seven after Corporate Chapel, owned and trained by Stanley Mankin, was scratched

Hamilton has raced at Canterbury before, mostly two years ago, but intends to become a regular now, in view of the marketing pact between Canterbury and Mystic Lake .

“I plan to bring horses back,” he said. “All different kinds. This is what it’s all about. This agreement is absolutely great.”

So, too, was the winner’s circle for the son of Artie Schiller and Keith on Sunday.

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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 Credit: Coady Photography

A Derby by Any Other Name is Just as Sweet

The sportscasts percolated with the details that evening and banner headlines blared the news the next morning.

A longshot – 72-1 mind you – had won the inaugural running of the $300,000 St. Paul Derby, a race that became at first asking the crown jewel of Minnesota horse racing.

The year was 1986 and the horse was Cheapskate (pictured above on the inside) who turned out to be anything but – nothing cheap whatsoever about a $2 ticket that returns $146 at the window, and 23,351 fans witnessed the pulsating finish in this headline grabbing race.

Horses that had run earlier in America’s Classic Races were vanned or flown into Shakopee to participate, Kentucky Derby participants Broad Brush, Bachelor Beau and Rampage that first spring. It was Broad Brush, the third place horse at Churchill Downs the previous month, who engaged Cheapskate in a scintillating stretch duel before losing by a nose to the New York-bred upstart.

Thus began a short five-year span that produced some of the most memorable names in the early history of state pari-mutuel racing – Cheapskate, Lost Code, Fourstardave, Clever Trevor and Secret Hello.

The St. Paul Derby immediately became the trademark race of Canterbury Downs, was awarded Grade III status for its second running, then became a Grade II race and annually drew one of the largest turnouts and betting handles of a season. A crowd of 23,000-plus that first year wagered $2,146,546 million on the card. A turnout of 23,171 pushed $2,265,204 through the windows in 1987, and 15,744 wagered $1,808,401 the next year.

Now, 26 years after Cheapskate became the buzz at water coolers across the state on a Minnesota Monday morning, the Derby returns, this time as the $150,000 Mystic Lake Derby. The St. Paul Chamber of Commerce and much of the city’s business community rallied with sponsorships and promotion of the race named for the Capitol City back then. Now, it is the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community that has joined forces with Canterbury Park to create the biggest purse since the St. Paul Derby became the $250,000 Minnesota Derby in 1991.

“This now has become our signature race and we hope the first step in bringing back the type of race seen in the early days of Canterbury,” said track president/CEO Randy Sampson. “We’d like to get back to that type of racing with the Mystic Lake Derby. That is totally the idea.”

Although many of those early racing crowds were large and wagering robust, most Minnesotans didn’t recognize what they had in those formative years – top-level racing from top-level horses and stables. The promotional agreement and enhanced purse fund from the recent pact with Mystic Lake point once again in that direction, at a minimum to stabilized, improved racing for the state’s thoroughbred and quarter horse industries.

The Mystic Lake Derby is a symbolic nod to the past but an also a glimpse into the future of Minnesota racing.

“Yes, this is a stepping stone so to speak,” said HBPA president Tom Metzen. “Next year it will be an even bigger race, and Mystic Lake deserves it. There are so many things that are right about this agreement, and the Mystic Lake people have been absolutely gracious to deal with.”

Perhaps the future includes some of the wonder, glory and romance of those early St. Paul Derby days. Consider, for example, the following:

Broad Brush, the runner up to Cheapskate by maybe three inches, Bachelor Beau and Rampage were all Grade I winners. ESPN broadcast that first Derby to 1.1 million viewers, making it the highest rated presentation on its Budweiser Racing Across America Racing series that year.

Lost Code, the son of 1980 Preakness Stakes winner Codex, found the right strategy for winning the 1987 St. Paul Derby, a gate-to-wire romp against seven rivals, including Florida Derby winner Cryptoclearance who finished fourth in the Kentucky Derby, third in the Preakness and second in the Belmont Stakes that spring.

Fourstardave became the second New York-bred horse to win Minnesota’s biggest race, in 1988, but arrived without a rider. No was willing to ride the horse for trainer Leo O’Brien until he got to Shakopee and spotted an old friend, Daryl Montoya, on the list of jockey names.

The result was magical. The horse no one wanted to ride went off at 21-1 and provided Montoya with the biggest win of his career.

The 1989 St. Paul Derby, Clever Trevor’s Derby, was the first race simulcast from Canterbury Downs and drew wagering of $469,613 from other tracks in addition to the on-track $319,854 bet on the race. Ak-Sar-Ben, Remington Park , Detroit Race Course, Thistledown, Blue Ribbons Downs and Ruidoso Downs offered the Derby and introduced Canterbury to a new aspect of wagering.

Then came the final St. Paul Derby, in 1990, and a horse named Secret Hello, ridden by Pat Day and trained by Frank Brothers. Secret Hello claimed the winner’s share of $300,000 and his share of the $100,000 bonus as a Grade I winner, the first horse to do so. Instead of $180,000, Secret Hello collected $240,000 that day.

A sidenote: Fourth that afternoon was the Brothers-trained Appealing Breeze, who the previous summer on the same track had won the Canterbury Juvenile over Unbridled, the 1990 Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner and that year’s Eclipse Award winning three-year-old colt.

There it is, a taste of Canterbury ‘s St. Paul Derby past and perhaps a look into its future, beginning with today’s Mystic Lake Derby.

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.

A Derby by Any Other Name is Just as Sweet

The sportscasts percolated with the details that evening and banner headlines blared the news the next morning.

A longshot – 72-1 mind you – had won the inaugural running of the $300,000 St. Paul Derby, a race that became at first asking the crown jewel of Minnesota horse racing.

The year was 1986 and the horse was Cheapskate (pictured above on the inside) who turned out to be anything but – nothing cheap whatsoever about a $2 ticket that returns $146 at the window, and 23,351 fans witnessed the pulsating finish in this headline grabbing race.

Horses that had run earlier in America’s Classic Races were vanned or flown into Shakopee to participate, Kentucky Derby participants Broad Brush, Bachelor Beau and Rampage that first spring. It was Broad Brush, the third place horse at Churchill Downs the previous month, who engaged Cheapskate in a scintillating stretch duel before losing by a nose to the New York-bred upstart.

Thus began a short five-year span that produced some of the most memorable names in the early history of state pari-mutuel racing – Cheapskate, Lost Code, Fourstardave, Clever Trevor and Secret Hello.

The St. Paul Derby immediately became the trademark race of Canterbury Downs, was awarded Grade III status for its second running, then became a Grade II race and annually drew one of the largest turnouts and betting handles of a season. A crowd of 23,000-plus that first year wagered $2,146,546 million on the card. A turnout of 23,171 pushed $2,265,204 through the windows in 1987, and 15,744 wagered $1,808,401 the next year.

Now, 26 years after Cheapskate became the buzz at water coolers across the state on a Minnesota Monday morning, the Derby returns, this time as the $150,000 Mystic Lake Derby. The St. Paul Chamber of Commerce and much of the city’s business community rallied with sponsorships and promotion of the race named for the Capitol City back then. Now, it is the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community that has joined forces with Canterbury Park to create the biggest purse since the St. Paul Derby became the $250,000 Minnesota Derby in 1991.

“This now has become our signature race and we hope the first step in bringing back the type of race seen in the early days of Canterbury,” said track president/CEO Randy Sampson. “We’d like to get back to that type of racing with the Mystic Lake Derby. That is totally the idea.”

Although many of those early racing crowds were large and wagering robust, most Minnesotans didn’t recognize what they had in those formative years – top-level racing from top-level horses and stables. The promotional agreement and enhanced purse fund from the recent pact with Mystic Lake point once again in that direction, at a minimum to stabilized, improved racing for the state’s thoroughbred and quarter horse industries.

The Mystic Lake Derby is a symbolic nod to the past but an also a glimpse into the future of Minnesota racing.

“Yes, this is a stepping stone so to speak,” said HBPA president Tom Metzen. “Next year it will be an even bigger race, and Mystic Lake deserves it. There are so many things that are right about this agreement, and the Mystic Lake people have been absolutely gracious to deal with.”

Perhaps the future includes some of the wonder, glory and romance of those early St. Paul Derby days. Consider, for example, the following:

Broad Brush, the runner up to Cheapskate by maybe three inches, Bachelor Beau and Rampage were all Grade I winners. ESPN broadcast that first Derby to 1.1 million viewers, making it the highest rated presentation on its Budweiser Racing Across America Racing series that year.

Lost Code, the son of 1980 Preakness Stakes winner Codex, found the right strategy for winning the 1987 St. Paul Derby, a gate-to-wire romp against seven rivals, including Florida Derby winner Cryptoclearance who finished fourth in the Kentucky Derby, third in the Preakness and second in the Belmont Stakes that spring.

Fourstardave became the second New York-bred horse to win Minnesota’s biggest race, in 1988, but arrived without a rider. No was willing to ride the horse for trainer Leo O’Brien until he got to Shakopee and spotted an old friend, Daryl Montoya, on the list of jockey names.

The result was magical. The horse no one wanted to ride went off at 21-1 and provided Montoya with the biggest win of his career.

The 1989 St. Paul Derby, Clever Trevor’s Derby, was the first race simulcast from Canterbury Downs and drew wagering of $469,613 from other tracks in addition to the on-track $319,854 bet on the race. Ak-Sar-Ben, Remington Park , Detroit Race Course, Thistledown, Blue Ribbons Downs and Ruidoso Downs offered the Derby and introduced Canterbury to a new aspect of wagering.

Then came the final St. Paul Derby, in 1990, and a horse named Secret Hello, ridden by Pat Day and trained by Frank Brothers. Secret Hello claimed the winner’s share of $300,000 and his share of the $100,000 bonus as a Grade I winner, the first horse to do so. Instead of $180,000, Secret Hello collected $240,000 that day.

A sidenote: Fourth that afternoon was the Brothers-trained Appealing Breeze, who the previous summer on the same track had won the Canterbury Juvenile over Unbridled, the 1990 Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner and that year’s Eclipse Award winning three-year-old colt.

There it is, a taste of Canterbury ‘s St. Paul Derby past and perhaps a look into its future, beginning with today’s Mystic Lake Derby.

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.