2013 Derby Day Nears

HAMMERS TERROR_The Mystic Lake Derby_07-28-12_CBY_Inside FinishOccasionally she’ll think about the race and the biggest win of her career, the stuff of warm feelings and pleasant thoughts, except for that interminable wait.

“It was intense, wasn’t it though,” says Lori Keith.

The subject at hand, of course, is the inaugural Mystic Lake Derby first held in 2012 and Keith’s controversial win aboard Hammers Terror. About half the grandstand thought the horse should have been taken down. The other half sided with Keith’s horse.

So did the Stewards, who ruled that Hammer Terror did in fact veer in front of Delegation in the final yards but the action did not change the outcome of the race in their view. Nonetheless they gave Keith days, even after she sweated out the decision on the race for what seemed like an eternity.

Keith talked about the race as she headed to the paddock on Sunday for the third race, which she won aboard Francisco Bravo’s Free Sailing.

She is hopeful of riding in the second Mystic Lake Derby next Saturday, for the same owner whose horse she rode last year.

“Things can change,” she said, “but there’s a good chance .” She referred to a three-year old colt named Dorsett, owned by Terry Hamilton and trained by Michael Stidham, who have the same connections as Hammers Terror, the 2012 champ.

Hamilton has talked about how great it would be to win the first two Mystic Lake Derbys. He has to run a horse for that to happen, of course.

The $200,000 Derby will be run on the same card with the $100,000 Northbound Pride Oaks and the $100,000 Shakopee Juvenile Stakes. All three to be run over the Canterbury turf course.

Questions about the second rendition of the Mystic Lake Derby abound at this point:

Will Dorsett indeed run and will the field include a Java’s War, a longshot who finished 13th in this year’s Kentucky Derby and, although nominated to the Derby, is a longshot to appear in next Saturday’s race?

Undrafted, owned by New England Patriots defector and current Denver Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker, has been nominated also.

Other nominees include Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey’s You Blue and Leaden In Ken, along with Bill and Al Ulwelling’s Finding Candy. In total, nearly 100 horses were nominated for the trifecta of grass races next Saturday.

The draw is scheduled on Wednesday for all three races.

My Corinthian, trained by Dan Kobiskie and scheduled to arrive Monday, will run in the Juvenile and will be the first horse on the grounds for Saturday’s stakes events.

The Shakopee Juvenile, at 7 and 1/2 furlongs on the turf, will be run for the first time. The Oaks, at a mile on the turf, was won last year by Soonerette, owned by Robert Zoellner, ridden by riding champ Tanner Riggs and trained by Donnie Von Hemel. The purse this year is $100,000, for the first time since 1995, when the Carl Nafzger-trained Fluffkins won. Von Hemel nominated no horses to the Oaks but has nominated Smack Smack, owned by Dream Walkin’ Farms, Inc. (the stable name of renowned country music singer Toby Keith) to the Juvenile.

CANCHARI SURGES IN JOCKEY STANDINGS

Alex Canchari, the Minnesota Kid as he refers to himself, surged this week into second place in the rider standings, riding seven winners to wind up Sunday night with 31 winners for the meet.

That’s eight behind the leader, Dean Butler, a three-time champion. Ry Eikleberry had only one winner for the week and slipped into third place with 30 wins, followed by Lori Keith with 29 and Hall of Fame rider Derek Bell and Eddie Martin, Jr. at 25 wins each. Hall of Fame rider Scott Stevens is next with 23 wins.

There was no change in positions among the track’s top trainers. Mike Biehler continues in front with 24 wins, followed by Bernell Rhone with 22 and Mac Robertson with 21.

Stormy Smith, who rode the winner of the Bob Morehouse Stakes, Western Fun, on Saturday, continues to lead the quarter horse riders. He has 16 wins. Jorge Torres is next with 14.

SUNDAY HAPPENINGS

You Be Gator Bait, trained by Mac Robertson, is nominated but won’t run in the Shakopee Juvenile, not with a mere week’s rest. He won the opening race on Sunday’s card for Minnesota-bred maidens with Chris Fackler up. “He’s a hard worker,” Robertson said of the winning rider. The most likely spot to see the Minnesota-bred next will be on the 2013 Festival of Champions card in the Northern Lights Futurity.

Martin Escobar was the only double winner among the riders Sunday, with Hard Cider in the sixth and Scorsese in the seventh, his 10th and 11th winners of the meet.

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.

Like Father, Like Son

BrandonMeier05-26-13If Brandon Meier wins the Kentucky Derby some day or, say, the Breeders’ Cup Classic, there is another lesser race that will command an adjacent spot in his memory.

Riding with the bug in 2008, he was on a horse making the turn for home and came off the fence just enough to let the rider behind him sneak through. He switched sticks and went to work with the left hand, but got beat a nose.

The winning rider grinned and chortled as they were galloping out, “hey, jockey, you probably would have won if you had hit your horse instead of my boot the whole way.”

The winning rider? Randy Meier, Brandon’s father.

Brandon’s rejoinder was swift and succinct. “You’ll think twice about coming up inside me the next time,” he said.

The Meier name is well-known in Chicago where Brandon broke in. Randy Meier is the all-time leading rider at Hawthorne Race Course and Sportsman’s Park and among the top 10 all-time at Arlington International Racecourse.

“He raced for 38 years and won more than 4,000 races,” Brandon said. Father and son shared the same valet at Arlington. “My box was right underneath his,” Brandon said. “He got to school me quite a bit.”

Randy retired after a serious accident 3 and ½ years ago. He broke his neck in a spill, for the second time, and suffered a head injury. Brandon stayed home to take care of him, a process that included five months of speech therapy.

“He’s doing great now. He made a full recovery,” Brandon added. “He’s using his retirement to visit racetracks. He’s already been here.”

During his one stint at Santa Anita in 2009, Brandon participated in the “Jockeys”, the reality show about horse racing on Animal Planet.

Accompanying him in the role was girlfriend Dana Henrichsen, whom he met at Arlington in 2008. Henrichsen was working in the Arlington gift shop. Meier was on a horse riding through the tunnel to the track and spotted her. He pulled off a pair of goggles and autographed them for delivery to the gift shop.

“She didn’t know who I was, but she started watching the races and eventually phoned me,” Meier added.

Dana, who now works weekends in Mr. D’s, a sports bar on the apron level at Arlington, is also a hospital administrative assistant during the week. She was in Shakopee recently to visit her jockey, who is riding at Canterbury Park for the first time. He had never seen the place before and is here after getting a sales pitch from last year’s riding champion, Tanner Riggs. “We’re good friends and he kept telling me how great this place is,” said Meier. “He kept telling me the people are great, very friendly, that I’d like the facility.”

Everything seems to be meeting his expectations.

Meier arrived looking for a fresh start. He has ridden at the Chicago tracks as well as Santa Anita Park, Kenneland , Turfway Park and Churchill Downs.

“I couldn’t seem to stay healthy,” he said. “I’d recover from one injury, ride a bit and get hurt again. I’d just build my business back and get hurt again.”

Sometimes a total makeover, an entirely fresh start, can be just the ticket. “I’m starting to make connections, getting to know some people here,” he said. “I think some doors are starting to open for me.” He wants to begin adding to his one win any time soon.

Brandon, who’ll turn 25 on July 9, has one other race that he’ll never forget no matter what fate has in store for him, no matter how many stakes he might win.

He won the first race of his career on a horse named Houseboat, who threw his head shortly before entering the gate and caught Brandon squarely in the lower face, splitting his lip and chipping or rearranging several teeth.

He was bleeding profusely as he entered the winner’s circle and getting peppered from all around about his condition, how he felt.

People began asking him what he intended to do with his winning share of the purse.

“I told them the money would help pay for my upcoming visit to the dentist,” he said.

Meier was smiling as he talked, revealing a mouthful of perfectly formed incisors, top and bottom.

Smiling and anticipating a fresh start.

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.

Canterbury Inside the Numbers

Dark Star Memorial StartLive racing at Canterbury Park starts Friday, May 17. Optimism is high for the 2013 season with full barns on the backside and a higher purse structure in place. This should be a good formula for larger fields and more competitive racing, which equals better opportunities for large payoffs!

Let’s look back at the 2012 meet from a jockey and trainer perspective, and see if we can identify some history that might repeat itself this year.

2012 Trainer Tendencies

Mac Robertson has led the trainer standings at Canterbury Park for years. Last year he was well clear of the other trainers, posting 53 winners and a 29% win rate. Betting an equal dollar amount on all of his runners would have resulted in a 17% loss, but he did have some categories that showed a flat bet profit.

His best category was with two-year-olds, where he won with 6 of 9 starters for an 86% return on investment (ROI). Dirt routes were also strong, where he won with 6 of 13 starters for a 72% ROI. He also had success in the maiden special weight category, winning with 11 of 19 starters for a 47% ROI.

Michael Biehler saddled 34 winners at Canterbury last year from 140 starters (24%). He had a particularly impressive season in that a wager on every one of his starters generated a 4% profit. It was the Biehler Mutual Fund last year! He showed solid strength at most class levels, except the maiden special weight level where he was only able to find the winner’s circle once from eighteen tries and that was with a $4.40 winner.

Bernell Rhone also saddled 34 winners last year, but his win percentage was only 14% which was down from previous years. Wagering an equal amount on all of his starters would have resulted in a 49% loss. Ouch! Rhone was formidable when he saddled the favorite last year as he had a 49% win rate with the chalk, resulting in a 24% ROI. But his longshots were dismal, only 1 winner from 100 starters that went to post at 8-1 or above.

You can expect these three trainers to be at or near the top of the trainer standings again in 2013 even as they take on the influx of new trainers. Perhaps their winning patterns will repeat themselves as well.

2012 Jockey Tendencies

Last year, the 3 leading riders were Tanner Riggs, Dean Butler and Derek Bell. Indications are that Tanner Riggs will not be riding at Canterbury in 2013 and he rode 72 winners last year. That’s a big void to fill and plenty of opportunity for other riders to increase their win totals.

Dean Butler rode 64 winners last year and is the main rider for the Rhone barn. His overall win percentage was 20% but he was very strong when he rode the favorite, winning 51% of the time with an ROI of 21%.

Derek Bell rode 37 winners last year, and 21 were for Mac Robertson. He was very good with maiden special weight horses, winning 11 of 17 races at that class level with an ROI of 99%.

Honorable mention goes to Alex Canchari, who rode here last August and rode 11 winners in total, but 2 that paid over $50.

Good luck in 2013 it promises to be a great season!

This blog was written by Canterbury Regular “The Oracle”. The Oracle is a longtime Minnesota race fan that has handicapped Canterbury’s races religiously for more than 20 years. He writes about handicapping and statistical trends in Canterbury’s races.

Photo Credit: Coady Photography

Canterbury Inside the Numbers

Dark Star Memorial StartLive racing at Canterbury Park starts Friday, May 17. Optimism is high for the 2013 season with full barns on the backside and a higher purse structure in place. This should be a good formula for larger fields and more competitive racing, which equals better opportunities for large payoffs!

Let’s look back at the 2012 meet from a jockey and trainer perspective, and see if we can identify some history that might repeat itself this year.

2012 Trainer Tendencies

Mac Robertson has led the trainer standings at Canterbury Park for years. Last year he was well clear of the other trainers, posting 53 winners and a 29% win rate. Betting an equal dollar amount on all of his runners would have resulted in a 17% loss, but he did have some categories that showed a flat bet profit.

His best category was with two-year-olds, where he won with 6 of 9 starters for an 86% return on investment (ROI). Dirt routes were also strong, where he won with 6 of 13 starters for a 72% ROI. He also had success in the maiden special weight category, winning with 11 of 19 starters for a 47% ROI.

Michael Biehler saddled 34 winners at Canterbury last year from 140 starters (24%). He had a particularly impressive season in that a wager on every one of his starters generated a 4% profit. It was the Biehler Mutual Fund last year! He showed solid strength at most class levels, except the maiden special weight level where he was only able to find the winner’s circle once from eighteen tries and that was with a $4.40 winner.

Bernell Rhone also saddled 34 winners last year, but his win percentage was only 14% which was down from previous years. Wagering an equal amount on all of his starters would have resulted in a 49% loss. Ouch! Rhone was formidable when he saddled the favorite last year as he had a 49% win rate with the chalk, resulting in a 24% ROI. But his longshots were dismal, only 1 winner from 100 starters that went to post at 8-1 or above.

You can expect these three trainers to be at or near the top of the trainer standings again in 2013 even as they take on the influx of new trainers. Perhaps their winning patterns will repeat themselves as well.

2012 Jockey Tendencies

Last year, the 3 leading riders were Tanner Riggs, Dean Butler and Derek Bell. Indications are that Tanner Riggs will not be riding at Canterbury in 2013 and he rode 72 winners last year. That’s a big void to fill and plenty of opportunity for other riders to increase their win totals.

Dean Butler rode 64 winners last year and is the main rider for the Rhone barn. His overall win percentage was 20% but he was very strong when he rode the favorite, winning 51% of the time with an ROI of 21%.

Derek Bell rode 37 winners last year, and 21 were for Mac Robertson. He was very good with maiden special weight horses, winning 11 of 17 races at that class level with an ROI of 99%.

Honorable mention goes to Alex Canchari, who rode here last August and rode 11 winners in total, but 2 that paid over $50.

Good luck in 2013 it promises to be a great season!

This blog was written by Canterbury Regular “The Oracle”. The Oracle is a longtime Minnesota race fan that has handicapped Canterbury’s races religiously for more than 20 years. He writes about handicapping and statistical trends in Canterbury’s races.

Photo Credit: Coady Photography

New Attendance Record Set and Handle Up 25%

Just like that it was over. A horse named Vini Vidi Vinci won the 11th race on Monday, bringing the 2012 live racing season to a close.

The name is a corruption of that note of humility in Latin from Julius Cesar, who proclaimed that “I came, I saw, I conquered.”  Vini, Vidi Vinci did, however, drop the curtain on arguably the most promising summer in track annals.

Closing day produces mixed emotions for the horsemen, the riders, track staff, just about anyone you care to mention. The fans, too.

As one fellow offered: “It’s like leaving my grandparents after a visit as a kid. I was ready to go home, but I didn’t want to leave them.”

There is a feeling of relief on the one hand. Nearly everyone is ready for a break. There is also an emotional letdown on the other, a letting go of the summer, for better or for worse, and a four-month piece of one’s life.

In the world of the thoroughbred and the quarter horse, there is another element to closing day – the presentation of awards.

The champion trainer once again, for the eighth consecutive year, is Mac Robertson, who had 19 wins more than the second place trainers, Bernell Rhone and Mike Biehler.

Tanner Riggs, on the other hand, accomplished something no jockey before him at Canterbury – the Downs or Park – had done. He rode five winners on three cards. “That’s something in itself,” he said. “It doesn’t really sink in at first, but a few days down the road you think about it and how cool it is.” Riggs had 74 wins for the meet.

Ruben Martinez, the close associate of the Miguel Silva barn, won the owner’s award with four more wins than Curtis Sampson.

Canterbury Park president and CEO Randy Sampson addressed the closing day crowd with remarks about the training and riding champions as well as the future of racing in Shakopee.

“Mac had another great meet and Tanner had a great meet as well,” he said. “Tanner was a wonderful addition to Canterbury this year and we hope to see more of him in the future.”

What was clear, too, on closing day is that most horsemen will leave Shakopee in a different frame of mind than they did a year ago, following a summer that included a shutdown of the state government and the racetrack and plenty of uncertainty about what lay ahead.

The marketing agreement signed this summer between Canterbury and Mystic Lake and the Mdewakanton Sioux not only enhanced the purses for the 2012 meet but will continue to do so over the next decade, providing stability to racing heretofore unseen in Minnesota.

“We’re already looking forward to next season,” said Sampson. “We have a lot to look forward to.”

Trainer Bryan Porter, for one, is anticipating a change that hasn’t received much public discussion. It is understood that the competition will likely improve over coming summers as additional stables arrive. Improved purses at Canterbury mean that owners accustomed to racing their horses throughout the winter to make ends meet can now turn them out for a few months rest instead.

“A lot of people haven’t even considered that,” Porter said. “But horses coming back here now can be fresh and rested and ready to compete.”

So the season closed on a positive note for a number of people. Among the riders, Dean Butler, who won the last three thoroughbred titles, finished second to Riggs with 65 wins. Derek Bell had 38 and Nik Goodwin, who won the quarter horse title, 33. Next was Scott Stevens with 30 and then Lori Keith with 29.

Among the trainers, Rhone had a solid meet as did Mike Biehler and Silva.

Edward Ross Hardy won his 11th quarter horse training title with 25 victories, 11 more than Vic Hanson. Hardy won at a 37% rate. His runners finished in the top three 78% of the time. Nik Goodwin won the quarter horse riding title for the second time. Goodwin had 21 wins. Three of Goodwin’s and Hardy’s victories came with Canterbury Derby winner Huckleberry Mojito, who was voted Canterbury Quarter Horse of the Year. Brenda Reiswig of Bismarck, ND was the leading owner with 10 victories.

Placing judge Peggy Davis made an observation as well. She arrived in the press box with the joyous proclamation that for the first time in four years Hall of Fame rider Scott Stevens was leaving the grounds without an injury of some kind and would open the meet in Phoenix the first week of October.

Of all the positive and thankful things to think about this winter, that one ranks near the top.

Record Average Attendance Set; Total Handle Up 25%

Also near the top of the positive list, the business aspects related to the meet showed extremely positive signs.

Average attendance for the 62-day meet was 6,595, an increase of 7.3% compared to 2011 when average attendance was 6,143. The 2012 average attendance figure set a new record.

The amount of money wagered throughout the meet, increased by 25% compared to 2011. As previously mentioned, the 2011 season was shortened by a state government shutdown and consisted of 56 race days. In 2012, average daily handle was $452,405, an increase of 12.9% over 2011.

“We are very pleased with this season and are already planning for 2013,” Canterbury President Randy Sampson said.

This season $2.7 million was injected into the purse fund thanks to the $75 million joint marketing and purse enhancement agreement between Canterbury Park and the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community which operates Mystic Lake Casino Hotel. This year’s increase represented a per day increase of 31.8%. A per day increase of an additional 25% is expected for 2013.

“The purse enhancement agreement will have a positive impact on the Minnesota racing industry in many ways,” Sampson said. “I expect to see more and higher quality horses and stables racing at Canterbury in 2013,” Sampson said. “I also expect to see breeding in the state increase and have already heard from several horse breeders that intend to increase operations in the coming years. The excitement level for Minnesota racing has never been higher.”

Heliskier Named Horse of the Year; Other Divisional Champions

Three-year-old Heliskier was named Horse of the Year. The undefeated Minnesota-bred won all four starts including victories in the $50,000 Victor S. Myers Stakes and $65,000 Minnesota Derby. Heliskier is owned by Marlene Colvin of Ethan, SD. He is trained by Mac Robertson and was ridden by Derek Bell.

Canterbury’s 2012 divisional champions include:

Horse of the Year – Heliskier (owner: Marlene Colvin; trainer: Mac Robertson)

Three-Year-Old Colt or Gelding – Heliskier (owner: Marlene Colvin; trainer: Mac Robertson)

Sprinter – Heliskier (owner: Marlene Colvin; trainer: Mac Robertson)

Older Horse – Tubby Time (owner: Jeff Larson; trainer: Mac Robertson)

Grass Horse – Tubby Time (owner: Jeff Larson; trainer: Mac Robertson)

Older Filly or Mare – Ruthville (owner: Arthur B Hancock, III; trainer: Michael Stidham )

Three-Year-Old Filly – Keewatin Ice (owner: Camelia Casby; trainer: Bryan Porter)

Two-Year-Old – Badge of Glory (owner: Cheryl Spick and Richard Bremer; trainer: Bernell Rhone)

Claimer – Patriate (owner: Robert Johnson; trainer: Robert Johnson)

Quarter Horse – Huckleberry Mojito (owner: L M R 2011; trainer: Edward Ross Hardy )

New Attendance Record Set and Handle Up 25%

Just like that it was over. A horse named Vini Vidi Vinci won the 11th race on Monday, bringing the 2012 live racing season to a close.

The name is a corruption of that note of humility in Latin from Julius Cesar, who proclaimed that “I came, I saw, I conquered.”  Vini, Vidi Vinci did, however, drop the curtain on arguably the most promising summer in track annals.

Closing day produces mixed emotions for the horsemen, the riders, track staff, just about anyone you care to mention. The fans, too.

As one fellow offered: “It’s like leaving my grandparents after a visit as a kid. I was ready to go home, but I didn’t want to leave them.”

There is a feeling of relief on the one hand. Nearly everyone is ready for a break. There is also an emotional letdown on the other, a letting go of the summer, for better or for worse, and a four-month piece of one’s life.

In the world of the thoroughbred and the quarter horse, there is another element to closing day – the presentation of awards.

The champion trainer once again, for the eighth consecutive year, is Mac Robertson, who had 19 wins more than the second place trainers, Bernell Rhone and Mike Biehler.

Tanner Riggs, on the other hand, accomplished something no jockey before him at Canterbury – the Downs or Park – had done. He rode five winners on three cards. “That’s something in itself,” he said. “It doesn’t really sink in at first, but a few days down the road you think about it and how cool it is.” Riggs had 74 wins for the meet.

Ruben Martinez, the close associate of the Miguel Silva barn, won the owner’s award with four more wins than Curtis Sampson.

Canterbury Park president and CEO Randy Sampson addressed the closing day crowd with remarks about the training and riding champions as well as the future of racing in Shakopee.

“Mac had another great meet and Tanner had a great meet as well,” he said. “Tanner was a wonderful addition to Canterbury this year and we hope to see more of him in the future.”

What was clear, too, on closing day is that most horsemen will leave Shakopee in a different frame of mind than they did a year ago, following a summer that included a shutdown of the state government and the racetrack and plenty of uncertainty about what lay ahead.

The marketing agreement signed this summer between Canterbury and Mystic Lake and the Mdewakanton Sioux not only enhanced the purses for the 2012 meet but will continue to do so over the next decade, providing stability to racing heretofore unseen in Minnesota.

“We’re already looking forward to next season,” said Sampson. “We have a lot to look forward to.”

Trainer Bryan Porter, for one, is anticipating a change that hasn’t received much public discussion. It is understood that the competition will likely improve over coming summers as additional stables arrive. Improved purses at Canterbury mean that owners accustomed to racing their horses throughout the winter to make ends meet can now turn them out for a few months rest instead.

“A lot of people haven’t even considered that,” Porter said. “But horses coming back here now can be fresh and rested and ready to compete.”

So the season closed on a positive note for a number of people. Among the riders, Dean Butler, who won the last three thoroughbred titles, finished second to Riggs with 65 wins. Derek Bell had 38 and Nik Goodwin, who won the quarter horse title, 33. Next was Scott Stevens with 30 and then Lori Keith with 29.

Among the trainers, Rhone had a solid meet as did Mike Biehler and Silva.

Edward Ross Hardy won his 11th quarter horse training title with 25 victories, 11 more than Vic Hanson. Hardy won at a 37% rate. His runners finished in the top three 78% of the time. Nik Goodwin won the quarter horse riding title for the second time. Goodwin had 21 wins. Three of Goodwin’s and Hardy’s victories came with Canterbury Derby winner Huckleberry Mojito, who was voted Canterbury Quarter Horse of the Year. Brenda Reiswig of Bismarck, ND was the leading owner with 10 victories.

Placing judge Peggy Davis made an observation as well. She arrived in the press box with the joyous proclamation that for the first time in four years Hall of Fame rider Scott Stevens was leaving the grounds without an injury of some kind and would open the meet in Phoenix the first week of October.

Of all the positive and thankful things to think about this winter, that one ranks near the top.

Record Average Attendance Set; Total Handle Up 25%

Also near the top of the positive list, the business aspects related to the meet showed extremely positive signs.

Average attendance for the 62-day meet was 6,595, an increase of 7.3% compared to 2011 when average attendance was 6,143. The 2012 average attendance figure set a new record.

The amount of money wagered throughout the meet, increased by 25% compared to 2011. As previously mentioned, the 2011 season was shortened by a state government shutdown and consisted of 56 race days. In 2012, average daily handle was $452,405, an increase of 12.9% over 2011.

“We are very pleased with this season and are already planning for 2013,” Canterbury President Randy Sampson said.

This season $2.7 million was injected into the purse fund thanks to the $75 million joint marketing and purse enhancement agreement between Canterbury Park and the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community which operates Mystic Lake Casino Hotel. This year’s increase represented a per day increase of 31.8%. A per day increase of an additional 25% is expected for 2013.

“The purse enhancement agreement will have a positive impact on the Minnesota racing industry in many ways,” Sampson said. “I expect to see more and higher quality horses and stables racing at Canterbury in 2013,” Sampson said. “I also expect to see breeding in the state increase and have already heard from several horse breeders that intend to increase operations in the coming years. The excitement level for Minnesota racing has never been higher.”

Heliskier Named Horse of the Year; Other Divisional Champions

Three-year-old Heliskier was named Horse of the Year. The undefeated Minnesota-bred won all four starts including victories in the $50,000 Victor S. Myers Stakes and $65,000 Minnesota Derby. Heliskier is owned by Marlene Colvin of Ethan, SD. He is trained by Mac Robertson and was ridden by Derek Bell.

Canterbury’s 2012 divisional champions include:

Horse of the Year – Heliskier (owner: Marlene Colvin; trainer: Mac Robertson)

Three-Year-Old Colt or Gelding – Heliskier (owner: Marlene Colvin; trainer: Mac Robertson)

Sprinter – Heliskier (owner: Marlene Colvin; trainer: Mac Robertson)

Older Horse – Tubby Time (owner: Jeff Larson; trainer: Mac Robertson)

Grass Horse – Tubby Time (owner: Jeff Larson; trainer: Mac Robertson)

Older Filly or Mare – Ruthville (owner: Arthur B Hancock, III; trainer: Michael Stidham )

Three-Year-Old Filly – Keewatin Ice (owner: Camelia Casby; trainer: Bryan Porter)

Two-Year-Old – Badge of Glory (owner: Cheryl Spick and Richard Bremer; trainer: Bernell Rhone)

Claimer – Patriate (owner: Robert Johnson; trainer: Robert Johnson)

Quarter Horse – Huckleberry Mojito (owner: L M R 2011; trainer: Edward Ross Hardy )

Record Crowd of 17,053 Enjoys 2012 Festival

The Festival of Champions began 20 years ago as a rebuke to track management at the time, as a demonstration by horsemen that the Ladbroke Corp.’s marketing strategies and ideas about live racing were wrong.

They’ve been proving that nearly every year of live racing since, often most notably on Festival day, but never quite like Sunday.

A crowd of 17,053 fans, nearly 6,000 more than ever previously recorded on Festival Day and the fourth largest overall in Canterbury Park history, took in a sun-soaked afternoon of racing featuring Minnesota quarter horses and thoroughbreds only. The record crowd wagered $432,978 on track, contributing to a total handle of $845,309

More than $400,000 in purses attracted the best from the barns in Shakopee with the notable exceptions of Heliskier, the likely Horse of the Meet, and the redoubtable Tubby Time.

It was a throwback to the days when large crowds were commonplace at Canterbury. Lines at mutual windows, concession stands and elsewhere were long, the escalators were packed and busy throughout the afternoon, the paddock full before races and the winner’s enclosure packed after races.

The card comprised 11 races. The final one of the card – an indication of a slower pace throughout the afternoon – went off at 6:50, nearly 20 minutes later than scheduled.

$50,000 Minnesota Distaff Classic

There are several ways to describe what took place in this race, but one that cannot go unrecognized is the role the rider played. It was indeed Tanner Time for the third time on the card, as Canterbury’s champion jockey for the season, Tanner Riggs, kept his filly’s head in the race from gate to wire for a convincing victory. That filly was Congrats and Roses, who had run a total of four times this season without a win.

All eyes (or was it ayes) were on Keewatin Ice in this one, at least until it became apparent that the Mac Robertson-trained horse with Riggs in the irons was not going to be denied. Sasha’s Fierce was second and Sam’s Grindstone finished third.

As she broke from the gate, Riggs gave his horse a reminder with a crack to the belly to assure she was cognizant of the race under way.

In a bit of banter possible only with Canterbury’s champion trainer, Mac Robertson, involved, the following comic exchange took place:

“Boy, I didn’t see this coming,” said Canterbury president and CEO Randy Sampson.

“Hey,” countered Robertson,” this filly ran great in this race last year. Ever since you started hanging with the commissioner, you’ve lost faith in me and it’s cost you money.”

Just then the subject of the moment, Minnesota Racing Commission chairman Jesse Overton appeared, camera in hand.

“Speaking of the devil,” Robertson intoned, as Overton prepared to snap a picture. “You should take those of me before the race,” Robertson added.

You can say those kind of things after winning eight consecutive training titles.

$50,000 Minnesota Classic Championship

They couldn’t touch Coconino Slim.

He broke to the lead and stay right there despite pressure throughout the mile and 1-16 events, finishing 2 ¼ lengths in front of Samendra and 8 ¼ ahead of Jaival.

Owner Catherine DeCourcy had a simply response in the winner’s enclosure afterward. “I’m honored and I’m humbled,” she said.

Under Tanner Riggs, the winner ran just the race needed for his first win in six starts. With a clear lead out of the gate, Coconino shook off a challenge on the backstretch and drew off in the stretch drive as the odds-on favorite.

It was a “chalky” kind of day and this race demonstrated it perfectly. Coconino won as the people’s choice. Samendra and Jaival were second and third as 3-1 choices. Eurasian was fourth as the next choice on the board.

 $65,000 Northern Lights Debutante

Badge of Glory needed only to win this race to get her own badge of honor after breaking her maiden on July 28. She gets it after Sunday’s effort. It always helps to have Scott Stevens in the irons when the mount is a two-year-old, as demonstrated once again, in this race.

By Badge of Silver from Dracken, Badge of Glory is considered by her breeders as one of the most talented horses they have raised. They recognized her precocity hours after her birth in the way she handled herself in the stall. “We knew when this filly was two hours old that she would be the best we’ve raised,” said Richard Bremer.

$50,000 Minnesota Distaff Sprint

One of Canterbury Park’s enshrinees in the Hall of Fame Saturday night was breeder/owner Cam Casby, whose first shot with a thoroughbred on Festival Day was Polar Plunge.

With speed galore, the race set up beautifully for this daughter of Successful Appeal and that’s pretty much the way it played out.

Polar Plunge, the odds-on favorite, took advantage of the swift pace in front of her and glided home under Bobby Walker, Jr., one-half length in front of Gypsy Melody and 2 ½ in front of Happy Hour Honey

Casby declines to watch her horses run, preferring to watch the replays after the drama is over, but she stays tuned in to a certain extent, as she did for this race.

“We wanted her to be behind,” Casby said, “especially with those fractions. They were way too fast.” Happy Hour Honey set the pace for the first quarter in 21 3/5. The half was done in 44 2/5.

Still, Casby did not head to the winner’s circle until all the Is were dotted and the Ts crossed.

“You never know until you are past the wire and the photo proves it,” she said.

$65,000 Northern Lights Futurity

This race produced a stunning effort from Sugar Business, a son of Stormy Business from Sugar Hills Miss. Under Derek Bell, the brown colt left his rivals far back, finishing in a stakes record 1:10 1/5.

The start was only the third for the Curt Sampson-owned colt, who hadn’t run since July 13. “We wanted to rest him,” said trainer Tony Rengstorf. “This race was what we were shooting for.”

And the record time?

“A pleasant surprise,” said Rengstorf.

Surprising,too, to the winner’s rivals. Bet Your Life was second, eight lengths behind the winner. Lil’ Apollo was 18 ¾ lengths behind in third.

$50,000 Minnesota Sprint Championship

Normorewineforeddie is entitled to a goblet of the very best after winning this race for the third consecutive year, again in convincing fashion. The Scrimshaw horse covered the six furlongs in a swift 1:09 2/5 with plenty of ground between him and Gold Country Cat and Freedom First.

He had 6 ½ lengths on the second place horse, who got the place by a neck.

Winning owner Tony Didier was wearing a tee-shirt in the winner’ s enclosure depicting a jockey holding a bottle of wine aloft in a salute to Eddie. The wine bottle has been uncorked so it seems possible the state’s open bottle law does not apply to thoroughbred racetracks.

Didier, as usual, gave credit to his trainer, fellow Nebraskan Bruce Riecken and to winning rider Dean Butler.

“Bruce did a great job getting him ready,” Riecken said. And Butler’s ride? “You don’t have worry about anything with Dean Butler.”

The race was only the third for Eddie this year. “He’s had a few problems,” said Didier. “Hopefully he’s over them.”

Hardys Continue Festival Dominance

Employee problems among other issues kept Kari Hardy in Iowa for qualifying races on Saturday night, so she was unable to attend the Hall of Fame festivities at Canterbury and had nothing to show for the trip when she arrived back in Shakopee. How did you do in Iowa, she was asked.

“Mediocre,” she said. Neither of her two horses qualified for the John Deere juvenile challenge.

There was some consolation upon her return, however.

Western Fun (above), ridden by Mark Luark and owned by Canterbury Park’s newest owners in the Hall of Fame , Bob and Julie Petersen, won the first race on Sunday’s card, the $22,400 Minnesota Quarter Horse Derby in 20.640 seconds. Western Fun had a neck on Flyin Coronas (who was later disqualified for interference), who was a half-length in front of Streak N Hot.

The Hardy barn had the winner of the $23,350 Quarter Horse Futurity, too. Tanner Riggs, the champion thoroughbred jockey of the meet, brought in Fly Eyeann (below) in 18.607 for owner Rodney Von Ohlen, whose V Os Red Hot Cole finished third in the race. In between those two was Tres My Tracks.

“That helps a bit,” Hardy said.

Could it have been any better? “Well, yes, it could have been first and second,” said Von Ohlen.

Nonetheless, it was the fifth time the Hardy barn has swept the two races as this team adds each summer to their local dominance. They have won 16 races in the Minnesota Festival, 12 more than anyone else. The Hardy barn has claimed 11 training titles at Canterbury since 2000. The victory for the Petersens was their eighth on Festival Day, three more than anyone else.

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

Canterbury Jockeys Make Plans

Some of the trailers are lined up like sentries on the backside, ready to receive their cargo when the meet officially closes on Monday. They have been swept out and lined with fresh straw in anticipation of the awaiting trip, to farms where their cargo will be turned out or to other racetracks where they will be assigned new stalls.

The men and women who have ridden those horses this summer in Shakopee are making plans as well, preparing to take short breaks before engaging in a new meet at another racetrack, in Chicago, Oklahoma or in Phoenix.

Many of the riders who spend their winters riding at Turf Paradise in Phoenix shift their tack to Shakopee in the spring because the two meets dovetail perfectly.

Scott Stevens, for one, is heading home to Phoenix for the first time in the last four years prepared to ride when Turf Paradise begins its meet the first week of October. This is the first Canterbury meet in four years Stevens has been able to complete, and it was a good meet at that. Through Friday’s card he has ridden 27 winners.

Now it’s on to Phoenix.

“I’m anxious for that,” he said. “It’s been a while.” Stevens has been either injured, undergoing therapy or awaiting surgery and unable to ride when the Phoenix meet began for the last three autumns.

But first there is a scheduled trip. “I’m going for a week to Hawaii,” he said.

Sounds great, but it is hard to match the journey Lori Keith plans to take before dusting off her tack for the Phoenix meet. She’s planning on a respite in the South of France where her parents have a restaurant. “For some good food, good wine and fine company,” she said.

And then there is the sad tale of Canterbury Park’s 2012 riding champion, Tanner Riggs, who struggles to maintain his riding weight and is best off staying busy rather than taking a break.

“I think I’ll catch the last three weeks of Arlington and then go to Hawthorne,” he said.

Not much of a vacation, he was told.

“Can’t really take one,” he responded.

Patricia Trimble heads out on Wednesday with her husband, Rusty Shaw, who has spent the summer on injured reserve and is still awaiting surgery. Her five-year-old daughter, Taylor Page, is beginning kindergarten, at a school not far from Turf Paradise.

Nik Goodwin, the 2012 quarter horse riding champion, is headed to Ocala, Fla., where he intends to spend the next few months breaking babies. But first he and his wife will take a trip to Yellowstone National Park, while the boys, four-year-old Layne and one-year-old Hunter, spend some time with grandpa and grandma in Bemidji. “We’re going to fly them up to spend time with my parents,” Goodwin said.

Bobby Walker, Jr. will head home to West Monroe, La. His son Aaron, 13, will begin the eighth grade in either West Monroe or Bossier City. The uncertainty has to do with Walker’s daughter Brittany, a radiology technician, who has agreed to help out if Aaron goes to school in Bossier City where she lives.

Wilson Dieguez will head home to Phoenix, too, for his 12th season at Turf Paradise. He intends to return to Shakopee for a second time next spring. “I’ll be back, for sure, God willing,” he said.

Derek Bell will take a five-day trip to Canada to angle for walleyes but intends to see if he’ll be allowed to ride at Arlington Park, now that the “flag” on his name has been eliminated.

Carlos Castro is bound for Charles Town for three or four weeks and later will give Hawthore a shot.

Adolfo Morales?

He’s a Phoenix native, who’ll take some time off and “gain some weight,” he said facetiously.

Dean Butler, who is likely to finish second this season in the standings after winning three consecutive titles at Canterbury, hasn’t taken any time off since he started in 1992. “If I get days or something,” he said. “Or sick.”

So, it’s off to Remington Park and then home to Tampa Bay Downs for the winter.

About that time, Stevens look up at a television in the jockeys’ lounge with the horses for the fourth race Thursday night parading in front of the grandstand.”Hey, that’s the horse that broke my shoulder last summer,” he said, referring to Proud Kylean, who had Geovanni Franco on her back.

Another reminder for Stevens that it’s been a good summer indeed.

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

Canterbury Jockeys Make Plans

Some of the trailers are lined up like sentries on the backside, ready to receive their cargo when the meet officially closes on Monday. They have been swept out and lined with fresh straw in anticipation of the awaiting trip, to farms where their cargo will be turned out or to other racetracks where they will be assigned new stalls.

The men and women who have ridden those horses this summer in Shakopee are making plans as well, preparing to take short breaks before engaging in a new meet at another racetrack, in Chicago, Oklahoma or in Phoenix.

Many of the riders who spend their winters riding at Turf Paradise in Phoenix shift their tack to Shakopee in the spring because the two meets dovetail perfectly.

Scott Stevens, for one, is heading home to Phoenix for the first time in the last four years prepared to ride when Turf Paradise begins its meet the first week of October. This is the first Canterbury meet in four years Stevens has been able to complete, and it was a good meet at that. Through Friday’s card he has ridden 27 winners.

Now it’s on to Phoenix.

“I’m anxious for that,” he said. “It’s been a while.” Stevens has been either injured, undergoing therapy or awaiting surgery and unable to ride when the Phoenix meet began for the last three autumns.

But first there is a scheduled trip. “I’m going for a week to Hawaii,” he said.

Sounds great, but it is hard to match the journey Lori Keith plans to take before dusting off her tack for the Phoenix meet. She’s planning on a respite in the South of France where her parents have a restaurant. “For some good food, good wine and fine company,” she said.

And then there is the sad tale of Canterbury Park’s 2012 riding champion, Tanner Riggs, who struggles to maintain his riding weight and is best off staying busy rather than taking a break.

“I think I’ll catch the last three weeks of Arlington and then go to Hawthorne,” he said.

Not much of a vacation, he was told.

“Can’t really take one,” he responded.

Patricia Trimble heads out on Wednesday with her husband, Rusty Shaw, who has spent the summer on injured reserve and is still awaiting surgery. Her five-year-old daughter, Taylor Page, is beginning kindergarten, at a school not far from Turf Paradise.

Nik Goodwin, the 2012 quarter horse riding champion, is headed to Ocala, Fla., where he intends to spend the next few months breaking babies. But first he and his wife will take a trip to Yellowstone National Park, while the boys, four-year-old Layne and one-year-old Hunter, spend some time with grandpa and grandma in Bemidji. “We’re going to fly them up to spend time with my parents,” Goodwin said.

Bobby Walker, Jr. will head home to West Monroe, La. His son Aaron, 13, will begin the eighth grade in either West Monroe or Bossier City. The uncertainty has to do with Walker’s daughter Brittany, a radiology technician, who has agreed to help out if Aaron goes to school in Bossier City where she lives.

Wilson Dieguez will head home to Phoenix, too, for his 12th season at Turf Paradise. He intends to return to Shakopee for a second time next spring. “I’ll be back, for sure, God willing,” he said.

Derek Bell will take a five-day trip to Canada to angle for walleyes but intends to see if he’ll be allowed to ride at Arlington Park, now that the “flag” on his name has been eliminated.

Carlos Castro is bound for Charles Town for three or four weeks and later will give Hawthore a shot.

Adolfo Morales?

He’s a Phoenix native, who’ll take some time off and “gain some weight,” he said facetiously.

Dean Butler, who is likely to finish second this season in the standings after winning three consecutive titles at Canterbury, hasn’t taken any time off since he started in 1992. “If I get days or something,” he said. “Or sick.”

So, it’s off to Remington Park and then home to Tampa Bay Downs for the winter.

About that time, Stevens look up at a television in the jockeys’ lounge with the horses for the fourth race Thursday night parading in front of the grandstand.”Hey, that’s the horse that broke my shoulder last summer,” he said, referring to Proud Kylean, who had Geovanni Franco on her back.

Another reminder for Stevens that it’s been a good summer indeed.

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

Previewing the Festival Quarters

The end of the meet is upon us, but 2012 will go out in style with the Minnesota Festival of Champions this weekend! Two of the restricted Minnesota-bred stakes races will feature quarter horses: the 18th running of both the Minnesota Quarter Horse Derby and Minnesota Quarter Horse Futurity.

Sunday, September 2nd:  Minnesota Quarter Horse Derby, 400 yards, $19,000

Leading Trainer: Ed Ross Hardy (6)

Leading Jockey: Tom Wellington (4)

Record Purse: $26,100 (Stone Cold Roller, 2007)

Sometimes, the outcome of the Minnesota Quarter Horse Futurity gives us a sneak peek of what to expect in the three-year-old division the following year. In 2011, the three horses to hit the board in the futurity each returned to be a major player in the 2012 season at Canterbury, including the winner, Streak N Hot (pictured above left). Streak N Hot made his 2012 debut in an allowance, and continued to run in derby trials and finals, running respectably, but failing to notch a win in his three-year-old year until the recent Cash Caravan Stakes. The post-time favorite, Streak N Hot narrowly defeated perennial Canterbury runner Six It Up, though the pair was nearly two lengths clear of the rest of the field.

Streak N Hot had the misfortune of entering against the talented and likely quarter horse of the year, Huckleberry Mojito, in four of his six races this year. With Huckleberry out of the way in the Minnesota Quarter Horse Derby (she’s not a Minn-bred), Streak N Hot has an excellent chance to repeat his Cash Caravan performance and pull off the Festival of Champions double. Only two other horses have won the Futurity and come back to take the Derby: Cracklin Cash, 1999-2000 and CS Night Light, 2004-2005.

At 7-5, #7 Streak N Hot is the morning line favorite and will be tough to catch on Sunday. But he’ll have to hold off the second place finisher in last year’s Futurity, #1 Western Fun (5-2). After the Minnesota Futurity, Western Fun won back to back races at Prairie Meadows and Beulah, but has finished no better than second in her 2012 Canterbury campaign. As usual, Western Fun finds herself in against some of the best company, but her inside post position and connections, may give her an edge.

Two more horses return from last year’s Futurity for a chance at the Derby win: #3 Explosive Guns (6-1) and #4 Br Hotrod (12-1). Explosive Guns finished third in the Futurity; he shipped briefly to Prairie Meadows, Will Rogers Downs and Remington Park before returning to Canterbury this year.  Explosive Guns has been part of the same three-year-old clique as Streak N Hot and Western Fun, and broke his maiden in a derby trial on opening weekend while racing at 400 yards for the first time. Since then, Explosive Guns has shown a little trouble in the gate and encountered a few traffic problems, so a clean trip will be necessary for this gelding to pass his foes.

#4 Br Hotrod ran fourth in the Futurity last year; since then he ran short all summer until breaking his maiden, then made his most recent start in a claiming event at 870 yards. Cutting back from a hook race to 400 yards is an interesting angle, but the class jump may be hard to overcome.

If you simply must have a longshot for your exotic wagers, look at the lightly raced #5 Flyin Coronas (10-1). Flyin Coronas makes his third lifetime start after finishing fourth in the Cash Caravan. Though low on experience, he ran well enough in that race to suggest that there is talent to be developed, and his breakout race is yet to come.

Sunday, September 2nd: Minnesota Quarter Horse Futurity, 350 yards, $19,000

Leading Trainer: Ed Ross Hardy (8)

Leading Jockey: Tad Leggett (4)

Record Purse: $26,100 (CS Limelight, 2007)

The field for the Minnesota Quarter Horse Futurity this year is wide open, so enjoy the race with the knowledge that you may be watching a preview of the stakes and allowance fields of 2013.

Morning line favorite is #4 Fly Eyeann (5-2), out of the Ed Hardy barn with Tanner Riggs aboard; Riggs is one of the most sought-after Thoroughbred jockeys at Canterbury but has only placed in six of his 21 quarter horse mounts this year. Fly Eyeann is out of the Mr Eye Opener mare Eyzanee, by the Mr Jess Perry sire Fly Jess Fly. Her breeding is strikingly similar to that of Huckleberry Mojito, who is also out of a Mr Eye Opener mare and by a Mr Jess Perry sire. These bloodlines also suggest that Fly Eyeann may even better as a three-year-old. That said, she is one of only two horses in the field to have run in a stakes race, and the only one to hit the board, when she finished second behind HadaCertainCharm in the Minnesota Stallion Breeders Futurity in June.

The horse most likely to challenge Fly Eyeann is #8 V Os Red Hot Cole (4-1). This morning line could be a steal on this Pyc Paint Your Wagon gelding, who is trained by Ed Hardy and will be ridden by Nik Goodwin. V Os Red Hot Cole, like most of the field, is a maiden, but his starts include a third place finish by a neck in a maiden race at Remington Park and a second place finish in a futurity trial at Canterbury in July. Remington shippers are dangerous here, as are these connections, and this horse will be one to watch in this weekend and beyond.

The real story in this race concerns #2 Streaking Light (8-1). This Streakin La Jolla filly is out of the Royal Quick Dash mare Cs Night Light, as noted earlier, one of only two horses to win the Minnesota QH Futurity and come back to win the Minnesota QH Derby. Cs Night Light won the Futurity in 2004, the Derby in 2005, and went on to race in multiple trials and stakes as a four-year-old at Remington and Prairie Meadows, ending with a 17-6-3-1 record. It’s not often that you see a mare and her filly each run in the same stakes race, and you have to hope that Streaking Light can continue the legacy, starting with a victory in the Minnesota Quarter Horse Futurity on Sunday.

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

Photo Credit: Coady Photography