Come Summer, Simply the Best

come summer win pictureHe was good enough to beat a future national sprint champion, good enough to win all four of his races that summer at the new racetrack in Shakopee. And he was good enough to become the first Horse of the Year in Minnesota Racing history.

He was Come Summer.

A stunning dark colt with royalty in his blood, Come Summer would continue his career racing mostly in Kentucky and other parts South after the first summer in Shakopee, this great-grandson of Bold Ruler and Somethingroyal, who had a son named Secretariat.

Trained primarily by George “Rusty” Arnold and also Shug McGaughey, Come Summer was retired as a six-year-old and purchased shortly thereafter in Kentucky by LeAnne and Dave Dayon of Wind N Wood Farm, who recalled an incident at the time worthy of passing on.

A horse sale was being conducted at the Shakopee Ballroom, when Dayon walked in and ran into Alvin Goebel. Both had been in Kentucky at the same time recently trying to find a horse to stand at their farms.

“I have a stallion you’ll want to breed your mares to,” said Goebel, who had just purchased Danski.

“I have a stallion you’ll want to breed your mares to,” responded Dayon.

Thus began Come Summer’s life in Minnesota, where he would spend the remainder of his days as a stallion and then a pensioner, inquired about frequently by his original owners, Ward and Roberta Williford of Dallas, Texas, right up until his death last January.

“He died right there in the paddock,” said Dayon.”He had the same spinal problem as Seattle Slew.” He was 31 years old with some of the infirmities that accompany many animals as they gather years. Another way of putting it, as Dayon did: “He died of old age.”

Yet what a life he had on the racetrack, winning 14 times from 34 starts that included five seconds and four thirds and earnings of $360,237. A foal of 1982, Come Summer was a horse the Willifords were hopeful of running in the Kentucky Derby, before quarter cracks derailed those intentions.

He came to Shakopee instead and took over the grounds, beating future Eclipse Award winning sprinter Smile in the Canterbury Invitational, setting a track record for a mile and 70 yards that stands 28 years later (1:40.20) and then winning the Canterbury Derby. The Invitational was voted race of the meet that summer. Come Summer demonstrated in the years that followed he could run any distance from sprint to route. He won Churchill Downs’ Grade III Clark Handicap in 1986, beating a handful of Grade I winners in the process.

A Canterbury Park Hall of Fame horse, Come Summer was pensioned at age 22 by Dayon after a modest career at stud. Canterbury Patrons surely recall one of his offspring, Haulin’ Oats.

Officially a dark brown horse, Come Summer stood 16.1 hands. All business on the racetrack, he was playful in the barn and away from the bugle, nipping at his grooms who fed him mints. “He liked to kick up his heels a little bit,” said Dayon, “but he was always a manageable horse to breed with.”

He liked to ham it up at picture time, too. When he appeared in the winner’s circle at Canterbury Park for his retirement acknowledgement, Come Summer knew where the winner’s circle was and what to do when he got there.

“He sat up and posed the moment he saw the camera,” Dayon added.

For the Dayons and the Willifords, Come Summer was one of a kind, the first “big” horse for the Dallas couple and not much different for the Dayons.

“To us he was like owning a person’s first Porsche,” said Dayon.”And we were in constant contact over the years with the Willifords.”

The Willifords were planning a trip to Minnesota to see Come Summer last year. “They weren’t able to make it, but they had hoped to see him one last time before he went,” said Dayon.

Clearly, he was a horse they never forgot, nor, presumably, have the early fans who watched Come Summer’s magnificent summer 28 years ago. Certainly not the Dayons, who are still considering the proper gravestone for the horse.

“He is buried right outside his stall beneath the cherry tree,” said Dayon.”We’re still thinking about what kind of marker to put up for him.”

Just a suggestion, but…

Come Summer, the best of Minnesota racing’s first summer.

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.

Stakes Racing Recaps

There has been plenty of quarter horse stakes action over the past half dozen racing days at Canterbury Park. Who won? Who lost? Who set a new track record? Here’s a recap of Canterbury’s recent big races:

Great Lakes Stakes

Stakes action kicked off last week with the 16th running of the Great Lakes Stakes, featuring three-year-olds and up running 440 yards for $21,000. The field included winner of this year’s Skip Zimmerman Stakes, Hollywood Trickster (pictured above), a New Mexico-bred gelding who came from seventh place at the break to win by half a length. The five-year-old repeated in the Great Lakes Stakes when he broke next to last and flew up the stretch to defeat Paintyourownwagon by a neck. Hollywood Trickster was the post-time favorite and covered the quarter mile in 21.744, earning a 104 speed index. Paintyourownwagon finished second with a 103 SI, and A Faster Streaker was a close third, earning a 101 index.

Hollywood Trickster is owned by Christine Hovey and trained by Ed Hardy; Derek Bell was up for this win. Unlike many horses racing at 440 yards, Hollywood Trickster is actually attempting shorter races than he is used to; the son of thoroughbred Favorite Trick, out of a Heza Fast Man mare is a talented 550 and 870 performer. He lives up to his name at 440 yards, deceiving us into thinking he is too far behind to win but gains enough momentum to pull off a dramatic ending. His replay is the last race on the video below:


Northlands Futurity

Midnight Sunlight was the upset winner in Thursday’s running of the $59,800 Northlands Futurity, though a closer look at her past performances suggests that this win should not have been that much of a surprise. The filly did not break on top, but was moved quickly to second place and kicked into gear late in the race to defeat Mr Shakem Diva by a nose at the wire. Mr Shakem Diva turned in a breakout performance, leading the race until the final strides and narrowly defeating post-time favorite and fastest qualifier Bp Painted Lady. Bp Painted Lady was bumped coming out of the gate and was clear of traffic soon after; she moved up steadily throughout the race but lacked the needed kick to get ahead of her foes. The three-way photo finish suggests that we may have several future racing stars on our grounds.

Owned by Brenda Reiswig, and ridden by Stormy Smith, Midnight Sunlight earned the first Northlands victory for trainer Vic Hanson. Midnight Sunlight’s success began with her breeding; bred by Bobby Cox in Texas, the filly is by one of the leading two-year-old sires, Ivory James, out of Quick Moon Sign by Royal Quick Dash, a top Texas broodmare sire. The filly was the fastest qualifier to the $350,000 Grade 2 Oklahoma Futurity this spring at Remington Park. There were 15 qualifying trials with nearly 150 horses, and her time of 15.391 was the best on the card for the 300 yard trials. She ran second in the final to Dash for Coronas, who went on to qualify for and run fourth in the Grade 1 $1,100,000 Heritage Place Futurity, also at Remington Park.

Midnight Sunlight ran 350 yards in 17.843; Mr Shakem Diva was a nose behind at 17.846 and Bp Painted Lady ran 17.864. Each horse earned a 93 speed index. It may be time to put all three of these horses in your virtual stable: Midnight Sunlight is just beginning to show her true talent and will be one to watch in the years to come. Mr Shakem Diva had the race won at 250 and 300 yards, so be ready to put money on that one when he runs a shorter race. Bp Painted Lady closed fast at the end of the race to get up for third; in an allowance race and maybe at a longer distance, she’ll have no trouble getting the win.


Canterbury Park Quarter Horse Derby

Huckleberry Mojito did not disappoint in the Canterbury Park Quarter Horse Derby last Saturday. The three-year-old daughter of Feature Mr Jess won in style, leading at the first call and pulling away from the field to win by nearly two lengths. Huckleberry Mojito was the fastest qualifier to the derby with 19.97; on Saturday she stunned everyone with a final time of 19.625, setting a new track record and earning a remarkable 108 speed index. The previous track record was 16.692, set by Mr Hempens Feature in a trial for the 2010 Canterbury Derby. He lost to Time for Wilena in the final, who set the stakes record for this race with 16.699. Huckleberry Mojito now owns both the track and stakes record.

Feature Mr Jess is a leading quarter horse sire, but handicappers and breeders know that his daughters, while particularly talented, take more time than usual to mature. Feature Mr Jess fillies tend to be better as three-year-olds than in their first year, and like their sire, the longer the race the better. Huckleberry Mojito is no exception, showing tremendous improvement this year with every race.

Huckleberry Mojito was bred in Texas by Gary and Patty Peterson, owned by L M R 2011, and trained by Ed Hardy, giving him his seventh Canterbury Derby win. Nik Goodwin chalks up another quarter horse win; bet on a quarter horse for no other reason than Goodwin getting the mount this meet and you’ll hit first or second place over 90% of the time. Her replay is the second race on the video below:


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