The Grass Is Greener

By Noah Joseph

The month of August is an exciting month for Canterbury. One reason is the Mystic Lake Derby, the featured and richest race of the season. The race is for three year olds going one mile on the turf. Turf racing has been a part of Minnesota racing for several years, so it seemed about time to take a look at the history of turf racing in Minnesota

Turf racing began in Minnesota in 1986; however, the idea of turf racing was already planned when Canterbury opened the previous year. However, there wasn’t enough time to get a turf course ready, so it was introduced a year later.

May 25, 1986 – dedication of the Eilken Turf Course

The first race ever run on the turf was the Lady Canterbury, won by Sauna. Another turf attraction, while only run once, was the Canterbury Turf Classic Handicap, won by Treizieme. Over the years, races on the Canterbury lawn were won by top horses such as John Bullit, Princess Elaine, Balbonella, Tappiano, Capades, and many more.

Capades

When Canterbury reopened in 1995, turf racing was just as exciting and competitive as it was before. The return of turf racing in Minnesota saw horses like Honor the Hero and Go Go Jack crush their completion. Jest for a Trucker was named 1996 Canterbury Horse of the Year after several turf victories. 1997 saw K Z Bay upset the Lady Canterbury field on the lawn en route to one the most classic Canterbury moments. Recently, races on the Canterbury turf have been won by top horses such as Hay Dakota, Majestic Pride, One Mean Man, Nun the Less, Long On Value, Tubby Time, Teddy Time, A P Is Loose, and Dear Fay.

Turf racing has been a major force at Canterbury, and it will be for many years to come, proving that sometimes, the grass is greener on the other side.

Duel At The Downs

What’s on Tap for July 3rd

Turf ChuteCanterbury’s July 3rd card may be the best of the season to date. The eleven races are comprised of three stakes and 107 entries (3 of which are on the also-eligible list) including two state-bred turf stakes, the $50k Blairs Cove and the $50k Princess Elaine.

In the Blairs Cove, a one mile and one sixteenth turf route for Minnesota-breds, Tubby Time (7/2 morning line favorite) looks to win the race for the third year in a row, but he’ll have to contend with the likes of Mack’s Blackhawk who exits the Grade III Louisville Handicap at Churchill Downs and stablemate Coconino Slim who exits two sharp efforts earlier this year in Arlington Park allowance races following his win in the 2012 Minnesota Classic Championship in the 2012 Festival of Champions.

The Princess Elaine, the filly and mare counterpart to the Blairs Cove, appears relatively wide open. It’s Tamareno (6-1 morning line), who crushed state-bred N1X foes in her last out taking home the majority of the $32k purse, may be the one to beat as she has done some solid running on the Arlington Park throughout her career. In fact, her last out was only her second career race in Minnesota, having finished second in a state-bred N1X in 2012. Percy Scherbenske may have made a very sharp claim for owner Jack Guggisburg tagging this one for only $16k last September at Arlington Park.

The third race the tri-feature is the $20,000 added Great Lakes Stakes which will be run at 400-yards for quarter horses as the second race of the afternoon. Bf Farm Boy, 3rd place finisher two back to 2011 Word Champion Quarter Horse Cold Cash 123, looks to bounce back from a disappointing local debut in the Skip Zimmerman Stakes back on June 16. A Splash of Hell, runner-up in the Skip Zimmerman is the morning line favorite at 3-1.

The 2013 card features two Pick 4s (which along with our Pick 3s feature one of the lowest takeout rates in North America at only 14%). The first Pick 4 starts in Race 4 with state-bred maiden claimers going one mile, it continues as eleven $6,250 N2Ls do battle over six and one half furlongs, the third leg is comprised of second-level allowance foes doing battle at six furlongs and finishes up with an open $34k allowance over five furlongs on the turf which drew a capacity cast of 10 bolstered by one on the also-eligible list.

The second Pick 4 starts in Race 8 and is comprised of thirteen $6,250 N3Ls, the two aforementioned thoroughbred stakes on the turf and closes with a full field of $4,000 claimers going one mile and seventy yards.

Wagering on Canterbury’s July 3rd card has been historically been very strong and promises to be once again in 2013. In 2012, total wagering surpassed $1.1 million including pick four pools of  $20,640 (Early Pick 4) and $28,657 (Late Pick 4). That card featured only 84 starters in 11 races (7.64 starters per race) and was run in 105+ heat.

With 107 entries in 11 races before scratches (average field size of 9.72) and perfect weather forecast for the day (83 and sunny) it has the potential to be the best July 3 card in Canterbury Park history. So expect even bigger pools, bigger payouts and more excitement than ever before. Plus, all 11 of our races are scheduled to be broadcast live on TVG (Channel 602 DirecTV and 405 Dish Network). First Post is 4pm CDT.

Don’t forget, for all of you able to attend in person, we’ll shoot off some of the best fireworks in the entire metro area following the night’s card. In any case, be sure to spend your July 3rd playing (at) Canterbury Park!

Canterbury Fireworks 7-3-12 #3

The Turf Chute Makes Its Debut

Not many in the sizable crowd of over 7,000 Thursday realized they were witnessing a small bit of Canterbury Park history, a footnote perhaps to much more that has happened since racing debuted in 1985, yet something to remember nonetheless.

No one said one day they will bounce a grandchild on a knee and recall the day chute racing returned to Canterbury. No one wept when the winner of the first race out of the chute entered the winner’s circle.

Just the same, the racing season is drawing to a close and historic occasions are becoming fewer to document.

A few people of the jockey persuasion did complain about the sharpness of the turn onto the course when a race lines up in the chute.

To which identifier Mark Bader had this opinion: “Gripe about a turn,” he said. “We used to race places where a telephone pole marked the outside fence and barbed wire was the inside rail and both were something to avoid.”

The Canterbury chute was abandoned sometime in the late 1990s when concerts were a frequent affair in the infield. Others claim it was abandoned after numerous complaints from riders who didn’t, ahem!, like the sharpness of the turn onto the main course.

Whatever the case, chute racing made its triumphant return in races two and three on Thursday, both races at about a mile, the first for maiden fillies and mares and the second an allowance tiff for the same gender.

The winner of the first race was a 3-year-old filly by Sir Shackleton named Tightrope Dancer, ridden by Denny Velazquez, trained and owned by Gary Scherer.

“She’s a chute horse. She loves the chute,” Scherer cracked as his horse arrived for the winning photo.

Moments later, he congratulated Velazquez as he headed back toward the jockeys’ room. “Hey, congratulations on your first turf win here in the first chute race in years,” he said.

“I’m just glad to win it,” said Velazquez, whose mount broke from the No. 8 hole. The potential exists for horses in the outside positions to get shuffled to the back of the pack. “It didn’t really matter,” Velazquez said regarding his post position.

Britta Giller, who works in Scherer’s stable and hot-walks the winning filly was convinced the horse would win Thursday morning. “She was getting a bath and I asked her if she would win tonight,” Giller said. “She began shaking her head up and down as if to say ‘yes’. I told Gary that she was going to win tonight.”

Where are these tips when we need them, right!

The return of chute racing at Canterbury has this concern for three-time defending riding champ Dean Butler: The manner in which the horses approach the gate from the infield, which is wide open.

“I can guarantee you that a horse will get loose sometime and end up in one of the ponds unless that is changed,” he said, which is what happened maybe three years ago at Tampa Bay Downs, where Butler rides during the winter.

The winner of race three was Stillwater Storm, trained by Doug Oliver and ridden by Juan Rivera. Stillwater Storm broke from the No. 2 hole. “The turn (onto the main track) is way too sharp,” said Rivera. “But I’m happy for the win.”

Tanner Riggs rode Dear Fay, a 7-2 choice that finished out of the money.

Using the chute didn’t present much of a change for him. “It was a little different,” he said. “But my horse handled the turn just fine. I just wish he would have run a little better.”

Others wish the weather had turned out a little more kindly. With reports of bad weather and lightning beginning to strike throughout the area, the card was cancelled after the fourth race, just after Scott Stevens brought in a horse named Royal Express for his 27th win of the meet, keeping him and Lori Keith, who won Thursday’s card opener on Sultry Queen, tied for fourth place in the standings. Derek Bell is in third with 31 wins. Butler and Riggs are tied for the lead with 59 wins each.

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

Turf Chute Making a Return

It’s a minor detail to some, a big improvement to others, long overdue to a few and about to happen in any event. The subject at hand is the return of the chute on the grass course, abandoned sometime in the late 1990s primarily – according to Canterbury lore – because a number of riders objected to the dogleg turn onto the main track, a problem essentially only for horses without speed breaking out of the first two or three holes.

The consensus among the railbirds, though, is that the anomaly adds another element to the handicapping approach.

It doesn’t matter. “Chute racing” is about to return, delayed only by the arrival of a few more pieces to complete the necessary railing.

Track superintendent Ian Gamble explained that the original chute railing was used over the years to replace damaged pieces on the main track. The replacement railing has arrived with the exception of a few pieces. About 700 feet of railing, including 70 uprights and 70 pins at a cost of around $12,000, was needed to rebuild the chute.

Used for one mile and 1/16 races, the chute can reopen as quickly as the missing pieces arrive.

Gamble recalls some of the complaints riders lodged leading to closure of the chute.

“Basically, the riders didn’t like the cavalry charge out of the gate to get position as the field angled onto the main track,” he said. “I think some of them realize that there might be more of a hazard now because the main track is getting so chewed up moving the gate around.”

The chute gate can stay in place throughout the season.

Gamble says that the turf in the chute has gotten the same attention over the last five years given the main track. “When we aerated the main track, we did the chute too,” he said. “When we fertilized the track, we fertilized the grass in the chute, too.”

The gate leaves tire tracks as it’s moved around the course that turn yellow as the grass dries. That creates different reactions from different horses that are sometimes hazardous to all involved.

“To the horses it looks like a hole or a shadow. They don’t know whether to jump over it or stop,” said Canterbury Hall of Fame rider Derek Bell. “Sometimes they slow way down.”

Bell believes the racing will become safer once the chute is returned to use. “I like it,” he said. “I’d much rather start out of there. It’s safer for everyone. You can get position before we hit the first turn.”

Bell says the turn onto the main track is not a problem if the inner rail is not moved out too far. “If you move it out too far then you get that hook and that can be a little dangerous,” he said.

Gamble said the width of the course will probably be left at the full 70 feet with the chute in use.

Scott Stevens, Canterbury’s other active Hall of Fame rider, had a succinct response to the impending return of the chute.

“We have it. We might as well use it,” he said.

THE “ITALIAN” CONNECTION

Each time Geovanni Franco enters the winner’s circle, track announcer Paul Allen plays a piece of music from the Godfather and uses his best Marlon Brando impression on the sound system to imitate the marble-mouthed star of the hit film.

Franco cannot help grinning each time he hears the music.

He was grinning on three separate occasions Thursday night.

The hat trick got under way in the second race when Franco brought in Brite Dreamer for trainer Miguel Angel Silva.

Franco heard the music once again in race six when he brought in Vinny V., again for Silva.

Franco and Silva were smiling once more after race seven with Lucky High.

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

The 2012 Race Meet: First Half Review

It’s hard to believe but we’re nearly one half of the way through the meet (tomorrow will mark the 30th day of racing of a meet which will now consist of 61 racing days). So far this summer, speed and favorites have done quite well. Here’s an overview:

The Track Bias

Early speed continues to dominate on the main track this summer and I wouldn’t expect it to change any time soon with continued high temperatures in the forecast this week. Over the last month (June 10 – July 7), 30 of 77 sprint races have been won by pure front running horses. That’s a 39% wire-to-wire rate when the national average sits at approximately 25% for sprints. Additionally, 50 of 77 sprints winners were running 1-2-3 at the first call (2f) of the race. That’s 65% which is slightly above the 60% norm. Getting the lead by the first call in sprints continues to be a huge advantage.

Routes on the main track have been favoring early speed even more than sprints! Over the last month, 12 of 26 route winners have raced gate-to-wire. That’s a 46% rate when the norm across the country is about 20%. Horses sitting 1-2-3 at the first call (4f) in routes have won 22 of 26 route races over the past month, which is an 85% rate. The norm for routes is about 50%.

Closers still have a fair chance on the turf, as only 5 of 26 turf races have been won gate to wire (19%). The national average is about 15%. The top 3 runners at the first call have won 10 of 26 on the turf over the past month (38%), so the majority of turf races are still being won by horses sitting behind the top 3 runners at the first call. That’s right on par with normal expectations.

Favorites

Favorites took a slight hit last week, but overall they are still winning 45% overall in thoroughbred races with a positive ROI of $1.05 for every dollar wagered. Breaking it down, favorites in dirt sprints are winning 49% of the time (ROI $1.07), favorites in dirt routes are winning 46% (ROI $1.11) and favorites on the turf are winning 33% (ROI $0.91). Historically, the turf generates lower percentages of winning favorites and that trend is holding this year.

Spotlight: Tanner Riggs

Jockey Tanner Riggs has had a very impressive summer so far as he currently holds a seven win lead in the jockey standings. Overall, he has won 35 of 168 races for a 21% win percentage. His ROI on all races is only $0.74 for every dollar wagered, but there are a few categories where he has excelled and should be watched closely for the remainder of the meet.

Turf routes: Riggs is 9/18 in turf routes so far with an ROI of $2.22 for every dollar wagered.

Riggs/Biehler: When Riggs rides for the Bieher barn he is 5/12 with an ROI of $1.65.

Riggs/ Robertson: When Riggs rides for the Robertson barn he is 10/23 with an ROI of $1.39.

Watch for Tanner Riggs in these situations as his horse is likely to be a strong contender and a good bet!

Good Luck this week!

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

July 3rd Racing Preview

The five-day Independence Day racing week kicks off on Tuesday, July 3rd with a special 4PM Post Time. The day features some great racing including one quarter horse race (the Great Lakes Stakes) followed by 10 thoroughbred races (including the Blair’s Cove Stakes and the HBPA Mile Stakes).

Two Pick 4s carrying a $.50 minimum wager – one on races 2-5 and another on races 7 through 10 – are sure to grab the attention of punters across North America. The late pick 4 on races 7-10 is comprised four turf races. Both stakes races are included in the All-Turf Pick 4 as well as a $30,000 Allowance Turf Sprint and a field of 11 claimers going 7 and 1/2 furlongs over the lawn.

Pick 4s at Canterbury Park always feature the lowest takeout in North America at just 14%. Our Pick 3s also feature 14% takeout every racing day.

For those of you that may not be overly familiar with racing at Canterbury Park, Track Announcer Paul Allen gives you a short overview:

If you are specifically looking for analysis of our All-Turf Pick 4, Track Analyst Angela Hermann has you covered. Here, she provides some insight – as well as a ticket – that will help you navigate this wagering endeavor:

Other July 3rd Canterbury Park Racing Notes

  • All of Canterbury’s races are slated to be shown live on TVG.
  • Derby Wars is running a free contest that features Canterbury Park’s races.
  • The Daily Racing Form will be featuring Canterbury Park’s races on their website throughout the day.

Finally, for a more complete look at Canterbury Park’s statistics and trends, we turn to Canterbury Park’s resident statistician, The Oracle. A longtime Minnesota racing fan that has handicapped Canterbury’s races religiously for more than 20 years – The Oracle regularly writes about handicapping and statistical trends in Canterbury’s races for Canterbury Live.

The Track Bias

When temperatures soar into the nineties, the main track tends to favor early speed more strongly than normal. Horses that clear off on the early lead are extremely difficult to run down. Last week was no exception as 11 of 17 sprint races were won in wire to wire fashion, and 5 of 7 route winners secured the early lead by the first call. The same principle doesn’t hold on the turf, as all five winners last week rallied from off the pace. No huge prices in those front running winners, although one speedball did pay $11.00 for the win.

Expect more of the upcoming days of racing. Temperatures in the mid-nineties are forecast over the next several days.

Favorites

Favorites are continuing to perform very strongly this year, currently winning at a 48% rate for all thoroughbred races. In fact, a $2 win wager on all thoroughbred favorites to date would have cost $394 and returned $433, a profit of nearly $40 so far. It would certainly be a unique situation if the favorite could generate a flat bet profit over the course of the entire meet.

Here is a further breakdown of how favorites are doing in certain categories and sub-categories. This information can be valuable when constructing horizontal wagers. It can help isolate potential singles as well as target races with vulnerable favorites. Remember, the larger the sample size the more reliable the data will carry forward in a meaningful way.

 Category  Favorite Win %  Sample Size
All Races 48% 94/197
All Sprints 52% 65/126
Sprints – Alw/Stk 32% 9/28
Sprints – Clm 54% 29/54
Sprints – Msw 60% 12/20
Sprints – Mcl 63% 15/24
2-5 Furlongs 58% 7/12
5.5 Furlongs 53% 21/40
6 Furlongs 47% 31/66
6.5 Furlongs 75% 6/8
All Routes 45% 19/42
Routes – Alw/Stk 60% 3/5
Routes – Clm 43% 12/28
Routes – Msw 50% 2/4
Routes – Mcl 40% 2/5
1 Mile & 1 Mile 70 42% 15/36
1 Mile & 1/16 67% 4/6
All Turf 34% 10/29
Turf – Alw/Stk 36% 4/11
Turf – Clm 27% 4/15
Turf – Msw 50% 1/2
Turf – Mcl 100% 1/1
5 Furlongs 100% 1/1
7.5 Furlongs 27% 3/11
1 Mile 45% 5/11
1 Mile & 1/16 17% 1/6


July 3rd Racing Preview

The five-day Independence Day racing week kicks off on Tuesday, July 3rd with a special 4PM Post Time. The day features some great racing including one quarter horse race (the Great Lakes Stakes) followed by 10 thoroughbred races (including the Blair’s Cove Stakes and the HBPA Mile Stakes).

Two Pick 4s carrying a $.50 minimum wager – one on races 2-5 and another on races 7 through 10 – are sure to grab the attention of punters across North America. The late pick 4 on races 7-10 is comprised four turf races. Both stakes races are included in the All-Turf Pick 4 as well as a $30,000 Allowance Turf Sprint and a field of 11 claimers going 7 and 1/2 furlongs over the lawn.

Pick 4s at Canterbury Park always feature the lowest takeout in North America at just 14%. Our Pick 3s also feature 14% takeout every racing day.

For those of you that may not be overly familiar with racing at Canterbury Park, Track Announcer Paul Allen gives you a short overview:

If you are specifically looking for analysis of our All-Turf Pick 4, Track Analyst Angela Hermann has you covered. Here, she provides some insight – as well as a ticket – that will help you navigate this wagering endeavor:

Other July 3rd Canterbury Park Racing Notes

  • All of Canterbury’s races are slated to be shown live on TVG.
  • Derby Wars is running a free contest that features Canterbury Park’s races.
  • The Daily Racing Form will be featuring Canterbury Park’s races on their website throughout the day.

Finally, for a more complete look at Canterbury Park’s statistics and trends, we turn to Canterbury Park’s resident statistician, The Oracle. A longtime Minnesota racing fan that has handicapped Canterbury’s races religiously for more than 20 years – The Oracle regularly writes about handicapping and statistical trends in Canterbury’s races for Canterbury Live.

The Track Bias

When temperatures soar into the nineties, the main track tends to favor early speed more strongly than normal. Horses that clear off on the early lead are extremely difficult to run down. Last week was no exception as 11 of 17 sprint races were won in wire to wire fashion, and 5 of 7 route winners secured the early lead by the first call. The same principle doesn’t hold on the turf, as all five winners last week rallied from off the pace. No huge prices in those front running winners, although one speedball did pay $11.00 for the win.

Expect more of the upcoming days of racing. Temperatures in the mid-nineties are forecast over the next several days.

Favorites

Favorites are continuing to perform very strongly this year, currently winning at a 48% rate for all thoroughbred races. In fact, a $2 win wager on all thoroughbred favorites to date would have cost $394 and returned $433, a profit of nearly $40 so far. It would certainly be a unique situation if the favorite could generate a flat bet profit over the course of the entire meet.

Here is a further breakdown of how favorites are doing in certain categories and sub-categories. This information can be valuable when constructing horizontal wagers. It can help isolate potential singles as well as target races with vulnerable favorites. Remember, the larger the sample size the more reliable the data will carry forward in a meaningful way.

 Category  Favorite Win %  Sample Size
All Races 48% 94/197
All Sprints 52% 65/126
Sprints – Alw/Stk 32% 9/28
Sprints – Clm 54% 29/54
Sprints – Msw 60% 12/20
Sprints – Mcl 63% 15/24
2-5 Furlongs 58% 7/12
5.5 Furlongs 53% 21/40
6 Furlongs 47% 31/66
6.5 Furlongs 75% 6/8
All Routes 45% 19/42
Routes – Alw/Stk 60% 3/5
Routes – Clm 43% 12/28
Routes – Msw 50% 2/4
Routes – Mcl 40% 2/5
1 Mile & 1 Mile 70 42% 15/36
1 Mile & 1/16 67% 4/6
All Turf 34% 10/29
Turf – Alw/Stk 36% 4/11
Turf – Clm 27% 4/15
Turf – Msw 50% 1/2
Turf – Mcl 100% 1/1
5 Furlongs 100% 1/1
7.5 Furlongs 27% 3/11
1 Mile 45% 5/11
1 Mile & 1/16 17% 1/6