You could have looked high and low and not found anything ordinary about the day or its trappings. It was extreme in every sense of the word, from the camels, ostriches and zebras to the crowd itself.
Extreme Day on Saturday evoked scenes from the 1980s. The extremely large crowd was a Canterbury Park record 20,291, besting the previous mark of 18,230 set on Kentucky Derby and opening day in 2008. It was the largest crowd at Canterbury Park or Downs since a turnout of 21,003 on Aug. 14 in 1988.
The lines were extreme – at the concession stands, the pari mutual windows, the valet lot. The races were extreme, starting with the first which was run at 110 yards for quarter horses, a distance at which Usain Bolt might have competed himself.
How about the way the card began – with two track records, the first by the Stacy Charette-Hill trained Stone Cottrell, under Jorge Torres, of course, in 6.988 seconds for 110 yards. That race was the $15,000-added Quarter Horse Dash in a Flash Stakes.
Burnt Ivory won race two under Ismael Suarez for trainer Vic Hanson, covering 220 yards in 12:12, breaking the previous standard recorded way, way back on May 18, 1990.
How about this, for EXTREMELY impressive: Trainer Mike Burgess, the champion quarter horse jockey way, way back in 1988 when the track was called Canterbury Downs, hopped aboard Rock “N” Spit and outdueled Sir Camelot to win the Camelbury Dash.
The winner of the Don’t Lay and Egg Dash was Flightless Fred, ridden superbly by Denny Velasquez, who actually posted in the saddle aboard this bird, and, as put by PA announcer Paul Allen, embellished for style points by pointing at the crowd as he swooped past the finish line, winning by several lengths.
“He won for fun,” said handicapper supreme The Oracle.
There was also the Zebra race, won by Pin Stripe Paul under Nate Quinonez, whose mount lugged out at the break but straightened out and ran down the competition while ridden out.
On the serious side of the day’s events:
Heliskier, who won his first seven races but stumbled out of the gate in his last out and was vanned off the track, made his first appearance on the grass and at 7 ½ furlongs.
Last year’s Horse of the Year at Canterbury Park was sent off the 4-5 favorite but was legitimately beaten by 7-1 outsider Ol Winedrinker Who under a perfect ride from Ry Eikleberry.
Heliskier caught a glimpse of Breezy Point, dug in and repelled that one, but did not appear to see Ol Winedrinker.
“The main thing is that he’s OK,” said disappointed rider Derek Bell, who won the 1,500th race of his career on Successful Touch in race three.
Bell appeared to be on the winner in the stretch drive but Heliskier didn’t respond to the winner’s late surge.
“I don’t know, maybe he got tired,” said Bell.
Bell, nonetheless, reached a minor milestone that is certainly bittersweet after spending the last several years on the sidelines of several racing venues for unspecified and unproven charges. His win total would be substantially larger if not for that injustice.
COULD IT BE EARWAX?
Jeff Maday, former school teacher, current pressbox dean, handicapper and provider of program riches, was crestfallen at the lack of sensitivity on extreme day, any day for that matter. “Nobody ever listens to me,” he said.
He was trying to demonstrate that people do not listen; thus, verbal communication is useless. He was trying to prove a point, that people don’t listen, to paddock analysts, to presidents, especially to him.
He pointed out, for example, that Ms Angela Hermann, the track’s pulchritudinous paddock provider of inside thought and heretofore unspoken truth, might as well talk to herself in a mirror.
To fill in for her, Maday said he called a mime… but it didn’t work.
“Nobody laughed,” he said. “Because nobody listened.”
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.