The color of choice on Saturday was pink, and anywhere one cared to look the color was represented in various shades. The entire track was in the pink, in fact, from the gate to the gate crew, the valets and most of the employees were in pink tee-shirts, pink hats, pink ties. Some of the outriders had pink leg wraps or pink saddle towels on their mounts.
The second annual Fillies Race For Hope card offered 10 races featuring only fillies or mares and was devoted to fundraising on behalf of breast cancer organizations, Hope Chest and the Pay it Forward Fund.
There was a silent auction, a raffle offering a trip for two to next year’s Kentucky Derby, a hat contest and the usual concessions to satisfy a crowd of 8,259.
The highlights of the day, however, were four consecutive stake races, three for thoroughbreds and one for quarter horses.
A night of heavy rain might have destroyed the surfaces of some racing venues but the main track started muddy and was upgraded to good by the start of race three. The turf course, on the other hand, was as green as the Irish countryside after Friday night’s deluge but was still good for the Saturday’s stakes events.
$100,000 Lady Canterbury Stakes
The 20th running of this race, at a mile on the turf, originally had a seven-horse field but was reduced to five starters after two scratches, Our Lady in Red and morning line favorite Hooh Why.
The Lady Canterbury has a long history, dating to its first running in 1986 when it introduced grass racing to Minnesotans. It has brought in shippers over the years who have stolen the show, just as one did on Saturday.
Talk about racing royalty. The Kentucky Hancocks are long-time Kentucky barons in the sport, and Arthur B. the III sent his Ruthville to Canterbury for a shot at the $100,000 purse.
Ridden by Dean Butler, Ruthville ran past the very tired pace-setter Rare Sunset and Geovanni Franco and finished one length in front of Bryan’s Jewell and Derek Bell. It was another 6 ¾ lengths back to Zaphyra and Scott Stevens, who were 1 and ¾ lengths in front of Rare Sunset.
Assistant trainer Chris Davis handled the winner for Michael Stidham, just as he did last weekend with the Mystic Lake Derby winner. This time, however, there was no claim of foul and stewards inquiry and the tense moments that accompany those occasions.
“Yeah, that was just fine,” said Davis, who was none too concerned about the seven-length lead Rare Sunset had at the half-mile pole. The frontrunner faded like a red shirt in a hot wash after setting the quick pace (46 3/5 and 1:11 and 1/5).
“The turf was softer than usual so I wasn’t really worried,” said Davis. “If it had been hard it would have been another matter, but I was hoping for rain. That helped us since we’re going to come from behind anyway.”
Stidham trained the winner of the 2011 Lady Canterbury, too, winning with A She’s Adorable, owned by Skip Maas.
$50,000 Hoist Her Flag
Speed burns and absolute speed burns absolutely. Or something like that.
Starlite Starbrite left the gate as if she’d been shot from a giant slingshot and led a 10-horse field from gate to wire, finishing a widening 2 and ¾ lengths in front of Burst of Life and 3 ¼ in front of Polar Plunge.
Derek Bell had won this stake three times and made it four on Saturday, giving the winner a perfect ride for trainer Thomas Amoss and owner Andrena Van Doren.
The winner set early fractions of :22, :45 and 1/5, finishing in 1:10.
When Burst of Life and Dean Butler tried to make a move in the stretch drive, Starlite simply drew off. “She gave me another gear even with all that speed,” said Bell. “She was something.”
$50,000 Princess Elaine
Tickleyourfancy and Butler turned it up a notch on the turn, taking a clear lead, and drew off down the stretch to a 2 and ¾ length victory over Tex Savitri and Tanner Riggs.
Bell and Grace of Greatness were third, another 1 and ¾ lengths back.
The winner is owned by Michael Grossman, formerly of Prior Lake and Grossman Chevrolet, now primarily of Texas but nonetheless a Minnesotan at heart who maintains a home here, too.
Grossman was pleased with the win, obviously, but for very specific reasons. “”She has been so close so many times,” he said.
Yes, she has. In 24 previous career starts, Tickleyourfancy had won four times but had finished second seven times and third another four times.
“This has been a long time coming. I feel fantastic,” said Grossman.
Grossman will take that feeling home with him to his Texas farm.
Butler had won this race once before, with Glitter Star in 2006 for owner Bonnie Baskin.
$25,000 Fillies Race for Hope Bonus Challenge
There was a nine-horse field for this one- horse race.
Huckleberry Mojito won by 1 and ¾ lengths even though it looked like more the son of Feature Mr. Jess was moving so swiftly.
Pick your adjective for this finish in 20:17:
Huckleberry crushed, squashed, flattened…
Leading quarter horse rider Nik Goodwin was on the winner. “My horse breaks so well and so cleanly,” he said. “Anytime you can get that, you usually get a winner.”
Believers Gathering and Thomas Wellington were second. Bailey Nagurski and Tanner Riggs were next.
Clyde Smith, who finished out of it on Chicks Brief Case, summed up the race tersely as he headed downstairs.
“Didn’t matter how good mine was, it was going to beat that winner today,” he said to no one in particular.
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