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Canterbury Hosts 25th Minnesota Festival of Champions Sunday

Stakes purses boosted for state-bred best; Mr. Jagermeister 1 to 5 favorite in Classic

Shakopee, Minn.  —  The 25th annual Minnesota Festival of Champions, a day restricted to racehorses bred in the state, will be held Sunday at Canterbury Park, offering the most purse money in event history. The purse for each of the eight stakes races on the 12-race card that begins at 12:45 p.m., has seen a purse increase over last year, making the total  in stakes money alone in excess of $600,000.  The stakes races attracted 58 entries. The four undercard races, all on the turf, attracted 43.

“Rewarding the successful owners and breeders of state breds with larger purses encourages further investment in Minnesota racing,” Canterbury Park Director of Racing Andrew Offerman said. “The quality of the horses being foaled in Minnesota has increased and that will be very evident on Sunday.”

The Northern Lights Futurity and Northern Lights Debutante offer the richest purses of the day at $100,000 each, an increase of $15,000 over last season. The Sprint, Distaff Sprint, Distaff Classic, and Classic will offer $75,000 purses, also $15,000 more than last year. The Quarter Horse Futurity and Quarter Horse Derby are $50,000 added, $5,000 more than 2017.

“The State Tournament of Horse Racing” was first held in 1992 and was the final day of pari-mutuel horse racing in Minnesota until Curtis Sampson, his son Randy, and South St. Paul businessman Dale Schenian, purchased Canterbury in 1994 and revived live racing in 1995. The Festival of Champions has been a centerpiece of the racing season ever since.

Three-year-old thoroughbred Mr. Jagermeister, who has won three stakes this season including the $100,000 Minnesota Derby, headlines the $75,000 Wally’s Choice Classic Championship at 1 1/16 miles, the eighth race of the day. He has drawn the rail in the six horse field. The colt, victorious in last year’s Northern Lights Futurity, has won six of 11 races lifetime and earned $263,975 in purses. He is trained by Valorie Lund and is owned by Lund, Leslie Cummings, and his breeder Kristin Boice. Leandro Goncalves has the mount. The son of graded stakes winner Atta Boy Roy is responsible for two of the fastest winning times at the meet. In the Victor S. Myers, which he won by 6 1/4 lengths, Mr. Jagermeister covered six furlongs in 1:09.23. His Minnesota Derby win, this time by 10 lengths after racing wide throughout and never being asked for run, was accomplished in 1:40.37 just .17 seconds off the track record, set in 1985, for 1 mile 70 yards.

Mr. Jagermeister, favored at 1 to 5 on the morning line, will gallop up to race day after breezing four furlongs last Saturday. “He is feeling absolutely marvelous,” Lund said. “Truly tearing the barn down. He’ll give us 100 percent [Sunday].”

The field also includes 2017 Classic winner True West, Herbie, Grand Marais, Vanderbilt Beach, and The Great Casby.

The six furlong Northern Lights Futurity for 2-year-olds, the fifth race on the card, represents the future of racing in the state. Two-time winner Dame Plata will face Mister Banjoman, a colt who was purchased as a yearling for $200,000 in a Kentucky sale by Novogratz Racing Stables last fall. Mister Banjoman debuted Aug. 16 and won the 4 1/2 furlong race by 5 1/2 lengths in a snappy 51.45 seconds. He is trained by the all-time winningest Festival trainer, Mac Robertson. Notte Oscura, who finished second to Dame Plata in the MTA Sales Graduate Futurity, draws the rail for trainer Gary Scherer. The colt, out of the mare Bella Notte who won on Festival Day three times, was purchased in March for $160,000 by Jeff Drown and Don Rachel. Jobim, also trained by Mac Robertson, was an impressive debut winner on July 29.

General admission on Sunday is $7. Children 17 and younger are admitted free. Parking is free. Admission gates open at 11:30 a.m.