It’s that time of year: in a matter of hours, the starting gate will open for the first time in 2012. The athletes file into the barns, the track is groomed, and the staff makes last-minute preparations. After a long and quiet winter, the air sizzles with anticipation. Canterbury Park is alive.
The start of a new season brings new possibilities and challenges. Two-year-olds make their debuts, statebreds continue campaigns over their home track, and stakes winners prepare to defend their titles. This year, one group in particular has something to prove: the quarter horses.
Quarter Horses have long been a part of Canterbury’s racing history, but are not as well known as the thoroughbreds. However, quarter horse racing at Canterbury is competitive on a regional and national level. Horses ship in from Remington Park, arguably the top quarter horse track in the country, and leave to compete against the best at Prairie Meadows, Los Alamitos, Hialeah Park, Sunland Park, and Ruidoso Downs.
In 2011, we watched Jess a Runner (pictured above) win the Great Lakes Stakes; his time of 21.126 shattered the previous track record for 440 yards. One of the top older horses in the country, Jess a Runner placed third in the 2011 Challenge Championship at Los Alamitos, a race that is the quarter horse equivalent of the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Cruzin the Wagon crossed the wire first in the $64,000 Northlands Futurity during his 4-race win streak last summer. He followed that victory with another in the Grade III Valley Junction Futurity at Prairie Meadows. Back in training this spring, he finished first in the Oklahoma Derby and placed second in the Remington Park Derby.
I Am That Hero won the $28,900 Canterbury Park Derby last summer. He went on to win the Grade III Altoona Derby at Prairie Meadows and joined allowance competition in the challenging New Mexico circuit.
Currently, Jess a Runner and Cruzin the Wagon are in the Top 20 horses for 2012 in the AQHA National Rankings. Will we witness new champions in the making this year?
This will be your inside track to the quarter horse world here at Canterbury Park. If you’re not familiar with the sport, this is the perfect opportunity to learn and profit as we preview stakes and break down races with handicapping angles that are unique to the quarters.
There is nothing more exciting than a quarter horse race, and there is a lot of money on the table for those who learn to bet one. Quarter horse racing is what American racing is all about: speed. Watch a race from the rail this summer and you’ll understand the excitement of a field of horses charging down the track at speeds of 40 mph or more. Dirt flies in the air and the ground shakes… at least, it feels that way if you’re holding the winning ticket for that longshot that just hit the wire first.
Good luck this summer, and may the odds be ever in your favor.
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 will share her perspective on Canterbury Quarter Horse racing as well as insider information on America’s fastest athletes.