The weather was really not a factor until light rain began falling midway through the card. It was somewhat heavier by the eighth race.
The card included perhaps the most colorful and athletic promotion ever conducted on the premises, the championship race of the three-day Indian Relay Races.
An impressive turnout of 12,160 bid adieu to the season and reacted enthusiastically to the excitement of the relay races, won by a 23-year-old rider from the Shoshoni-Bannock Nation in Fort Hall, Idaho.
Most of them were gone by the time the trophy was presented to the leading rider this summer, Dean Butler.
The riding title for the meet came down to race four, in which Sleep Walking, ridden by Butler, held off Dakota Dusty and Alex Canchari. That increased his lead over Canchari to four at the time.
Canchari kept it interesting, nonetheless, hand-riding Theatre of Dreams to an easy win in race five to pull once again to within three and punctuating that with a win in the 10th race. Canchari and Butler were the only two riders to finish with total earnings of more than $1 million each. Butler’s total heading into Saturday’s card was $1,267,955. Canchari’s was $1,248,479.
Butler intends to take a couple of months off and then head to home to Tampa. Canchari intends to drops his tack at Hawthorne Race Course in suburban Chicago.
Mac Robertson had an 18-win lead over Bernell Rhone and Mike Biehler heading into the final card, his ninth consecutive training title safely in the bag. He added Saturday’s fifth and 10th races to increase his total wins for the meet to 51.
Lori Keith, who wound up as the meet’s fourth-leading rider, won her 41st race of the meet aboard Cap and Trade in the sixth. She intends to head to Oklahoma and then Arkansas and is sure to recall Canterbury 2013 as the meet in which she won a second consecutive Mystic Lake Derby, the biggest race of the summer.
Eddie Martin, Jr., had a solid meet, winning 37 races, as did Canterbury Hall of Fame rider Scott Stevens, who won the seventh race, a $35,000 overnight stake, aboard National, trained by Miguel Angel Silva. Stevens concluded the meet with 34 wins and will return to Phoenix for the meet that begins on Oct. 5 at Turf Paradise. Martin was undecided about his next stop.
For 23-year-old rider Jerrad Serino the next stop is home. Serino was a convincing winner of the relay races, due largely to near perfect horse exchanges during both pit stops of the three-mile race. Three miles, three horses for each of the nine riders in the final, and the importance of the exchange after each mile became obvious as miscues during dismounting and engaging an awaiting exchange horse proved to be the difference.
“That was the most important,” said Serino, who stressed the importance of training and staying fit for these grueling races, all conducted bareback.
The win was the third of his career for Serino, whose twin brother got him interested in the sport three years ago. His entire family, everyone but Jerrad, has been involved with horses. “I didn’t like them as a kid. I wanted to play basketball,” said the 5-7, 145-pound Serino. What he did mostly was boxed, throughout his youth.
Riders frequently train for these races, not only by riding and conditioning their horses, but by using small trampolines, a foot or two off the ground, to strengthen their lower legs for bounding from one horse and onto another during exchanges.
Second place went to the His Bad Horse team and rider Lynwood His Bad Horse, Jr., a mere-16-year-old from the Northern Cheyenne Tribe.
Third was Holds The Enemy, a Crow team, and rider Ferlin Blacksmith, who won two heats preceding the final.
In the first race of the last day of racing, Jake Barton picked up a check for the return trip to Phoenix aboard Smarty Gras, winning by two-plus lengths. Barton was a new addition to the jockey colony late in the season and intends to return again for the 2014 meet.
Until then, he will ride at Turf Paradise and, in his spare time, hunt the arroyos and washes of the Arizona desert for quail, his chief devotion outside of racing.
Martin Escobar brought in Lady Ban Shee in race two, rallying in the final 16th to shade Santa Fe Sue and Butler by a solid neck.
Strange things happen on closing day, such as…
Hi Prim, under Ken Shino, got up in the final jump to provide trainer Nancy Sheehan her first win of the meet, in her 51st try, and at 38-1 in race three. There was not much more than a half-length separating the top four finishers in that thrilling finish.
Immediately thereafter, paddock analyst Angela Hermann and track president/CEO Randy Sampson presented trainer Cory Jensen with the award for his leading owners of the meet, Midwest Thoroughbreds.
There were, of course, additional awards for the stars of the summer show – the horses.
Heliskier, owned by Marlene Colvin and trained by Robertson, was named Horse of the Year for the second straight meet, joining Hoist Her Flag as the only other horse in Canterbury history to win the title twice.
His dominance at Canterbury was demonstrated by two additional awards. Heliskier was named sprinter of the meet as well as the champion Older Horse.
Dorsett, trained by Michael Stidham and owned by Terry Hamilton, was selected champion Three-year-old Colt or Gelding on the strength of his Mystic Lake Derby win.
Badge of Glory, owned by Richard Bremer and Cheryl Sprick and trained by Rhone was selected champion Three-year-Old Filly, and Dontrattlemycage, owned by Nicholas Raver and trained by Nevada Litfin, was voted Grass Horse of the meet. Second Street City, owned by Al and Bill Ulwelling, second in the owner standings, was voted champion Older Filly or Mare.
Wayne Simon owned and Robert Johnson trained Appeal to the King is the champion Two Year Old. Machorina, owned by Emerald Bay Stables and trained by Mike Biehler, is the Claimer of the meet, and Stone Cottrell, owned by Terry Riddle and trained by champion conditioner Stacy Charette-Hill, is Champion Quarter Horse.
Still competitive despite his near miss at a title, Canchari brought in Grizzled Robert, the final winner of the 2013 season. That cut Butler’s final margin to two. The horse is trained by, who else, Robertson.
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.