BY JIM WELLS
The leading racehorse this summer at Canterbury Park, as we speak, is eight years old, not very big and the subject of numerous transactions at the claiming box.
He has been mostly an honest fellow if not always successful, with peaks and valleys on his resume, and he has corresponding life details with horses who’ve achieved great things. Creative Art is an undersized gelding competing in middle age, as did a famous horse of just such description. But the similarities with John Henry end there.
Still, not many horses are the subject of the tugs-of-war Creative Art has undergone in claiming races, particularly since he is not a burgeoning star or an up-and-coming three-year-old.
This smallish fellow of quarter-horse dimensions (he’s about 15-2) has been claimed five times since the first week of May in 2017 and eight times during a productive career that began five-plus years ago as an Illinois-bred at Hawthorne Race Course.
He is 16-13-12 from 70 career starts with earnings of $388,689, and is having a bang-up summer meet in Shakopee, where he is 3-for-3 with earnings of $59,400 to lead the local stables not quite halfway through the meet. London Legacy also is 3-for-3 but has earned less, $34,200.
So, it would seem, Creative Art is honest and productive, but that did not appear to be the case when Shawn Davis claimed him halfway through the 2017 season, a year in which he was 2-0-6 in 18 starts.
Was he injured, aging, tired….did Davis see something others did not?
“I could tell there was nothing wrong with him,” he said.
Davis has a keen eye in such matters. He has been a rancher most of his life, was a three-time world champion saddle bronc rider and is in the Cowboy Hall of Fame. He has been around horses, ridden horses and trained horses for a major part of his 77 years. He is also the master producer of one of the annual feature attractions in Las Vegas, Nev., known as the National Finals Rodeo, the Super Bowl of rodeo.
So, when he looked at Creative Art and decided there was nothing wrong with him he was right.
Nothing physical, anyway.
Yet the horse’s previous handlers apparently decided something was wrong, perhaps something mental because they made an unusual decision.
They gelded him.
At seven years of age
“That seems very rare to me,” said Davis.
“Yes, I’d say it’s very rare, almost unheard of,” said trainer Jason Pascoe.
Yet, the results in 2018 speak for themselves. He is 3-1-3 from 7 starts.
Different environment, different racetrack?
He did run fourth, third, third, second, third at Turf Paradise after Davis claimed him back from Robertino Diodoro for himself and Frank Bemis of Omaha in mid December.
Yet, the horse has been lights out at Canterbury Park, and Davis is looking now for another spot for him after his solid win on June 23 in the Dark Star Cup.
That win came after a near disaster for Bemis and his wife, Connie, whose new car was demolished when they were T-boned at an intersection during the drive from Omaha, an accident that put the two of them in the hospital overnight in Windom.
Bemis was determined to attend the Dark Star Cup nonetheless, but without a rental car agency in the Windom area, he had to call Davis, who headed south 120 miles on June 23, returning in time for the race that night.
Bemis has been in horse racing for 60 years, racing horses since he was 20 years old at Aksarben and other spots in Nebraska. “I haven’t had a year since without a horse,” he said. Canterbury’s arrival in 1985 gave him a new location to run, along with Prairie Meadows in Iowa. He has raced a handful of horses in the Claiming Crown races whose inception and first first few runnings were in Shakopee.
“I wish Canterbury would get them back,” he said. “Canterbury is a great place and we’ve never been treated better than we were by Nat Wess (the Claiming Crown guru) during the times they were held there.”
Bemis was cut and bruised on his arms, face and neck as he stood in the winner’s circle after Creative Art won for a third consecutive time since his transfer north from Phoenix.
Bemis made the rounds with his doctors (with more to come) since returning to Omaha after the accident but plans to be in Shakopee next Friday when another of his horses, Consumerconfidence will run. Consumerconfidence set a track record for 7 ½ furlongs on the grass at Turf Paradise last winter, cutting a full second off a time that had stood for 14 years.
Davis, meanwhile, is also looking for another spot to send Canterbury’s leading thoroughbred, Creative Art, chasing his fourth win of the meet.
“He loves to train. He can’t wait to get out there,” Davis said.