BY JIM WELLS
It has been proposed once before and this additional suggestion is not based on settled science but on mounting evidence: Canterbury should consider running a 67-day meet featuring ostrich, zebra and camel racing each year, mixing in a thoroughbred/quarter horse day here and there.
Evidence suggests that would reverse what is now occurring: Solid attendance for horse racing and stupendous attendance whenever the wild beasts run.
Just imagine, sizeable crowds to watch the critters of the desert sands and average attendance of 16,000 to say 21,000 for horse racing. Canterbury Park would become the envy of the racing world. The brain trusts at Santa Anita, Churchill Downs and Belmont would be forced to bow down to an enterprise in existence only since 1985.
“Hey, did you see what they drew at Canterbury on Friday,” someone would say in a California or New York racing boardroom. “They ran thoroughbreds and quarter horses there yesterday and had a crowd of 29,000.”
“Yeah,” someone would say, “but what was the per capita?”
“Never mind the per cap,” someone would reply. “They sold 33,000 hot dogs, the same number of pizza slices and several hundred gallons of Pepsi products, not to mention 300 barrels of beer.”
Per capita spending on wagering alone, say 50 bucks, would rise to $450 when concessions are added.
Granted, such a shift to extreme day racing on a full-time basis could not be made without possible pitfalls, but right now, based on what happened at Canterbury Park on Saturday (a crowd of 13,315) and in years past, this latest proposal seems sound.
The perfect name for the 2017 rendition of Extreme Day, as it is known, should actually be Nik Goodwin day, based on how he kicked off Saturday’s proceedings.
Goodwin, you might recall, celebrated the 1,000th thoroughbred winner of his career recently. Saturday, he became the all time leader in quarter horse winners at Canterbury, riding Lota James in the Dash in a Flash Stakes, an Extreme Day 110 yard sprint. That gave him 108 overall, one more than Ry Eikleberry. Then, in the Duck Race, he made trainer Randy Pfeifer a first-time winner this meet aboard Choral Song.
“Been a good day,” Goodwin said matter of factly.
A good summer.
Before we recount the events of the day, there are additional suggestions to be made. For instance, in the race called the Battle of the Surfaces, pitting horses on the turf against others on the grass. It is an amazing spectacle, watching two races being run as one. Yet it could be improved. Next year, why not add the training track beyond the main track and turf course to create even more excitement. Maybe even run quarter horses on the training track, for an added dimension. Just imagine, watching three races at the same time but it is actually one race. What a rush. What a reason to skip the cabin, fishing, boating on the St. Croix. It would be better than the State Fair, Valley Fair and the Scott County Fair all in one. A three for one deal, so to speak.
As good as Extreme Day already is, it can certainly benefit from implementing these suggestions.
It has been several years since a turf horse has won the battle of the surfaces, but that changed on Saturday. Nutty Futty, ridden by Leslie Mawing, was the winner, breaking from the No. 2 hole on the grass. The next three finishers also ran on the grass. There were 11 starters on the turf, nine on the dirt.
Former pressbox assistant Michelle Benson, the winning rider in last year’s Camelbury Dash, now works in advertising for the Thoroughbred Daily News in New Jersey. She shipped in Saturday, hoping to defend her crown aboard last year’s winner, Rock N Spit.
Her mount did not break well and ran even worse and she was of the mind afterward that she had been aboard a ringer, simply tagged with the same name. “I don’t think it was the same camel,” Michelle said. “The hump was different.”
The winner was June’s rider of the month, Oscar Delgado, riding Alexander Camelton. “Hey, no trophy, no belt buckle,” Delgado lamented afterward.
The Spurt in the Dirt, a two-furlong affair, was won by World Famous Sam T with Larren Delorme in the irons.
Then there was the Canterbury Endurance challenge, a 1 7/8 mile marathon on the grass that went to Born Force and rider Chad Lindsay in a strange twist of affairs. On extreme day:
Orlando Mojica, aboard Blue Bomber and gliding effortlessly on the lead, did something extremely extreme: He stopped riding halfway through the race, thinking it was over. With another lap to go, Mojica stood in the irons at the finish line. Visions of Bill Shoemaker aboard Gallant Man in the 1957 Kentucky Derby, when the Shoe blew a win, standing in the irons too soon.
As for what occurred on Saturday, think nothing of it, compadre, a friend of mine once punched out at noon, thinking the lunch hour was the end of the day. Could happen to anyone.
The last two extreme races on the card were won by the same rider, Justine Klaiber. She rode her ostrich, Mark My Bird, beautifully, taking advantage of her erratic competitors who ran all over the place, to hit the finish line first.
Then she rode her zebra, Earn My Stripes, to win that race while her fractious competitors bucked their riders into the dirt or simply refused to run. Here is where another suggestion could improve conditions for this race, as suggested in the past. A couple of lions and/or hyenas nipping at their heels would keep these striped fellows running in a straight line.
There you have it, all of the ins and outs of extreme day 2017, and the suggestions that will make 2018 even grander.