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Festival of Champions at Canterbury Park will crown best Minnesota breds

-$855,000 in purses to be distributed in 12-race card-

Entries for the 29th Minnesota Festival of Champions, a night of racing on Saturday, Sept. 10 at Canterbury Park restricted to thoroughbreds and quarter horses bred in the state, attracted a total of 107 horses for 12 races. Owners, jockeys and trainers of those entrants will seek a share of $855,000 in purse money. Six $100,000 thoroughbred stakes and two $70,000 quarter horse stakes are accompanied by four undercard thoroughbred races with a first post of 4:10 p.m. CDT at the Shakopee, Minn. racetrack.

The shortest field of the evening is the five-horse $100,000 Northern Lights Debutante and it may produce the shortest odds as Thunders Rocknroll is 3 to 5 on the morning line. The 2-year-old filly was bred and is owned by Bob Lindgren of Prior Lake. Thunders Rocknroll won on Aug. 17 leading gate to wire in her only start, beating Cupids Crush by 5 3/4 lengths as the wagering favorite. She is trained by Hall of Famer Bernell Rhone who has won 20 Festival races since its inception in 1992. Leading jockey Harry Hernandez has the mount.

Cupids Crush, also entered in the Debutante, raced again on Aug. 28 and won easily by 15 1/2 lengths. She will be ridden by Alex Canchari on Saturday. Cupids Crush is owned by Xtreme Racing Stables LLC and is trained by top trainer Mac Robertson.


Robertson is the all-time win leader in Festival of Champions history with 39. He will saddle 16 horses in eight of the 10 thoroughbred races. Robertson has entered defending champion Clickbait and Ready to Runaway in the $100,000 Bella Notte Distaff Sprint. Constantino Roman has the call on Clickbait, the 7 to 5 morning line favorite. Ready to Runaway won the Bella Notte in 2020 and will be ridden by Canchari. The 6-year-old mare, owned by John Mentz, has won 14 of 21 races at Canterbury and has earned $541,085 in 27 total starts.

A filly new to Canterbury entered in the Bella Notte is Charlie’s Penny. In 2021, Charlie’s Penny, owned and bred by Canterbury’s leading owner Bob Lothenbach, was considered a Kentucky Oaks contender following her victory in the Silverbulletday Stakes in January of that year at Fair Grounds in New Orleans. She was scratched from the Rachel Alexandra a month later with a shin fracture and did not return to racing until June of 2022 where she finished second in the $75,000 Crestwood at Hawthorne in the Chicago area. She ran second in a turf race at Colonial Downs in Virginia and will make her first Canterbury start, and her first under the care of trainer Joel Berndt, in the Bella Notte with Ry Eikleberry aboard.

Lothenbach, who races as Lothenbach Stables, Inc., has nine entered including Minnesota Derby champion Love the Nest who will face older horses for the first time in his career in the $100,000

Love the Nest

Crocrock Sprint. Eikleberry has the mount. The morning line favorite in the Crocrock is Thealligatorhunter at 2 to 1 who would be undefeated in four starts this season if not for a disqualification in the Strangis Stakes on July 16. Alonso Quinonez will ride for trainer Tim Padilla who co-owns the 4-year-old with Pete Mattson.

The largest field on the card is the 12-horse $100,000 Blair’s Cove at 1 1/16 miles on the turf. Eight-year-old Hot Shot Kid, 12 to 1 on the morning line, has career earnings of $681,112 just $19,727 shy of recently-retired Mr. Jagermeister who is the all-time earnings leader for a Minnesota bred with $700,839. Hot Shot Kid, trained by Robertson and ridden by Eikleberry, would need to win the Blair’s Cove to eclipse Mr. Jagermeister’s career earnings record.

Stakes Line-Up
Race 3 – $100,000 Northern Lights Debutante – Post Time 5:12 p.m.
Race 6 – $100,000 Princess Elaine Distaff Turf – Post Time 6:45 p.m.
Race 7 – $100,000 Blair’s Cove Turf – Post Time 7:16 p.m.
Race 8 – $100,000 Northern Lights Futurity – Post Time 7:47 p.m.
Race 9 – $100,000 Crocrock Minnesota Sprint – Post Time 8:18 p.m.
Race 10 – $100,000 Bella Notte Minnesota Sprint – Post Time 8:49 p.m.
Race 11 – $70,000 Minnesota Quarter Horse Futurity – Post Time 9:20 p.m.
Race 12 – $70,000 Minnesota Quarter Horse Derby – Post Time 9:50 p.m.