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Great Lakes Stakes Preview

It is the height of stakes season here at Canterbury Park, where we are in the midst of four stakes races for quarter horses in less than two weeks. The highlight of last weekend was the Minnesota Stallion Breeders’ Quarter Horse Futurity, on Sunday, June 24th. A field of ten qualifiers ran 350 yards for a Stakes-record purse of $46,000.

Not surprisingly, fastest qualifier Hada Certain Charm finished first, but not in the dominating performance many expected as the finish came down to a photo with his stablemate, Fly Eyeann. It was a tense moment for the crowd, who had bet the winner to near even money, but not for Ed Ross Hardy, who trained both horses. Hada Certain Charm broke out slightly and made a surging run at the end to win the race by a nose over Fly Eyeann, who won her trial for the race two weeks earlier but was only the seventh fastest qualifier. Despite a narrow victory, the Hadtobenuts gelding broke the Stakes record with his time of 17.934. The previous record of 18.007, set by Oak Tree Boulevard in 2009, was actually broken by the top three finishers of this year’s race, with Fly Eyeann at 17.949 and third place finisher Hastabealeader at 18.006.

Hada Certain Charm, by Hadtobenuts out of the Dash for Perks Mare Lk Classy Perk, was bred in Kansas by Leo Butell. Owned by Leo Butell and Mike Schau, trained by Ed Ross Hardy, and ridden by Nik Goodwin, the two-year-old gelding made his third lifetime start and his second start here at Canterbury after shipping in from Remington Park.

Fly Eyeann, ridden by Tom Wellington and also trained by Hardy, made her debut in the futurity trial and broke her maiden with a length-and-a-half victory. Owned and bred by Rodney Von Ohlen in Minnesota, the two-year-old filly by Mr Jess Perry sire Fly Jess Fly and out of the Mr Eye Opener mare Eyzanee has shown potential in the near-upset and will be a threat in her next start.

Tuesday, July 3: Great Lakes Stakes, $19,000, 440 yards

Leading Trainer: Ed Ross Hardy (4)

Leading Jockey: Ry Eikleberry (2) and Scot Schindler (2)

Record Purse: $30,300, won by Silver Fastback, 2008

Tuesday night’s card features the Great Lakes Stakes for three-year-olds and up running the classic quarter horse distance of 440 yards. This will be the 16th running of a race that gained prominence on a national level last year when the event was won by Jess A Runner. Jess A Runner broke the track record by nearly a second, covering the 440 yards in 21.126. The Kansas-bred gelding owned by J&K Running Horses, LLC, trained by Kenny Laymon, and ridden to victory by Doug Frink, went on to win the Grade 3 Two Rivers Stakes at Prairie Meadows last fall. Jess a Runner, now 6, has 9 wins in his 27 lifetime starts, 4 places, and 4 thirds, and has earned over $270,000.

The elite field for this year’s running of the Great Lakes Stakes may reveal another future star. If you watched the Skip Zimmerman Stakes on Memorial Day, you witnessed the incredible stretch run by Hollywood Trickster to come from seventh place to gain the upset victory by a half-length. At 7-5 on the morning line, #5 Hollywood Trickster is the early favorite for Tuesday’s race. Though 440 yards is the traditional quarter horse distance, many horses do not run that far in overnight races. Hollywood Trickster, on the other hand, spent his 2011 campaign running at 870 and 550 yards, and his late rush at the end of the Skip Zimmerman convinced many that a longer race will suit him perfectly. Hollywood Trickster is by the thoroughbred sire Favorite Trick, a popular distance sire for quarter horses.

In the Skip Zimmerman Memorial, Paintyourownwagon hopped at the start and finished a disappointing fifth. The four-year-old Pyc Paint Your Wagon colt won his next out against tough allowance company, but seeks to redeem himself against Hollywood Trickster. #1 Paintyourownwagon (2-1) made his Canterbury debut last summer in the Canterbury Derby, where he finished third behind I Am That Hero. He ran in the Prairie Meadows Adequan Derby Challenge behind T Gold J, who went on to win the national Adequan Derby final at the Challenge Championships at Los Alamitos in 2011. His lifetime earnings are just shy of $100,000 in his 17 lifetime starts. The Skip Zimmerman Stakes was his first race after a six-month layoff, and now he appears to be back in form and will be tough to beat. However, the distance is a concern, as he has started at 440 yards twice before but has not finished better than sixth.

The rest of the field will be had at a price, so start planning your exactas with these entries:

#2 Brooks Dream Girl (10-1) is still a maiden after seven lifetime starts. The three-year-old Brookstone Bay filly has found herself running against older horses in her last three starts. She finished a strong second last out and gained ground in a 350-yard race. She is bred to run longer; her sire also sired the winner of the 2009 Grade 1 All American Futurity, Runnning Brook Gal.

#3 Play the Pipes (5-1) is a four-year-old filly by classic sire Mr Jess Perry. Though she only has two wins in her 11 starts, her last five races have all been allowance races at Prairie Meadows, Remington, and Canterbury, including a win in the slop here two weeks ago. She will also attempt 440 for the first time, but her running style suggests she may be able to stretch out.

#4 A Faster Streaker (7-2) is a ten-year-old gelding with 13 wins out of 43 lifetime starts, and earnings of over $160,000. He will be making his first start at Canterbury; his last 12 races have been at eight different tracks. He will love this distance, having run first or second eight times in his 14 attempts at 440 yards.

Stakes action continues at a national level as well. Sunday, June 24th also offered the Grade 1 Ed Burke Million Futurity at Los Alamitos for – you guessed it – a purse exceeding $1 million. One Dashing Eagle covered 350 yards in a sharp 17:135, posting the best time at the distance for the entire meet to date. The victory planted the two-year-old son of first-year stallion One Famous Eagle in the number two position on the national top ten poll for two-year-olds, just a single point below top ranked PJ Chick in Black, winner of the Ruidoso Futurity.

PJ Chick in Black will not likely be among the nominated two-year-olds competing in trials for the second leg of the Ruidoso triple crown, but there will be plenty of horses competing for a spot in her place in the Grade 1 Rainbow Futurity. 23 trials will be held at Ruidoso on Tuesday to select the ten fastest qualifiers to the final on July 22nd. Trials for the Grade 1 Rainbow Derby will be held on Thursday, July 5th, though the race will likely draw only a half-dozen trials.

Enjoy your extended week of racing here at Canterbury. Live racing takes place Tuesday through Saturday, with more stakes races to come for both breeds.

Good luck, 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 shares her perspective on Canterbury Quarter Horse racing as well as insider information on America’s fastest athletes.

Photo Credit: Coady Photography