By Noah Joseph
Last month leading up to the Kentucky Derby, much was made in the local and national media about the two Minnesota owned horses, Zandon and Zozos, who were to take part in the race. Zandon’s owner is Jeff Drown of Clearwater, 12 miles south of St. Cloud, while Zozos is owned by Barry and Joni Butzow of Eden Prairie. Both owners have raced horses at Canterbury for many years, and while both horses represented the Land of 10,000 Lakes proudly in the Derby, there were two other horses in the race that also had ties to Canterbury through their mothers.
The first of these two horses was Epicenter, and he was considered to be the “it” horse leading up to the race. His mother, Silent Candy, raced at Canterbury only once in her lifetime, but she ran well. She came to Minnesota in 2011 to run in the Lady Canterbury Stakes, one of the biggest races of the season, and was sent off as the third betting choice. Silent Candy tracked the leader for a good majority of the race, and when the field turned for home in the one mile grass affair, she looked like she had a chance to win. However, she was bested by the favored A She’s Adorable. Silent Candy did finish second in a respectable effort in what would be the final race of her career. In a roundabout way, her race in the Lady Canterbury had some similarities with her son Epicenter’s run in the Kentucky Derby. Both mother and son had a prime opportunity turning for home, only to have another horse go by and steal the victory away from them.
The second horse with a maternal connection to Canterbury was Cyberknife. A horse who could close from off the pace to win, he showed a very similar trait to his mother, Awesome Flower. Awesome Flower was claimed by trainer Mike Maker for owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey in December of 2012 in Florida. In July of 2013, she came to Minnesota to run in the Lady Canterbury. Rain forced the race to be moved from the turf to the dirt, but this did not bother Awesome Flower. She tracked the leaders and with a quarter of a mile to go, made her move. As she moved up to challenge the favored Bryan’s Jewel, Awesome Flower was able to find something more and fight past Bryan’s Jewel to win by one-half length under Chris Landeros.
The following year, Awesome Flower came back to Canterbury to defend her Lady Canterbury title. Once again, rain forced the race to be moved to the dirt, and like before, Awesome Flower was undaunted by the change. In contrast to her win the year before, in which she stalked the leaders closely, Awesome Flower came from far behind. She was fourth as the field turned for home, but she charged down the stretch like a locomotive to catch the favored Gold Medal Dancer and win by ¾ of a length. With Francisco Torres aboard, Awesome Flower became the first, and to date the only, horse to win back-to-back runnings of the Lady Canterbury. Awesome Flower would close her career at Canterbury with a third in the Minnesota HBPA Distaff in 2015. A proven performer on the track, thanks to her son Cyberknife, she’s also a proven performer in the breeding shed.
While Canterbury Park and horse racing in Minnesota may not get the most attention in the country, they were connected to the Kentucky Derby this year in major ways from an ownership and breeding standpoints. Canterbury fans have a lot to be proud about.