The quarter horse world uses a simple measuring stick for evaluating racehorses. There is fast, faster and fastest and the Ed Ross Hardy barn had a corner on the last two heading into Sunday’s Canterbury Park $39,850 Quarter Horse Derby.
Make Out Artist was the swiftest of all in the 10-horse field, qualifying with a time of 20.454. His stable-mate, Mighty Fast Man, was second on the list of qualifiers with a time of 20.498.
Third quickest was Shake Em Diva out of the Vic Hanson barn (20.638). In Hanson’s view, the race boiled down to this:
“We only have to outrun two of them and we’ll be in pretty good shape,” he deadpanned.
Sometimes it’s as simple as that.
Other times it’s not.
Make Out Artist, a son of Make It Anywhere, simply refused to cooperate with Hanson’s hopes and flew to victory in a time of 20.107, beating Shake Em Diva in a photo finish that most observers didn’t require to determine the winner.
Make Out Artist didn’t break as sharply as usual but regained his feet 50 yards out of the gate and turned on the afterburners. “I don’t know what it was,” said winning rider Ry Eikleberry. “The No. 4 horse (Shake Em Diva) came out of there pretty quick.”
Third was Sixes Battleship, trained by Joe Merrick and ridden by Terry Bennett.
Hardy’s barn has been handled primarily by his wife, Kari, throughout the meet while he tends to other matters. “I’ve been running trials down south,” he said. “But this race fit my schedule.”
So, Hardy made the trip from Austin, Texas. He had a third horse in the race, Alikazam, ridden by Scott Stevens, that didn’t figure in the money.
Make Out Artist and Mighty Fast Man were the horses to beat.
“Well, you beat one of them,” a bystander said to Hanson in the winner’s circle. “Yes, we tried,” Hanson replied.
Hardy has been Canterbury’s champion quarter horse trainer seven years running and is firmly in command to make it eight straight. His barn is loaded with runners.
He liked his chances before the race was run on Sunday.
“These two horses are doing as good as I’ve ever seen him,” he said. “Make Out Artist is very much on the muscle and looks great. The other one, Might Fast Man, had a couple of good races earlier this year and is even better now.”
Shake Em Diva was Hardy’s chief concern before the race and validated that concern. He was just a jump short of taking it all, and that was good news to the winner’s owners: Baudelio Mena of Brooklyn Park, Craig Meschke of Andover and Bruce Scheuing of Chaska.
Hardy expected Make Out Artist to assume his normal demeanor once he returned to the barn Sunday evening. “He’s really easy going, laid back and quiet,” he said. “But once you take him out of that stall, that’s when he comes to life.”
As he did once again on Sunday, winning for the fourth time in 11 career starts.