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Making the Grade

By Noah Joseph

In the history of horse racing and breeding, only four horses bred in the state of Minnesota have ever won a graded stakes race. A graded stakes race is a stakes race of the highest quality in both prize money and strength of the competition. The highest level is Grade 1, followed by Grade 2, and then Grade 3 and the Minnesota breds have won at nearly every level.

1990 was a banner year for Minnesota bred horses winning at the national level. The first Minnesota bred to win a graded stakes race was Super Abound. A son of Superbity, Super Abound was owned by Frances Genter and trained by Carl Nafzger, who also were the connections of 1990 Kentucky Derby winner Unbridled. While Super Abound never got as much attention as his star stablemate did, Super Abound made his own claim to fame by winning the 1990 Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes at Arlington Park, in which he beat Unbridled, who was trying the turf for the first time. And while it was his only graded stakes win, it stamped Super Abound’s name into history. (By the way, Unbridled actually beat Super Abound at Canterbury the previous year.)

Only a few weeks after Super Abound’s victory, Blair’s Cove did the state of Minnesota one better when he won the Grade 3 Swoon’s Son Stakes, also held at Arlington. Blair’s Cove, a son of Bucksplasher, competed in graded stakes races all over the country. He ran in graded stakes races in Minnesota, Ohio, Illinois, Nebraska, New York, New Jersey, and California. He even ran in a graded stakes race in Hong Kong. Blair’s Cove is a member of the Canterbury Hall Of Fame, and was honored with the annual Blair’s Cove Stakes on July 3rd.

Although she never competed in her home state, Booly was also one of a kind. The daughter of Apalachee was sold as a weanling in Kentucky, and never returned to Minnesota. But she made a name for herself in her own special way. She broke her maiden in the Grade 3 Selima Stakes at Laurel in 1992. She also holds the unique honor of being the only horse bred in Minnesota to run in the Breeders’ Cup. She finished 9th in the Juvenile Fillies in 1992.

Last, but definitely not least, a Canterbury classic: Wally’s Choice. Fans who’ve been coming to Canterbury for a good part of the century will always remember Wally’s Choice. The son of Quick Cut was owned by Curt Sampson along with Wally McNeil (often known as Wally the Beerman) and Wally’s wife, Joyce.

After winning three stakes, Wally’s Choice won the 2004 Grade 3 Oklahoma Derby at Remington Park. While it was his only graded victory, Wally’s Choice won five more stakes, his last stakes win coming in 2006, and his last overall win coming in 2009. He was retired in 2011 and is also a member of the Canterbury Hall Of Fame.