Horsemen, riders and even track management had hoped for rain to brighten up the yellowing turf course that was hardening day by day the past few weeks. With two premier races scheduled on the grass Saturday, the hope was that skies would open in time to deliver the perfect racing surface for Saturday’s three stakes races.
The feature events on this stellar card were the $100,000-guaranteed Lady Canterbury Stakes, the $125,000-guaranteed Mystic Lake Mile and the $54,100 Canterbury Park Quarter Horse Derby.
The first two were scheduled on the turf – until mid morning on Saturday when it was determined that more than 4 and 1/4 inches of rain in three hours had rendered the grass course unusable.
The connections of five horses in each the Lady Canterbury and the Mystic Lake Mile decided that if the course was unusable their horses were too and reduced the 12- horse fields accordingly.
In absolutely bizarre twists, the fields were reduced further by events Stephen King might use at some point.
Before the 21st running of the Lady Canterbury, Lava Girl’s stirrup came loose and she was impaled by the iron. Then Smarty B bled warming up for the race and was scratched. “It sucks,” said rider Scott Stevens. “I’ve never had anything like this happen before.”
There was more to come, in the Mystic Lake Mile. Derby Kitten, third choice in the race, stumbled at the start and unseated Chris Landeros, depriving Ken and Sarah Ramsey and Landeros a sweep of the two thoroughbred stakes.
The Lady Canterbury set up perfectly for Awesome Flower and Landeros. “We just sat there and bided our time,” he said.
Awesome Flower stalked the pace early, moved up outside three horses to make her bid on the far turn and then dug in over the final 1/8th to win by ½ length over Bryan’s Jewel and 2 ¾ over Kune Kune, covering the mile in 1:37.54 over a fast track.
The inaugural running of the Mystic Lake Mile lost all of the speed upfront with the loss of Hammers Terror and Slip and Drive, the one-two finishers in the Brooks Fields Stakes.
Thus, Mister Marti Gras (pictured above) stalked the leaders in a pedestrian pace, saving ground on the run down the backside, and moved up at the eighth pole outside four others and finished ¾ length in front of Stachys, another head in front of Wild Jacob. The winning time was 1:38.
Winning owner Robert Lothenbach said in the winner’s circle afterward that he intends to bring four to six horses to Canterbury next week and maybe more later on.
Queried by paddock analyst Angela Hermann, Lothenbach said he is making the move because he likes Canterbury and the increase in purses here, thanks to the agreement with the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community.
$54,100 CANTERBURY QUARTER HORSE DERBY
Stacy Charette-Hill is still puzzled and tickled pink every time she lands in the winner’s circle, which is nearly every time she saddles a horse.
Her barn not only leads all others, it dominates.
Take the feature event on Saturday. The expression on her face said it all.
You can’t make this stuff up.
Her horses finished one-two-three and her barn cleaned up once more.
“This is unbelievable,” said her husband, Randy Hill, upon entering the winner’s circle.
It wasn’t even the fastest qualifier of the three who won on Saturday. It was HR Ebony Princess ridden by Ry Eikleberry.
“She’s unbelievable,” he said. “Her barn wins at about 70 percent and is in the money 80 percent of the time.”
The first two finishers are owned by Bobby and Vickie Hammer of Elmore City, Oklahoma. The winner had a touching story. “Her mother bled out giving her birth,” said Bobby, “and she was raised by a cuttin’ horse mare.”
“She was bigger than the mare,” said Vickie.
HR Ebony Princess underwent surgery for a chipped knee and was laid up for more than five months. She has found her stride once again.
HR Money Maker, the fastest qualifier in the trials, was second and First Price Wagon was third.
THOROUGHBRED EXCELLENCE ON THE BACKSIDE
Trainer Ian Wilkes was on the Canterbury Park backside Saturday morning overseeing matters for the arrival of four Lothenbach horses scheduled for Monday.
Wilkes, who saddled Fort Larned, the reigning Breeders Cup Classic winner, has been in Shakopee before, the first time when Unbridled ran second in the Canterbury Juvenile the year before he won the Kentucky Derby and the Breeders Cup Classic. He was also here to saddle a horse named Fluffkins.
It is quite natural that the name Carl Nafzger comes immediately to mind with the mention of those two horses. Wilkes worked as his assistant until Nafzger turned over the operation to him in 2006.
Wilkes plans to run four of Lothenbach’s horses at Canterbury. One of his assistants will oversee the operation in Shakopee. “I’ll be stopping by from time to time,” Wilkes said.
The remainder of Wilkes’ operation was in transit to Saratoga in upstate New York where the Nation’s premier thoroughbred meet gets underway this Friday.
This blog was written by Canterbury Staff Writer Jim Wells. Wells was a longtime sportswriter at the Pioneer Press and is a member of the Canterbury Park Hall of Fame.