by Noah Joseph
This Saturday at Canterbury is the Mystic Lake Northern Stars Racing Festival, one of the biggest days of the season. This day features five of Canterbury’s biggest stakes races with purse totals of $500,000. It will feature some of the best horses, owners, trainers, and jockeys in the country. The featured race is the Mystic Lake Derby for three-year-olds going a mile on the grass. With a purse of $200,000, it is not only the richest race of the day, but of the entire season. In its history, there have been some very impressive winners of this race. Let’s take a look at the previous Mystic Lake Derby winners and see what they are up to now.
The first Mystic Lake Derby was won by Hammers Terror in 2012. The son of Artie Schiller came into the race off of several stakes runs in the U.S. and Canada. Hammers Terror would face rivals from Kentucky, Minnesota, and from his home country of Canada in the shape of Delegator. Hammers Terror took the lead from the moment the gates opened and led wire to wire to victory. However, he had to deal with an inquiry for veering out in the stretch. He prevailed, providing a victory to owner Terry Hamilton and trainer Michael Stidham. Lori Keith was the winning jockey. Hammers Terror went on to run in several other stakes, but he’d only win one more. It was the Brooks Fields Stakes right back at Canterbury the following year. Hammers Terror retired in 2017 with 10 wins from 43 starts, and earnings of over $500,000. He now competes as a show horse and is part of the Retired Racehorse Project, which is a national organization that gives thoroughbreds new careers when their racing days are over.
It would be deja vu for owner, trainer and jockey the following year. This time, Dorsett was the Mystic Lake Derby champion. While there would be no inquiry, Dorsett did come from last with a sweeping move to run down the field and win as the favorite. This would be the first stakes win for Dorsett, and his only one in the states. But that didn’t mean he was done running. Dorsett went on to win the Grade 1 Barbados Gold Cup two years in a row. He failed to win the race for a third straight year in 2018 and hasn’t raced since.
The Mystic Lake Derby in 2014 was considered to be one of the most competitive races of the season, and it lived up to its advanced billing. Horses from Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, New York, New Jersey, California, Pennsylvania, and Canada all took part in the final stakes race of the meet. The favorite was General Jack, who won the Shakopee Juvenile the previous year at Canterbury and had just run in Secretariat Stakes at Arlington Park. However, the winner of the Mystic Lake Derby was Long On Value. Long On Value (pictured above) had previously been competing against the best turf three-year-olds in the country and came into the race with heavy credentials. General Jack and Chairman Crooks, a local runner, set the pace for much of the Mystic Lake Derby while Long On Value stalked the field. He then passed the leaders in the stretch and went on to win for owners George Kerr and Watchel Stables. Chris Decarlo came in from the east coast to ride Long On Value for trainer Bill Mott. Long On Value went on to become a very successful runner, running in graded stakes both in America and abroad. He finished second in Al Quoz Sprint on the undercard of the Dubai World Cup in 2017 and even competed at Royal Ascot. He won his final race in 2018 in the Grade 1 Highlander Stakes at Woodbine. Long On Value retired with nine wins from 32 starts, eight of them in stakes or graded stakes, and earned over $1.1 million. He’s currently at stud in Florida.
2015 was the year American Pharoah became the first horse in 37 years to win the Triple Crown. Canterbury wanted to attract American Pharoah to the Mystic Lake Derby by increasing the purse from $200,000 to $2,000,000 and move the race to the dirt. And while his connections turned down the offer, the Mystic Lake Derby that year was still a success. Seven horses competed in the race, three of whom were previous graded stakes winners: Barbados, Gallery, and Syntax. The winner of the race was Nun The Less, who shipped in from Chicago. He was owned by the Lothenbach Stables of Minnesota’s own Bob Lothenbach, who has horses all over the country. The winning trainer was Chris Block, and the winning jockey was Florent Geroux, who a few weeks earlier had won the Grade 1 Arlington Million. Geroux guided Nun The Less to a swift come-from-behind victory. Nun The Less started to regress after his Derby victory and eventually was claimed away from Lothenbach in June 2018. However, Nun The Less has seemed to find new life; he’s won four races, including two stakes. He has also placed in two graded stakes this year. Nun The Less is an example of why you should never give up on a horse.
The 2016 Mystic Lake Derby is considered one of the most exciting editions of the race. What made it so exciting? The answer lies in the finish. The favorite in the contest was One Mean Man, who was coming off of a win in the Grade 3 American Derby at Arlington that July and a decent finish in the Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes. Jockey Santo Sanjur was scheduled to ride the son of Mizzen Mast for trainer Bernie Flint, who co-owned the horse with Ron Hellerich, but for some reason, the mount became open the day of the race. Orlando Mojica, riding in his first year at Canterbury, picked up the mount. One Mean Man’s regular jockey Robby Albarado was in town for the race, but instead he would ride Whatawonderflworld for trainer Mark Casse and owner Gary Barber, who had finished second in the first Mystic Lake Derby in 2012 with Delegation. Both One Mean Man and Whatawonderflworld laid off the pace and in the stretch, Whatawonderflworld took the lead. But One Mean Man came up the rail to get next to Whatawonderflworld and caused a photo finish. The photo showed One Mean Man got up in time to win by a nose in a race that gave the fans a thrill. One Mean Man won two more stakes that year, but failed to win another race afterwards. His last start was in October 2018.
Bob Lothenbach is one of two owners to have two Mystic Lake Derby wins. The first was with the previously mentioned Nun The Less, the second was with Giant Payday in 2017. The son of Giant’s Causeway came into the Mystic Lake Derby with no stakes wins, yet the fans still made him the favorite in the field of 10. Giant Payday was last for most of the race, and was still far back when the field turned for home. But Giant Payday came closing fast to pass the leaders in the stretch and win by a length for trainer Ian Wilkes, and jockey Chris Landeros. Giant Payday has not won since that Mystic Lake Derby score, but he has run in some competitive races on both coasts. He’s now with trainer Joel Berndt, who trains Lothenbach’s local horses, and is nominated for the Mystic Lake Mile on Saturday. Maybe he’ll run and win again just like in 2017.
Another horse nominated to the Mystic Lake Mile this year, but was not entered, is last year’s Derby winner Sniper Kitten. The son of Kitten’s Joy came into the Mystic Lake Derby off two straight wins, but had never run in a stakes race. Nevertheless, Sniper Kitten went off as the second choice in the thirteen horse field. Sniper Kitten settled in midpack and was allowed to track the frontrunners who soon faded in the stretch. All Sniper Kitten had to do was run down the longshot Nobrag Justfact. Sniper Kitten came up to the outside of Nobrag Justfact and went right past him under a well-timed ride by Tyler Gaffalione to win by a length. Sniper Kitten hasn’t won since that Mystic Lake Derby of a year ago, but he’s been running some decent races.
Come to the track this Saturday to see what happens during Canterbury’s biggest day.