BANGO DEDICATION SET ON EVE OF CLAIMING CROWN
by JIM WELLS
In the weeks and months that followed the 2004 Claiming Crown, friends and acquaintances noticed a difference in his attitude, the way he walked, the manner in which he deported himself.
He seemed different somehow, maybe mellower. The normally crusty edge to his personality had softened. There was almost a glow about him, as if he were floating on a cloud. And for a short time afterward, there was no doubt that George Bango was riding emotion, filled with a feeling some horsemen had never before seen in him.
Bango’s victory in the 2004 Claiming Crown Iron Horse with Superman Can did that to him. It was the biggest victory in a career dedicated to training claimers, of shifting his stable from Turf Paradise in Phoenix to Canterbury Park in the summer months after originally racing in the East.
Bango was an annual figure on the backside in Canterbury. He died last September in Phoenix after fighting cancer for some time. The horsemen at Turf Paradise elected him president of the Arizona Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Assn. a few months before his death.
At 5 p.m. Friday evening, some of Bango’s friends and former colleagues will gather in his memory when the newly opened dental clinic on the backside is dedicated in his honor, on the eve of the 11th annual Claiming Crown. Bango’s wife, Mary, and daughter, Nancy, plan to attend.
Dr. Dana Isaacson, who owned Superman Can, opened the clinic this summer to provide dental care to backside employees and announced his plans this week to dedicate the facility as the George Bango Memorial Dental Clinic.
“It’s a great idea,” said local HBPA president Tom Metzen. “I told Dana that I wish I had thought of it. George was a great guy, a good friend of Canterbury’s.”
Isaacson will pick up several cases of beer to toast the dedication, open to all of Bango’s friends.
ANTRIM COUNTY HBPA’S CLAIMER OF THE YEAR
Antrim County was a star in the 2008 Claiming Crown at Canterbury Park, winning the hearts and support of countless fans in Shakopee. He was a celebrity as much for the people he represented as he was for the convincing manner in which he won the Iron Horse.
A percentage of Antrim County’s earnings went to Boys Haven in Louisville, Ky., and several youngsters who were part of the boys home equine program were on hand in Shakopee to see Antrim County win the biggest race of his career.
Antrim County, claimed for $7,500, was trained last summer by Cliff Wilkinson. The horse was claimed again four races after last year’s Claiming Crown for $50,000 by current owner Carl Moore.
Antrim County returned to Shakopee on Thursday, trained now by Bret Calhoun, to run as the morning line favorite in the $150,000 Jewel. A victory would make him the first horse in Claiming Crown history to win races in different divisions.
Antrim County has one trophy already locked up. He will receive an award on Saturday as the HBPA’S National Claiming Horse of the year.
Local HBPA president Tom Metzen said that Calhoun will receive one trophy and a second will be reserved for Boys Haven in Louisville.
Antrim County is a chestnut son of Giant’s Causeway and is 2-2-3 in eight starts this year. He has won 14 times in 51 career starts for earnings of $334,130.
A COUPLE OF VANS FILLED WITH CLASS
Stall superintendent Mark Stancato was delighted after the arrival of a single van Thursday, carrying three horses.
“Imagine that,” he said. “We got three favorites (for Saturday’s Claiming Crown) in one truck.”
Stancato referred to Antrim County, who’ll run in the Jewel, Grand Traverse for the Rapid Transit and Ready’s Rocket for the Express.
Arriving in a second truck were Euphony, the favorite for Saturday’s $100,000 Lady Canterbury and Gran Estreno, the 4-1 favorite for the Claiming Crown Emerald.
“So, two trucks and five favorites,” Stancato said.
The driver of the second truck was a longtime friend of Stancato’s, Jeff Lynn, who is also a trainer. “We go way back, to Aksarben in 1980,” Stancato said. “He runs horses in here for Tammy Domenosky and Mac Robertson and somehow trains a stable of his own as well.”
Stancato used a recent episode as evidence of this long friendship. “Jeff joined me for the wine tasting party here a couple of weeks ago,” Stancato said.
He can’t vouch for Lynn, but Stancato said he felt just fine the next morning.