Rain and pea-size hail pelted the barns, the windows in the racing office and most of Canterbury Park on Thursday afternoon. The gauge at the vehicle shop measured an inch of rain in the span of about 10 minutes.
The storm sirens in Shakopee howled, warning of possible dangerous conditions, and guards circulated on the backside cautioning everyone to take shelter. A number of folks rushed into the racing office, drenched from head to toe. The computers in the racing office flickered, causing some employees to fear a power outage.
“You couldn’t see the stable gate from the racing office,” said stall superintendent Mark Stancato.
No one needed announce that the races were off the turf on Thursday night.
Stancato along with the July storm welcomed 58 newcomers to the barns, mostly from Iowa, with the possibility of another 15 coming from the same locale. They started arriving on Sunday and continued through Wednesday night.
Lynn Chleborad, who has trained at Canterbury previously, shipped the largest contingent north. There are 15 in her barn. Jim Warvell arrived with 13 horses from Indiana Downs. Bobby McMeans arrived with 10.
Shawn Payton, a former Mac Robertson assistant, will handle 12 horses for trainer Hector Magana, and Jeff Jones has eight on the grounds for Roger Brueggemann.
Stancato said there is the possibility that Carlos Ramirez will arrive this weekend with 15 horses, currently stabled at a farm in Iowa. Canterbury’s custodian of the stalls says there are a handful of others hinting at arriving with a horse or two soon to get the lay of the land before the Claiming Crown on Aug. 2.
A FIRST FOR THE NESS BARN
Jamie Ness has won back-to-back training titles at Tampa Bay Downs. He saddled 38 winners to get the job done in 2007. Last winter, he sent out 68 winners, finished 35 wins in front of his nearest competitor and his horses banked nearly $1 million. The win total and the earnings were both records at the track.
Last week his barn accomplished another first. The stable won seven consecutive races. “We’ve never done that before,” he said.
Six of the wins came at Canterbury and the seventh at Prairie Meadows. Of the barn’s 15 starters, only two missed hitting the board.
Ness’s surge helped him make up some ground on the two trainers in front of him. Ness has 27 wins heading into Thursday night’s card, five fewer than Justin Evans and seven fewer than defending training champ Mac Robertson.
“I was about 15 back (of Robertson) at one point,” Ness said. “And, with Prairie Meadows closing, it looks like the racing is getting tougher. Saturday and Sunday, especially Sunday, looks real strong. The competition makes everything better.”
This week Ness has two horses entered on Thursday, two on Friday, three on Saturday and two on Sunday. “I don’t have that many this week,” he said. He’s also sending three others to Assiniboia Downs and Prairie Meadows.
Best Westerner is expected to be the odds-on favorite in the $50,000 Derby Trial in Winnipeg.
PIG ROAST BENEFIT TAKING SHAPE
Donations, services and helping hands are needed for a 6 p.m. benefit on July 23 to assist three Canterbury Park veterans who are in ill health: former trainer George Bango, farrier Gary Ladd and steward Hank Mills.
The menu (all you can eat for $5) will include pork sandwiches, beans and potato salad, and the entertainment will be provided by Dave Shepherd and his Easy Money Band. An auction is planned as well.
The HBPA will provide the pig, Canterbury Park will provide beverages, condiments and plates for the occasion.
A benefit last year raised $35,000 and helped another Canterbury regular with medical expenses.
Among the items that drew substantial bids at that event were a free month of training from Mac Robertson, gift certificates from the tack and feed stores.
“A hotel donated a room, a liquor store a jug of wine and there were various baskets to bid on,” said Patrice Underwood in the HBPA office.
Underwood said that professional services from dentists, doctors or other professionals are encouraged as donations.
“This is more of a celebration of what these men have contributed over the years than anything,” she added.
THE BRUNCH IS FREE
The HBPA general membership annual meeting and brunch will be held Saturday at 11 a.m. in Longshots.
The meeting, which will include nominations for three spots on the board of directors, and the free brunch are open to anyone interested in attending. There are three positions open on the HBPA board, two for owners and one for a trainer. All are for three year terms.
TIGER WOODS TO MISS TOURNAMENT
The 13th annual HBPA golf tournament is scheduled Monday at Shoreland Country Club in St. Peter. Registration is at 11:30 and the shotgun start at 12:30. Spots can be reserved by calling the HBPA office: 952 496-6442.
(from NTRA Communications)
There are horses entered to run at Belmont Park in Saturday’s Grade I, $500,000 Man o’War Stakes that are among the more accomplished anywhere.
And then there’s Curlin.
The reigning Horse of the Year is trying the grass for the first time in the Man o’War, hoping to make the transition that will set him up for a trip to Paris for the Prix Foy and, ultimately, the Prix de L’arc de Triomphe at Longchamp Race Course on October 5.
Owner Jess Jackson and trainer Steve Asmussen are doing their utmost to make Curlin an international star. The 4-year-old Smart Strike colt has been expertly managed, winning each of his last five starts, including three of racing’s biggest events: Belmont Park’s Jockey Club Gold Cup, the Breeders’ Cup Classic and the Dubai World Cup.
“The perfect plan for us – for me, for Curlin and for everybody associated with him – is to first establish his level of quality on the turf in the Man o’War, and not get ahead of ourselves,” said Asmussen, as Curlin drew post 7 for Saturday. “We have to see if he can compete at the same level. If he can compete at his level on the turf and we get the race that we expect, we will map out how to win the Arc with him. I think that getting him over there immediately and getting him used to going right [on right-handed turns] would be the biggest obstacle that we face. If we establish that he’s as good a horse on the turf as he is on the dirt, then we get him over there and get him relaxed, comfortable and confident, and doing right.”
Curlin faces no slouches on Saturday. His return to New York has attracted some of racing’s top turf stars, including two previous winners of the Breeders’ Cup Turf. One of them is Better Talk Now. The 9-year-old won the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Lone Star in 2004 and was beaten a half-length in the 2006 Turf by Red Rocks, who is also in Saturday’s field.
The Man o’War was not originally scheduled for national television coverage, but after it was announced on Tuesday afternoon that Curlin would compete in the race, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association was able to quickly broker a deal with ESPN and the New York Racing Association. Thanks to that agreement, and additional support provided by Delaware Park, the Man o’War will now be televised live on ESPNEWS Saturday, with an expected post time of 4:15 p.m. (central)