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News & Notes July 3

by Jim Wells

First a trivia question:Who or what was Blair’s Cove and why does it matter?

The correct answer _ or answers _ is that Blair’s Cove was a horse and was also a place in Ireland.

It is the former that was represented at Canterbury Park on Thursday night with the 14th running of the $50,000 guaranteed Blair’s Cove Stakes. The race is limited to Minnesota-bred colts and geldings, three years old and older, and was run at a mile and 1-16th on the turf. The winner was 5-2 second choice Sir Tricky, trained by Mac Robertson and ridden by Derek Bell. No surprise there. Sir Tricky finished a neck in front of stablemate Joni’s Justice, ridden by Dean Butler. That amounted to an exacta for Barry and Joni Butzow of Eden Prairie, owners of the first two finishers. Third, a half length out of second, was CC Tat, trained by Dougal Huntington and ridden by Lori Keith. CC Tat is owned by Kent Huntington of Owatonna.

“I had a perfect trip,” said Bell. “I didn’t have to take him up once, and when I asked him at the top of the lane, he gave me everything he had.”

The victory, his first of the year, increased Sir Tricky’s earnings to $200,000-plus. The large turnout for Canterbury’s annual July 3 fireworks display packed the grandstand apron throughout the evening.

Much of the attention on the feature event was centered on 9-5 favorite Wally’s Choice, owned by Curt Sampson and Wally (the Beer man) and Joyce McNeil. They ran out of the No. 1 hole in the 12-horse field and drew a large contingent in the paddock preceding the race, a gathering that included a number of Minnesota Twins luminaries on hand to cheer on the Beer man. Included in the turnout was former pitcher and now TV analyst Bert Blyleven. Blyleven was impressed with the huge turnout, but it is unlikely that he or many others in the fireworks gathering ever heard of Blair’s Cove. So here is the lowdown: Blair’s Cove was Horse of the year at Canterbury Downs in 1988 and also the track’s champion three-year-old colt. Trainer/breeder/owner Noel Hickey chose the name for the horse to honor the memory of his father’s farm in Ireland, also known as Blair’s Cove.

GARCIA HURTING
Jesse Garcia was determined to climb back in the saddle on Thursday and he did -for the first race. That was it. He took off the rest of his mounts because the pain in his shoulder was excruciating. Garcia was injured last week (a hairline fracture of the clavicle) when thrown from a mount leaving the starting gate. Nonetheless, he was cleared to ride on Thursday, but to no avail.

“He said it hurt like hell,” said trainer Francisco Bravo, who originally had Garcia riding for him on Sudden Desire in the sixth race. Bravo came out OK just the same. Dean Butler took the mount in Garcia’s absence _ straight to the winner’s circle. Garcia went back to the jockey’s lounge and left a couple of races later.

IN SUPPORT OF JOCKEYS

Paul Nolan was still sore and his neck a bit stiff shortly after working horses Wednesday morning. He finished off what he described as a lousy week on Sunday by winning the last thoroughbred race on the card with Minnesota Miss, to earn some momentum for the upcoming week. One race earlier, Nolan was banged around in the gate by Awesome Attitude, who was then scratched, and Nolan still had some soreness three days later.

“He gave me a whiplash,” he explained, rubbing his neck.

Nolan was able to resume work immediately and will not need any financial assistance following that incident. There have been times when he did, and the Don MacBeth Memorial Jockey’s Fund responded. “They were right there with a check, no questions asked, when I went down,” he said.

Nolan and his wife, Sherry, have worked for years in support of the fund, which is collecting donations and taking sponsorships through Sunday.

From its meager origins in 1987 at Canterbury Downs, the Don MacBeth Memorial Jockey Fund has grown into an enterprise that has reached out to thousands of injured and disabled jockeys throughout the country.

Comedian Tim Conway was performing a show at Canterbury in 1987, and he suggested donating his fee to assist jockeys in need. Later he teamed with Judy McCarron, the wife of Hall of Fame rider Chris McCarron, and the idea of a fund named for MacBeth, who died of cancer the previous march, emerged. The number of jockeys assisted by the fund in the time since is approaching 2,000.MacBeth began his riding career in Alberta, Canada, where he was born, and later moved to the U.S. He won 2,764 races and included among his mounts Temperence Hill, Deputy Minister, Vanlandingham and Chief’s Crown, a horse he rode in the 1985 three-year-old classics.

He was the leading rider at Monmouth Park for three consecutive years starting in 1978.

COME, ONE AND ALL, IT’S FREE

The HBPA has invited all interested parties to its annual meeting and brunch at 11 a.m. on July 12 at the Long Shots room. “Everyone is invited,” said HBPA president Tom Metzen. “We’ll have a real nice brunch and it’s free.”In addition, the HBPA will honor Canterbury’s training and riding champions from 2007. Mac Robertson has consecutively won three _ or four, depending how you look at it _ training titles. The horses ran in the name of his father, Hugh, in 2004, but Mac handled the barn at Canterbury. He will receive an award for saddling the most winners in 2007.

Derek Bell will be honored as the track’s riding champion, his fifth such distinction. It is no coincidence that the two men are receiving these awards since Bell gets the call on the preponderance of Robertson-trained horses.

DON’T FORGET THE GOLF

President Metzen wants to remind one and all about the upcoming golf tournament at St. Peter, too. Participants can register in the HBPA office on the backside.

CHAPEL FUNDRAISING WEEKEND DETAILS

The grand opening of the Dean Kutz Memorial Chapel will take place later this month, and the chaplain’s office has listed a schedule of events and fundraising activities planned for that weekend.

The chapel is named for the late Dean Kutz, the first jockey inducted into the track’s Hall of Fame and the riding champion at Canterbury in 1987 and 1988.

The chapel will serve the backside for religious ceremonies, weddings, meetings and as a community center for various events. The activities will begin on Thursday, July 24, with a silent auction in the grandstand, from 6 p.m. until post time for the seventh race that evening. The auction will resume the next day at 6 p.m. and again continue until post time for the seventh race.

On Saturday, July 26, the silent auction will begin at 12:30 p.m. and continue until post time for the seventh race. Also, at 3 p.m., Hall of Fame jockey Pat Day will sign autographs near the winner’s circle.The silent auction will include bidding on a private dinner with Day, scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, July 27. Day will again sign autographs that day at 3 p.m., and a fundraising dinner is planned for 7 p.m., with Day as the keynote speaker. A church service combined with the grand opening ceremony will be conducted in the chapel at 6 p.m. on Monday, July 28. A fundraising cookout _ donations suggested _ will follow at 7:30 p.m.

Day is also scheduled to speak at 7 a.m. on Tuesday, July 29, at a downtown Minneapolis event.

NTRA THOROUGHBRED NOTEBOOK
July 3, 2008

News and notes from around the Thoroughbred racing world, compiled by NTRA Communications.

5000 WATCH
Kent Desormeaux,(38) Hall of Fame jockey, three time Eclipse Award winner and this year’s Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner aboard Big Brown, is six wins shy of a personal milestone as he approaches his 5,000th all-time career win. There are only twenty-two other jockeys who have accomplished such a feat, with Russell Baze at the top of the standings with 10,193.

Desormeaux begin his riding career in 1986 at Evangeline Downs, Louisiana and where he had his first win aboard Miss Tavern on July 13, 1986.

It didn’t take long for Kent’s riding talents to be noticed, and he soon became a national sensation after moving his tack from Louisiana to Maryland where he led all jockeys while still an apprentice with 450 wins.
That 450th win was the first of many accomplishments Desormeaux set out to make in the early part of his career. In 1989, he shattered the record for victories in a year with 599, a mark which still stands. The old standard was 546, set by Chris McCarron in 1974. Kent has won riding titles at Oak Tree, Santa Anita, Hollywood Park, Del Mar, Laurel, Pimlico and in Tokyo, Japan. He became one of four jockeys to win three consecutive national victory titles, 1987-1989.

In 1995, at the age of 25, he won his 3,000th race, the youngest jockey to ever reach that plateau. Two years later, at 27, he became the youngest jockey to surpass $100 million in career earnings when he won the Phillip H. Iselin Handicap at Monmouth Park with Formal Gold. Then at the age of 30, he became the third-youngest jockey, behind Bill Shoemaker and Chris McCarron, both 29 at the time, to win 4,000 races.

He currently has three Breeders’ Cup victories, four Triple Crown race victories and in 2007 he ended the year with earnings of $11,922,428, ranking him 11th in all-time earnings.

Desormeaux has a lot of action coming up the next couple of days where he could possibly reach his 5,000th career victory. According to his agent Mike Sellitto, Kent has two mounts today at Belmont Park, five at Churchill Downs on Friday, and at least three to four mounts at Monmouth Park on Saturday, then back home on Sunday, where he’ll ride at Belmont Park, with the number of mounts yet to be determined.

Hopefully, Desormeaux, will have a duel celebration of sorts this weekend with America celebrating the Fourth of July and at the same time celebrating a personal milestone.

TWO OF RACING’S FINEST ON THE WORK TAB
Two of horse racing’s top stars passed their first test towards their next racing engagement this past week.

Reigning Horse of the Year Curlin successfully completed the first step in what could be a journey to Paris to run in the Prix de l’Arc Triomphe (Oct. 5)with a solid work guided by his jockey Robby Albarado over the turf course on Tuesday at Churchill Downs; all of Curlin’s races have been on a dirt track.

The four-year-old colt covered seven furlongs on a firm turf course in 1:31.20. “We were very excited to work him, he’s a tremendous athlete,” said his trainer Steve Asmussen. “We were very pleased with how he looked. The main thing is that Robby loved how he felt.”

“He was as fluid as always,” Albarado said. “He’s got a great way of moving and he covers a lot of ground and I felt like this morning was no different. His initial steps on the turf were like he knew where he was the whole time. He’s a horse who’s very smart now and he’s very aware of his surroundings, and this morning he felt great.”

Asmussen plans to continue to point Curlin toward a racing debut on turf on July 12 in either the $500,000 Man o’ War Stakes at 1 3/8 miles at Belmont Park, NY, or the $200,000 Arlington Handicap at 1 ¼ miles at Arlington Park, IL.

Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner Big Brown made his first official workout early Wednesday morning since his last-place finish in the Belmont Stakes (June 7) at his home-base, Aqueduct Racetrack, NY, going five furlongs at 1:06 and change on the main track at Aqueduct.

With his trainer Richard Dutrow overseeing Big Brown’s work, Dutrow said after the work, ” I told Michelle (Big Brown’s exercise rider)I don’t want him to go too fast, I’d rather him go slower than faster. The horse looks like he’s fine. I can’t tell you that we got any problems. He’s good right now, he’s cooling out good drinking his water, looks like he’s happy so we’re good.”

Big Brown is being prepared to race in the $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park, NJ on Aug. 3, making it his first start since the Belmont Stakes.

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