One of the early stars of Minnesota racing, Northbound Pride was a horse whose worshipping fans could count on her time after time in the late 1980s.
Canterbury Downs was in decline about the same time Northbound Pride was in ascent, and she provided her fans and owners alike with what now seems like a shining instant, a transcendental moment, in the history of Shakopee’s racetrack. Northbound Pride was a state-bred filly who could run in open company, on any kind of surface, turf or dirt, dry or wet, and at any distance from a short sprint to a classic route of ground.
Bred by the late Vic Myers at his Northbound Farm outside Stillwater, Northbound Pride was a daughter of Proud Pocket from the Our Native mare Our Trelawny.
Northbound Pride’s racing career was impressive. She won 11 times, was second nine times and third nine times from 38 starts with earnings of $213,983. She raced 22 times at Canterbury, seven times at Oaklawn Park, eight times at Arlington Park and once at Louisiana Downs.
She won six of seven races at Canterbury as a 3-year-old in 1989, including three stakes, falling short of a perfect meet by a whisker. She was the track’s champion three-year-old filly that season and was in the running for Horse of the Meet, losing out to two-time Canterbury selection Hoist Her Flag.
Northbound Pride was trained originally by Mike Green, then Mike Tinker, next Burl McBride and finally Tinker again. In mid-September of her three-year-old season, while training for a race in Kentucky, Northbound Pride suffered a slab fracture and was sidelined for the next 18 months. She could still run when she returned as a five-year-old, but when she started to decline, and with Canterbury Downs closed, her owners deemed it time for a change.
Northbound Pride moved into her second career as a broodmare, but without the success she achieved on the racetrack. “She produced some horses that won races,” said Les Martens, a retired professor emeritus in dentistry at the University of Minnesota and one of the horse’s owners. “But she never reproduced herself.”
Her partners began shipping her to Kentucky for breeding. She foaled a colt in Illinois and another in Kentucky. She was at the Art and Gretchen Eaton farm in Minnesota for a time, and spent the last few years on a farm near Forest Lake. “Then we started working with (veterinarian) Donna Rued and about three years ago moved her over to Shamrock Valley Farm, owned by Bob and Lisa Dainty (in rural Stillwater),” said Martens, who formed a new partnership with the farm’s owners.
Our Trelawny was also at Shamrock Valley for more than a decade but died last fall of the colic. “She had colic five years earlier and we saved her that time. We thought then that if we could keep her another four or five years it would be worth it,” Bob Dainty said.
Our Trelawny’s talented daughter was given one last opportunity to reproduce herself, to send a runner like herself to the track. Under Rued’s guidance, Northbound Pride, 20 at the time, was deemed fit for one more foal, one final opportunity to leave a legacy beyond her career on the track. Northbound Pride was bred to Ecton Park and produced a filly on April 2 last year.
The foal, now a yearling, is a chestnut, much lighter than her mother. “She has awfully long legs. She’s taller than most of the other yearlings and looks like she’ll be a runner,” Mertens said.
Mertens and the Daintys decided some time ago that the foal is Northbound Pride’s last. “She deserves to be retired now,” Bob Dainty said. “She is fitting in with the other mares and we treat her like royalty.”
At one time the Daintys had five generations of Our Trelawny offspring at their farm. “It was a sad day when we lost her,” Bob said. “She was the queen of the hop at our place.”
Now it is Northbound Pride who sits on the throne, and the Daintys and Mertens are hopeful that two years hence Northbound Beauty, the last of Northbound Pride’s babies, will stand in the winner’s circle at Canterbury Park after the race named for her mother.
“That’s our dream,” said Dainty. “That’s what we’re hoping for.”
A SOLEMN STAKES NOTE
The running of the Northbound Pride Stakes will include a solemn footnote.
Some of the original owners of the Canterbury Hall of Fame horse for whom the race is named will be on hand. One will not.
Charles Schachtele, a pioneer in tooth-decay research at the University of Minnesota, suffered a heart attack this week and died at age 66.
Les Martens, a retired professor emeritus in denistry at the U OF M, was a colleague of Schachtele’s and a partner in Northbound Pride as well as other horses.
Martens said it has been a tough week after losing his friend and that he will have him in his thoughts during the post-race ceremony in the winners’ circle.
“He would have been there, no doubt,” Martens said. “He rarely missed the race.”
Martens said that his friend had been at Canterbury the Friday before he left for Arizona to check on some rennovations being done to his vacation home there when he was stricken.
“Charley was a character,” Martens said. “He was always laughing, and I always said about him that you either liked him or you loved him. He had an infectious personality.”
During a conversation on Northbound Pride this week the subject shifted to Big Brown and his “mysterious” collapse in the Belmont Stakes.
The horse’s trainer, Rick Dutrow, and his loud, abrasive personality were discussed along with a number of possible explanations for another failed Triple Crown attempt. The absurdity of Dutrow’s attempt to assign blame to jockey Kent Desormeaux opened a whole new line of discussion.
“I liked Desormeaux better than I liked the horse,” said Les Martens, one of the original owners of Northbound Pride.
It so happens that any affection Martens displays for the rider dates back to the late 1980s. “Desormeaux rode Stillwater Billy and Northbound Pride for us at Oaklawn Park,” Martens explained.
Northbound Pride had a number of nationally-known riders on her back, including Mike Smith, the original riding champ at Canterbury Park, and Pat Day. “Mike Smith gave her the worst ride of her career in the Stallion Auction Stakes,” Martens recalled. “She was a two-year-old then and he had a hole in front of him you could have driven two or three locomotives through. Instead, he stopped her and took her outside.”
Even at that, Northbound Pride displayed a little bit of what was to come during her career. She came from dead last to finish second.
Hank Mills, the presiding judge on the board of stewards, is improving at Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park after suffering a stroke on Monday. Mills was a steward for the Minnesota Racing Commission in the late 1990s before taking a full-time position at Turf Paradise in Phoenix.
“He returned here as the presiding judge in 2004,” said Dick Krueger, executive director of the racing commission. Mills’ wife, Sally, was visiting from Phoenix when he suffered the stroke. He was taken originally to St. Francis Hospital in Shakopee and later transferred to Methodist.
“The news is more encouraging now than it was 72 hours ago,” Krueger said Friday afternoon. “He was still having some trouble with his right side and his speech, but was moved into Tier One (in the ICU unit) on Wednesday and is getting rehabilitation.”
Krueger said Mills can not receive visitors.
Claiming Crown, thoroughbred racing’s $600,000 bonanza for the sport’s “blue-collar” runners, has attracted 279 nominees for its 10th renewal, which returns to Canterbury Park in Shakopee, Minn., this year on Saturday, August 2. Nominations, which came in from all across the U.S. and Canada, include 206 original nominees, 39 horses named via “open” nominations and another 34 for whom a $500 nomination fee was paid.
“Everyone involved with Claiming Crown is excited about its going back to Canterbury Park this year,” said Dan Metzger, president of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association (TOBA). Claiming Crown is a joint venture between TOBA and the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (NHBPA). Last year Ellis Park in Henderson, Ky., was the host track. This will be the eighth time it has been run at Canterbury Park.
Claiming Crown features seven races, with purses ranging from $50,000 to $150,000 and is open to horses that have started at least once in 2007-08 for claiming prices ranging from $7,500 to $35,000. The climax of the day is the $150,000 Jewel, a mile and one-eighth event on the main track. The program also features two mile and one-sixteenth races on the turf, three six-furlong dashes on the dirt and a mile and one-sixteenth main track contest. Race sponsors are Bremer Bank, John Deere, Daily Racing Form and Allied Waste Services.