BY JIM WELLS
So, what else is new?
Jer-Mar Stable’s Jerry Myers and trainer Mac Robertson got to the winner’s circle first to initiate the 2009 race meet on Friday night, picking right up where they left off last season.
They were accompanied by Mister Merz, a 4-year-old colt by Black Minnaloushe and rider Dean Butler, who had a simple explanation for his winning ride.
“When you ride the best that’s what happens, ” Butler said. “All I had to do was point him in the right direction.”
Mister Merz got the new meet rolling with a four-length victory over Soul Singer and returned $3.20, $2.60 and $2.40.
Nice way to start, eh, Jerry?
“Yeah, it’s the best way to start,” Myers responded.
Jer-Mar Stables is annually among the top stables on the grounds, and Robertson has been the track’s leading trainer four consecutive meets.
There is no reason to think they won’t be dominating factors again this summer.
The race was marred by the breakdown of Golden Prancer, ridden by Adolfo Morales. Erinn and Aaron, ridden by Brian Hollingsworth, was taken out of contention trying to avoid Golden Prancer. Morales and Hollingsworth bounced to their feet after the mishap, but Morales took off his remaining mounts on the card. Erinn and Aaron was Hollingsworth’s only mount of the night.
The 15th season of live racing at Canterbury Park got under way on an inauspicious note with rain and overcast conditions, but the skies cleared and the empty grandstand apron filled with fans from a crowd of 7,482 eager to get their first whiff of live racing since last September.
It is likely that today’s card, featuring the Preakness Stakes and the much ballyhooed filly Rachel Alexandra will seem more like the meet opener. Cooler weather with bright, sunny skies are forecast, promising elements for a turnout of 8,000 or more.
Canterbury’s media man Jeff Maday put together a huge delegation of owners of the third-race winner, a 3-year-old chestnut filly, Tahitian Queen. Trained by Tammy Domenosky and ridden by Jose Ferrer, Tahitian Queen delighted her new owners as a 2-1 winning favorite. Ferrer did his best afterwards to shake or slap hands with as many of the 60 owners as possible.
So was it a harbinger of bigger things to come?
“Let’s hope so,” said Domenosky. “Yeah, it is.”
Domenosky reconsidered her declaration. “No, scratch that,” she said. “Didn’t we say something like this before?” Assured that was never the case, Domenosky let her prediction stand.
The winner of the fourth race, Engaging Lover, broke a string of chalky winners. The 5-year-old gelding, owned by Susan Berg of Milltown, Wis., and trained by her dad, Harvey Berg, won his first race since August of 2007 under Louis Medina. The payoff? A WHOPPING $55.20, $21.40 and $10,80 across the board.
The precocious Dylan Williams is riding in the Canterbury colony again and he sweetened the evening and the meet for owner Jack Walsh of Somerset, riding Sweet Ole Somerset to the winner’s circle at 7-1 in the seventh race. All of Walsh’s horses carry the name Somerset in some form or fashion, raising an intriguing question _ what would happen if Walsh moved to Baldwin or New Richmond?
“I’m not going to,” he said, ending the matter once and for all.
What isn’t certain any longer is this: At one time, a person could hear the name of a horse that included Somerset and know it belonged to Walsh. Not any longer. “Jeff Hilger has one he named Somerset Jack,” Walsh said, “and Bruce Malkerson has one he plans to name Somerset Jackie.”
SNIPPETS AND MUSINGS FROM THE FIRST DAY OF RACING
The pressing question heading into today’s Preakness Stakes concerns Rachel Alexandra and rider Calvin Borel’s decision to take off Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird to ride the filly who won Kentucky Oaks, also with him aboard.
Did he make the right decision, giving up the colt to ride this precocious filly?
“I don’t know. She’s a really a nice filly they say,” said jockey Juan Rivera. “It’ s tough, real tough. I just don’t know.”
Others weren’t stymied by the issue in the least.
” Calvin knows what he’s doing, absolutely,” said journeyman rider Jose Ferrer, who joined Canterbury’s jockey colony this spring. “That’s an impressive filly.”
Butler agreed, without labeling the filly a sure thing..
“Calvin’s doing the right thing,” he said. “She’s a real nice filly but she has a new trainer (even though it’s Steve Assmussen) and she wasn’t really tested (in the Kentucky Oaks against six rivals). We’ll see what happens.”
*Paul Nolan brought in Touchmewithmagic for trainer/owner Franciso Bravo in the fifth race, continuing a prosperous year for the Aubrey, Texas trainer. “It’s been a good year,” Bravo said, “but it’s going to come to an end. Nobody’s breeding horses right now, so there’s going to be a shortage.”
*Circle Me Bert, ridden by Ferrer, finished second to $24 winner Sam Green and Scott Stevens in the card finale for maiden Minnesota-breds but was placed fourth behind Tahkodha Bill for interference with that horse at the eighth pole.
*Defending riding champ Derek Bell got his first win of the meet in the sixth race, bringing in 5-1 choice Go by Gold, trained by Red Rarick. Bell lost four mounts on the card at the entry box, but picked up Go by Gold after Morales went down.