“I like this,” he said. “I like it a lot. I hope they have a lot more of them.”
Rival trainer Mike Biehler could understand the sentiment perfectly, as it applied to Johnson.
“Yeah, and he’ll probably like it a whole lot more in a few minutes,” Biehler said.
Johnson appeared to suppress a wry grin as he gave Patricia Trimble a leg up on Patriate, who already had three gate-to-wire wins this summer and had won two of three qualifying races for the championship, beating every one of his Thursday night rivals in the process.
He had good reason to like the series, and, just as Biehler forecast, hadn’t changed his mind in the least a few minutes later after the seven-year-old gelding went gate to wire once more, finishing 2 ½ lengths in front of Brokenandbusted, who had a neck on French Moon.
Patriate claimed the winner’s share of the $25,000 championship purse, a very significant reason for liking this concept since Johnson not only trains the winner but owns him also. Thus he didn’t have to share the $15,000 winner’s check with someone doling out day money.
Brokeandbusted, owned by Tom and Karen Metzen and Gary McCloud and trained by Biehler collected a check for $5,000 and a $3,000 check went to French Moon, trained by Valorie Lund and owned by Zephyr Stable.
Winning time for the race was 1:05 and 4/5, after a :46 and 2/5 half mile and :22 and 2/5 for the quarter mile.
“I love this old guy,” Trimble said afterward. “He earned all his money the hard way.”
Previously, Patriate had earned $81,849 with a record of 14-14-4 from 52 career starts.
Pressbox manager Jeff Maday and assistant Andrew Offerman devised the rules for the series (there was one for fillies and mares that concluded last week) last winter after being inspired by a similar concept at Portland Meadows.
With only six horses lined up for the championship race Thursday, the idea did not match their expectations.
The biggest reason, both agreed, was probably lack of education, a point embraced by Biehler, who said he did not understand the entire concept early on.
Track president/CEO Randy Sampson also pointed out that the idea was formulated before the addition of supplements from the Mystic Lake agreement that enhanced purses significantly.
Still, Offerman, for one, was not totally discouraged. “This is the type of racetrack where this kind of thing has a chance to be very successful,” he said. “We’re a little disappointed in the number of horses participating this year, but it has an opportunity to grow. It’s a fantastic opportunity to get people interested in owning a horse.”
The idea, of course, is that someone can claim a horse for $3,500 and within four to five weeks have the opportunity to run for $25,000 or more.
Bob Johnson might be a good one with whom to discuss that very possibility.
For more information on the Canterbury Claiming Series, and for complete standings, check out the Canterbury Park webpage.
The 2012 Canterbury Claiming Series is sponsored by Continental Diamond.
Photo Credit: Coady Photography