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Previewing the Festival Quarters

The end of the meet is upon us, but 2012 will go out in style with the Minnesota Festival of Champions this weekend! Two of the restricted Minnesota-bred stakes races will feature quarter horses: the 18th running of both the Minnesota Quarter Horse Derby and Minnesota Quarter Horse Futurity.

Sunday, September 2nd:  Minnesota Quarter Horse Derby, 400 yards, $19,000

Leading Trainer: Ed Ross Hardy (6)

Leading Jockey: Tom Wellington (4)

Record Purse: $26,100 (Stone Cold Roller, 2007)

Sometimes, the outcome of the Minnesota Quarter Horse Futurity gives us a sneak peek of what to expect in the three-year-old division the following year. In 2011, the three horses to hit the board in the futurity each returned to be a major player in the 2012 season at Canterbury, including the winner, Streak N Hot (pictured above left). Streak N Hot made his 2012 debut in an allowance, and continued to run in derby trials and finals, running respectably, but failing to notch a win in his three-year-old year until the recent Cash Caravan Stakes. The post-time favorite, Streak N Hot narrowly defeated perennial Canterbury runner Six It Up, though the pair was nearly two lengths clear of the rest of the field.

Streak N Hot had the misfortune of entering against the talented and likely quarter horse of the year, Huckleberry Mojito, in four of his six races this year. With Huckleberry out of the way in the Minnesota Quarter Horse Derby (she’s not a Minn-bred), Streak N Hot has an excellent chance to repeat his Cash Caravan performance and pull off the Festival of Champions double. Only two other horses have won the Futurity and come back to take the Derby: Cracklin Cash, 1999-2000 and CS Night Light, 2004-2005.

At 7-5, #7 Streak N Hot is the morning line favorite and will be tough to catch on Sunday. But he’ll have to hold off the second place finisher in last year’s Futurity, #1 Western Fun (5-2). After the Minnesota Futurity, Western Fun won back to back races at Prairie Meadows and Beulah, but has finished no better than second in her 2012 Canterbury campaign. As usual, Western Fun finds herself in against some of the best company, but her inside post position and connections, may give her an edge.

Two more horses return from last year’s Futurity for a chance at the Derby win: #3 Explosive Guns (6-1) and #4 Br Hotrod (12-1). Explosive Guns finished third in the Futurity; he shipped briefly to Prairie Meadows, Will Rogers Downs and Remington Park before returning to Canterbury this year.  Explosive Guns has been part of the same three-year-old clique as Streak N Hot and Western Fun, and broke his maiden in a derby trial on opening weekend while racing at 400 yards for the first time. Since then, Explosive Guns has shown a little trouble in the gate and encountered a few traffic problems, so a clean trip will be necessary for this gelding to pass his foes.

#4 Br Hotrod ran fourth in the Futurity last year; since then he ran short all summer until breaking his maiden, then made his most recent start in a claiming event at 870 yards. Cutting back from a hook race to 400 yards is an interesting angle, but the class jump may be hard to overcome.

If you simply must have a longshot for your exotic wagers, look at the lightly raced #5 Flyin Coronas (10-1). Flyin Coronas makes his third lifetime start after finishing fourth in the Cash Caravan. Though low on experience, he ran well enough in that race to suggest that there is talent to be developed, and his breakout race is yet to come.

Sunday, September 2nd: Minnesota Quarter Horse Futurity, 350 yards, $19,000

Leading Trainer: Ed Ross Hardy (8)

Leading Jockey: Tad Leggett (4)

Record Purse: $26,100 (CS Limelight, 2007)

The field for the Minnesota Quarter Horse Futurity this year is wide open, so enjoy the race with the knowledge that you may be watching a preview of the stakes and allowance fields of 2013.

Morning line favorite is #4 Fly Eyeann (5-2), out of the Ed Hardy barn with Tanner Riggs aboard; Riggs is one of the most sought-after Thoroughbred jockeys at Canterbury but has only placed in six of his 21 quarter horse mounts this year. Fly Eyeann is out of the Mr Eye Opener mare Eyzanee, by the Mr Jess Perry sire Fly Jess Fly. Her breeding is strikingly similar to that of Huckleberry Mojito, who is also out of a Mr Eye Opener mare and by a Mr Jess Perry sire. These bloodlines also suggest that Fly Eyeann may even better as a three-year-old. That said, she is one of only two horses in the field to have run in a stakes race, and the only one to hit the board, when she finished second behind HadaCertainCharm in the Minnesota Stallion Breeders Futurity in June.

The horse most likely to challenge Fly Eyeann is #8 V Os Red Hot Cole (4-1). This morning line could be a steal on this Pyc Paint Your Wagon gelding, who is trained by Ed Hardy and will be ridden by Nik Goodwin. V Os Red Hot Cole, like most of the field, is a maiden, but his starts include a third place finish by a neck in a maiden race at Remington Park and a second place finish in a futurity trial at Canterbury in July. Remington shippers are dangerous here, as are these connections, and this horse will be one to watch in this weekend and beyond.

The real story in this race concerns #2 Streaking Light (8-1). This Streakin La Jolla filly is out of the Royal Quick Dash mare Cs Night Light, as noted earlier, one of only two horses to win the Minnesota QH Futurity and come back to win the Minnesota QH Derby. Cs Night Light won the Futurity in 2004, the Derby in 2005, and went on to race in multiple trials and stakes as a four-year-old at Remington and Prairie Meadows, ending with a 17-6-3-1 record. It’s not often that you see a mare and her filly each run in the same stakes race, and you have to hope that Streaking Light can continue the legacy, starting with a victory in the Minnesota Quarter Horse Futurity on Sunday.

This blog was written by AQHA Q-Racing Ace Jen Perkins. Jen travels to tracks across the country to educate fans about handicapping and Quarter Horse racing, and shares her perspective on Canterbury Quarter Horse racing as well as insider information on America’s fastest athletes.

Photo Credit: Coady Photography