Canterbury Park, Shakopee, Minn logo

Quarter Horse Racing Winding Down

Canterbury’s 2012 quarter horse meet has essentially come to a close with only a couple of stakes races remaining. If you’ve become attached to these sprinters, don’t despair: the quarter horse meet at Prairie Meadows begins this weekend and runs through the end of October.

Just four hours away in Altoona, Iowa, Prairie Meadows is a logical next step for some of Canterbury’s quarter horses. The meet includes a long list of unrestricted stakes races, and has attracted some of the best horses in the country; among them, a few notable Canterbury connections.

Prairie Meadows was the home track of champion aged mare Spit Curl Diva winner of multiple graded stakes across the country in her career, including the 2010 Grade 1 Merial Distaff Challenge Championship at the Fair Grounds, the 2010 Grade 1 Refrigerator at Lone Star Park, and the Grade 3 Keokuk Stakes at Prairie Meadows last year, in which Canterbury perennial Six It Up finished third. Six It Up is in her fourth year at Canterbury and most recently appeared in the Cash Caravan Stakes on August 12th, in which she lost by a nose to Streak N Hot.

One of the best older horses in training last year, Jess A Runner, raced at Canterbury before continuing his campaign in Iowa. Jess A Runner, five years old at the time, shipped in for the Great Lakes Stakes, an event for older horses at 440 yards. Jess a Runner not only won, he broke the track record at that distance by nearly a second. Jess A Runner moved to Iowa after that win, where he won the Grade 3 Two Rivers Stakes and settled into the top ten poll of older horses for months to come.

Last year, Prairie Meadows hosted the Valley Junction Futurity, which was the richest quarter horse race ever held at the track to date, with a purse of $229,000. 39 two-year-olds competed in five trials at 350 yards to determine the field for the Grade 3 event, including fastest qualifier One Famous Hero at 17.690. One Famous Hero was the near even-money favorite heading into the final, but he finished fifth. The winner was a certain Pyc Paint Your Wagon filly fresh off her win in Canterbury’s Northlands Futurity: Cruzin the Wagon. Cruzin the Wagon defeated the field by an entire length in 17.481 and earned a 99 speed index.

Cruzin the Wagon appeared at Canterbury earlier that summer for the Northlands Futurity Trials; she won her trial easily and came back to win the $64,000 final, defeating Painted Lies and Red Hot Zoomer, who would each come back as strong three-year-olds in 2012. Cruzin the Wagon was even more impressive at Remington Park this year, winning three of her four starts, including the Grade 3 Jack Brooks Stakes, where she set a track record for 350 yards despite a sloppy surface. She has earned over $280,000 in her 11 starts.

Another familiar name appeared in the Valley Junction: Huckleberry Mojito. Huckleberry Mojito finished third in her trial and entered the final as the tenth fastest qualifier. She had never been worse than third in her four previous starts, but the Feature Mr Jess filly improved substantially as a three-year-old after her disappointing performance in the Valley Junction, and returned as one of the best horses of the 2012 Canterbury meet. Huckleberry is three for three here, including a three-length derby trial victory, a two-length win in the Canterbury Park Quarter Horse Derby, and a win against older fillies and mares in the Race for Hope Bonus Challenge.

The Bonus Challenge was a race open to horses enrolled in the AQHA Bank of America Challenge program. Challenge-nominated horses are eligible to compete in a variety of restricted races across the country, and winners of regional races gather at the end of the year in the Challenge Championship. The final races are the Breeders’ Cup of quarter horse racing, and like the thoroughbred event, the finals are held at different tracks. This year, Prairie Meadows is hosting the final event on Oct 27th. They are also hosting a full set of regional qualifiers, offering local horses the perfect opportunity to qualify for the final event.

Huckleberry Mojito is nominated to this program, and it is a possibility that she will show up for one of these qualifying events to have a chance to run in the final. The only question is, which one? As a three-year-old filly, she has her choice of the Adequan Derby, the Merial Distaff, or even the Bank of America Challenge for three-year-olds and up.

If Huckleberry Mojito continues to improve, one may be able to draw parallels between her and the great Spit Curl Diva. Both based in the Midwest, the two fillies developed later in their career, dominated stakes races against older horses and open company and have set track records. Spit Curl Diva earned a berth in the Merial Distaff Challenge final by winning a regional qualifier at Arapahoe; she returned the following year to qualify for the Bank of America challenge final and later that year, appeared in the Grade 1 Champion of Champions.

The retirement of Spit Curl Diva left big horseshoes to fill in the fillies/mares division, the older horses division, and among graded stakes contenders in general. It is impossible to predict the future, and if possible, even harder to predict the future in horse racing, but Huckleberry Mojito has the breeding, talent, and connections to make a name for herself on the national scene. When she does, you can say that you knew her way back when she raced at Canterbury. In the meantime, follow her and the rest of the pack to Iowa for two months of quality quarter horse racing, and save the date for the Challenge Championships on Oct 27th.