By JIM WELLS
She was bedded up to the chest in straw with her head thrust out the trailer window, absorbing a 60 mph breeze on Interstate 94 near Wisconsin Dells.
“She’s as happy as a clam back there,” Bonnie Kassen said from the front of the truck. “She simply loves it.”
The conversation involved Quiet Queen, who simply loved the Canterbury Park turf course last summer as well, cruising to victory in the $100,000 Lady Canterbury Stakes.
A horse named Quiet Queen gracing the winner’s circle after winning a race called the Lady Canterbury.
Kassen was in Shakopee for that race while her husband, Dave, tended to the stable at Arlington Park. She was en route to Shakopee once again during the conversation via cell phone near Wisconsin Dells on Thursday. This time, Quiet Queen was headed to Shakopee for Saturday’s HBPA Mile, most likely the last race she will run before defending her title in the Lady Canterbury on July 25.
“That’s the plan,” Bonnie said.
The Kassens have been involved in racing since the 1960s, he first as a jockey and then as a trainer after outgrowing the former occupation. As a regular rider on the Kentucky circuit, Dave Kassen was familiar to many of the Kentucky bluebloods and was given an opportunity by some of them when he opened a barn in 1970.
“He rode for a lot of the bigshots in Kentucky, the prominent breeders,” Bonnie recalled. “They helped set him up and he built his barn from there.”
Bonnie was galloping horses at the time and went to work for Dave. “I ended up marrying the boss and we’ve been together since 1983,” she said.
Quiet Queen is one of a number of nice horses the Kassens have conditioned over the years. They also trained Avies Copy, who finished third in the 1987 Kentucky Derby won by Alysheba.
Nate Cole was a gallop boy for the Kassens in those days and worked Avies Copy before the Derby. On Thursday, he was occupied with his current line of work and was at the wheel of the van _ next to Bonnie _ hauling Quiet Queen to Canterbury Park.
Once they arrived in Shakopee, Kassen bedded Quiet Queen down in her stall and checked into a local motel to await Saturday’s race.
A year ago, Tracy Hebert flew into Minnesota to ride for Kassen in the Lady Canterbury. He will not have far to travel for Saturday’s race. He is one of the leading riders at the Canterbury meet this summer.
“He rode her just great last time,” Bonnie said. “I’m glad he’s named on her again.”
Quiet Queen collected a check for $60,000 last summer and has career earnings now of $158,208. The six-year-old daughter of Real Quiet from the Tejano mare Polkadot Princess has won six times and finished third twice from 25 career starts. Four wins have come from 12 starts on the grass.
She hasn’t hit the board in three stakes starts in 2009. She finished fourth on June 6 in a five-furlong sprint at Arlington Park. “That was a tune-up for this race,” Bonnie said. “Her best distance is a mile to a mile and 1-16th, two turns.”
Kassen described the mare as easy-going and a pleasure to train. “Quiet Queen, her name, fits perfectly,” Bonnie said. “She’s quiet but she’s very confident. And on race day she’ll drag you up the paddock. She’s all business. A real professional.”
Kassen plans to walk Quiet Queen and nothing more before Saturday’s race. “It’s simply too hot, ” she said. “And she’s fit, so walking is all she needs.”