The Minnesota State Tournament of horse racing arrives this weekend each year, and after a summer that’s flown bye here we are. This day is not typically one to cash for obscene amounts of money but one to be enjoyed with the pride that Minnesota breeding is alive and well and will improve over the coming years.
The fields are not huge, but there are some very competitive races and some two-year-old starts to be born along with some year-end honors which still hang in the balance. One defending champ looking to nail down awards is Polar Plunge (above in pink silks), and she races in the race of the week – The Minnesota Distaff Sprint.
1. Bert’slittlesister – This is one of the more versatile mares in the bunch, and the sole representative from the Sampson stable. She comes off the turf and comes back in distance, as she has not sprinted on the dirt since a seventh in the slop in the Lady Slipper this may. She’s been awfully close lately on the turf but she’s also been in for a tag each time save the Princess Elaine. The endurance should be built up from her campaign on the grass but the tactics are in the hands of Lori Keith, as this one can be positioned just about anywhere. She seems to like things closer to the front end but there’s a couple that will be crackling up front if she decides to join them. She’s won a third of her races on our main track but the most recent one is over a year in the rear view mirror. She will at least be a price.
2. Gypsy Melody – Seems like the most legitimate wire-to-wire threat off a couple of tracking turf sprint victories at Arlington Park in Chicago. She’s progressed in each start this year in the figure department, and has shown a clear affinity for our dirt in the past. She put in a couple of easy half miles for Hugh in Illinois to prepare for this task today. She’ll need to turn the tables on Polar Plunge to see the winners’ circle today but it’s only a half-length to make up, and the pressure shouldn’t be nearly as intense early. This barn has been scorching lately, and she’s one of the best state-bred sprinters they’ve got. With the form she’s in right now she’s impossible to leave off any tickets.
3. Silver Splendor – What a difference a year makes. She couldn’t find the board with a map as a two or three-year old, but at four the daughter of Monarchos has only missed the board once. The problem is, that was her last race and it was in arrears of her outermost competition today. She has great speed and should the filly just to her inside stumble or scratch, she should be tough on the front end once again. She didn’t pass her last class test but with the right scenario this filly could spring a mild upset. That scenario just isn’t likely though, and she may be more of an underneath player than a top prospect.
4. Polar Plunge – The defending champ in the Distaff Sprint is very lightly raced by design, but always takes money when she does hit the track. She’s been favored in every one of her starts against state-bred sisters and this race should be no exception. She isn’t exactly dependent on pace but she is not going to be a front-runner in this field and that could play to her disadvantage. If the two immediately inside of her don’t lock up the water could get a little deep down the stretch but she is the reigning queen of these ranks until someone knocks her off.
5. Hidden Gold – She’s reunited with Dean Butler, but the wins are few and far between these days for the daughter of Seeking Diamonds. She’s been facing open company most recently and finishing far back each time…..and that’d be excusable if a couple of other entrants didn’t defeat her in those races. She got the best of Polar’ last year in the Lady Slipper but has traded results four times in a row since then. She could get the jump on that one but she’ll need to find her old legs in a hurry. This is a good spot to do so, as the last time she took on straight state-breds she ran third. The one real concern is the fact that she hasn’t been back to the track since finishing seventh on August 8th… mixed signals.
6. Somerset Swinger – She’s quite versatile and has improved as she’s aged, but hasn’t tried stakes company this year. It seemed in the past that she was a cut below but the addition of blinkers and maturity have seen her fill the exacta in her last three races. She was second behind a runaway winner last time but can sit much closer than she did that day. She benefits from her outside draw as Alex Canchari can keep an eye on the happenings to his inside and sort her trip out from there. She would not be a huge surprise but she won’t be a real value either with the way this barn is churning them out. Looks like she is sort of playing second fiddle but the Swinger will need a career effort.
Come help us celebrate our Minnesotan Stars on Sunday and best of luck to all betting the Festival of Champions!
This blog was written by Canterbury Paddock Analyst Angela Hermann. Angela Hermann serves as the Track Analyst for Hawthorne Racecourse in Cicero, Illinois and the summer of 2013 marks her third year in a similar capacity at Canterbury Park.