BY JIM WELLS
Considering Minnesota’s place in the horse racing universe, it truly doesn’t get any better than this, a race with this much talent on closing day, featuring not only three locally stabled speedsters but one of them a Minnesota-bred to boot.
And 2-year-olds at that.
For sheer star power, the $75,000 Shakopee Juvenile is unmatched in track history in those respects.
“It is unprecedented,” said Dave Miller, the Equibase chart caller at Canterbury who has watched racing in Shakopee since its inception in 1985. Miller recalled other episodes of unforgettable races, yet none with the specifics this one offers.
Yes there is the saga of the nationally talented Lost Kitty from the D. Wayne Lucas barn, shipping in from California to take on the locally stabled Turbo Launch in the 1987 Canterbury Debutante, only to get her clock cleaned.
There is always the default race of local history, the 1989 Canterbury Juvenile featuring an up and coming star named Unbridled, who finished second under Mike Smith that day to Appealing Breeze, but the next spring won the Kentucky Derby and then the Breeders’ Cup Classic that autumn and was named the three-year-old male of the year.
Yet, those horses were shippers from other points in the country, and Saturday’s lineup includes locally stabled speedballs engaging one another in a full field.
There is Amy’s Challenge, conditioned by the 2017 champion trainer, Mac Robertson. Amy is a daughter of Artie Schiller from Jump Up and won her only time out, at Canterbury by 16 ½ lengths, posting a 91 Beyer Speed Figure that is tops among two-year-olds in North America. She is owned by Joseph Novogratz of Eden Prairie.
Her challengers are impressive in their own rights.
Soul of Discretion, out of the Dan McFarlane barn, won by 13 lengths in his maiden start, putting up an 85 Beyer, among the 12 best in the nation. He is by Discreetly Mine from Brief Mark and is owned by Yeamons Racing Stables.
And then there is the exceptionally swift Mr. Jagermeister, trained by Valorie Lund. He has four bullet works over the Canterbury surface and has won two of his three starts by many. A son of Atta Boy Roy from Frangelica, he was bred in Minnesota by Kristin Boice, a sister to Lund. He is owned by Boice, Lund and a third sister, Leslie Cummings.
“This race is going to be very challenging and exciting,” said Lund. “It should attract people in droves just to watch.”
“I thought this race turned out tough last year,” said McFarlane, who toyed with the idea of running his horse at Arlington Park because this race appears so tough.
Canterbury untied the purse strings to produce this race, to keep these stars in the local firmament.
Track president Randy Sampson made clear those intentions when the purse enhancements were announced. “We have an exceptionally strong group of 2-year-old horses this season,” he said. “We want to entice them to race in the Juvenile.”
First, another $25,000 was added to what originally was a $50,000 purse. On top of that a $25,000 bonus was added for horses foaled in Minnesota, making it the largest purse available to state bred horses.
The race of the year.
That’s precisely what it is, race of the year featuring babies that exhibit exceptional talent, enough to attract nation-wide attention, including, by several reports, an offer for the filly of a million dollars or more.
“Amy’s Challenge is a singular horse and Soul of Discretion is another very nice horse,” added Lund, who has watched those two with discerning eyes whenever she has breezed her colt during morning workouts.
“They look in fine form,” she said. “Again, this is going to be a very competitive race.”
What more could a race fan ask for closing day, but there is more: The $50,000 Tom Metzen HBPA Sprint, matching old rivals Smooth Chiraz, a winner of the Minnesota Sprint Championship over Hold for More, who had beaten Smooth at the same distance, six furlongs, one month earlier.
There are new horses in this one, including Blue Anchor, shipped in by trainer Robertino Diodoro from Del Mar Thoroughbred Club in California, where the sprinter’s one win this year was at Santa Anita.
Yet, that’s not all on the final day of the 2017 race meet. For those whose interests lie someplace other than the horses, there is a championship of another matter on closing day: The wiener dog championship.
The race will draw a large number of fans, yet for those who love the horses, nothing can top the showdown between three of the best babies stabled at Canterbury, one a Minnesota-bred, since the doors opened in 1985.
video by Mouse