By Noah Joseph
On Memorial Day, one of the featured races on the card at Canterbury Park is the $50,000 Honor the Hero Stakes. This five furlong turf sprint has attracted some of the best turf sprinters in the country in its history. One of the horses nominated to this year’s edition is Wellabled, trained by Larry Rivelli. Rivelli has won the Honor the Hero twice, and both times his fillies beat the boys in amazing fashion.
The first of Rivelli’s fillies to win the Honor the Hero was Nicole’s Dream in 2006. The daughter of Northern Trend came in to that year’s Honor the Hero as the heavy favorite after winning seven stakes, but had recently finished eighth in a stakes race at Churchill Downs. Prior to that start, she ran in a Grade 1 race in Hong Kong, something American horses rarely do. Nevertheless, the fans at Canterbury made Nicole’s Dream the 2-5 favorite in the field of six with jockey E.T Baird in the irons for owner Dare to Dream Stable. The race couldn’t have gone any easier for Nicole’s Dream, Rivelli, and Baird. She broke from the gate sharply, and went straight to the front without any pressure. She led the field throughout, and on the turn for home, she burst away from the competition, with Baird never even needing to move a muscle. Nicole’s Dream sprinted home in front by 3 ¾ lengths in one of the most impressive races of the year,etching her name into Canterbury lore.
Ten years after Nicole’s Dream, Rivelli and Baird were ready to do it again. This time, they came into the Honor the Hero with Richies Sweetheart for owners Richard Ravin, Patricia’s Hope LLC, and Larry Rivelli. The daughter of Bring The Heat arrived in Shakopee with three stakes wins in her career, but hadn’t raced in almost four months. Despite that, the crowd made Richies Sweetheart the 2-1 favorite in the Honor the Hero field that included the defending champion El Seventyseven and future Canterbury Horse of the Year Majestic Pride. Could Rivelli and Baird strike twice? Well, as Yogi Berra said; “it would be deja vu all over again.” Richies Sweetheart broke alertly from the gate and went straight to the lead. She led going into the far turn, but had to hold off the competition. Turning into the stretch, Richies Sweetheart was still in front, but unlike when he rode Nicole’s Dream, Baird had to encourage Richies Sweetheart, yet she had done more than enough to win as she coasted home to win by 3 ¼ lengths. While it would be her final victory, Richies Sweetheart had certainly earned her place in Canterbury history.
Even though the ladies have definitely been Rivelli’s claim to Canterbury fame, if he decides to send the speedy Wellabled to Shakopee, he would have a chance to win his third Honor the Hero stakes. This time with a male. Can it happen? Stay tuned.