By Noah Joseph
They say that looks aren’t everything, and that applies to race horses too. But sometimes a horse stands out because of how it looks. Whether it be an unusual marking, odd tail, or shade of color. While most of these horses are average on the track, some of them turn out to be absolute stars. In the history of racing in Minnesota during the current Canterbury Park era, no horse fits that profile better than Sentimental Charm.
Sentimental Charm was bred in Minnesota by James Peltier, who also owned her during her racing career. She was a gray, almost dark silver mare, just like her sire, Silver Charm, winner of the 1997 Kentucky Derby. Her mother, River Cache, was also gray. Color aside, Sentimental Charm proved she was a special horse right from the beginning of her racing career in 2005 when she won in her first career start at Canterbury as a 2-year-old by 5 ½ lengths. Under the training of two-time Canterbury Park leading trainer Troy Bethke, Sentimental Charm went to Iowa to run in the Prairie Gold Lassie Stakes at Prairie Meadows, where she finished second in a great effort. She returned to Minnesota and finished second in the Canterbury Park Lassie Stakes. Her finest hour at age two came when she won the Northern Lights Debutante on Festival of Champions Day at Canterbury. She was ridden by Derek Bell, who rode her in all of her Canterbury races that year. Sentimental Charm finished 2005 with a third-place finish in the Prairie Meadows Debutante Stakes in Iowa. A promising season like that meant high hopes for the future.
At age 3, Sentimental Charm started her season with a third-place finish in an allowance race at Canterbury Park. On paper that may have seemed like a less than ideal finish after her debutante season, yet that race was merely a springboard for something greater. Three weeks later, Sentimental Charm won the Lady Slipper Stakes in an impressive effort. What made her win so impressive was the fact that she was a 3-year-old defeating older fillies and mares in the process so early in her career, something most 3-year-olds don’t do. After another second-place finish in her next start, Sentimental Charm then won the Frances Genter Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, the major prep race for the Minnesota Oaks, defeating Chasin Mason in the process. Sentimental Charm went into the Minnesota Oaks as the favorite, carrying momentum and promise that few horses at Canterbury achieved.
That momentum however soon came to a screeching halt in the Oaks. Racing around two turns for the first time in her career, Sentimental Charm was four wide into the first turn, was unable to reproduce her usual running style, and finished out of the top three for the first time in her career with a disappointing seventh-place finish behind Chasin Mason. With two turns now proven to not be her cup of tea, Sentimental Charm returned to sprinting and closed out her season with a second in the Minnesota Distaff Sprint Championship. Despite two consecutive losses, she was named Champion Three-Year-Old Filly at Canterbury for 2006. However, change was soon to come.
In 2007, Sentimental Charm was moved to the barn of trainer Mac Robertson, who was coming off back-to-back leading trainer titles at Canterbury. She began her 4-year-old season with a second-place finish at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas before returning to Minnesota. In her first starts at Canterbury that season, she won the Lady Slipper Stakes for the second year in a row, becoming at that time the third horse to win the Lady Slipper in consecutive years (and to this date only one of five horses to have achieved that). After a win and a second in allowance company, Sentimental Charm then ran in the Minnesota Distaff Sprint Championship. Heavy rains that day turned the track into a bog and it was pouring as the horses made their way to the gate, and for a while, it looked like the weather may get the best of her, as she broke a tad bit slow and had to steady, but in the end, Mother Nature was no match for her. Matching the gray skies above her, Sentimental Charm came charging down the stretch like a powerful storm cloud to win in the final stride, avenging her defeat in the race the year before. After one more race in which she finished sixth, Sentimental Charm was retired, but not before being named Champion Older Filly or Mare at Canterbury that season.
Overall, Sentimental Charm raced 17 times, with all but three of those occurring at Canterbury. She won seven times, with all of those wins happening in Minnesota, including five stakes races. She finished in the top three 15 times in her career, and earned more than $213,000. As a broodmare, Sentimental Charm produced five foals, but only one raced at Canterbury. Sired by Holy Bull (who was also gray), Sentimental Gray bore a striking resemblance to mother, and even won at Canterbury, just like her. When it comes to horses who looked good, ran well, and produced well, Sentimental Charm was a real charm.