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Special Occasion, Bizet Stakes Winners


First the ladies strutted their stuff on Saturday, and a filly named Special Occasion had the happiest rider on the grounds, Juan Rivera, smiling even more broadly than usual.
Then it was time for the guys and a gelding named Bizet gave Derek Bell his first stakes win of the meet.

On an absolutely splendid afternoon for anything out of doors, the second day of the summer-long anniversary celebration at Canterbury Park delivered some special touches.

The card included not only the $35,000 Lady Slipper Stakes for Minnesota-bred fillies and mares and the $35,000 10,000 Lakes Stakes for state-bred colts, geldings and horses but simulcast wagering on the Preakness Stakes as well.

Special Occasion benefited from some fast early fractions as Bella Notte and Chick Fight, unbeaten last season and the track’s horse of the year, battled up front.

She also benefited from three races at Oaklawn Park over the winter (the last on April 8), while the other two hadn’t raced since August.

“They’re better horses, but we were fitter than those two,” said winning trainer Tim Padilla “She’s real fit and getting better.”

Rivera agreed. “Oaklawn helped her a lot,” he said. “She beat some of the best horses on the grounds.”

The fractions up front were swift: :22, :44 and 4/5, :57 and a final of 1:09 and 3/5. “I knew they were flying,” said Rivera.

Special Occasion, owned by Two Dimes Racing, Larry Cronin and Wildcat Thoroughbreds, was first by a nose. Chick Fight was next, 1 ¼ in front of Belle Notte. The winner paid$24.20.
There was nothing quite that dramatic about Bizet’s win. He simply took off when Bell asked him and finished five in front of A Steel Trap, 5 ½ ahead of Perfect Bull.

“I thought we were done at the head of the lane,” said Bell. “But I hit him twice, really hard, and he took off with me.”

Bell want to keep Bizet further back in the field, but didn’t have a choice. “He wanted to run with (the leaders),” he said. “He just pulled me along.”

The winning time was 1:09 and 4/5 after factions of :22 and 1/5, :45 and 1/5 and :57 and 2/5.

A three-year-old gelding named Backtrack produced a gut ache for Eddie Martin, Jr. before the fifth race. Backtrack unseated Martin in the paddock walking ring and delivered a stout kick to the rider’s rib cage.

“He caught me right here,” Martin said, pointing to the bottom part of his flak jacket. I’ll be sore tomorrow.”

Paddock analyst Kevin Gorg turned to a group of people after the kicking incident, and offered this tip:
“If he gets back on that horse after getting drilled like that, head to the windows. You’ve got a winner. ”

It was Gorg’s best tip of the day. Backtrack and Martin delivered, paying $5.60.

Jack Walsh is well known around Canterbury Park for the horses he owns. They all include “Somerset” as part of their names.

Opening night, for instance. Walsh had horses running named Somerset Mariton and Sweet Ole Somerset. Not hard to guess where Walsh hangs his hat.

Friday night, though, Walsh was just as identifiable by the group of people wearing green shirts bearing the following message. “I’m at the track with Jack.”

The group was made up largely of players on the Luck basketball team. “I’ve been watching this bunch since they were kids,” Walsh said.

The group included two of his grandsons, but even with that kind of backing, his horses didn’t find the winner’s circle.

Nor did Walsh deign to don the green shirt designed exclusively for him. It bore this simple message: “I’m Jack.”