12-race program with $850k in purses begins at 4:10 p.m.
Minnesota’s top thoroughbreds and quarter horses will race Wednesday at Canterbury Park in the 28th Minnesota Festival of Champions. The 12-race card, restricted to horses bred in the state, includes six $100,000 stakes and will pay a total of $852,450 in purses. First post is scheduled for 4:10 p.m.
The Festival began in 1992 when Minnesota horsemen were determined to show then-owner Ladbroke Racing Corp., who clearly had little interest in operating the track in the future, that horse racing could thrive in the state. Horse breeders, trainers and owners, including current track CEO Randy Sampson, banded together to present a day of racing that would feature horses bred in the state. The event drew a large crowd and was televised in the Twin Cities. As feared, Ladbroke closed what was then Canterbury Downs at the end of the year. The success of the first Festival however kept the flame alive and two years later Sampson, his father Curtis and South St. Paul businessman Dale Schenian purchased the Shakopee property and returned racing to Minnesota in 1995 at a newly branded Canterbury Park. Minnesota Festival of Champions has been a focal point each summer since.
Leading trainer Mac Robertson, who has won a record 37 Festival races, is represented in
each of the six thoroughbred stakes and will saddle the morning line favorite in four. Jockey Roimes Chirinos will be aboard each of those including 2-year-old Honey Bella in the Debutante, Ready to Runaway in the Princess Elaine, Cinco Star in the Blair’s Cove and Clickbait in the Bella Notte Sprint.
Pete Mattson of Prior Lake looks forward to this night each season. He owns and bred eight horses competing in four of the races and is also breeder of the Northern Lights Futurity favorite Love the Nest that he sold at the Keeneland September sale last fall. Fireman Oscar, entered in the Crocrock Sprint, accounts for both of Mattson’s Festival victories. Now seven, he won the 2020 Crocrock and the Futurity as a 2-year-old.
“Festival shows who the best 2-year-olds are. Everything points to these last races,” Mattson said. “You really don’t know until they race each other.” The lucrative purses are important to those investing extensively in Minnesota racing as well. “There is a big financial reward if they win,” he said.
While Mattson has a pair of fillies in the Debutante he is higher on his 2-year-old colts, Doctor Oscar and Ben’s Malice, in the Futurity. “Both are going to be very exceptional race horses,” he predicts. The Futurity’s field of 10 is the largest of the thoroughbred stakes.
In the quarter horse stakes, Jason Olmstead, who has won seven consecutive training titles at Canterbury, is favored to win both the Minnesota Futurity and Minnesota Derby. Relentless Courage, a three-time winner this summer is 2 to 1 in the 350-yard Futurity and Jess Rocket Man is 8 to 5 in the 400-yard Derby.
The card will offer two pick five wagers, beginning in the first and sixth races. Canterbury offers an industry low 10 percent takeout on the 50 cent pick five as well as the $1 pick six which begins in the fifth race. Additional information is available at www.canterburypark.com .
Stakes Race Line-Up
Race 5 – $100,000 Northern Lights Debutante
Race 6 – $100,000 Princess Elaine Minnesota Distaff Turf
Race 7 – $100,000 Blair’s Cove Minnesota Turf
Race 8 – $100,000 Northern Lights Futurity
Race 9 – $100,000 Crocrock Minnesota Sprint
Race 10 – $100,000 Bella Notte Minnesota Distaff Sprint
Race 11 – $62,900 Minnesota Quarter Horse Futurity
Race 12 – $60,550 Minnesota Quarter Horse Derby