BY JIM WELLS
Quite the show, a spectacle worthy of an Olde English village carnival, replete with jesters, magicians, troubadours and, of course, horse racing.
If not exactly analogous, then the afternoon of quarter horse racing Sunday is as close as it comes, each race with its own singular story, highlight or incident to make it unique.
Combined, the afternoon’s ten races offered something for just about everyone:
*A dead heat for the win in the first stakes race of seven on the card.
*An All American Futurity winner in the winner’s circle.
*A rider who arrived 30 minutes before his first race, because of a cancelled flight, and six hours after the arrival of his newest son, won three races, including the $156,000 Mystic Lake Northlands Futurity, the richest race of the day.
*A card of spine tingling finishes. The first three got if off and running with consecutive photo finishes.
` *Eric Esqueda, looking for the first win of his career after debuting last week, finished second in the first two races by a combined, oh…a head.
There was even a touch of humor here for those in need of a mental break:
Canterbury tour agent Mark Irving, having commented how much he liked the trophy being awarded to the winning owner of the third race, was told it could be his for twenty bucks.
“Okay,” he said, “but give me the twenty dollars first.”
A patron arriving early during the card was approached by a gentleman complaining that he had just lost $100.
“Hey, did you read the front page of the newspaper today,” the patron responded. “I just found out that I’ve lost thousands in the last few years buying phony organic grain.”
And so it went on an afternoon when the quarter horses reigned.
First, an update on Cristian Esqueda, whose wife delivered a baby boy, joining a brother named Cristian, Jr.. He was born about 6 a.m. at home in Indiana, shortly before Cristian, Sr., Cody Smith and trainer Jason Olmstead were stranded in Amarillo, Texas after their flight was cancelled, following races in Ruidoso, N.M. Able to hop a puddle jumper to Dallas, they found seats for two on a flight, one short of what they required. Olmstead stayed behind and was not present to see his barn have a prosperous afternoon.
RACE THREE: American Hat, trained by Stacy Charette-Hill, owned by Billy Peterson, who won the 1995 All American Futurity aboard Winalotofcash, and Bout Tree Fiddy, trained and owned by Patrick Swan and ridden by Nik Goodwin, dead heated for first in the $26,554 Canterbury Park Distance Challenge at 870 yards.
“I wasn’t sure,” said Torres. “I didn’t know.”
“When they took so long to decide, I figured it was a dead heat,” added Goodwin.
Peterson and his wife, Heather, call Morgan, Utah, home and seemed enamored of the Shakopee racetrack on their first visit. “A great place, very nice,” said Billy, who considers Winalotofcash the best horse he rode during a nine-year career, if you count the two years he spent riding on the bush circuit at age 14.
“I won 14 races on that horse,” he added.
RACE FOUR: Esqueda was in the winner’s circle again for Olmstead and a horse named Tipsy Girl B, owned by Tom Maher and Paul Luedemann, finishing a length in front of Hr Storm On In.
RACE FIVE: The race was delayed 50 minutes after Lottago Lilly flipped in the gate, got a foot entrapped between the gate bars, and was scratched. Lavie Enrose was also scratched prior to the race.
Finally….Goodwin took his second winner of the day, a 16-1 choice named A Valiant Diamond, trained by Swan and owned by C.A. Cofer, to the wire a length in front of CR Hez The Man and Esqueda.
RACE SIX: Torres and Charette-Hill were back in the winner’s circle after this one with Curls Happy Wagon, chilling the challenge of The Polar Vortex by a length in the $34,221 ARC Canterbury Park Distaff Challenge.
The winning time was 19.77 over 400 yards. Weetonas Lafawn finished third.
In the winner’s circle after the race, Charette-Hill was presented with the Minnesota Quarter Horse Racing Association’s Trainer of the Month award.
RACE SEVEN: PYC Jess Bite Mydust, owned by Bruce Lunderborg, trained by Olmstead and ridden by the new father, Esqueda, became the first Minnesota-bred quarter horse to earn over $200,000, finishing a head in front of Hawkeye in a time of 21.94, in the $54,511 Canterbury Park Championship Challenge.
The winner got a bad start but easily made up for it once his feet were under him. “Can you imagine what he might have done if he came out of gate better, without hopping” said Lunderborg of his homebred. “He would have won by at least a full length. He’s just plain fast.”
RACE EIGHT: Jess Wagon P, at 19-1, gave Charette-Hill another winner in the $78,050 Canterbury Park Quarter Horse Derby, the fifth of her training career, outheading Apolitical Mogul in a time of 20.04.
The winner is owned by Charette-Hill and her husband, Randy Hill and was ridden by Froylan Ramirez, who has second call in the stable.
“We gave George (Jorge Torres, who has first call,) his choice and he took the other horse (HR Back N the Day),” Charette-Hill explained. That proved to be the wrong choice for Torres, whose horse finished ninth, in front of one horse.
RACE NINE: This race, the $156,200 Mystic Lake Northlands Futurity, matched the dead heat for excitement…and then some. There were five horses across the track at the finish line in the most thrilling finish of an afternoon that offered several thrilling finishes.
These are the margins for the first five horses: head, nose, nose, nose, head.
The winner was a colt named Five Bar Bodee, ridden, again, by the new father, trained by Olmstead and owned by Jack Peters, Tom Lepic and Olmstead.
Peters and Lepic bought the horse at the Heritage Sale for $22,000 or $22,500. They couldn’t remember which. They earned $65,604 on Sunday alone.
On the final day of the sale and without a purchase, they were approached by a friend from Arkansas who told them they needed to take a look at his horse.
That was all it took. “They was nothing not to like about him,” said Peters.
Even more so on Sunday.