BY JIM WELLS
The horses and riders were called back on their way to the track for Monday’s feature race when immediate storm warnings included a chance of lightening.
After an afternoon of heat approaching 100 degrees, the skies over Shakopee darkened, the wind picked up and a small amount of hail pelted the grounds and a crowd of 8,881 started to thin quickly.
The riders headed for the jockeys’ lounge, the grooms settled in with horses in the paddock. “Ten minutes and we could have gotten it in. That’s all we needed,” one rider lamented, “just 10 minutes more.”
“It’s hard to believe that we were ice-fishing six weeks ago,” said chief veterinarian Lynn Hovda, minutes earlier.
After a wait of approximately 30 minutes and two or three nearby lightening strikes, the $50,000 Honor the Hero Stakes, was postponed and the card was terminated with three races left unrun, including the stake. The Honor the Hero was rescheduled for June 2, with the same horses preferred in the race.
The annual bulldog races scheduled for Memorial Day were postponed a day earlier in view of the forecast of high temperatures. Those races were rescheduled for June 9, Belmont Stakes day.
The co-feature, the $50,000 Northbound Pride Oaks, was the final race run on the card, although it became a one-horse affair.
Unbeaten Sirenusa, ridden by English rider Adam Beschizza, simply sprinted away from six rivals in the stretch run, finishing a widening three lengths in front of Sippin Kitten, who had a head on Passion Plus.
Sent off as the 4/5 odds on choice, Beschizza settled his horse in at midpack, began moving on the turn and had a head in front at the stretch call.
She is unbeaten in three races, all on the turf this year, and is likely headed for the Lady Canterbury.
Owner Barry Butzow’s only concern was the distance, since this lightly raced filly, unraced at two, was going a mile for the first time. “You wonder. You just don’t know,” he said.
Yet, there is no reason not to believe in this daughter of Tiznow, even at this early stage.
Monday was the kind of Memorial Day that Canterbury Park has celebrated in recent years, honoring veterans in all of the nation’s military branches, in particular those who died in service of the country. Yet it was different in a significant way.
Stan Kowalski, the former professional wrestler who turned veteran advocate after retirement was not at the center of the festivities for the first time in more than a decade. Kowalski died last October at 91 years of age.
Kowalski wasn’t present but he wasn’t forgotten, either. His name was included in the presentations of several speakers, and his work in establishing the Eagles Nest Healing Center, a place for homeless veterans on the mend or in need of assistance, was cited by state senator Jim Abeler, among others.
Chuck Jones, a friend of Kowalski’s and three-time purple-heart recipient, was introduced as the man who will carry on this particular legacy.