Perhaps two of the most telling examples of what’s happening to horse racing in Minnesota were on display Saturday during the 12th annual Claiming Crown.
Two young trainers who saddled winners once kept competitive stables at Canterbury Park. Now they have taken those stables elsewhere to chase better purses.
Imagine that the trainer in horse racing is a stock broker on wall street. He’ll put his client’s money where the best opportunities exist for a profit, for growth. If an investment fails, he moves the money elsewhere.
The trainer’s role isn’t much different. He needs to take his owner’s horses where they have a chance at a return on investment, as things are today sometimes merely to break even.
So Tammy Domenoksy and Jamie Ness were back at Canterbury on Saturday. Domenosky saddled Moralist, winner of the $50,000 Express. Ness saddled My Irish Girl, winner of the $75,000 Glass Slipper.
Canterbury has hosted 10 of the 12 Claiming Crowns and offers a day of purses such as Saturday’s only once all summer. Tracks elsewhere put up that kind of money on a regular basis.
Domenosky was ecstatic after Moralist was clearly the best in his race, but there is a hint of regret in her voice when she discusses her need to leave Canterbury for Arlington Park in suburban Chicago.
She keeps a stable of around 12 horses in Shakopee. “But those are my cheap horses,” she said. “There’s a lack of money here. It’s just a business decision.’ ‘ She has as many as 30 horses in Chicago.
Ness was here most of the week and spoke frequently of how he missed the people of the Midwest. He currently has horses at Presque Isle Downs, Thistledown and Penn National.
Ness is a South Dakota native and prefers the atmosphere in Shakopee , but he, too, wants to compete for purses that enable his stable to not just survive but to grow.
“You have to go where the money is,” he said.
Ness loves Canterbury Park, the way management conducts business and the people here. He might still be here if Canterbury could compete to any extent with other tracks in the nation, particularly those who supplement purses with the proceeds from casino gaming.
Minnesota owners such as Jeff Hilger from Grant Township show up at Canterbury to watch their horses run via simulcast at tracks elsewhere in the country.
Mac Robertson makes winning training titles look easy at Canterbury but is in tougher this year after shipping some of his best horses to Delaware, where purse money has been substantially enhanced by racino profits.
Despite the good atmosphere in Shakopee, the respect for management at Canterbury Park and the general appeal of this area, the business climate for racing in Minnesota needs improvement.
CLAIMING CROWN NOTES:
Moralist ate up his feed on Saturday night and was munching on a mixture of hay and alfalfa when a visitor approached his stall Sunday afternoon.
Asked where he might be headed next, Domenosky replied, “a big field somewhere.”
She is considering giving the horse a break after his thrilling win on Saturday .
“I’m not sure,” she said, “but he deserves some time off.” Moralist has been to Chicago, Lexington and Louisville in addition to Canterbury this year. So, in addition to racing, he has been on the road.
**Pat Dupuy and wife Jennie Rees were packing up early Sunday afternoon to return to Louisville. Dupuy trains Strike Impact, who finished third in the $150,000 Claiming Crown Jewel. Rees, who covers racing for the Louisville Courier-Journal, was licensed as groom and hotwalker for this event.
They had planned to return on Monday but their exercise rider, Winston Skaggs, had work waiting for him at home.
“It was a great experience,” Rees said. “The horse is fine. He ate up and looks good.”
“We might look for a little stakes for him somewhere,” Rees said. “We’re not major bear hunting but we might do a little squirrel hunting.”
**Lil Dish was in her stall in Doug Oliver’s barn on Sunday, still recovering from the race of her life.
“Oh, she’s tired today,” Oliver said. “She’s exhausted.”
And well she should be.
Lori Keith put her on the lead directly out of the gate and tried to steal the $75,000 Glass Slipper against tough competition on Saturday. “She ran her heart out,” Keith said afterward.
Lil Dish dug deep and looked at the top of the lane like a winner but ran out of gas and racetrack and finished fourth.
“The race was a little too tough,” Oliver said. ‘She’s been running for $7,500 and those others for as much as $16,000 or more. That’s a pretty big jump.”
Oliver said he hopes to run Lil Dish once more before the meet ends. Maybe not.
“She’ll need a few days off. She almost made us famous.”