Monthly Archives: May 2014

A Canterbury Shipper Invades the Meadows

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Prairie Meadows

My Dad warned me that Prairie Meadows plays to favorites and that there was no money to be made. So, I spent the previous day trying to find a way to beat the favorites on the card, but Dad was right. However in the first two races, the $2 trifecta paid over $200 and $400 each. I hit the superfecta in Race 3 but it only paid $88 and change. If you spent the day playing the winners, you spent the day dusting the chalk off your hands. In fact, the biggest “longshot” winner paid $21 and that was Classy Misrata.

The three-year old filly Classy Misrata got into a head-to-head battle with the favorite Lady Poet and LaReina de Iowa which came down to a photo finish going to Classy Misrata. This little filly had huge strides heading to the wire, the will to win was evident and she did not give up. I’m going to keep my eye on this one going forward as this was a field of seven and a whole lot of zeros in the past performances for all seven. In fact, LaReina de Iowa had never raced, not once, but put in well-fought finish for the first time starter. The most experienced in the bunch, Lady Poet, at least had five races in her career (two second-place finishes), but was outclassed by the gutsy first-time starter and finished third.

Ken Tohill on Value Trap
Ken Tohill on Value Trap

My parents used to take us to the track frequently when I was a child. I asked for a pony every year for Christmas until I was 12-years old. My cousin and I used to race quarter horses when we were kids. I have been around horses and racing for as long as I can remember. I recall one incident when I was young when a horse broke its leg coming around the final turn and caused a horrific chain of events sending bodies and horses plummeting to the ground. Back in those days, the horses were euthanized right on the track. It seemed very inhumane and traumatizing to a small girl. I cried all the way home, had nightmares, then insomnia. I refused to go to the track for several months.

In my adult life, I can say that I have never witnessed the break down of a race horse. Unfortunately, my visit to Prairie Meadows over the weekend brought back all those memories of a child scarred by the unpredictable nature of thoroughbred racing.

Sitting just beyond the finish line with my son, the 4-year old gelding Value Trap crossed in fourth place on a very muddy track. I have seen the gallop out thousands of times and the jockeys are mindful of the crowd so close to the fence. But I heard the jockey on Value Trap, the seasoned Ken Tohill, screaming at the other jockeys. He was yelling, “Out! Out! Out!” Value Trap was veering dangerously close to the fence where spectators were watching the races from the apron on a humid Sunday afternoon. Tohill managed to correct Value Trap until the horse fell to its side about 200 yards beyond the wire, slamming itself and Tohill to the muddy track. Fortunately, both rider and horse popped right back up, but it was obvious that Value Trap had suffered a severe injury to his front leg. He was standing on three legs, favoring the injured leg. Tohill stayed with the horse, held its reigns and patted its neck, consoling the broken horse. He even stayed with Value Trap after the outriders and emergency personnel arrived. When the blue tarp goes up, it’s not a good sign. My first reaction was to shelter my son from witnessing the very scary incident that so dramatically affected me as a child. My son is 18, and thank goodness was more interested in his phone than what was happening on the track. I took one last look and saw the top of Value Trap’s head as he was loaded into the equine ambulance (aka trailer), but as the trailer passed by us, he was no longer standing.

You realize at this point how fragile these equine athletes really are. Value Trap ran a credible race, looked in tip-top form and had good, productive works. There was never an indication that this horse would end his short racing career like this. It’s an unpredictable sport, in so many ways. I was literally shaking when this happened. It took me a few minutes to even realize I’d hit the Superfecta.

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Ken Tohill is a jockey that I know little about, but his is a name that I will not forget in the vast pool of equine pilots. Ken Tohill immediately went to the injured horse’s side, seemingly unaware of the fact that he was thrown to the ground after the fall and literally covered in mud from head to toe. The compassion of Ken Tohill reminded me that we so often take for granted the individuals who put themselves in unpredictable situations every day for our entertainment.

My weekend at Prairie Meadows did indeed leave an impression on me. I will keep my eye on a classy filly named Classy Misrata. I’ll never forget Ken Tohill. I was also very impressed that we got a “fancy” table on the grandstand’s second level without paying a dime.

Through my research, I saw three horses on Sunday’s card that definitely peeked my interest: Bill of Rights, Bolting Brown, and Tap the Admiral.

Tap the Admiral
Tap the Admiral

Tap the Admiral is a good horse, but the mile 70 is too much for him. He led until the turn for home and then faded badly out of the money. Tap the Admiral finished third in his last try at Prairie at a mile 70, but Bill of Rights never hit the board in that race. Regardless on this day Bill of Rights was a VERY impressive horse and had no trouble with the muddy mile 70 at Prairie Meadows. In the paddock area as the horses were schooling, Bill of Rights stood tall and straight in his stall as Tap the Admiral walked by. The two horses locked eyes several times. They reminded me of two prize fighters about to exchange blows in the middle of the ring. They never take their eyes off their opponent. Hence, the intimidating nature of the ultimate stare-down. Tap the Admiral’s groom intentionally walked the grey horse in front of Bill of Rights, but the classy son of Tiznow never flinched.

Bill of Rights
Bill of Rights

As captivating as this paddock display of machismo was neither Bill of Rights nor Tap the Admiral won the race. The favorite (no surprise) Doctor Peter paid $2.80 for the win, but Bill of Rights was a game second. This horse has probably the most impressive resume at Prairie Meadows. (Get ready for some name-dropping.) He’s been with Mike Maker, Steve Asmussen and Chris Richard. He’s also been ridden by some of the top jockeys in the country: Ricardo Santana, Jr. and Julien Leparoux at Churchill Clowns (oops I mean Downs), Jose Ortiz at Belmont and Saratoga, and Rosie Napravnik and Brian Hernandez, Jr. at Keeneland. Bill of Rights was claimed by Ken and Sarah Ramsey, then claimed by Midwest Thoroughbreds, then back to the Ramseys and finally claimed by Steve VeVerka ending up in the Midwest circuit. 2014 has not started out great for Bill of Rights, but he ended 2013 with a win at Churchill with Leparoux aboard and recorded a 99 speed figure in that race.

Bolting Brown
Bolting Brown

As most of you know, I pay attention to pedigree. I consistently follow any horse that has been sired by Tapit or Big Brown. Surprisingly, a son of Big Brown was on the card at Prairie Meadows. Bolting Brown spends most of his time training and racing in Louisiana at Fair Grounds, but shipped to Iowa in April. He has one win since that time at six furlongs with Alex Birzer in the irons. Birzer went with the favorite and eventual winner, Melo Mason, in this race so David Mello took the mount on Bolting Brown. He stretched out to a mile 70 in his last race and had a weak finish. In this race, he cut back to five furlongs and finished second. Only one other horse in the race had ever gone over a mile, so the short distances will play in Bolting Brown’s favor at Prairie Meadows as this horse continues in his racing career. I’m crossing my fingers that trainer Ray E. Tracy, Jr. ships this horse up to Canterbury for some stakes races later in our meet. And since I’m crossing fingers, I’d love to see Bill of Rights in the Canterbury paddock too.

Santa Anita and Arlington Stakes Saturday: Quick Read

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Santa Anita Grade II Charles Whittingham

It’s a Pedigree Parade in the Charles Whittingham which makes this lil ‘capper very happy!  A field of nine will go the 1 ¼ miles on the turf. With leading rider Rafael Bejarano still on the mend, Joe Talamo takes over and when it comes to turf riding, Talamo is too tough.  He’s on Quick Casablanca.

When Gary Stevens and Hollendorfer team up magical things usually happen.  Segway has the impressive pedigree of Giant’s Causeway – Slow Down by Seattle Slew, and he has been able thus far to live up to those lofty bloodlines.

The spoiler in this race could be Bright Thought ridden by Victor Espinoza.  If you don’t recognize the pedigree of this horse you must live under a rock, or never watch TVG.  (Hat Trick – Smart Thought by Smart Strike.)

Fire with Fire is 6-year old colt of Distorted Humor – Cosmic Fire by Capote.  I like this horse, but Talamo on the turf and Tyler Baze on Fire with Fire … I gotta go with Smoking Joe Talamo.

I have not seen morning lines for this race but would presume the favorite would be Segway.  The M/L’s don’t mean much to me as a handicapper, they just provide a place for the general betting public to start.  So for me it’s Quick Casablanca, Segway, Fire with Fire.

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I’m all about stirring up controversy this week, so here’s my take on the Arlington stakes races on Saturday:

Arlington Matron

Why not upset Awesome Flower and Moment in Dixie?  It seems Frivolous, but I’m going to do it regardless: (2) Frivolous, (4) Awesome Flower, (1) Ambusher

 Hanshin Cup

Oh, I can’t bet against Hogy and why should I?  He runs crazy good at Arlington and hasn’t really had a bad race since the Shadwell. He’ll probably be bet even by post time, but again, I don’t really care, I’m going four deep here anyway: (4) Hogy, (1) Havelock, (5) Nikki’s  Sandcastle, (7) Mister Marti Gras

Arlington Classic

Finally a race I can sink my teeth into! Catalano has a good one in Solitary Ranger which draws the rail.   New Dad Channing Hill gets the mount. The speed and experience will come from Istanford fresh off a second in the Edgewood Stakes at Churchill Downs. Bill Mott ships in Long on Value with experienced rider Brian Hernandez, Jr. aboard. But here I go upsetting the apple cart, again. Ry’s the Man with Florent (“Flo”) Geroux in the irons and trained by Pressin.   The Fair Grounds shipper (via Keeneland) has four starts and hit the board four times. Ry’s the Man for the upset in the Classic. (5) Ry’s the Man, (1) Solitary Ranger, (7) Istanford, (4) Long on Value.

 

 

 

 

Fan or Foe? The Triple Crown Sabotage and the California Chrome Faithful

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I’m confused. Don’t we want a Triple Crown winner? Don’t we want to hold our sport up to the masses and say, “Here is OUR champion!” Is it not time for horse racing to be a part of the “have’s?” Every other professional sport has a champion.

I don’t understand why people are intentionally looking for an upset in the third jewel of the Triple Crown simply to “get a price.” I, for one, am not even going to handicap the Belmont. I’m certainly not going to look for an upset just to make a few bucks. That’s selfish. For ONE RACE, can’t we just put away our gambling hats and be a fan of our sport? I’m hoping we witness something that many of us on Twitter or other social media have never seen – a Triple Crown winner. Let that sink in.

I have been a faithful West Coast racing fan/handicapper for many years. California Chrome first got my attention in December 2013 when he won the King Glorious Stakes at Betfair Hollywood Park by a huge margin. My first tweet about California Chrome came in January 2014 when he won the Cal Cup. I am Victor Espinoza’s 23rd follower on Twitter, before he even got a leg up on California Chrome. He now has over 3,600 followers. I was in Cali Chrome’s stable long before the bandwagon arrived. I’ll cry if he wins and I’ll cry if he doesn’t. For that one race, I’m going to step out of my handicapping shoes, and watch as a true fan.

Some of the devout handicappers have been waiting a very long time to see another Triple Crown winner, 36 years to be exact. Do you not want to see another?! I wasn’t around to remember when the greats like Secretariat, Seattle Slew and Affirmed were running and winning the Triple Crown, so I want to see a Triple Crown winner in my lifetime. But I’m a handicapper so I understand why many of my peers will be betting against this horse, but by doing so, we are also betting against our sport reaching its pinnacle moment for the world to see. The positive attention would be a sweet relief from the constant negativity the horse racing industry fends off.

Most of America watching on June 7th will be betting on California Chrome to win the Triple Crown. And for that one race, I’m going to pretend I know nothing about pedigree, past performances, works, track bias, trainers, owners, jockeys, controversy or numbers. I’m just gonna cheer for a horse named California Chrome.

Canterbury Opening Weekend in Photos

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Beautiful night sky over the paddock!
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Patrick Canchari gets first win of the meet for his Dad on 25-1 long shot Susanita.
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Heliskier schooling in the paddock.
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Ella’s Kitten winning the opening for Diodoro and jockey Carreno. Smart Masterpiece (6) under Patrick Canchari comes on for second.
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Angela Hermann doing her analysis before the race.
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The walking ring on a spectacular day.
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Alex Canchari giving Lemon Juice some water after the win.
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Patrick Canchari wins on another long shot (15-1). His Dad Luis Canchari is the trainer.
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Patrick Canchari heading to the track.
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Happy to have my son with me!
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Me and my son having fun at the track. Means so much for me to have him with me.
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Jorge Carreno, leading jockey at Turf Paradise, takes a try at Canterbury this summer. Welcome to the Park!
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Me and my girl Angela Hermann!
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Alex Canchari in the winner’s circle for his second win on Sunday.
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Hello Israel Hernandez.
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Last year’s leading rider Dean Butler all tan from riding in Florida this winter!
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Alex Canchari in the winner’s circle aboard Lemon Juice.
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The little girl at the gate is wearing goggles! So cute! Patrick gives her a smile!
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Patrick Canchari gets a pat on the back from his Dad.

“AND HIS NAME IS HELISKIER”

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On Friday, Canterbury Park will open its doors for another summer of what should be a very profitable and exciting meet. The first card of the season slates the 10,000 Lakes Stakes (Race 6) and the return of defending champ Heliskier. One helluva horse.

Minnesota-bred Heliskier doesn’t have limelight pedigree (Appealing Skier – Plana Dance) nor celebrity siblings. He spends his off-season in the pastures of South Dakota being tended to by his owner Marlene Colvin. Similar to Kentucky Derby winner California Chrome, Heliskier’s humble connections and pedigree developed a fighting soul in the horse and the will to overcome and succeed.

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I first saw Heliskier on Canterbury’s card in August 2011 for a maiden special weight. Like a good little handicapper, I’d done my homework prior to the race and thought he had a chance but a visual in the paddock would solidify my pick. With all the handicapping tools available to horseplayers, none of them provide an accurate description of the physique of the horse. When I first saw Heliskier enter the paddock at Canterbury Park, I mouthed the words, “Oh. My. God!” Heliskier is a massive horse. Tall, muscular, confident, and he’s a sprinter. The word “sprinter” conjures up the image of a lean, fast, speed-machine, like Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps for example. Heliskier is quite the opposite. He’s a six furlong freight train. When this horse hits the stretch, he humiliates the competition. When he stretched out in the 2012 Minnesota Derby he beat the field by over 10 lengths.

Track announcer Paul Allen’s call of Heliskier’s stretch run in the 2012 Minnesota Derby still gives me goose bumps.

Heliskier’s equine pilots are all familiar faces to the Canterbury regulars: Canterbury Hall of Famer Derek Bell, Justin Shepherd, Alex Canchari (who gets the mount in Heliskier’s premiere on Friday) and Seth Martinez. Bell said that in all the races he took Heliskier to the wire, he used the whip only once, and that was a “light tap” on his shoulder. Shepherd got the mount in the 2013 Crocrock Sprint when Bell was sidelined with a season-ending injury. In the Winner’s Circle after the race, tears of happiness and relief were flowing from Heliskier’s 75-year old owner Colvin. In a previous race, Colvin watched Heliskier go to his knees right out of the gate and was vanned off. The track champion suffered only a few cuts and scrapes and was soon dominating the stakes races on his home track.

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Heliskier is the defending two-time Minnesota Horse of the Year. (The only other horse in Canterbury history to win back-to-back Horse of the Year honors was Hoist Her Flag.) He was also top Sprinter and Older Horse of the Year. He is trained by the leading trainer at Canterbury Park, Mac Robertson.

And in case you didn’t know by simply looking at Heliskier or reading his past performances, he has his own theme music – “Hell’s Bells” by AC/DC – to make it perfectly clear that this is one badass horse!

Track Date Race Type Finish
Oaklawn Park 4/9/2014 Allowance Optional Claiming 4
Oaklawn Park 3/21/2014 Allowance Optional Claiming 3
Canterbury Park 9/1/2013 Crocrock Minnesota Sprint Championship Stakes 1
Canterbury Park 8/18/2013 Allowance Optional Claiming 1
Canterbury Park 7/20/2013 Allowance 2
Canterbury Park 6/16/2013 Allowance Optional Claiming 9
Canterbury Park 5/18/2013 10,000 Lakes Stakes 1
Canterbury Park 8/11/2012 Minnesota Derby 1
Canterbury Park 7/22/2012 MTA Stallion Auction Laddie Stakes 1
Canterbury Park 6/23/2012 Victor S. Myers Jr. Stakes 1
Canterbury Park 6/10/2012 Allowance 1
Canterbury Park 9/4/2011 Northern Lights Futurity 1
Canterbury Park 8/13/2011 Maiden Special Weight 1

 

 

 

 

 

Roses are Red, Violets are Blue, California Chrome to Chitu

The road to the Kentucky Derby is just around the corner from the twin spires of Churchill Downs. So, it’s time for the analysts to stop talking (yeah, right) and the horses to start running. A few short months ago we were all waiting for the Derby contenders to surface. Then along came a chestnut freak by the name of California Chrome, with relatively obscure connections. Then out of the Derby prep races emerged Samraat, Tapiture, Wicked Strong, Danza, and so forth.

Since I don’t want to be accused of jumping on the bandwagon, falling for the hype or being a “lazy” horseplayer, I want to say that I like California Chrome simply for the way he runs. He runs like he loves it and you can see that. He runs effortlessly, and he runs fast. He reminds me of a horse loose in the pasture just running for fun. Victor Espinoza’s job is not to contain this horse but to let him loose. The competition’s strategy will be to pinch him in because it’s obvious to everyone that if this horse sees daylight, he’s gone. They won’t catch him.  As Trevor Denman says, “they would have to sprout wings.” Victor’s job is to get him in the front and keep him there. However, another horse that likes to go to the front and hit the accelerator is Vicar’s in Trouble, even though he’s in the unfortunate spot of post position #1.  It’s all about the break. With the scratch of Hoppertunity, the speedy Pablo Del Monte gets in the Derby, a horse that was obviously overlooked a few hours ago, and if the connections let him run, could go right to the front and push Cali Chrome to move sooner than usual. If that happens, Wicked Strong will be leading a full pack of horses with a late charge at the frontrunner.

California Chrome brings a great deal of excitement, attention, followers, fans, hype, etc. Dare I say, it all has a “Zenyatta” feel to it. I miss what Zenyatta did for racing. I want to feel that again, but Cali Chrome has more to prove before he reaches her level.

This year’s Triple Crown is going to be intriguing to say the least. We have the “regular Joe” connections of the golden colt from California, who will most likely win the Kentucky Derby, but he won’t win the Triple Crown. So, now it becomes the “Blame” game. Who will rise up and knock the heralded champion from his perch, as Blame did to Zenyatta? Who is the dark horse?

I’m considering four tickets: a chalky one; a price play; the “Miracle” ticket; and, the “Young Guns (jockeys).”

Chalk: California Chrome, Wicked Strong, Candy Boy, Intense Holiday

Best price: Danza, General A Rod, Ride on Curlin, Vicar’s in Trouble

Miracle: We Miss Artie, Harry’s Holiday, Commanding Curve, Chitu

Young Guns: Tapiture, Samraat, Uncle Sigh, Wildcat Red

Sentimental Favorite: Medal Count. I know Medal Count is a synthetic horse. But this horse came off a win in the Transylvania at Keeneland on April 4 and turned around and finished second in the Bluegrass on April 12. Two grades stakes races within a week of each other, and in the money both times. Danza, Dance with Fate, Tapiture, Ride on Curlin, Harry’s Holiday and Vinceramos all ran on April 12 which was only two weeks ago but their prior races were certainly not a week apart! The only horse that I’ve seen in this field come off a short layoff and finish respectably is Medal Count – synthetic or not – this horse is in tremendous form.

In the Oaks, it’s going to take a rocket to catch Untapable. My superfecta would go Untapable, Fashion Plate, Rosalind and Sugar Shock. Castellano scares the heck out of me and My Miss Sophia is very good, and in a good position. I play multiple tickets in races with potential to produce an upset, so … the second ticket will be My Miss Sophia, Untapable, Got Lucky and Ria Antonia – even though I had to shut out the Cal-bred Fashion Plate.

That’s all my noise!  May the Race Gods shine favorably upon you!