It’s not often that I use the word “disappointed” when it comes to horse racing. I understand the highs and lows, the victors and the spoilers, the good, the bad and the ugly. Former Minnesota Viking Chris Carter used to have a segment on ESPN called “C’mon, man!” which showed us that perfection is not always guaranteed. There are plenty of bonehead mistakes, errors based on lack of focus and concentration that make you say “do better,” please. Here are a few of my “C’mon, man!” moments from Canterbury Park last weekend.
Mother Nature. Now, I know this might be a little unfair to blame a disappointing day at the track on the weather, but if you were anywhere near the track on Saturday you would understand why the weather is my number one “C’mon, man!” moment. The rain came in sheets. The wind made it worse. It was nearly unbearable. The day was marketed as one of the best for Canterbury’s summer meet. The card featured two $100,000 stakes races: The Lady Canterbury and the Mystic Lake Mile. The day also was to feature the Human Cannonball from America’s Got Talent who allegedly was going to skyrocket from the paddock over the grandstand and land somewhere near the infield. Did he make it? Well, it never happened. Postponed. Yet, the day continued, the turf races were taken off and the track was listed as sloppy. Track Superintendent Javier Barajas and his crew were working overtime to improve the conditions but as far as handicapping goes, you throw it all out the window at this point. The scratches came in, one right after another. The jockeys that had mounts that day were visibly shivering in the post parade. Hey Minnesota weather: C’mon, man!
The Broadway Empire Scratch. I am reluctant to put this horse on my list. I had been waiting and waiting for the Mystic Lake Mile to see the brilliant Metropolitan Mile sixth-place finisher, Broadway Empire. I was thrilled to see that the race had been taken off turf, a surface Broadway Empire was trying for the first time, and moved to the main track. It was more like mud. Regardless, I stood in the rain at the paddock snapping pictures of one of the most beautiful specimens of a race horse I have ever seen. I caught a couple pictures of him schooling before being saddled. When he entered the walking ring though, he seemed a bit rambunctious. He was literally rearing up on his hind legs, dancing around, kicking and bucking. Something was definitely agitating the famous miler. Chalk it up to the rain and wind, I thought. When Scott Stevens got the leg up, Broadway Empire bucked again and nearly unseated Scott.
During the post parade, I took a seat under cover where the horses’ grooms usually sit. I just happened to be sitting in front of Broadway Empire’s grooms. Several of us noticed that Scott took the horse away from the other horses during warm up and brought him close to the track vet – twice. At one point, the horse stopped dead in his tracks and would not move. The two Diodoro grooms sitting behind me literally jumped up and ran toward the track. After the third approach by Scott, the vet scratched Broadway Empire at the gate. As it turned out, he has a small hole in his hoof that was bothering him that day. It’s a condition that the trainers are aware of and that the horse has dealt with in the past. It was a veteran move by Scott to notice there was something not quite right and to put the horse’s best interest in front of his own. He reluctantly dismounted. The announcement was made, and the soaking wet crowd shuffled back to the windows for refunds. Myself included. It was disappointing not to see him run, even in the slop. Because I stood in the rain and waited all day to see him scratch 2 minutes to post, C’mon, man!
Jorge Carreno. I also reluctantly put one of my favorite Turf Paradise shippers on this list. However, he deserves it. When Scott Stevens displayed class in putting his horse first, Carreno displayed disregard and carelessness in his race aboard Heatofthestorm (ironically) in Race 4 on Saturday. The field had scratched to three horses. Three. The race went off during the worst part of the storm, a deluge of rain, wind, even some thunder. As you can image, there was no speed, no closers, no rail bias, nothing to count on. If you were a closer, too bad, it wasn’t happening. Carreno had his horse in front by more than 10 lengths over the rest of the field (which is two horses) coming down the stretch. He is ahead by more than 10 LENGTHS, the other horses are literally plodding through the mud simply trying to finish, and Carreno NEVER PUT THE STICK AWAY. C’mon, man. There were no track records being broken this day. There were no lightning speed figures to record. You won. Put the stick away. It was not cool. Jorge, I know the weather is better in Phoenix; you’re wet, shivering and pissed. But you won, don’t take it out on the horse. C’mon, man.
The Stewards. In Race 4 on Sunday, Troy Bethke had the bookends in the field of seven, and a Canchari on each. Patrick on one of the favorites, Macho Storm, and track favorite Alex Canchari on the 7-1 Hrishi Suprem. I had a feeling if they got the Bethke stable mates eye-to-eye that it would be a showdown to the wire. And that is precisely what happened. Dean Butler came into the stretch on Demi Blue with a seven length lead, so the winner was decided long before the finish line. Most eyes were on the Canchari brothers who had the Bethke horse’s in an all out ride in second place. I can only imagine the talk in the jock’s room after this race. Alex likes to win. No, Alex LOVES to win. He LOVES the Winner’s Circle and getting his picture taken. Patrick is a bit more reserved when it comes to the limelight. My money was on Patrick. (I had Alex to finish third, and it felt good to cash that ticket.) Patrick just edged out his brother for the place honors. And then — the Canterbury stewards lodged an inquiry. Yes, there was a bump as Patrick brought Macho Storm close to Hrishi Suprem. It is true (and well-documented with all of his suspensions) that when Alex is in a race, the stewards keep an eye on him. This time, however, the focus was on Patrick, who is rarely, if ever, on the stew’s radar. This bump was not even significant enough to take Hrishi Suprem out of his lane. It was brother versus brother in a good, fair, crowd-pleasing race. I know that the stewards have a job to do, but when it comes to the Canchari brothers please stop being so transparent. To the stewards, c’mon, man!
The weekend wasn’t a total wash (pun intended). Awesome Flower was a repeat winner of the Lady Canterbury. Francisco Torres rode a beautiful race as Awesome Flower caught Gold Medal Dancer at the wire. Awesome Flower goes into my “mudders” category. She literally came from behind to catch Gold Medal Dancer and she did it without hesitation, and accelerated when asked, which is hard to do in the mud, rain, wind and everything else going on that day. She’s a professional racehorse.
I was also looking forward to seeing the Belmont runner Vuitton. I’m sure the switch from turf to the sloppy main track did not do this horse any favors. She had an awful trip and looked miserable the entire way around. There’s no doubt the weather and track conditions hampered the possibilities of a victory for this shipper.
Multiple stakes runner Coalport also made an appearance in the Mystic Lake Mile but finished a disappointing last in the field of four. Az Ridge won the $100,000 purse for Dan McFarlane with leading jockey Ry Eikleberry aboard.