Monthly Archives: July 2014

A Dreary, Disappointing Day

Dean Butler
Dean Butler

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.

Juan Rivera
Juan Rivera

 

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!

Broadway Empire schooling in the paddock
Broadway Empire schooling in the paddock

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.

Broadway Empire
Broadway Empire

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!

Awesome Flower with Francisco Torres
Awesome Flower with Francisco Torres

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.

Awesome Flower winning the Lady Canterbury over Gold Medal Dancer
Awesome Flower winning the Lady Canterbury over Gold Medal Dancer
Belmont shipper Vuitton with Scott Stevens
Belmont shipper Vuitton with Scott Stevens

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.

The much-hyped Coalport
The much-hyped Coalport

A hunka hunka Burning Fuhry

 

Erick Lopez on Burning Fuhry
Erick Lopez on Burning Fuhry

Erick Lopez is not a name that is familiar to most Minnesota racing fans. He’s not the leading rider at Canterbury Park, nor is he a regular Canterbury rider. But on July 5, 2014, Erick Lopez forever cemented his name into the Canterbury history books when he brought home a 75-1 long shot named Burning Fuhry (trained by Troy Bethke) and provide the largest win payout in the history of Minnesota thoroughbred racing. Burning Fuhry’s win paid $153 on a $2 win bet. Not since 1990, when Money Trap paid out $152.40 for a single win bet, have race fans witnessed such a windfall.

Order of Finish:

Burning Fuhry (75-1)       $153.00                $59.40                   $15.40

Tundra Leap (56-1)                                          $36.60                   $12.20

Fair Trade (14-1)                                                                               $8.20

The $1 Exacta paid $1,260.40

Unfortunately for this lil ‘capper, I did not have Burning Fuhry on my ticket. However, I did have the second place finisher Tundra Leap at 56-1 as part of a superfecta for this race. When the scratches came in, and Miguel Silva’s horse drew in from the also eligible list, I took out Tizn’t Over and put in the Silva horse.  I followed Silva at Turf Paradise and is a go-to trainer for me here at Canterbury. I also met Silva’s jockey, Cesar A. Ordaz, during Leg Up Day on June 29 and wanted to see what the young rider could do on the long shot. The shy Ordaz had a patient, well-time ride on Tundra Leap. Lopez, on the other hand, didn’t have as smooth a ride on the maiden Burning Fuhry. About 9 back in the field of 12 around the first turn, Lopez had to steady the horse several times before seeing daylight down the stretch. Tundra Leap, Fair Trade and Burning Fuhry were thundering toward the wire when Burning Fuhry lunged ahead beating Tundra Leap by almost a half a length. It was one of the most exciting races I’ve seen at Canterbury, not just because it was a close finish but because the race showcased the grit of two horses disregarded by the experts, handicappers and the betting public. The two long shots engaged in a speed duel to the wire, and two relatively unknown jockeys also showed grit, riding the horses as if they were riding famous rivals Mucho Macho Man and Will Take Charge instead of the longest shots on the board that day.   It would have been very easy to lay back in the pack and let the favorites go on. Neither horse nor pilot would settle for simply finishing the race. When the favorites began backing up and there was nothing but grass in front of them, the true heart and determination of these amazing athletes shown through. This is why I love this sport.

http://replays.robertsstream.com/racereplays/playf_llnw.php?customer=CanterburyPark&t=1404786380&h=0485de58a4223478d741a7866622c98f&url=201407051717CBD8

(Link to replay of Race 8 at CBY on July 5, 2014)

One of my handicapping tools is looking at the pedigree of the horse. Some jockeys also have pedigree. For instance, Erick Lopez was meant to be a jockey. In fact, he is a third generation jockey. His grandfather is Carlos Lopez, Sr., who retired from riding at age 57. Erick’s father is legendary jockey C.C. Lopez. He has three uncles who are jockeys, as well as his younger brother, David. Erick, a New Jersey native, has been literally riding for trainers across the country since 2006, getting his first mount at Monmouth and eventually moving his tack to Santa Anita and Turf Paradise, which eventually led to his first meet at Canterbury Park, following the path of trainer Robertino Diodoro. His years of riding experience certainly came into play on Saturday with the troubled trip from Burning Fuhry on the Canterbury turf. His showed expertise in guiding the previously winless horse out of trouble, keeping him steady and focused and eventually unleashing his potential burning speed when the opportunity presented itself in the last 200 yards of the race.

Lopez has been riding at Turf Paradise in Phoenix where he finished the meet with 31 wins, well-behind riding title winner Jorge Carreno, who is also riding at Canterbury for the first time this summer. Lopez has only 3 wins at Canterbury this meet, but he has several mounts for leading trainer Diodoro. Many Turf Paradise riders followed Diodoro to Canterbury, including Carreno who is making the most of his Minnesota debut. Cesar Ordaz also rode at Turf Paradise for Silva. We are happy to have them here at Canterbury this summer.