This is one of the most popular days at Canterbury Park for horse racing fans. Eleven races on the card and all are Minnesota-bred. A large crowd was on hand for a beautiful Sunday afternoon which was also Family Day.
I have about a 25 minute drive to the track, and before I leave the house I check Equibase and Twitter for any late scratches or changes. Upon checking Twitter, I saw a photo of jockey Patrick Canchari in a hospital gown with a pretty wicked broken nose. The result of a horse’s head meeting his face in morning works – an unfortunate accident and even worse timing. Patrick had several mounts on Festival Day. Once I got to the track, there were actually a lot of jock changes on the card. Patrick Canchari’s absence was unexpected and leading rider (at the time) Ry Eikleberry was in New Mexico, but who could have foreseen that veteran rider Derek Bell would also have to give up his Festival Day mounts (see below) due to a freakish incident as well.
The quarter horses opened the day with the Minnesota Quarter Horse Derby and Futurity. Rusty Shaw picked up Canchari’s quarter horse mount in the Derby aboard Goldies Big Time. Well, Goldie wasn’t ready for the big time, and threw a hissy fit in the gate, tossing Rusty and taking a seat, eventually leading to her scratching from the gate. The Derby also featured the undefeated Dirt Road Queen ridden by Seth Martinez. I don’t know much about quarter horse races, but I know the name Ed Ross Hardy, who has won the Minnesota QH Derby nine times. He entered Furys Folly to upset the Queen, and he did just that. It was the first Derby win for jockey Nik Goodwin, but it didn’t end there. Goodwin and Hardy teamed up in the Futurity on favorite Tty from Mr. Pye and swept the two quarter horse races on Festival Day. Unfortunately in the Futurity, Derek Bell also got a mount on freak show Fishin in the Brook who decided to lose it in the gate and threw Derek. Terribly unfortunate for Derek as he was unable to make the rest of his mounts after suffering an injury in that starting gate incident.
Race 3: $36,500 Allowance
Ever since Jockey Ken Shino arrived at Canterbury from Prairie Meadows he’s been the talk of the track. Shino was on a very nice 4-year old gelding who has come into his own this summer named Two Chance. Nearly every handicapper had Two Chance and A P Is Loose on the top, but A P Is Loose just fell flat, really flat, at the mile seventy on the turf. It was no problem for Two Chance who took Shino to the winner’s circle again at Canterbury Park. I should have known my trifecta was blown the minute Dean Butler got the mount for Derek Bell on Northern Champ for Mac Robertson. Vanderbilt Beach ridden by Seth Martinez (you’re gonna see his name a lot in this article) for Tony Rengstorf did very well on his first go on the turf finishing second behind Two Chance.
Race 4: $60,000 Bella Notte Minnesota Distaff Spring Championship
The first stakes race of the day and it was one of the best of the day! The much-hyped, potential Canterbury Park Horse of the Year, 3-year old filly Sky and Sea made her Festival Day debut. She did not disappoint. Rake Farms LLC has a very good filly on their hands. Dean Butler, her usually pilot, held off a late charging Polar Plunge with Eddie Martin, Jr. in the irons. Trainer Mac Robertson entered three in this race and only managed to get one on the board, and the most unlikely one: Happy Hour Honey finished third behind Sky and Sea and Polar Plunge.
Race 5: $60,000 Glitter Star Minnesota Distaff Classic Championship
This is what I’m Talkin Bout – upsets, well a slight upset. This time it was trainer Gary Scherer that loaded the gate. He had three entered, Robertson two and Bernell Rhone had lone entry Blues Edge. Robertson’s defending champ, Congrats and Roses, had usual jockey Alex Canchari fresh off a seven day suspension in the irons. But it was Talkin Bout who stole this race away for the defending champ with a ride by Eddie Martin, Jr. that was a thing of beauty. He made a move on the last turn that swallowed up any would-be contenders and headed this mare towards the wire simply embarrassing this field. Congrats and Roses did come in third and the lone Rhone entry was second.
Race 6: $75,000 Northern Lights Debutante
This might be the best race of the day. Minnesota 2-year old fillies going six furlongs. I love these races. The much-talked about Castle Queen was the overwhelming favorite going into this race. However, I spoke with Scott Rake during the post parade who whispered that his entry, North Sky, might be better than Sky and Sea. Duly noted, Mr. Rake, but not she isn’t that good just yet. Alex Canchari perfectly rode Mac Robertson’s Sioux Appeal to victory over Castle Queen, winning by a nose, collecting his share of the $75,000. This race was so close between Castle Queen and Sioux Appeal that track announcer Paul Allen declared it may be a dead heat. The photo would eventually put Sioux Appeal in the winner’s circle. This would be Canchari’s first win of the day, but not his last. He and Seth Martinez sure made the card exciting battling back and forth the rest of the day!
Race 7: $75,000 Northern Lights Futurity
This was truly a no-brainer, and everyone had the winner Hold for More. When the Butler/Bravo combination is in place the winning percentage is sky-high and there was no exception here. The steward’s did post the inquiry sign but it was nothing significant and the results stood. Butler headed to the winner’s circle for the second time on the day.
Race 8: $60,000 Crocrock Minnesota Sprint Championship
Ah, the return of Heliskier the only horse at Canterbury Park with his own entrance music, Hells Bells by AC/DC, of course. Heliskier is the horse that everyone cheers for. He’s the big horse that could. This time we were waiting to cheer for a comeback as gigantic as this horse. Heliskier hasn’t won a race since he won the Crocrock last year. He did give it a good kick down the stretch but … there was Dean Butler on Bourbon County and it was only minor rewards for Heliskier this time around. Bourbon County was just too good … Butler and Rake Farms are also a combination to watch.
Race 9: $60,000 Wally’s Choice Minnesota Classic Championship
Wally the Beer Man is a hero of sorts here in Minnesota, especially at the now-demolished Metrodome. People around here would probably recognized Wally the Beer Man before they would Tom Kelly (totally). Last year, this race was won by Coconino Slim and the 7-year old became a repeat champion this year, but jockey Seth Martinez had to hold off that Canchari kid again who was on Affirmed Cure giving the defending champ a pesky battle down the stretch. Canchari is familiar with Coconino Slim as he rode him to victory during last year’s Festival of Champions. Mac Robertson doesn’t mess around on Festival Day, so I had Slim on top, as did the rest of the Robertson faithful. One of my favorite horses was also in this race, Ghost Dance, who is a beautiful horse, but just couldn’t keep up with the speedy Sheer Trick and Affirmed Cure, even with Dean Butler taking over for Derek Bell.
Race 10: $36,500 Allowance
Oh, this was a good one too! This race came down to a photo between the favorite Naomi Ridge Esq, Sweet Tango and Thunder and Honey. Pay attention people: Alex Canchari on the turf is very tough this year. He usually has the mount on Sweet Tango and wins for fun on her, but this time he was on Thunder and Honey and again it comes down to inches. I’ve seen Sweet Tango win by over nine lengths in the past, but Thunder and Honey is a huge horse and I was surprised to see how quickly the 3-year old caught Naomi Ridge. After a long review, the placing judges determine Thunder and Honey the winner and a dead heat for second between Naomi Ridge and Sweet Tango. Thunder and Honey wins by a nose and Canchari heads to the winner’s circle for the second time on Festival Day.
Race 11: $31,000 Maiden Special Weight
This was pretty much a two horse race in a field of 10 between Rhone’s 3-year old colt Street Fighting (son of Street Sense) and Rhone’s 3-year old filly Sassy Prance. Street Fighting finished on top with Alex Canchari filling the trifecta on Hansboro for an even $20 payout.
Some notes and numbers:
Seth Martinez hit the board 7 times with one win on Coconino Slim.
Dean Butler got in the money 5 times with 3 wins, 2 of them for Rake Farms LLC.
Alex Canchari was in the money 5 times with 2 wins both for Mac Robertson.
The highest payout of the day: $1 Superfecta in Race 3 (won by Two Chance) paid $662.30.
Ironic that the word “nose” kept coming up with the Canchari Brothers … hmm….
I would like to thank my friend and photographer Heather Frisbie for allowing me to use her amazing photos for this post! Please follow her @Raezen12 on Twitter to see more of her beautiful photos.
And Festival Day is a wrap!