Tag Archives: Canterbury Park

Make it a Double

Turf Paradise

The Princess of Palms for fillies and mares going six furlongs will be run Saturday at Turf Paradise. Trainer Valorie Lund saddles two, but Robertino Diodoro has one entry, Rock and Glory, with Scott Stevens in the irons. Rock and Glory has one start this year and that resulted in a 6th place finish in the Paseana Stakes at Santa Anita. However, this horse has been working lights out at Turf Paradise. Even with the help of the vet Stevens, this daughter of Rock Hard Ten is still green and untested.

Maker Or Breaker is morning line 3/1 with Israel Hernandez getting the mount for Dan McFarlane. Maker Or Breaker is a 5-year old mare out of Empire Maker and has more stakes experience than the rest of the field. She finished 4th in the Gr. 3, LA Woman Stakes at Santa Anita on October 4. She has been in four races this year and three of those were stakes races.

Makinmymark and Love Makor are both sired by Makors Mark. The better of the two is Makinmymark trained by Lund, and in the Princess of Palms she’s on the rail – a good spot for jockey Rocco Bowen. Makinmymark finished third in the Hoist Her Flag Stakes at Canterbury Park last summer. In fact, she only races at Canterbury and Turf Paradise, hitting the board 3 out of her 4 starts in 2014.

The upset in this race could come on the number 2 horse Gracie Grace. She has been racing at Arapahoe with an outstanding five starts, four in the money past performance. In fact, her only time out of the money was a 5th place finish at Turf Paradise, but she has been putting in good works at this level.

Interesting to note, the number 3 horse is Fightin Mean Mad, and according to the sheet is owned by Jeff Bonde and bred by Richard Ravin and Larry Rivelli, Chicago boys. Interesting connections.

As much as I shower the Diodoro barn and Scott Stevens with kudos, I’m going to put Rock and Glory in the bottom of the trifecta and make it a double in the Princess of Palms and take the bookends: Maker Or Breaker and Makinmymark go 1, 2 in the Palms. If jockey “Is-rail” Hernandez can get Maker Or Breaker from the outside post to the rail without too much traffic, it could his chance at the money.

I’ll play the Pick 3 starting with Race 3, only because I am just learning how to handicap the quarters from watching endless footage from Los Alamitos, so I am not familiar with the Turf Paradise quarters yet.

Diodoro has three in Race 3: Harlan’s Vitesse (Stevens), Causeithertz (Franco) and Megastar (Carreno). I’ve got no problems with 8-year old Megastar, the overwhelming favorite, and it’s possible that Diodoro could sweep the board. (I have a feeling a horse called God of War might have a say in that however.) When it comes to turf riding, I will take Franco over Carreno any day, and when it comes to turf experience I’d take Stevens over them both. But, as much as I would love to see Diodoro sweep the tri, I am hoping that he doesn’t as the payout would be paltry. I’ll take the Brazilian, God of War, to spoil it. So I’ll play a superfecta , just to get a price 2, 4, 1, 6.

In Race 4, I have to go with the favorites and Minnesota jockey Patrick Canchari finds himself on the 9/2 morning line favorite. However, Taras Ruler is a tough horse to beat. He is 5 for 5 in hitting the board, unfortunately that’s in Canada where all he does at Assiniboia is win, win, win. Canada is a long way from Arizona though. I also like the number 8 horse – Airborne Mark. If you put a line through only one race in his 2014 campaign, this horse has either landed in the money or just out of it in 6 of his 9 starts. (4,7,8 tri box – boxing it because Patrick just might pull it off!)

Race 5 – Diodoro/Carreno on World Famous Sam T – no contest. Tribal Smoke will be coming though, so 2, 8 exacta box. I looked at Moses On the Mesa and Majorca Sun, neither will go with World Famous Sam T.

Pick 3: 241/748/28

Race 6: See above re: “Is-Rail” Hernandez. Dan McFarlane‘s Red Constitution has mainly been running with good company on the East Coast at Belmont and Aqueduct. Even with the post position and aforementioned jockey, this 3-year old filly will have a task ahead of her, most likely the push coming from the 6-year old beside her, The Grans. Trainer Lund puts Stevens in the irons and I’m taking notice. This Canterbury runner should enjoy the trip on the turf with her stable mate Bear Facts to her right. Trainer Eikleberry has the favorite in the 6th, a 4-year old filly named Peppy Miller. This filly has hit the board 6 times in 8 starts and races solely in the southwest racing circuits. I can’t tell you how many tickets I’ve had The Grans on, so since they say consistency is a key, I’ll put her on again. (6,2,1)

Race 7 Princess of Palms: See analysis above.

Race 8: I’m gonna bounce around the favorite Cara Has It in this one and stay on the rail with a horse I’m also accustomed to watching, Grazen Cold for trainer McFarlane. Diodoro has the 3-year old filly Nevergetsold, so I’ll take both of them to bump Cara Has It from the board. I’m also looking at the lone Minnesota-bred in here, Jumpin Jenny, who is a morning line 5/1. This 5-year old mare has been racing consistently at Assiniboia, but again, it’s a long way from Canada to Arizona. I’m only looking for the Pick 4 numbers so I’ll go with a tri box 1, 2, 5.

Pick 4: 28/126/167/12 – Yes, I’m hoping for a fast inside post on Saturday.

As I’m looking ahead to the card on Monday at Turf Paradise, I see Dan McFarlane has apprentice-extraordinaire Drayden Van Dyke (aka DVD) on all his horses that day. Kinda changes the way I handicap McFarlane horses when he’s got the hottest young rider in Southern California in the saddle. I’ll be watching to see how the skilled young jock does on one of my favorite McFarlane horses, Mancala, in Race 4 at Turf Paradise on Monday. DVD also is also riding one for Diodoro on Monday as well.

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.


(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.


Canterbury Opening Weekend in Photos

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



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.


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.


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






Firmly in the Irons: Jockeys to Watch in 2014

Taylor B. Rice:  This Lady Bug is making it hard for us to ignore her.  In her first year of riding, she finished third for the riding title at Hawthorne.  She repeatedly impressed being part of several all-female trifectas at Hawthorne.  She started 2014 with 7 mounts, 3 win and 2 second place finishes at Aqueduct, where she is currently riding.  Proud of this little Lady Bug for taking on the challenge of Aqueduct, unfortunately the competition begins with the Ortiz brothers, who currently rule that track.  Which brings me to …

Jose Ortiz on Strong Mandate
Jose Ortiz on Strong Mandate

Jose Oritz:  How this kid didn’t get an Eclipse nom is beyond me.  He and his brother, Irad Ortiz, Jr., are currently the top jocks at Aqueduct.  Jose is a multiple stakes winning jockey winning the Grade 1 Hopeful on Derby contender Strong Mandate for D. Wayne Lukas.  Jose also rode two winners in Grade 2 stakes and two winners in Grade 3 stakes races in 2013.  He ranked 11th by earnings and 10th by wins.  In 2012, he was an off-the-radar 91st in earnings.  Jose started his year at the Big A with a second place in the Judy Soda stakes aboard Tahoe Tigress.  After picking up wins on Jan. 9 and 10, Jose surpassed his brother Irad as the leading rider at Aqueduct, but that could change at any minute.  The brothers are followed closely by Eclipse Apprentice nominee Manuel Franco.

Dylan Davis:  Since his riding career began in 2012, Dylan has gone from 90 starts to 881 in 2013.  He has accumulated careers starts of 1,001; 132 firsts, 115 seconds and 112 thirds.  Those are huge numbers for a young rider.  So far in 2014, he has 32 starts and has hit the board on 16.  Dylan raised his apprentice earnings from $65,000 to $2.7+ million in 2013.  To make it more impressive, he’s riding at Gulfstream, where the big boys go to ride.  This young rider is holding his own against the biggest names in racing, finding himself currently in fourth place, between Luis Saez and Jose Lezcano.  Dylan consistently rides for Wesley Ward, including a winner on Jan. 5 aboard Round Midnight.  He has upcoming mounts for Nick Zito, Tom Proctor and Todd Pletcher at Gulfstream.

Irving Orozco:  Talking about holding your own at a high-profile track! Irving is perfecting his riding skills by taking style tips from some of the best jockeys in the country at Santa Anita Park.  In 2013, he had 409 starts, 46 first, 40 seconds and 61 thirds.  So far in 2014 he has 22 starts at Santa Anita and has hit the board in 11 of them.  He started the year with five mounts on Jan. 5, and took two trips to the Winner’s Circle on Two Blue Hens and Italian Mirage.  He recently had mounts for Ron Ellis and Kristin Mulhall.  He raised his total earnings from $500,000+ in 2012 to $1.6+ in 2013.  Irving is narrowly behind Martin Garcia in fifth place for wins at Santa Anita.

Alex Canchari:  I have been following Alex Canchari’s career since he first put his toes in the irons.  He’s a Minnesota boy from Shakopee home of Canterbury Park.  This is an incredibly driven and focused young man.  He has remarkable vision on the track.  I’ve seen him squeeze a horse through a hole and catapult to victory more than once. Alex won the 2012 Fall riding title at Hawthorne, but was unable to repeat in 2013.  At Oaklawn in 2013, Alex got his first stakes win on Devil and a Half before arriving at Canterbury Park in the Spring of 2013.  His patient, yet explosive, riding style soon launched him into contention for the riding title at Canterbury.  After a suspension, Alex returned 12 back of leading rider Dean Butler, but a five-win card brought him within reach going into the last week of the meet.  He lost the title to Butler by 2 literally on the last day of the meet.  Alex won more stakes races at Canterbury than any other jockey during the 2013 Canterbury meet.  He rode nearly exclusively for Mac Robertson, Canterbury’s leading trainer, and picked up good mounts for Clay Brinson.  His stakes wins are impressive, in fact during the Festival of Champions, he won three.  He also swept the Princess Elaine and the Blair’s Cove.  He won the Northbound Pride Oaks on Stoupinator, the HPBA Distaff on Starry Eyed Kate, and took a trip to Canada and won the Manitoba Lotteries Derby on Assembly Hall for Bryan Porter.

Alex Canchari on Assembly Hall
Alex Canchari on Assembly Hall

He entered the 2014 Oaklawn meet on opening day with mounts for Allen Milligan and picked up a mount for Calumet Farms and D. Wayne Lukas, where he finished third on Chalybeate Springs.  On opening day, he had five mounts and was in the money on four of them, including a third place finish for Allen Mulligan in the Dixie Belle Stakes.  2014 will be Alex Canchari’s breakout year, but only if he skips Chicago and heads to the East Coast between the Canterbury and Oaklawn meets.



With jockey John Velazquez out for the remainder of 2013 due to an injury he suffered at the Breeders’ Cup, it has brought to light the unpredictable nature of racing thoroughbreds and the dangers jockeys face.

Leading Hawthorne rider, Tim Thornton, is certainly no exception to the risk of injury when going 40 mph on a 1,200 pound animal with nothing more than your toes holding you in the stirrups.  Tim has suffered numerous injuries over his 10 year career but maybe none more horrific then the accident at Canterbury Park this past summer.

Tim flew in from Chicago to ride a favorite for trainer Joel Berndt and visit his buddy, Tanner Riggs, who works for Berndt.  Tim was on Key the Code when the horse was bumped hard, clipped heels with the horse in front and went down.  The horse running behind Tim’s was also involved in the accident.  Jockey Justin Sheppard was thrown from his mount in the incident and was the first to get to Tim, whose face was covered in blood.  He suffered two fractures in his skull, both on his forehead; another above his right eyebrow, and fractured his sinus cavity, not to mention a clean break of his humerus and a mild concussion.  Fearless, resilient and determined are a few adjectives used to describe Tim Thornton.  After his accident, he was out of racing for five weeks but was able to ride in Arlington’s Fall meet.

Dealing with injury and setbacks is nothing new to this 26-year old.  He is from a family of rodeo riders, and as a young teenager Tim was a bull rider in local rodeos in his hometown of Utopia, Texas and in Louisiana (hence his passion for crawfish boils).




In 2012, Tim starred in a video blog entitled “Behind the Silks” produced by Arlington Park’s TV analyst Jessica Pacheco.  Tim wore a helmet cam for every race during Arlington’s meet and allowed viewers inside the life of a jockey (early morning workouts, the jockey room, and he even sat down for a Q&A with track handicappers – which never happens).  In researching for this feature, I watched all 20 episodes of Behind the Silks. I would encourage any race fan or horse player to watch the series.  Tim Thornton is infectious – with his floppy, long hair, his way of speaking, his mannerisms, charisma, cool, yet mischievous attitude, his layered Polo shirts (with all the collars popped), and his genuine love of racing horses and for his young daughter, who is featured in the Father’s Day episode.  And, yes, the explanation of those iconic blue boots!


In one episode, Tim is asked to throw out the first pitch at the White Sox game.  I checked to see if there had been any other jockeys who were given this sporting honor, and indeed there have been.  Mario Gutierrez and Garret Gomez, both threw out first pitches at L.A. Dodgers games.  I hope they did better than Tim, who looked goofy and awkward – a few more adjectives that make you want to spend a day hanging out with him and in Behind the Silks, you get to do just that!

Tim is currently riding in Chicago at Hawthorne Racecourse and is the leading jockey with about six weeks of racing left (six wins ahead of Rafael Hernandez and 10 ahead of Israel Ocampo).  Tim consistently takes mounts for leading trainer Roger Bruggemann as well as Mike Reavis and Larry Rivelli, both of whom helped Tim get good mounts when he was a young rider.  Tim won the 2013 Spring riding title at Hawthorne and looks to be on his way for a sweep at Hawthorne.