BRIGHT SKIES, BIG CROWD AND TOBY KEITH, TOO

Ghost Is Clear winning $75,000 Dark Star Cup

Ghost Is Clear winning $75,000 Dark Star Cup

So how could you ask for a better Father’s Day _ sunshine, steady breezes to dry the track and surrounding area and, for the ladies and his fans, none other than Toby Keith.

            On top of all that, a crowd in excess of 13,000 people.

            Keith, you might recall, has had Country-Western hits that include I Love This Bar, Beer for My Horses and I Should’ve Been a Cowboy.

            He also had horses in both stakes races on the card, the $75,000 Dark Star Cup and the $75,000Northbound Pride Oaks, although the Oaks was taken off the turf because of the wet conditions. Keith’s Bobcat Jim finished second in the Dark Star. Witch Alert finished out of the money in the Oaks.

            That did not seem to affect the fans who gravitated to his vicinity whenever the opportunity arrived after word leaked out about his presence, even though he was dressed so nondescriptly in nylon jacket and Oklahoma cap that his mother might not have recognized him.

            Rider James Graham simulated a long drink from the large glass vase trophy after his mount, Ghost is Clear, was in fact clear at the wire to win the Dark Star Cup. Graham sized up the race as he watched a replay. “Watch him, right there, turn it on when I hit him,’’ he said. And win the race as a result. The winner is owned and trained by Mike Maker.

            Early in the card, a bystander said to Seth Martinez as he walked past. “Hey, there, the track’s leading quarter horse rider.’’ Martinez chuckled and walked on.

            Then he rode Ice For The Lady to a win in the Northbound Pride, picking up a nice stakes check for the day, for himself, for trainer Gerald Bennett and owner W. Kenan Rand, Jr.

            A FATHER TO BE WINS ON FATHER’S DAY

            Kool Wagon has about a year left on the race track and then his days will be relegated entirely to breeding. In the meantime, he’s determined to go out with a bang.

            That’s the way it appeared at least in Sunday’s $20,000-added Skip Zimmerman Stakes at 350 yards, a win on Father’s Day for the father to be.

            With Stormy Smith in the irons, Kool Wagon was first out of the gate and first at the wire in 17:77 for Stacy Charette-Hill, yes the defending champion quarter horse trainer from 3013.

            “It helps to have good horses,’’ Charette-Hill likes to say. “That’s why I did so well here last year. It’s all about the stock.’’

            Not much has changed, although the win on Sunday was just her second of the meet – for good reason, but first the details of the race:

Winning rider Stormy Smith was brimming with confidence after the break. “Oh, yeah,’’ he said. “He broke really well and never looked back.’’

            The winner is owned by Michael Pohl, an attorney in Montgomery, Texas.

            Charette-Hill, meanwhile, got a late start with her training this year to help her husband, Randy Hill, through some medical issues. “Sometimes you have to step away from the horses for your family,’’ she said.

            Thus, she stood in the winner’s circle on Sunday with Hill after claiming her second win of the meet.

            A fellow approached Jerry Livingston after the race with the news that the first race winner might blow the Zimmerman result right out of the headlines. Livingston had earlier saddled the winner of the card’s first race, Leadore with Marcus Swiontek up to force a three-way tie for second in the quarter horse trainer standings with his third win of the meet.

            BULLDOGS TAKE THE STAGE

            The first  running of the bulldogs got a response not unlike that afforded the wiener dogs when they race each year.

            It goes without saying that there is a distinctive difference in appearance between the two breeds even if they run at about the same clip.

            But wiener dogs don’t drool as if they’ve  just seen a dripping tenderloin.

            Nonetheless, the bulldog owners are every bit as enthusiastic about their animals. The Jordans of Shakopee were hoping for a first place finish from their dog, four-year-old Pork Chop but had to settle for also ran.

The Jordans primed Pork Chop before the race with a few chicken treats, hoping that would provide the difference.

            Ah, well, maybe prime rib next time.

            Then there was 1 ½-year-old Bella from St. Clout, owned by Adam Stevens and Lacey Hoffner. “I think she got third or fourth,’’ Adam said afterward.

Many of the jockeys left their lounge to watch the races, including Scott Stevens, who tried to enter his 10-year-old bulldog, Angus, when he arrived at Canterbury this spring.

            “The entries were already closed,’’ he said.

            At that disclosure it was mentioned to Stevens that perhaps that might preclude a career later as a trainer. “Ha,’’ he said. “Good point.’’

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