DERBY, OAKS INCLUDE SOME DRAMA

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Horses with ethereal sounding names and the wings to match stole the show and the spotlight Saturday night.

A filly named Sky and Sea, the overwhelming choice at 1/9, made mincemeat of the competition once again, this time winning the $75,000 Minnesota Oaks against five others.

Thirty minutes later, a gelding named Speed is Life withstood a claim of foul to win the $75,000 Minnesota Derby against nine rivals

Sky and Sea dominated the Frances Genter Stakes on the Fourth of July, winning by 11 ½ lengths. The margin was not nearly as great this time around but still convincing. She finished in front of Thunder and Honey by 3 ¼ lengths after brushing off a challenge from Stellabrini, the third place finisher, on the turn.

Owner Scott Rake, fully aware he had the best filly of the bunch (she was sent off at 1/9) handicapped the race with a terse appraisal in the paddock.

“It’s her race to lose,’’ he said. It became hers to win as she opened up in the stretch, finishing in 1:46.50.

Stellabrini made it interesting on the turn into the stretch, but the drama ended almost immediately when Dean Butler asked Sky and Sea for more. “I had to use her a little,’’ he said afterward.

Not all that much.

The Derby presented drama of its own. Heading into the turn, Ry Eikleberry found a hole along the rail and instantly asked Speed is Life to fill it. “It was a bold move, but it was the right move,’’ said trainer Doug Oliver.

Riders outside him tried to close the opening an instant later, bumping the back of Eikleberry’s horse. “My horse got hit in the back so that brought the front of him out,’’ said Eikleberry.

Eikleberry used the move to gain command of the race and finished 3 ¼ lengths in front of fast closing Vanderbilt Beach and Seth Martinez, who had three wins on the card. A P is Loose finished third under Lori Keith.

Keith and Martin Escobar, who rode Street Fighting, lodged a claim of foul against the winner. “I was already in there when they tried to close it,’’ said Eikleberry. The stewards agreed.

 

 

 

CASH CARAVAN STAKES

Dirt Road Queen added one more piece of hardware to an ever expanding trophy shelf at the home of Canterbury Park Hall of Famers Bob and Julie Petersen with a commanding show against five rivals.

With Martinez up, the three-year-old filly by Country Chicks Man blew past the competition in a time of 22.136.

“So was that the Martinez touch?’’ the winning rider was asked.

“No,’’ Martinez responded,“that was the (trainer) Bill Harris touch.’’

Dirt Road Queen couldn’t quite get her act together as a two-year-old but has settled down nicely this year, as her record (four wins in five starts) demonstrates.

A year ago, she was big, playful and apt to drop riders coming out of the gate. Saturday night she displayed a more professional demeanor.

“I got her straightened out and then just rode her,’’ said Martinez.

 

OLIVER HORSE ON CENTER STAGE SUNDAY

On a long list of hard to explain coincidental happenings, here’s one you simply can’t make up:

There is a horse from a Minnesota mare in Sunday’s Grade II Saratoga Special, a $200,000 race at 6 ½ furlongs. The horse, Majestic Affair, was bred, broken and raised by one of Canterbury’s charter trainers, Doug Oliver, and won at first asking without being asked under  native Minnesota rider Patrick Canchari.

At Canterbury Park.

It so happens he will make his second start at the Spa one day before the Minnesota Thoroughbred Association’s Yearling Sale and one day after Saratoga’s $500,000 stakes named for Four Star Dave, a winner of the St. Paul Derby in Canterbury’s halcyon days.

Ace handicapper and paddock analyst Angela Hermann calls it a “karma convergence.’’

Canchari recalled that he has ridden only two two-year-olds for Oliver and they both won at first asking.

Majestic Affair was bred in Kentucky and is a gelded son of Majesticperfection from Blumin Beauty. He was worked much of the time by Ry Eikleberry, Canterbury’s second leading rider.

“We broke him in Phoenix and had him nominated to the Futurity down there but he shin-bucked,’’ Oliver said. “That’s why we got kind of a late start with him.’’

Oliver still owns the mare so naturally he is pulling for Majestic Affair. “I looked at some of the numbers on those other horses and I think he belongs in this race,’’ he said.

Oliver got an offer out of the blue for Majestic Affair but it wasn’t what he thought the horse was worth so he planned to run him in a stake at Prairie Meadows. The new owners upped the offer and Oliver couldn’t turn it down the second time. “I had to sell him. That’s the most I’ve ever sold one for,’’ he explained.

It was worth a quarter mil, and today Oliver will watch and root for him, along with a host of other Canterbury regulars.

BY JIM WELLS

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