BY JIM WELLS
Sometimes it takes a newcomer, someone without a connection to a place’s history to bring new meaning to an event or ceremony.
A 23-year-old rider named Hugo Sanchez did just that on Sunday, marshalling the deep reserves of a 5-year-old horse named Pricelesscommodity to send the rest of the field packing in the $75,000 Dark Star Cup.
Sanchez is slowly but certainly making his presence felt on this racetrack, winning a race here, a race there and now one of Canterbury’s legendary stakes races, his 15th win of the meet, good enough for third place in the standings behind the veterans Dean Butler and Leandro Goncalves.
Sanchez never met the late Dark Star, for whom the race is named, and was not born when this event was run for the first time 30 years ago this summer. Sunday he added his name to a list of winners that sounds like a Who’s Who in racing annals.
Turn back the pages of time and you will find significant chapters of Minnesota racing history attached to this race, run as the Chaucer Cup from 1985-1989. Hall of Fame rider Pat Day rode the first winner, in 1985, a horse conditioned by Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, and owned by William Lucas, Canterbury’s champion owner that inaugural year of Minnesota racing.
Now add the names of Sanchez, trainer Tim Padilla and owner Alan Booge to that prestigious list of yore. Pricelesscommodity won at six furlongs over this track on May 17. Despite a delayed start out of the gate, he was in front by 4 ½ lengths at the wire. That would have been a tough assignment against the lineup for the Cup, six others that included defending champion Ghost is Clear, the Tom Amoss-trained Rise Up and the Mac Robertson-conditioned Picko’s Pride.
None of them stood a chance at the 3/8th’s pole when Sanchez asked his horse for a move that resembled a Ferrari pulling away from a group of Volkswagens. “He broke sharply this time,’’ Sanchez said. “I had a ton of horse when I asked him to go.’’
Pricelesscommodity was in front of Picko’s Pride by 4 ¾ lengths at the wire and 6 ½ ahead of 21-1 outsider Diamond Joe at the wire, finishing in 1:16.32.
A crowd of 14,101 was on hand for this Father’s Day card and watched the Dark Star Cup and the race preceding it, the $75,000 Northbound Pride Oaks. Once again, Rosemary Homeister made the most of a visit to Canterbury Park, guiding America Mon Amie to the winner’s circle, ¾ length in front of odds-on favorite Mizz Money, the front-runner and 1 ¼ length ahead of long-shot My Blue Sky.
Homeister, the 1992 Eclipse-Award winning apprentice rider, won the 2009 Lady Canterbury Stakes and won an overnight stakes in Shakopee last year. “I really like it here,’’ she said. “I’m going to seriously think about coming here next year.’’
Like the Dark Star Cup, the Northbound Pride has an illustrious history too, dating to its first running in the inaugural season of Minnesota racing in 1985. The winner that year was a ship-in from California named Savannah Slew, a daughter of Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew.
The race was worth $76,450 and all of the winning connections became Eclipse Award winning Hall of Fame inductees. Savannah Slew was owned by Allen Paulson, trained by Ron McAnally and ridden by Bill Shoemaker.
Other riders of note who rode winning horses in this race include Santiago Soto, Jean Cruget, Alex Solis and Chris Antley. Trainers of national significance who saddled winners of the Northbound Pride include McAnally, Scotty Shulhoffer and Carl Nafzger. The Race was a Grade III event when Do So won it in 1988 and Capades the following year and offered $150,000 purses both times.
SOMETHING LIKE THIS OTT NOT HAPPEN
A riderless horse at the racetrack is not an uncommon occurrence. Horses get loose on a frequent basis. But a driverless ambulance?
Blame it on a call from Mother Nature.
One morning last week, the fellow who drives the ambulance during workouts got a sudden call from nature and left his vehicle while he hustled to the men’s room in the racing office building. One problem, the call apparently was so urgent the fellow left the vehicle in neutral and in his absence it rolled through a nearby fence.
Trainer Jerry Livingston and others nearby watched the rolling ambulance with an immediate question. “Anybody in that vehicle? ‘’ they wondered.
Upon closer inspection the answer was readily apparent.
“Nope, nobody at home,’’ Livingston reported.
The fellow returned to his vehicle dead certain he had put his vehicle in park.
“No, sir, you did not,’’ Livingston said. “Because I just put it in park for you.’’
Meanwhile, a fellow approached Mark Ott, director of stable security on Sunday. “You appear to have been in the sun,’’ the fellow said with one look at Ott’s redish-brown glow.
“I owe it all to high blood pressure and alcohol,’’ Ott responded.