BY JIM WELLS
Ah…..the records keeping falling at Canterbury Park, where what is true one minute is ancient history the next.
Attendance records, wagering records, all-time returns _ all within the span of two race cards, Thursday’s and Friday’s.
There was a Canterbury Park record return on a $2 ticket Thursday in addition to an all-time wagering handle. Friday night a crowd of 20,376, a Canterbury Park record, continued the trend and another long-shot lit up the sky like a bottle rocket.
The annual fireworks display was held Friday night after the race card, but there were pyrotechnics of another nature much earlier. Take the $60,000 Princess Elaine Stakes, run for the 22nd time, as a prime example.
Any serious handicapper a person cared query had a similar assessment of the 11-horse field. “The problem with this race is that I like a lot of horses,’’ said pressbox maestro Jeff Maday. “There are nine horses is this field that can win the race,’’ said trainer Gary Scherer, who saddled Talkin Bout and B J’s Angel.
Although he begged to differ afterward, it is most probable Scherer did not have a 43-1 outsider named Aaron’s Belt in mind among the nine contenders he mentioned.
But it was Aaron’s Belt, bred, owned and trained by Greg Weir _ who campaigned a horse named Holy Moley in Shakopee oh, maybe, 30 years ago_ who dropped in out of the clouds under Eddie Martin, Jr., to run down defending champion Dear Fay in the final strides and return $88.20 on a $2 win ticket.
Afterward, Weir, a Wisconsonite who has been foaling horses in Illinois for years, said he intended to foal his mares in Minnesota hereafter. “I wouldn’t have entered this horse if I thought she couldn’t win,’’ he added. “I thought we had as good a chance as anyone.’’
Defending champ Dear Fay hadn’t run a race since last September and was a slight second choice to favored Talkin Bout but dug in to take the lead at mid stretch and appeared a winner. At the same time, Martin was calling on his mount, who ran down the leader, winning by ¾ length in 1:43.05. B J’s Angel was third, another 1 ½ lengths back.
You knew Mac Robertson was serious, determined and committed to leaving no stone unturned when he brought in Canterbury Park-bred Alex Canchari, riding this summer in Iowa, to ride A P Is Loose in the $60,000 –Blair’s Cove Stakes, the boys’ version of the Princess Elaine, also at 1 1/16 miles on the turf.
Canchari got A P is Loose, the 2-1 favorite, to settle in nicely, rating him behind Lil Apollo much of the way before giving him his head for the stretch run. A P finished one length in front of Bourbon County, who had a head on Lil Apollo.
“I couldn’t believe that they let us go so easy,’’ said Canchari, whose mount finished in 1:44.63, after fractions of 25.23, 51.08, 1:15.26 and 1:38.87.
“Yes, he likes to go,’’ said winning owner Joel Zamzow. “But he’s learning.’’
Well enough to collect a check for $36,000 Friday night.
THE CROWD IGNORED THIS CONGREGATION
Marlys Gobel wasn’t at Canterbury Park on Thursday night. A Canterbury Park Hall of fame breeder with her late husband, Alvin, she watched the races on her home computer, one in particular.
She, her son and daughter-in-law, Jon and Jennifer, own a three-year-old filly named Congregation, who left the maiden ranks Thursday night with a record-setting performance in the fourth race.
Congregation, with Jenna Joubert in the irons, made a late charge along the rail to catch the wire first, a neck in front of Disones Pretty. Nothing terribly newsworthy about that, but anyone with a $2 win ticket on her got a very unusual return. How about $161, a Canterbury record. “It was very exciting,’’ said Marlys. “But I didn’t have one thin dime on her.’ ’
The win verified what Joubert and trainer Vic Hanson were convinced the horse needed. She was 0-3 in her brief career but still awaiting her first start on the grass, where they thought she belonged. Her bloodlines strongly suggested it. “We were hoping she’d like it and she did,’’ Joubert said.
The horse had been entered previously in grass races that were moved onto the dirt so it wasn’t as if they trying. “The last time we got rained off the grass,’’ said Hanson. “We ran in the mud and that was not any good. Our plan all along was to get her on the grass and it was amazing the way she took to it.’’
As for the Canterbury record return, it surpassed the previous standard of $153 returned by Burning Fuhry on July 5 last year.
Joubert has ridden horses with bigger returns in her career. “I’m surprised that’s the biggest here, but it’s really cool,’’ she said. “I think my biggest was 128-1 at Hoosier Park.’’
It was a record for Hanson, though. He had never before saddled a winner with that kind of return. “It was a dandy. That’s for sure,’’ he said. He does intend to keep this particular win picture. “I think we will. I think we will,’’ he said. “It’s historical right now, isn’t it.’’