STARS SHINE UNDER SATURDAY NIGHT LIGHTS

Hold for More wins Minnesota Derby

Hold for More wins Minnesota Derby

BY JIM WELLS

They might start referring to this August experiment as Saturday Night Lights, and thereby turn it into something permanent for future meets. Then again, the jury is still out with most of the month still ahead.

Nonetheless, Saturday night’s mix of stake races and enticing repasts from a variety of concessionaires who parked their food trucks around the premises made for a large turnout of 14,345 and a festive atmosphere.

Anyone handicapping these races might possibly refer to it as an evening filled with food for thought.

So, chew on this for a moment or two:

A horse named Hold for More might be doing just that as he continues to accrue points in the consideration for Horse of the Year.  There were only minor questions before he lined up against eight others in the $80,000 Minnesota Derby:

Precisely how much class does he have, and can he handle a mile and 70 yards with the same aplomb and efficiency he displayed at sprint distances?

He answered both queries in convincing fashion. The evidence continues to mount that he has much more class than the other 3-year-old Minnesota-breds on the grounds; and, yes, he has the lungs, stamina and desire to run long.

Afterwards, the comments at trackside echoed his superiority. “He is the class.’’ “A mere formality.’’

Under Dean Butler, Hold for More ran well back, as much as six lengths, behind the pacesetters _ Valet and Plenty of Sun _ moved forward on the turn and drew off in the stretch to a commanding three-length win over 3-1 second choice Steviefromstanley, with Plenty of Sun an addition 6 ½ lengths back.

Owner Dale Schenian, who understandably rates his Hall of Fame horse Crocrock No. 1 on his all-time list,  is waiting for more from Hold for More. “He’s No. 2 and still climbing,’’ Schenian said.

Sent off the 2/5 favorite, Hold For More is four-for-four this year, six for seven lifetime, with one second. A son of Hold Me Back from Miners Mirage, he was bred by Dean and Teresa Benson at their Wood-Mere Farm.

Trainer Francisco Bravo’s biggest concern Friday night was all the activity his horse had not before encountered. “The lights and all the people,’’ he said. “He was shaking his head and looking around.’’

Yet when it mattered most, he attention was squarely focused on the finish line.

The Derby was preceded by the $80,000 Minnesota Oaks, at the same distance and featuring two tough fillies expected to slug it out for this crown.

Shaboom went off the favorite in the Frances Genter Stakes but was put away by Silver Magna. Those two gathered the lion’s share of attention at the betting windows, going off at 3/2 and 7/5 respectively.

Surprise!!!

Which is precisely how owner Jeff Larson put it when his Sioux Appeal commanded the stretch for a 4 ¼ length victory over Silver Magna with Captains Glory another length back. Shaboom had nothing left for the stretch drive and finished off the board in fifth.

Larson, a Hudson, Wis., resident, summed up the victory this way: “It was a nice surprise, he ran a good race and the jockey (Leandro Goncalves) rode a good race.’’

Goncalves and Sioux Appeal were well back and moved up on the turned taking the lead at the stretch call.  “We just stayed behind the speed and moved up inside waiting for our chance,’’ said Goncalves.

The chance came with the leaders faltering and the favorites unable to match strides with the winner.

In an earlier race, Stormation was much the best at 1/5 in the $40,000 Careless Navigator Overnight Stakes. Trained by Robertino Diodoro and ridden by Jorge Carreno, he finished a length in front of stablemate Cake Baby but was never in serious trouble.

Diamond Joe, with Dean Butler up, was an easy winner at 4-1 in the $40,000 John Bullit Stakes at a mile and 1/16, finishing 5 ¼ lengths in front of 12-1 Evansville Storm.

The win was the 20th for Diamond Joe, placing him among the top five all-time Nebraska-bred winners, a list that includes his sire, Dazzling Falls, at the top and Who Doctor Who, a favorite among Canterbury fans in the 1980s in second place.

Trainer Chuck Turco was a youngster at the time Who Doctor Who made his impression but is quite familiar with Nebraska-bred feats accomplished at Canterbury Park over the decades.

Diamond Joe’s win was one more reason he considered him a special horse. The fact that he grooms the horse himself is another. Saturday night’s accomplishment is another.

On a night of fine food, a large crowd and four stake races, Sir Searsucker expanded his lungs and his credentials with a convincing win at a mile and 3/8ths on the turf. Yes, that distance is correct, although there were a number of folks in the crowd who cheered twice, unaware that the distance required more than one pass in front of the grandstand.

At that point, the question arose in the hallowed confines of the press-box (racing’s closest thing to a center of learning or perhaps medieval library) regarding the reasons for the large Saturday evening turnout.  Was it the food trucks, offering a wide and seemingly unending variety of choices, or the allure of a race such as the one featuring Sir Searsucker.

“Well, the crowd did react twice for the race,’’ said pressbox librarian Jeff Maday, never one to closet his sense of humor and whimsy.

On a night of plenty, additional food for thought.

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