BY JIM WELLS
The weather changed patterns like Lady Gaga does wardrobes, fluctuating between forecasts of doom and gloom and sunny skies Sunday afternoon.
None of it dampened either the Fillies Race for Hope festivities or the race dedicated to the theme of the afternoon. By mere chance yet appropriately enough during this day dedicated to fight breast cancer, the day included several nods to the feminine gender.
Paddock analyst Angela Hermann was moved into the announcer’s booth in the absence of Paul Allen, who called the play-by-play for the Minnesota Vikings Hall of Fame game on Sunday.
Hermann made history a couple of years ago by becoming the first female in racing annals to call an entire card, something she did during the previous meet in Shakopee also.
That this opportunity occurred as it did, coinciding with a day dedicated to the prevention and treatment of a predominantly female disease, was serendipitous as opposed to planned.
The highlight of the racing card was the Hoist Her Flag Stakes, a $40,000 guaranteed sprint for, naturally, fillies and mares.
Speculation surrounding the race posed several questions:
Could Makinmymark extend her winning streak to four straight and at the same time do what she failed to do in this race last year _ win?
Could Polar Plunge, previously owned by late Hall of Fame breeder Cam Casby, win her second race of the year under the colors of new ownership, the Ulwellings?
Had Be Proud truly found her place on the racetrack after trying different surfaces and different distances?
The answer to the final question was a profound yes after Be Proud, who stalked the pace under Geovanni Franco through the early going, rallied on the turn and then drew off to a half-length victory over closing Polar Plunge, who had a length on Queen Kate.
“I guess sprinting is her thing,’’ said very pleased trainer Dan McFarlane. “
“No kidding,’’ said winning rider Geovanni Franco. “We tried her long, short, dirt, turf. She was right there today.’’
The win was the first for Be Proud since Franco rode her to a win on the turf at Turf Paradise in mid April.
NORTH CENTRAL QUARTER HORSE FUTURITY
The drama preceding this race, worth $42,000, included all sorts of dire weather reports and speculation that it might be delayed by approaching lightning and thunderstorms carrying torrential gallons of water.
A mere drizzle arrived, dampening only the quite faint of heart although it did subsequently evolve into considerably more rain, changing the status of the turf, for example, to the status of good in a scant few minutes.
Everything turned out just fine for the Jason Olmstead barn. Olmstead had five of the seven horses in the race after three scratches reduced the field, and Eagles Span, the 6/5 favorite and winner of the Northland Futurity, got part of a head in front of 9/1 stablemate Divas Candy Girl at the wire. Effortlessly Strut, at 7/2, was the tip of a nose behind Candy Girl.
Olmstead’s large contingent in the gate caused one tracksider to refer to the race as the Olmstead Open, but such is the nature of quarter horse racing at times_ in Minnesota for certain.
The owners of the winner, Tom and Bill Maher, were not present for the race. Eagles Span stumbled out of the gate in his last start and finished third. Rider Cody Smith had relegated that race to the distant past by post time Sunday. “You can’t let those races affect how you think going into another race,’’ he said. This time, Eagles Span broke cleanly but bobbled slightly upon reaching a darkened portion of the track before resuming an otherwise clean run to finish in 17.949.
“He would have won by even more but for that,’’ Smith added.
THOUGHTS FOR THE DAY
Here’s a thought on the first race, a quarter horse dash at 350 yards. Before the preliminaries even began _ we’re not calling this an anomaly _ a horse named After All A Blurr decided to sit in the gate and was forthwith scratched.
Imagine that __ a horse named After All A Blurr disappeared in an instant from the lineup.
Nothing terribly startling about the winner _ Regal Kate, trained by Stacy Charette-Hill, leading the standings by two wins over Jason Olmstead.
Until he cut it to one again with the win in the Futurity.