It’s Truly Obvious
by JIM WELLS
Ask anyone for his or her favorite memory from the Festival of Champions and you will get any number of responses.
For one person the day is remindful of a favorite horse, for another of a specific race, for still another of a certain year and for others it will elicit various recollections not connected to anything specific.
It’s not really much different than those memories of Christmas as a kid as opposed to those of adulthood. Some are brightly colored pictures; others are faded and vague.
Yet, the 22ND running of this event today will command its own memories for those involved in years to come, just as earlier Festivals have for others associated since the very start, on that joyful autumn day in 1992, the final day of racing in Minnesota until 1995.
Scott Stevens, who has six mounts on today’s card, can retrieve that day anytime he chooses. “I remember that it was televised locally,’’ he recalled. “I still have a VCR tape of the races.’’ He also has nine Festival wins and is tied for third all time with Seth Martinez in that department.
Dean Butler, who has nine mounts on today’s card, doesn’t associate the occasion with anything specific other than winning. He is second all time on this special card with 13 wins. Only Derek Bell, now riding in Indiana, has more, with 24.
Canterbury Park paddock analyst Angela Hermann has special memories of her introduction to Festival Day. It was 1999, dreary and rainy. “It was absolutely dreadful,’’ she said.
The memories are cherished nonetheless. She was 13 years old at the time and visiting Canterbury for what she recalls as the second time in her life.
“It was the first taste I had of what it (the Festival) meant to Minnesota,’’ she said. It was the only time she has been at the racetrack with her father and all three of her sisters.
“My dad gave each of us five bucks for the day and we all made money, enough so that we all could go out to dinner afterward.’’
Hermann still has the racing program from that long ago day. “I used to know every horse in there and every pedigree,,’’ she said, revealing the early stages of a passion that has become her livelihood.
The winner of the Classic that day was a horse named It’s Truly Obvious. “Whenever you asked Paul Allen about that horse he would always respond the same way,’’ she added. “He would always say son of Mufti.’’
So, Allen was asked on Saturday what could he recall about a horse named It’s Truly Obvious, winner of the Classic in 1999. “Son of Mufti,’’ he responded.
Owner Bob Lindgren has a very recent memory and a very special one as well. Although it doesn’t involve one of today’s stake races, his horse Thunder and Honey did win in a non stakes race last year and is running again today, in race 10.
Yet, the memory he might cherish most is based on someone else’s horse. “I don’t remember what year it was,’’ he said, “but Kevin Danger’s horse won and that gave me the pick six.’’
Well…it might have been 1998 when Danger saddled Ryan’s Moment in the Minnesota Sprint, or 1999 when he saddled the same horse and winner of the race.
Peggy Davis, the clerk of course and placing judge at Canterbury, recalls the first Festival in 1992 and a horse named Bold Sharokee, winner of the Northern Lights Debutante. The horse was owned by Paul Sampson, ridden by Stevens and trained by Mike Biehler.
“I just remember that there were so many Sampsons in the winner’s circle that you couldn’t see the horse,’’ she said. “They just coming and coming and coming.’’
Yet, one of the truly classic Festival memories doesn’t involve a winner at all. Time has obscured the year and the race, but HBPA president Tom Metzen’s wife, Karen, had a horse named Gift of Gabby, who had been shipped from Shakopee to Assiniboia Downs for a race there.
The Metzen’s trainer, he’s almost certain it was Dave Van Winkle, wanted to run the horse in the Festival. “The horse just got to the track and the driver had to run around and come back,’’ Metzen said.
Gift of Gabby finished third that day.