BY JIM WELLS
How about the largest field for a race this year other than the Kentucky Derby, a race in which the track announcer can’t call a winner because, as Paul Allen put it Saturday, “I had no idea who won.’’
Not because there was a photo finish involved. Even the winning jockey was left shaking his head.
Welcome to the Battle of the Surfaces, 11 horses running on the turf and seven on the dirt….in the same race, part of the annual Extreme Day at Canterbury Park which drew a crowd of 18,746.
“I got confused. I knew I was winning in my group (on the dirt),’’ said Orlando Mojica. “But the others I couldn’t tell. They were all looking at each other. ‘’
Yes, it can get weird, particularly when horses running on the dirt, or vice versa, begin eyeing one another across the way. Call it organized confusion.
So, once again a horse on the dirt won this race, even though the distances for the two surfaces was tweaked again this season. No grass runner has ever won.
Welcome to a strange race that highlights a day of racing involving ostriches, camels and zebras and exotic races to boot.
Mojica, aboard Towpath, trained by Lynn Rarick, finished 2 ¾ lengths in front of Gavar (both runners on the dirt) and 5 ½ in front of Sam’s Silver Star (on the turf).
Eighteen horses leaving the paddock at Canterbury prompted one observer to proclaim. “They just keep coming and coming. It’s like people climbing out of a clown car.’’
CANTERBURY DASH IN A FLASH STAKES
Racing a mile and a quarter?
A clock between the ears helps, so does the ability to judge what others around you are doing and the sensitivity to measure the gas left in your horse without benefit of a fuel gage and to take the rail and save ground if possible.
Racing 110 yards?
The axiom on this one parallels another long held belief in the real estate profession about location, location, location. Only in this case, it’s all about the break, the break, the break.
Divas Candy Girl applied that understanding to near perfection, breaking like she was a long narrow missile leaving Cape Canaveral, a start that enabled her to outnose Sudden Separation in the $22,700 Dash in a Flash Stakes, another novelty race part of the annual Extreme Day of racing in Shakopee.
“Wow, that’s the blankety blank way to leave the gate,’’ intoned winning trainer Jason Olmstead
“I warmed her up pretty good and she took off out of there really quick,’’ said winning rider Brayan Velazquez.
“A short race like this, the break is the whole thing,’’ said winning owner Thomas Scheckel, a native of Bellevue, Iowa.
Divas Candy Girl, a 3-year-old filly by Spit Curl Jess, won for the first time this year and fourth time in her career in nine starts.
She returned $27.40, $10.40 and $5.20 across the board as a 12-1 choice, outdueling sudden Separation at 5/2 and Dash Around Blues at 15-1.
Sometimes all a guy, or a horse, needs to win in this sport is a break.
A clean, quick one.
SPURT IN THE DIRT
If 110 yards for quarter horses sounds weird, how about two furlongs for thoroughbreds.
You have to go like crazy in this one, and Scott Bethke aboard World Famous Sam T, trained and owned by his father, Troy, did just that, bringing home the bacon as they say.
Anyone who walked in on this one unaware, would have sworn he/she was watching a quarter horse race. It capped off a two-race sweep for Bethke, who won the fourth race at 21-0 aboard Jerry’s Two Tickets, trained by Thad Keller.
THE DUCK RACE
This race is for trainers who had not saddled a winner this year, at least at the time of entry, a distinction that became necessary this time around.
Chuck Turco saddled Dusty Princess in this one and Virginia Peters sent out One Won Eleven. Both trainers were winless at the time they entered horses for the race but had shed that dubious distinction in the days after.
Saturday, Turco added to his yearly total in the W column after Dusty Princess raced home in front of Poverty Flats.
CAMELS, OSTRICHES and ZEBRAS
Camels, camels, camels. A barrel of fun for the kids and a kegful of laughs for mom and dad, and it took a barrel racer to win this event on Saturday.
Michelle Benson, the track’s digital media specialist, has been riding horses since before she learned to walk and has been barrel racing competitively since she eight or nine year old.
Saturday, she turned her first time aboard a camel into a winning ride, guiding Rock N Spit to a clear victory over three others, namely Donald Hump, Hillary Camelton and Frank Underhump.
She was thrilled to get the opportunity and, upon learning that the Ostrich race was short a rider, campaigned vigorously for a chance to add the big bird to her list of animals she has ridden.
She got it.
“It was fun,’’ she said. “It was (at times) like riding a horse with the saddle slipping.’’
Nonetheless, she finished third in the race, and her mind went blank after crossing the finish line. “We were told how to dismount,’’ she said, “but I forgot what was said.’’
“I basically just tucked and rolled,’’ she said.
Michelle was quite satisfied with her third place finish. “You have to remember,’’ she said, “I basically was spotting those other riders (all jockeys) about 15 pounds.’’
The winner was a new rider at Canterbury, Carlos Esquilin, aboard an Ostrich named Kim KarDASHIN. Had he ever ridden a big bird before?
“No, never in my life,’’ he said. “It was fun
It was also his first win at Canterbury.
Oh, the Zebras. They looked a little tired on Saturday. Maybe lazy is a better adjective. They ran a little but not exactly in a straight line.
One jockey suggested putting blinkers on them to correct the latter fault.
Not necessary, he was told. Sic a lion on them. They’ll run a lot straighter and faster.
Tara Coombs picked up where Michelle Benson left off. Winning another one for the women, aboard a zebra named WeGottaStreaker, one of the few around who gives his all. It was Tara’s second time aboard the striped fellows and she outrode three others.
Photos by Coady Photography