By JIM WELLS
Western hats, feathered headgear, dresses, shawls, western boots, scarves, even gate passes, added a flourish of, what else, pink to the surroundings Sunday during the sixth annual Fillies Race for Hope, a day devoted to fund raising for and recognition of survivors of breast cancer.
Everywhere you care to look were combinations of pink. Canterbury employees, even the valets, wore pink tee shirts. Patrons spiced it up considerably more, with wide Kentucky Derby-style hats in pink as well as various other unusual combinations.
Even the feature race of the day was resurrected to provide a race featuring fillies only. The Hoist Her Flags stakes was scratched from the original stakes lineup this year but was brought back as an overnight $41,800 sprint and drew a field of 10, reduced to eight after scratches by Broadway Play and Donita’s Ruler.
The prerace conversation included mainly two horses, the bulk of the respect resting on Ball and Chain, a five-year-old daughter of Exchange Rate from I Luv U Nani, sent off at 4/5.
With a record of 6-1-0 from nine career starts, including six consecutive wins, she was tough to overlook and attracted the lion’s share of attention at the windows.
Ciaran’s Prize drew high respect, as well and was sent off at 5/2, having hit the board 13 times in 21 starts with six wins and most earnings of the starters with $162,943.
That pretty much summed it up in the minds of several prognosticators, who expected those two to fight it out.
As it was, the trainer of Ciaran’s Prize, Joel Berndt, changed plans after Broadway Play and Bonita’s Ruler scratched.
“Without those two, we felt we needed to press the pace a little more,’’ said Berndt. “You gamble that you’ll have enough horse left if you do, but we did it and it worked.’’
Indeed, Ciaran’s Prize, with Orlando Mojica in the irons, ran down the front-running and tiring favorite and finished ½ length in front of 32-1 choice Discreetly Grand, with another half length back to Ball and Chain. The winning time was 1:10.05.
The winning trophy was presented by Hall of Fame inductees Dan and Bev Mjolsness, who owned Hoist Her Flag, the Hall of Fame horse for whom the race is named.
Hoist Her Flag is among the best fillies or mares to race in Shakopee and was a crowd favorite in the 1980s.
It’s been described in numerous ways, but the tail that floated behind her like a windsock was her trademark, a distinguishing anatomical feature that served as a flag, very often a checkered flag.
She was referred to frequently as the Queen of Canterbury and was twice selected Horse of the Year, winning that honor in 1987 and 1989. She held that distinction alone until Heliskier was voted the track’s top horse in 2012 and 2013.
She broke her maiden at Canterbury Downs in its inaugural season, 1985, competing against top notch competition during a meet that attracted some of the best barns in the nation.
Television racing reporter Donna Barton was in the irons on Hoist for her last six starts and considered her one of the three best horses she rode. Other riders had similar sentiments.
One prominent turf writer expressed this opinion: “When the history of Canterbury Downs is written, the exploits of Hoist Her Flag will occupy an important chapter.’’
Those opinions were reinforced by the Thoroughbred Times in 1989 which recognized Hoist Her Flag as one of the top 12 female sprinters in North American racing.
Her career statistics did nothing to detract from that opinion either. The Queen won 19 races, 17 of them at Canterbury Downs, including 11 stakes, and earned $290,849, finishing in the money 33 times from 43 career starts.
On Sunday, it was Ciaran’s Prize that added her name to the list of winners in this race. On this particular day, it was this five-year-old daughter of Yes It’s Time that finished in the pink.