BY JIM WELLS
Have a good day Orlando Mojica. Better yet. Have a really good day.
He could only shake his head and smile, wiping the perspiration from his face and forehead. Saturday started out on a good note. He picked up a mount in the $200,000 Mystic Lake Derby, Canterbury Park’s richest race of the season. The opportunity alone was one he didn’t have when he went to bed on Friday night.
It got better from there.
In what turned out to be the best Derby in its fifth running, Mojica found himself in a four-way photo finish. When the traffic jam was sorted out, all that separated the four horses was a head, a nose, a neck and a neck.
Mojica’s horse, One Mean Man, was first in line, a head in front of Whatawonderflworld, who had a neck on Hay Dakota, with Way Striking another neck further back.
Although Santo Sanjur had been named on the winner, the job for undisclosed reasons opened up on Saturday morning and Mojica got the mount.
“I was really excited,’’ he said.
That feeling continued throughout the day, reached a new level at the conclusion of the Derby and was added to in the seventh race on the card, the $40,000 added Careless Navigator Stakes when Mojica brought in Line Judge for his second stakes win on the card.
The fifth running of the Derby was its most competitive and, as it turned, also its best.
“I can’t believe it,’’ said Mojica, who moved his tack to Shakopee this summer for the first time. The mount alone was a surprise. “That was a very good break,’’ he said.
And Mojica gave One Mean Man the perfect ride, moving the 6/5 favorite carefully along the rail where he made his winning bid in the final jumps, getting his head in front of 3/1 second choice Whatawonderflworld and Robby Albarado. A mere nose separated the second place horse from Hay Dakota at 9/1, with the same margin separating him from Way Striking at 5/1.
The winner is owned by Ron Hillerick of Louisville who explained the horse is his namesake in a manner of speaking, thanks to a comment from his spouse. “We have two wonderful children and one mean man,’’ he explained thumping his hand against his chest.
Trainer Bernie Flint kept a stable at Canterbury in 1985, opening year, but has been a stranger here in the years since. “I think we ran one here last year,’’ he said, more delighted with the one who ran at Canterbury Saturday night.
“He’s a wonderful horse,’’ said Flint. “He has a lot of grit. If there’s anybody closing on him he’ll get his head in front.’’
Grit is putting it lightly. The winner ran on Aug. 13, finishing fourth in the Grade I Secretariat Stakes at Arlington Park. “He ran a mile and a quarter two weeks ago,’’ Flint added. “Then he ships here and runs a race like this.’’
One Mean Man, a son of Mizzen Mast from Abbeyville Miss, was bred in Kentucky by Flint and Hillerick and adds prestige to the Derby as a previous winner of a graded stakes, the Grade II American Derby July 9 at Arlington Park.
$75,000 HBPA DISTAFF
Francisco Torres gave Prado’s Sweet Ride a solid ride and that meant a trip to the winner’s circle for the Chris Block-trained four-year-old filly.
Calypso Run led this race out of the gate at 9/5 and had Prado’s Sweet Ride at her shoulder down the backstretch but faded leaving the half mile pole and finished seventh. Torres was confident throughout, sensing that the fractions were slow and “I knew I had a ton of horse,’’ he said. “It was a dream trip.’’
Prado’s Sweet Ride demonstrated some class in this field as the winner of the Grade III Regret Stakes at Churchill Downs in June. She came into Saturday’s race well rested. Her last race was on July 7.
She moved to the lead at the three-quarter pole, had a 1 ½ length lead over Meshell at the head of the lane and held fast to finish ½ length in front. Mesell had 1 ¼ lengths on America Mon Amie at the wire.
America Mon Amie, trained by Anthony Granitz, returned to Shakopee after a third-place finish in the Lady Canterbury in June.
$75,000 BROOKS FIELDS STAKES
Majestic Pride made this one look easy under Dean Butler, going gate to wire to finish a neck in front of Go Around who mounted a closing challenge from the top of the lane but could not make up the difference.
Nun The Less, the third place finisher in the Mystic Lake Mile this year was third.
The winner is conditioned by leading trainer Mac Robertson, who said that horse and rider matched up perfectly. “Dean always wants to hold back and (this horse) always wants to go, so it worked out well.’’
Majestic Pride was pressured down the backstretch by Red Zeus and Go Around, but Butler was able to give his horse a breather on the turn and held the lead throughout, finishing in 1:37.93.
$41,300 CARELESS NAVIGATOR STAKES
There was no judge needed when Line Judge crossed the wire first in this one. He was 6 ½ lengths in front of Even Thunder and it was another 1 ¼ lengths back to Warrior’s Kid.
The winner is owned by Barry and Joni Butzow and trained by Joe Sharp, who recorded his 200th win with this score.
The win capped off a thrilling card for Mojica who rode the winner gate to wire without breaking a sweat.
INDIAN RELAY CHAMPIONSHIP
A year ago Brian Beetum came to Canterbury Park for his first attempt at this type of racing and did well, winning two heats but finishing second overall.
He dominated the proceedings this year, winning both heats and the championship.
“Congratulations. You dominated,’’ Canterbury Park CEO/president Randy Sampson told him.
Beetum lead start to finish again in the championship heat on Saturday and easily claimed the buckle and jacket that go to the winning team, in this case DD Express, representing the Cheyenne River Sioux.
The consolation title went to the Red Bone Relay team representing the Crow Tribe of Montana. The rider is Virg McCormick.