Canterbury Park Jockey Denny Velazquez

Denny Velazquez is one of the top riders at Canterbury Park.  On Sunday he won the $100,000 Mystic Lake Mile on Hay Dakota.

Learn more about Denny in this video:



Hay Dakota


The connections in horse racing are sometimes astounding as well as confounding and on a strange afternoon at the racetrack some of that played out during a card that featured exceptional stakes racing and some mind-boggling vignettes as well.

Highlights are simple to point out: The two $100,000 stakes on the card, The Lady Canterbury and the Mystic Lake Mile, arguably the best in many years and among the best ever. Granted, the Mile was only run for the fifth time on Sunday, but the Lady Canterbury made its 25th appearance.

Mingled with heart-pounding finishes in those races and heart-warming stories to go with them were the unceremonious unseating of four riders during the card. One at the start of the fifth race resulted in a loose horse whose interference with the remaining field caused stewards to declare it a non-race.

Those episodes were balanced by some of the finest racing yet this summer in two exceptional stakes events that included parallels with the past and unexpected, much appreciated phone calls to the winner’s circle.

Sweet Tapper


Think back to 1990 and the Kentucky Derby, trainer Carl Nafzger and Minnesotan Frances Genter celebrating their Kentucky Derby winner Unbridled, trainer and owner featured in a heart-warming video that played over and over again on sports networks across the nation. It was the biggest win at that point for a woman involved in racing for decades.  Trainer and owner were later inducted into the Canterbury Park Hall of Fame.

Now, shift to the winner’s circle at Canterbury Park on Sunday and  a 4-year-old filly named Sweet Tapper, a 4-year-old daughter of Tapit owned by Lorie Michaels of Wayzata, whose celebration included a phone call from none other than Carl Nafzger.

The trainer of record for the winner is Ian Wilkes, once an understudy to Nafzger who is trying his best to retire without complete success.

Michaels and her husband, Bob, have been in racing for about a dozen years but celebrated the biggest win of their racing involvement on Sunday, their first stakes victory.

“It was absolutely wonderful. I couldn’t be any happier,’’ Lorie told Nafzger.

She gave this victory to her husband. “It’s his father’s day gift,’’ she said.

It was a victory, too, another victory, for jockey Orlando Mojica, who won two stakes races and finished second in a third last weekend.

Sweet Tapper,8-1, was hemmed in along the rail coming out of the turn, but his rider was not concerned. “I had plenty of horse and I found an opening inside.’’

Just in time. Mojica made his bid from there and caught Insta Erma, the even-money favorite, at the wire by a neck, finishing in 1:35.88. Seeking Treasure at 6-1 was next, 1 ¼ lengths further back.



Local trainer, local rider, owner a neighbor from South Dakota.

That connection provided the winner for the fifth running of the mile, an aptly named Hay Dakota, a Kentucky-bred son of Haynesfield.

The race included 5/2 Majestic Pride, last year’s Horse of the Year and One Mean Man, winner of the 2016 Mystic Lake Derby and the 2-1 favorite.

Hay Dakota, meanwhile, was sent off by the crowd of 14,150, at 6-1. Sixth out of the gate in the eight-horse field, Hay Dakota under Denny Velazquez tracked the leaders from the second flight, came four wide on the turn and made his bid from there, finishing a head in front of Majestic Pride and another half length in front of Way Striking, finishing in 1:35.37.

Asked how his heart held up during the stretch run, winning trainer Joel Berndt seemed more concerned about his vocal cords. “It’s my voice,’’ he said. “I was riding the race from the quarter pole on. If you recall, I lost the Mystic Derby last year by a neck.’’ By that, he meant that Hay Dakota had finished third in the race, a neck out of second place and another nose from first.

Moments earlier Sunday, Canterbury Hall of Fame trainer Doug Oliver had been to the winner’s circle to visit old friends. He once trained for old friends. He once trained for Alice Mettler of Wall, S.D., owner of Hay Dakota.


The Fiscal Cliff, a 4-year-old Pyc Paint Your Wagon colt, had his way with nine rivals in Sunday’s opening stakes race, named for a long-time contributor to Minnesota’s horse industry.

Bet too much against Sunday’s winner and a person might end up falling off a fiscal cliff himself.

Eighteen races. First or second seventeen times. Eleven wins. A Grade II winner and runnerup in races at Remington Park.

He could have spotted his competition a length or two and still won this race, although he needed a rare reminder from his rider after shifting his weight in the gate and not breaking cleanly.

Not that he needed the tap as everything turned out. The Fiscal Break appeared to do all that was necessary under the circumstances.

“He didn’t break real well. Couldn’t get hold of the ground,’’ said owner Thomas Lepic of Iowa City, Iowa. “We rarely touch him, but he did take hold.’’

Winning trainer Kasey Willis had even more to celebrate. He also saddled Streakin PR, the second-place horse.

Winning rider Benito Baca told Lepic afterward that his horse didn’t break in a straight line after shifting in the gate but acquired his footing and took charge of the competition, finishing in 17.75 seconds.

Lepic said he will continue training his horse here in preparation for the Bank of America Canterbury Park Challenge on July 4.

Sunday’s race is named for Skip Zimmerman, a quarter horse and thoroughbred owner and breeder who was a charter member of the Minnesota Quarter Horse Racing Association and a member of the HBPA board of directors. Zimmerman died of a heart problem on March 6, 2007.


Hay Dakota wins G3 Commonwealth Turf Stakes


Trainer Joel Berndt, a regular at Canterbury Park over the past years, won the first graded stakes race of his career when Hay Dakota stormed down the middle of the turf course Saturday evening at Churchill Downs, getting up to win the grade three $100,000 Commonwealth Turf Stakes by a neck at odds of 29 to 1 with another Canterbury connection, jockey Denny Velazquez, aboard.

“I wanted to add that to my resume,” Berndt said Sunday of the graded stakes win. “I was confident last night. He overcame a rough start. Denny did a great job.” He had reasons to be based on Hay Dakota’s troubled summer in Shakopee.

Berndt, originally from South Dakota, has been training for 25 years. He began his career at Fonner Park in Grand Island, NE in 1991 but moved to Chicago, where he had spent much of his youth, in 1993 and now calls the Windy City home.

Hay Dakota raced near the back of the 11-horse field in the 1 1/16th mile Commonwealth. The 3-year-old gelding was fanned 10 wide entering the top of the lane and had more than 10 lengths to make up.

When he began rolling down the middle of the track Berndt “knew we were going to get a check” but those thoughts quickly changed to victory as Hay Dakota was gobbling up ground.  Velazquez urged Hay Dakota on and passed favored Bondurant just before the wire. He returned $60.20 to win.

Hay Dakota raced five times at Canterbury this past summer, breaking his maiden and winning a restricted allowance before finishing third by a neck in the $200,000 Mystic Lake Derby, a race where he had simply too much ground to make up on a course kind to horses near the pace. One Mean Man  won the Mystic Lake Derby and was also entered in the Commonwealth but was no match for the winner and settled for seventh beaten more than three lengths by Hay Dakota.

“We sort of turned the tables on One Mean Man and beat a salty field,” Berndt said.

Hay Dakota raced on Canterbury’s closing day and suffered through a very tough trip where he was stopped more than once. His next start at Hawthorne resulted in a pristine trip and a win in a gallop at 9 to 1.

“Those people that watched him at Canterbury this summer knew the trouble he had,” Berndt said. “Sometimes you know what you have; he just didn’t get trip.” Hay Dakota more than made up for that Saturday at Churchill.

Berndt will now consider the $125,000 Claiming Crown Emerald at Gulfstream Park on Dec. 3 as a possibility. “We will take a look at the nominations and decide. It’s only three weeks away. The good thing is a race doesn’t take a lot out of him. He bounces back quickly. And he really only laid himself down for a quarter mile yesterday.”

Photos courtesy of Coady Photography


Denny Velazquez

Denny V

By Kristin Bechthold

Denny Velazquez is a jockey that brings his passion to the racetrack every morning. He considers his career a dream come true and claims that it is “better than being anything in the world.” He also brings an undying enthusiasm to the sport and loves the atmosphere of the crowd at Canterbury Park. “I’m outgoing and spontaneous. I like to entertain people. I’ve always been ‘the funny guy,’” he said.

Velazquez made is career debut here at Canterbury Park when he was just sixteen years old. He considers one of the best days of his life to be when he got his first jockey’s license. As of today, he has been racing for six years.

Velazquez grew up in the small town of Jones, Oklahoma, which he refers to as “the middle of nowhere.” He grew up around horses and racing since his father was a trainer, who taught him everything he knows about horses and riding. “I always wanted to be a jockey,” he said. He received a pony for his eighth birthday and started galloping horses at Remington Park at just twelve years old.

If he wasn’t riding, Velazquez would like to be a concrete worker. In addition to being a racehorse trainer, his father is also a contractor and taught him how to work with concrete, as well. “I always liked it,” he said.” “I like to work with my hands.”



Outside of racing, Velazquez’s hobbies are golfing and fishing. “I’m not a very good golfer, but I like to do it,” he said. Although he likes to golf all over, he enjoys Minnesota for fishing.

Velazquez now races at Hawthorne Race Course in Chicago and Fair Grounds Race Course in New Orleans in addition to Canterbury. His goals for the future are to improve his riding, keep learning, and ride horses that may elevate his career.

Fillies Race for Hope

Second%20Street%20City%20-%20Hoist%20Her%20Flag%20Stakes%20-%2008-17-13%20-%20R07%20-%20CBY%20-%20Inside%20FinishPink hats, dresses, flowers, horses. Even little girls in pink wings. The starting gate was festooned in pink, and the scroll designating the type of race on the tote board television screen was the same color. It was Fillies Race for Hope day at Canterbury Park, an annual event to raise awareness and money for the support of families fighting breast cancer.

A contest was conducted for the best-dressed horse in pink and the best pink hat.

On the racing front, the card included the $30,900 Hope Bonus Challenge for quarter horses, and two stakes for thoroughbreds, the $50,000 Hoist Her Flag and $50,000 Minnesota HBPA Distaff.

On a day of outright pinkness, anyone who took a tip from Captain Mark Ott wound up in the pink as well.

Although the money was largely on Stacy Charette-Hill’s horse, Corono Mit Go, in the Hope Bonus Challenge, Ott broke with what has been tradition all summer whenever Ms. Charette-Hill saddles a horse.

“There’s going to be an upset in this one,” he said. “Take it to the bank.”

Betting against Charette-Hill this summer has been akin to lunacy. Not this time, and the Ottman called it.

Had there been a pink-dress contest, one of Canterbury Park’s own, paddock analyst Angela Hermann, would have fared well if not stolen the award outright in a brilliant lace creation that appeared fuchsia in color but was labeled Shocking R (rose?). A $650 item that Ms Hermann testified under oath was purchased on sale.


This race was named in honor of the track’s only two-time horse of the year, and included a rodeo before post time.

That incident resulted in the scratching of Hot Body, which reduced the field to six starters.

It turned into a one-horse race for first, and a one-horse race for second.

The winner was Second Street City, pictured above, with Denny Velazquez winning his first career stake race in a rout. Second Street finished 7 ¼ lengths in front of Missjeanlouise, who was 7 ½ lengths better than Tessie Flip. The winning time was 1:10.08.

Velazquez was completing his post-race interview as he headed to the jockey lounge, his attention focused on the person beside him inquiring about the race.

When he looked up, valet Nate Quinonez was waiting with a bucket of water to greet the first-time stake winner. “Oh, hell, no,” Velazquez yelped as he tried to outrun the dousing to no avail. There was more to come when he reached the jockey lounge.

Second Street City was not involved in the rodeo exhibition that preceded the race.

The jockeys had just mounted their horses in the paddock and began their walk around the ring. Cruzette, with Justin Shepherd up, froze, causing a traffic backup. Next in line, Scott Stevens dismounted. His horse, Tiz Roses, made an attempt to hit the infield but was quickly apprehended. But one slot back, Hot Body, with Anne Von Rosen up, bolted to the side and crashed through the fence surrounding the paddock walking ring. She was scratched from the race, examined later by track veterinarian Lynn Hovda and given a clean bill of health.


A field of seven lined up for this 1 1/16 mile event on the turf, but it belonged entirely to Starry Eyed Kate under a gutsy ride from Alex Canchari after they took charge on the turn and refused to give up the rail or the lead.

Quinichette and Dean Butler tried but faded to fifth. Grandma’s Rules tried too with a spirited stretch charge, but the winner outlasted that one by a neck.

The stake win was the fourth at Canterbury Park for the young rider this summer. He also won the Manitoba Derby and a stake at Oaklawn Park. It was also a positive way to serve out the remainder of a four-day suspension that began on Friday but was not enforced for stake race commitments.

The winner is trained by Mac Robertson and owned by Hugh Robertson and Barry Butzow.

Butzow extolled the manner in which Canchari took aspects of the race into account as they unfolded.

“The pace was slow (51.24 and 1:15.52) so he decided to just sit there on the rail,” said Butzow. “He’s a good little rider.”

On the rail?

“Yeah, I was skimming it,” said Canchari.


Glory on the racetrack is a fleeting commodity, there one instant and gone the next.

Nobody knows it better than trainer Kasey Willis of Colman, Okla., who has lost a few matchups this summer in Shakopee to trainer Stacy Charette-Hill.

“It’s nice to get one back,” he said after the $30,900 Fillies and Mares Race for Hope Bonus Challenge at 400 yards.

How about finishing one-two, as Glory Rider and Dreamwideopen did for Willis on Saturday.

Willis and Charette-Hill compete at many of the same racetracks, so they’ve beaten and lost to one another on numerous occasions.

Willis wasn’t quite sure what to expect from his two starters. It might have ended up the other way around.

Dreamwideopen has the same dam, This Dreams Flying, as does another horse familiar to Canterbury folks, the Amber Blair-trained Hes Relentless, the fastest qualifier for the $2.6 million All American Futurity at Ruidoso Downs this weekend.

But on Saturday it was Glory Rider under Agustin Silva who covered the 400 yards in 20.32, a head in front of his stablemate, who had a neck on the third-place horse, Corona Mit Go, trained by Charette-Hill.

“She stumbled a bit (out of the gate),” said Silva, “but she righted herself and went on with it.’’

This blog was written by Canterbury Staff Writer Jim Wells. Wells was a longtime sportswriter at the Pioneer Press and is a member of the Canterbury Park Hall of Fame.

Sunday Saratoga Connections

Designer%20Legs%20-%20%2006-28-13%20-%20R06%20-%20CBY%20-%20FinishMost of the attention Sunday in the $20,000-added Cash Caravan Stakes was on defending champion Streak N Hot, Bob Morehouse winner Western Fun and a well-rested Naketa, making her first start in 13 months.

That’s the fun of a 440-yard quarter horse dash, as Explosive Guns demonstrated with an explosive burst under Jorge Torres, enabling him to put the tip of his nose in front of Tres My Tracks and Ry Eikleberry in the final jump

“He broke a little slowly,” said Torres, the leading quarter horse rider at Canterbury. “I gave him a little smack and he picked it up from there.”

Explosive Guns was a 6-1 choice in the six-horse field, behind Western Fun at 2-1, Tres My Tracks at 5-2 and Streak N Hot at 7-2. Western Fun was third under Stormy Smith and Naketa, 5-1, next with Mark Luark up.

The winner, timed in 22:09, is owned by Fred Pelzer of Royalton.

In the winner’s circle was Doug Hoseck of Hector, the owner of Beauty’s Prince, the No. 6 horse in the race and also the owner of Cash Caravan, who raced three seasons during the Canterbury Downs era.

Fourstardave Brings Back Fond Memories

Remember Fourstardave, the winner of the third St. Paul Derby and second New York-bred to win the most prestigious race in Canterbury Downs history?

Well, the folks in New York certainly do. Known as the Sultan of Saratoga, Fourstardave is one of three horses buried in Claire Court at Saratoga, honored thusly because he won at least one race at the Spa from 1987 to 1994.

Fourstar finished his career with a 21-18-16 record from 99 starts and earnings of $1.636 million.

He was preceded as a St. Paul Derby winner by another New York-bred named Cheapskate, who won the inaugural race in 1986 as a 72-1 longshot.

All of that is a long way of saying that $500,000 Grade II Fourstardave Handicap was run at Saratoga on Saturday. Earlier run as the Daryl’s Joy Handicap, Fourstardave won the race himself. It was renamed in his honor for the first time in 1996.

The winner on Saturday was the current horse of the year, Wise Dan, who took charge in midstretch to win easily by a length over King Kreese despite carrying 129 pounds, 12 more than the second place horse.


The 97th running of the $200,000 Grade II Adirondack drew special attention from a number of folks at Canterbury Park on Sunday. The race included a two-year-old filly named Designer Legs (pictured above) who broke her maiden in Shakopee on June 28 with Denny Velazquez up.

Trained at that point by Gary Scherer, Designer Legs is owned by John and Sally Valene, long-time participants in Minnesota’s thoroughbred industry. The two-year-old daughter of Graeme Hall from Elegant Designer is currently trained by Dallas Stewart.

The Valenes watched the race at Canterbury Park and were delighted with the win, which required a stewards’ inquiry to alter the outcome.

Designer Legs finished maybe a long nose behind Who’s In Town. However, that one was involved in a significant bumping incident with the heavy favorite Fiftyshadesofgold. The stewards determined that Who’s In Town caused Fiftyshadesofgold a chance at a better placing and a defeat by a nose for Designer Legs became a victory via disqualification.

Velazquez was asked about the horse shortly before Sunday’s race. After breaking her maiden in Shakopee she won for a second time at Prairie Meadows.

“She’s a very nice filly. A fast filly,” he said.

He had a chance to ride her at Prairie Meadows as well.

“Yeah, you liked her so well you stayed here to ride an ostrich,” Scott Stevens joshed the young rider.

Small consolation, but Velazquez did win the ostrich race on extreme day.

Paddock analyst Angela Hermann was on the right horse on the right day, however. She was on Designer Legs like a Wall Street broker on an inside tip.

This blog was written by Canterbury Staff Writer Jim Wells. Wells was a longtime sportswriter at the Pioneer Press and is a member of the Canterbury Park Hall of Fame.

Mystic Lake Derby Day Nears

MysticDerby_LogoGo ahead and pick up the champagne, dig out the attire you wore last year for the race, careful to assure everything is the same, not a single accoutrement out-of-place, cross your fingers and don’t say anything that might be construed as a jinx.

“My dad’s superstitious,” said Lori Keith. “It will have to be the same shirt, everything.”

The topic at hand is the second running of the Mystic Lake Derby on Saturday and the preparations of Mr and Mrs. Keith – William and Philomena (or Bill and Phil as they’re known) – for Saturday’s race.

For the uniformed, Lori Keith, a native of England and a regular rider at Canterbury Park, won the first running of the biggest race in Canterbury Park history last year aboard Hammers Terror, owned by Terry Hamilton and trained by Michael Stidham.

Bill asked his daughter in a recent conversation whether she would ride in the race again this year. When she informed him that the chances appeared good, he began making plans. “He wanted to know if he should get the champagne,” Lori said.

Keith’s parents, who own a restaurant in the South of France, watched the inaugural running down the street from the restaurant, at an acquaintance’s home. Good viewing, just a matter of connecting the laptop to the telly, as they say, and they saw their daughter win the biggest race of her career.

They plan on looking in again on Saturday.

Keith will ride a horse named Dorsett, owned once again by Hamilton and trained once again by Stidham. And, get this, she is breaking from the No. 2 hole in an eight-horse field, just as last year.

A year ago, Keith took the morning line second choice to the winner’s circle after surviving a stewards’ inquiry for interference in the stretch. This time she is on the 5/2 morning line favorite.

“I think he has a great shot,” she said. “On paper he looks very good, but I think it will be a very competitive race.”

Dorsett, a son of Artie Schiller from Dontgetnmyway, has two wins, a second and a third from eight career starts with earnings of $74,670. He is part of a field of eight that will engage at one mile on the turf.

$200,000 Mystic Lake Derby Field & Morning Line
PP Horse Trainer Jockey ML
1    Impassable Canyon Michael Maker Victor Lebron 5-1
2 Dorsett Michael Stidham Lori Keith 5/2
3 Finding Candy Michael Biehler Denny Velazquez 12-1
4 Coastal Breeze Wayne Catalano Channing Hill 4-1
5 Kale’s Kourage Kelly Von Hemel Ry Eikleberry 10-1
6 Evan’s Calling Neil Pessin Eddie Martin Jr. 8-1
7 Red Zeus Dan McFarlane Alex Canchari 6-1
8 Officer Alex Lynn Whiting Leandro Goncalves 9/2

Last year the purse was for a guaranteed $150,000 and produced a total of $162,000 and change after adding in the entry fees. This year the race offers a guaranteed $200,000. The lion’s share of that funding, $150,000, is provided by the Mystic Lake purse enhancement fund.

The inside post was drawn by Impassable Canyon, a colt by Tapit from Anna Forever, owned by F. Thomas Conway and trained by Mike Maker.

Finding Candy will line up in the No. 3 hole. He is a colt by Candy Ride, owned locally by Al and Bill Ulwelling and trained by Mike Biehler.

The No. 4 hole will go to Coastal Breeze, a colt by Empire Maker that is owned by Barry Golden and trained by Wayne Catalano. The No. 5 hole belongs to Kale’s Kourage who has earned $85,511 lifetime and has won three of his seven career starts. He is owned by Pam Von Hemel and trained by Kelly Von Hemel.

Lining up in the No. 6 spot will be Evan’s Calling, with one win in 11 career starts. The No. 7 belongs to Red Zeus, who has earned $112, 426, running primarily at Turf Paradise in Phoenix with two starts locally, including a win at six furlongs his last out. He is owned by Peggy Hopwood and trained by Dan McFarlane.

Officer Alex drew the outside post. He has earned $163,000 running on the circuit between Churchill Downs and Oaklawn Park. He is trained by Lynn Whiting, who saddled Lil E. Tee, the winner of the 1992 Kentucky Derby.

So, there you have it, the lineup for the richest race in Canterbury Park history, a whopping $200,000 guaranteed and an opportunity for Lori Keith to top last year’s take.

“Oh, I can’t believe it,” she said. “I’m keeping my fingers crossed.”

Is superstition a genetic trait?


Both races offer $100,000-guaranteed purses.

The Oaks at a mile on the turf has been run in some form, fashion or name since 1985 and was won in 2012 by Soonerette, ridden by riding champion Tanner Riggs for Donnie Von Hemel.

$100,000 Northbound Pride Oaks & Morning Line Odds
PP Horse Trainer Jockey ML
1    Eden Prairie Neil Pessin Channing Hill 3-1
2 Kipling’s Joy Michael Stidham Dean Butler 9/2
3 Stoupinator Mac Robertson Alex Canchari 5-1
4 I’m Already Sexy Wayne Catalano Scott Stevens 4-1
5 Seeking Treasure Larry Dunbar Ry Eikleberry 10-1
6 Raising Dakota Tevis McCauley Luis Garcia 8-1
7 Kissmeimdanish Valorie Lund Derek Bell 8-1
8 American Sugar Kenneth McPeek Victor Lebron 6-1

Saturday’s edition has a field of eight, including the Ken McPeek-trained American Sugar, who is trying the grass for the first time and is 5-0-3 from 13 starts with earnings of more than $200,000. Robert Lothenbach’s Eden Prairie is 2-0-1 from six grass starts and earnings of $70,000-plus. Michael Stidham’s Kipling’s Joy is 2-0-3 from nine career starts, both wins on the grass, with earnings of $62,200.

I’m Already Sexy arrived from Arlington Park and has won twice from three turf starts, is three-for-six overall, and earned $81,141. Wayne Catalano trains. Locally-owned Stoupinator, trained by Mac Robertson, has hit the board three times in three turf starts and is 2-1-2 overall from six career starts with earnings of $76,000. Here’s a look at the field:

The Juvenile, for colts/geldings and fillies, is being run for the first time, at 7 and 1/2 furlongs on the turf and has attracted a field of nine boys.

$100,000 Shakopee Juvenile Field & Morning Line Odds
PP Horse Trainer Jockey ML
1    A P Is Loose Michael Biehler Lori Keith 6-1
2 Aft Michael Lauer Leandro Goncalves 8-1
3 Rumbauer David Van Winkle Ry Eikleberry 6-1
4 My Corinthian Dane Kobiskie Luis Garcia 7/2
5 Fling Orrin Cogburn Eddie Martin Jr. 12-1
6 Clarisimo Sandra Sweere Nik Goodwin 10-1
7 General Jack Michael Maker Victor Lebron 3-1
8 Chairman Crooks Tony Rengstorf Dean Butler 6-1
9 Pure Surprize Vic Hanson Jenna Joubert 10-1

Among those is a 2-year-old colt named General Jack, a Kentucky-bred son of Giant’s Causeway who is looking to break his maiden on Saturday after running second among maiden special weights for $70,000 at Belmont Park.

He had a bullet work in late June and is trained by Mike Maker who has made a habit of winning big races at Canterbury.

Aft, trained by Michael Lauer, broke his maiden last time out in Indiana. Lauer tried to run Aft on the lead his first out and finished second. He ran him off the pace in his second start with improved results.

My Corinthian has hit the board three times in three career starts and was the first of the shippers to arrive, stabling here on Monday. He is trained by Dane Kobiskie. He is 1-1-1 from three career starts and is 1-1-0 from two outs on the grass.

Mike Biehler will saddle A P Is Loose, who ran third in his first start, at Canterbury on July 11. Clarisimo, trained by Sandra Sweere, is another local horse who broke his maiden here on June 16. Dave Van Winkle will saddle locally stabled Rumbauer, who broke his maiden under Ry Eikleberry on July 11 in his second start.

Vic Hanson will send out Pure Surprize, a local juvenile who broke his maiden at first asking on July 14. Fling, trained by Orrin Cogburn, did not hit the board in two previous starts.

Curtis Sampson’s Chairman Crooks, named for the late leader of the Mdewakanton Community, is trying the grass for the first time. He broke his maiden first time out, on June 13.

Wagering Opportunities Abound

The three races will be run as races 6, 7 and 8 on the card with the Oaks leading off, followed by the Juvenile and then the 2nd running of the Mystic Lake Derby. Post times are 4:10 CDT, 4:40 CDT and the Mystic Lake Derby will go off at 5:12 CDT. The three races anchor Saturday’s late pick 4 which continues to feature a 14% takeout, among the lowest in the country. Additionally, the three stakes comprise an all-turf Pick 3 also featuring the same low takeout rate of 14%.

Check back here often to learn more about the participants for Saturday’s big races over the coming days.

This blog was written by Canterbury Staff Writer Jim Wells. Wells was a longtime sportswriter at the Pioneer Press and is a member of the Canterbury Park Hall of Fame.

20,291 Enjoy Extreme Day

2013 Zebra RaceYou could have looked high and low and not found anything ordinary about the day or its trappings. It was extreme in every sense of the word, from the camels, ostriches and zebras to the crowd itself.

Extreme Day on Saturday evoked scenes from the 1980s. The extremely large crowd was a Canterbury Park record 20,291, besting the previous mark of 18,230 set on Kentucky Derby and opening day in 2008. It was the largest crowd at Canterbury Park or Downs since a turnout of 21,003 on Aug. 14 in 1988.

The lines were extreme – at the concession stands, the pari mutual windows, the valet lot. The races were extreme, starting with the first which was run at 110 yards for quarter horses, a distance at which Usain Bolt might have competed himself.

How about the way the card began – with two track records, the first by the Stacy Charette-Hill trained Stone Cottrell, under Jorge Torres, of course, in 6.988 seconds for 110 yards. That race was the $15,000-added Quarter Horse Dash in a Flash Stakes.

Burnt Ivory won race two under Ismael Suarez for trainer Vic Hanson, covering 220 yards in 12:12, breaking the previous standard recorded way, way back on May 18, 1990.

How about this, for EXTREMELY impressive: Trainer Mike Burgess, the champion quarter horse jockey way, way back in 1988 when the track was called Canterbury Downs, hopped aboard Rock “N” Spit and outdueled Sir Camelot to win the Camelbury Dash.

The winner of the Don’t Lay and Egg Dash was Flightless Fred, ridden superbly by Denny Velasquez, who actually posted in the saddle aboard this bird, and, as put by PA announcer Paul Allen, embellished for style points by pointing at the crowd as he swooped past the finish line, winning by several lengths.

“He won for fun,’’ said handicapper supreme The Oracle.

There was also the Zebra race, won by Pin Stripe Paul under Nate Quinonez, whose mount lugged out at the break but straightened out and ran down the competition while ridden out.

On the serious side of the day’s events:

Heliskier, who won his first seven races but stumbled out of the gate in his last out and was vanned off the track, made his first appearance on the grass and at 7 ½ furlongs.

Last year’s Horse of the Year at Canterbury Park was sent off the 4-5 favorite but was legitimately beaten by 7-1 outsider Ol Winedrinker Who under a perfect ride from Ry Eikleberry.

Heliskier caught a glimpse of Breezy Point, dug in and repelled that one, but did not appear to see Ol Winedrinker.

“The main thing is that he’s OK,” said disappointed rider Derek Bell, who won the 1,500th race of his career on Successful Touch in race three.

Bell appeared to be on the winner in the stretch drive but Heliskier didn’t respond to the winner’s late surge.

“I don’t know, maybe he got tired,” said Bell.

Bell, nonetheless, reached a minor milestone that is certainly bittersweet after spending the last several years on the sidelines of several racing venues for unspecified and unproven charges. His win total would be substantially larger if not for that injustice.


Jeff Maday, former school teacher, current pressbox dean, handicapper and provider of program riches, was crestfallen at the lack of sensitivity on extreme day, any day for that matter. “Nobody ever listens to me,’’ he said.

The issue?

He was trying to demonstrate that people do not listen; thus, verbal communication is useless. He was trying to prove a point, that people don’t listen, to paddock analysts, to presidents, especially to him.

He pointed out, for example, that Ms Angela Hermann, the track’s pulchritudinous paddock provider of inside thought and heretofore unspoken truth, might as well talk to herself in a mirror.

To fill in for her, Maday said he called a mime… but it didn’t work.

“Nobody laughed,” he said. “Because nobody listened.”

Point, Maday.

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This blog was written by Canterbury Staff Writer Jim Wells. Wells was a longtime sportswriter at the Pioneer Press and is a member of the Canterbury Park Hall of Fame.

The Turf Chute Makes Its Debut

Not many in the sizable crowd of over 7,000 Thursday realized they were witnessing a small bit of Canterbury Park history, a footnote perhaps to much more that has happened since racing debuted in 1985, yet something to remember nonetheless.

No one said one day they will bounce a grandchild on a knee and recall the day chute racing returned to Canterbury. No one wept when the winner of the first race out of the chute entered the winner’s circle.

Just the same, the racing season is drawing to a close and historic occasions are becoming fewer to document.

A few people of the jockey persuasion did complain about the sharpness of the turn onto the course when a race lines up in the chute.

To which identifier Mark Bader had this opinion: “Gripe about a turn,” he said. “We used to race places where a telephone pole marked the outside fence and barbed wire was the inside rail and both were something to avoid.”

The Canterbury chute was abandoned sometime in the late 1990s when concerts were a frequent affair in the infield. Others claim it was abandoned after numerous complaints from riders who didn’t, ahem!, like the sharpness of the turn onto the main course.

Whatever the case, chute racing made its triumphant return in races two and three on Thursday, both races at about a mile, the first for maiden fillies and mares and the second an allowance tiff for the same gender.

The winner of the first race was a 3-year-old filly by Sir Shackleton named Tightrope Dancer, ridden by Denny Velazquez, trained and owned by Gary Scherer.

“She’s a chute horse. She loves the chute,” Scherer cracked as his horse arrived for the winning photo.

Moments later, he congratulated Velazquez as he headed back toward the jockeys’ room. “Hey, congratulations on your first turf win here in the first chute race in years,” he said.

“I’m just glad to win it,” said Velazquez, whose mount broke from the No. 8 hole. The potential exists for horses in the outside positions to get shuffled to the back of the pack. “It didn’t really matter,” Velazquez said regarding his post position.

Britta Giller, who works in Scherer’s stable and hot-walks the winning filly was convinced the horse would win Thursday morning. “She was getting a bath and I asked her if she would win tonight,” Giller said. “She began shaking her head up and down as if to say ‘yes’. I told Gary that she was going to win tonight.”

Where are these tips when we need them, right!

The return of chute racing at Canterbury has this concern for three-time defending riding champ Dean Butler: The manner in which the horses approach the gate from the infield, which is wide open.

“I can guarantee you that a horse will get loose sometime and end up in one of the ponds unless that is changed,” he said, which is what happened maybe three years ago at Tampa Bay Downs, where Butler rides during the winter.

The winner of race three was Stillwater Storm, trained by Doug Oliver and ridden by Juan Rivera. Stillwater Storm broke from the No. 2 hole. “The turn (onto the main track) is way too sharp,” said Rivera. “But I’m happy for the win.’’

Tanner Riggs rode Dear Fay, a 7-2 choice that finished out of the money.

Using the chute didn’t present much of a change for him. “It was a little different,” he said. “But my horse handled the turn just fine. I just wish he would have run a little better.”

Others wish the weather had turned out a little more kindly. With reports of bad weather and lightning beginning to strike throughout the area, the card was cancelled after the fourth race, just after Scott Stevens brought in a horse named Royal Express for his 27th win of the meet, keeping him and Lori Keith, who won Thursday’s card opener on Sultry Queen, tied for fourth place in the standings. Derek Bell is in third with 31 wins. Butler and Riggs are tied for the lead with 59 wins each.

This blog was written by Canterbury Staff Writer Jim Wells. Wells was a longtime sportswriter at the Pioneer Press and is a member of the Canterbury Park Hall of Fame.

Photo Credit: Coady Photography

A Little Bit Like a Rodeo

Think back over the past few days about the sporting world and name your favorite athlete. Maybe it was iron man Michael Phelps, American darling Gabby Douglas or the million dollar man, Oscar Pistorius.

Or, if racehorses are your thing, Lori Keith just won the biggest race ever run at Canterbury Park, the Mystic Lake Derby. Three-time defending riding champ Dean Butler won the $50,000 Princess Elaine and the $100,000 Lady Canterbury Stakes on Saturday. Maybe Thomas Wellington, the defending quarter horse riding champ, who got his first win of the meet Sunday in the $40,400 Canterbury NCQHRA Futurity at 350 yards.

Or how about Chris Davis, assistant trainer to Michael Stidham, who saddled the Mystic Lake Derby winner Hammers Terror and came right back with the Lady Canterbury victor, Ruthville.

Maybe even the ride from Hall of Fame jockey Scott Stevens in Sunday’s fifth race on Not So Fast Festus in which he coaxed every ounce of resolve out of his horse to hit the wire ½ inch in front of Cachemassa Creek and Larren Delorme.

Or, just maybe, the choice will be made on considerations aside from winners of big time local races, Olympic gold medals or sterling rides.

Maybe, just maybe, you will pull for the little man, the one who will go unnoticed even though he is now a winner, a union carpenter and native of Jamaica.

We are talking here about Clinton Venner, 53, a native of Belle Plaine for eight years after relocating from Jamaica. Venner has had his training license for about a year and saddled his first winner in Sunday’s second race, a 6-year-old gelding named Timber Hills.

He worked with horses in Jamaica before coming to the U.S. to take a carpentry job with Minneapolis Public Housing.

Venner had saddled 12 horses prior to Timber Hills without a win, but got there with a stout ride from Denny Velazquez and an even stouter dismount in the winner’s circle.

Timber Hills had a rather stout reaction of his own as the winning picture was being taken, rearing straight up as Velazquez made a hurried dismount, good enough to get comments from onlookers. “You get a 9.9 on that one,” identifier Mark Bader said.

“I guess he’d never had his picture taken before,” said Velazquez, a perfectly accurate statement if winning a race is first required to have your picture taken.

Riders and other occupants of the jockeys room were fascinated by the picture of the event taken by Shawn Coady in which Nate Quinonez appears ready to catch the dismounting Velazquez.

“He looks like he’s ready to catch a baseball,” said Derek Bell.

“Heckuva catch,” said Jerry Simmons.

NCQHRA Quarter Horse Futurity

Staying on a horse for eight seconds in this race would have gotten you a trip to the NFR finals in Vegas next December.

“Kind of like a rodeo out there,” one trainer said.

“Kind of a wild one,” said winning trainer Bob Johnson.

Yes, indeed. These two-year-olds started acting their age in the paddock, a couple of them dead certain that anything moving was a deadly creature poised to do them harm.

The 10-horse field was reduced to eight after Atsi Hero and V Os Red Hot Cole scratched early in the day. That left eight for the race, but only six of them made it out of the gate. Traffic Patrol ran off before the race and was chased down by an outrider and Girls Dont Seis was scratched after she began fussing and feuding while trying to line up.

Meanwhile, Wellington rode Jess Lika Blair to a tight win over stablemate Hastabealeader, ridden by Clyde Smith, who was given a choice of horse for the race and chose wrong by an inch or so.

“Clyde thought he won,” said Wellington. “I didn’t say anything. I let him think he did.”

So Wellington, who’ll have to relinquish his private parking spot as the riding champ, compensated a bit with the win.

“It was worth the trip (from Iowa),” he said.

Let Those Stirrups Out

Brittany Rhone approached her father, Lonnie Arterburn, with a plan this week. “I have a crazy idea,” is how she presented it.

What Rhone wanted to do was let her stirrups out, by quite a bit, so she could get more leg on the horse she rode in the third race Sunday, She’s The Cat.

The horse had lugged out on her the last couple of times and was hard to handle.

Whenever Rhone galloped the maiden filly in the morning she had her stirrups long and could get much-needed leg on the horse.

She proposed doing the same for Sunday’s race and dad consented.

“If I hadn’t won, they would have thought I was crazy,” Brittany said afterward.

But she did win, and the long stirrups helped considerably. “She tried to lug out on me once,” Brittany said. “I got my leg on her and that was the only time.”

Longer stirrups and She’s The Cat is no longer a maiden.

This blog was written by Canterbury Staff Writer Jim Wells. Wells was a longtime sportswriter at the Pioneer Press and is a member of the Canterbury Park Hall of Fame.

Photo Credit: Coady Photography