TITLES ON THE LINE AS 17 RACING DAYS REMAIN

Amy’s Challenge with Jareth Loveberry aboard

BY JIM WELLS

Update: Only 17 racing days left on the 2017 calendar. A mere two weeks of race days and change. Plenty of time for trainers to begin cleaning out their barns, sending out the horses that need a paycheck to cover their travel costs.

Still time for others to achieve some unreached goals, trainers, owners and riders alike.

The race for leading thoroughbred rider might come down to the final day, so too the quarter horse riding title.

The only certain matter at this point is the thoroughbred conditioners title. Mac Robertson has that award locked down tighter than the treasury vault. The bottom would have to fall out of the earth we stand on for anyone to catch him.

Robertson is 18 wins in front of the second place trainer, Bernell Rhone, and in typical robust fashion responded to a comment thrown his way in the paddock on Saturday.

“Hey, Mac, you’ve taken all the fun of the race this year, all but wrapping it up so early.’’

“Hey,’’ he responded, “I heard nothing but good things when Diodoro was 30 in front (in previous years),’’ he said.

He  was referring to the 2014 and 2015 seasons when Robertino Diodoro ended a nine year string of titles won by Robertson.

“Well, that took the fun out of it, too,’’ he was told.

“Story after story about Diodoro when he was in front.  I have the best time by a two-year-old filly in the country last Sunday and not a word locally but the New York Times calls me.’’

Robertson’s diatribe, of course, was based on fake news, his method of letting off steam, of making a point, of sticking the needle in.

Mac Robertson

The two-year-old filly of note is Amy’s Challenge, by Artie Schiller from Jump Up. She is owned by Novogratz Racing Stables. All sorts of rumors swirled in shed row after she broke her maiden in grand fashion, finishing many lengths in front of seven rivals last Sunday.

“Best horse I’ve had,’’ said Robertson.

Indeed, the stable area was abuzz with rumors about a filly with one race under her belt, offers approaching or exceeding the million dollar range.

There is additional drama surrounding this two-year-old. Jareth Loveberry, who closed to within two wins of Orlando Mojica in the thoroughbred riders race on Saturday, had planned to leave Canterbury a few days early for other racing obligations. Not if he gets another call aboard this filly, however.

“I couldn’t leave a filly like her,’’ he said.

Loveberry is riding for the first time at Canterbury this meet, and has exceeded his expectations upon arriving in Shakopee.

“It’s unreal,’’ he said. “I thought I could come here and win some races. I never expected to be where I am.’’

For his part, Mojica says he is not thinking about a title. “I don’t worry about it,’’ he said. “I don’t want to put pressure on myself. If I win it, I win it. I’m still making money.’’

Orlando Mojica

The quarter horse riders’ race might have already been decided. Oscar Delgado has a five-win lead over Brayan Velazquez.  And Jason Olmstead, in pursuit of a third-straight training title, is eight in front of Hall of Fame trainer Ed Ross Hardy.

Thomas Scheckel and Dean Frey are tied for the quarter horse owners’ lead with seven wins apiece, two more than Corey Wilmes.

And the always interesting chase for leading thoroughbred owner?

The Curtis Sampson stable is three wins in front of the Lothenbach and Novogratz stables.

It all resumes anew Sunday with a card that features the $50,000 Hoist Her Flag Stakes.

The ROI All-Stars

By The Oracle

We are nearing the halfway point of the 2017 Canterbury Park live racing season.  Here is a look inside-the-numbers at what has transpired on the race track so far..  The following statistics are for thoroughbred races only.

The Odds: 

Favorites are winning 35% of the thoroughbred races at Canterbury Park.  This is two percentage points below the national average for this year, and four percentage points below the 2016 Canterbury meet.  A smaller percentage of winning favorites can lead to larger payoffs!  The maiden special weight category has been the most formful so far, yielding 16 winning favorites from 36 races (44%).  However, this category also unleashed a 55-1 longshot winner on May 6, a horse named Lookin Ata Runaway.  This filly was making her first start as a 3-year-old, was trained by Tony Rengstorf and ridden by Jareth Loveberry.  Congratulations to those connections!

Historically, turf racing at Canterbury Park has yielded a lower percentage of winning favorites than races on the main track.  This is holding true this year, as favorites on the turf are winning at a 30% rate compared to 36% winning favorites on the dirt.

Regarding extreme longshots, there have been nine 20-1 and up winners this year.  Of those nine, four were in turf races and five were on the main track.  This is significant as there are many fewer turf races run than dirt races.  Look for longshots on the Canterbury turf course!

The Jockeys:

Looking at the top ten jockeys in the standings so far, the All-Star performer for best return-on-investment (ROI) was Jareth Loveberry.  Jareth is currently tied for the lead in the standings with Orlando Mojica with 31 wins, and he is returning an impressive $1.23 for every dollar wagered on his mounts.  Loveberry is a new rider to Canterbury Park this year, and the fans may have been focusing more on the established local names like Dean Butler and Alex Canchari.  Loveberry has done his best work on the main track this year, winning 26 of his 31 races on that surface, including that 55-1 longshot discussed above.  Horses like that definitely help the ROI!

Orlando Mojica is also having an excellent meet.  Mojica did very well last year in his first season at Canterbury Park, and he has continued to excel this year.  He is winning at a 22% rate over the turf course (11/50) and is showing a flat bet profit on that surface of 31%.

Alex Canchari deserves a mention as his 21% win percentage is best among the top ten riders.  Due to injury, Alex has had fewer mounts than the jockeys atop the standings, but he could be poised for a strong second half of the meet.  Alex was especially reliable with favorites in the first half, winning at a 44% rate (12/27), and he is quite capable of going on a tear and getting in contention for leading rider.

The Trainers:

The top ten trainer list had three trainers achieving a positive ROI at the midway mark.  Tony Rengstorf got the All-Star award with 12 wins from 67 starts, achieving an ROI of $1.80 for every dollar wagered.  This was due mainly to the 55-1 winner on May 6 described above.  He has excelled in dirt sprints (10/39, ROI = $2.87) and maiden races (5/18, ROI = $4.73), but is currently 0/12 on the turf.  Seven of those turf runners did finish in the top 3, however.

Francisco Bravo has also had a very good first half, winning 16 races with an ROI of $1.23.  His best category was claiming races, winning with 5 of 20 runners (ROI = $2.29) including a 20-1 winner named Awesome Emmit on June 30 in a claiming race that was moved from the turf to the main track.  Jockey Quincy Hamilton was aboard that one.  Bravo has also done extremely well in maiden claiming races, winning with 5 of 9 runners (56%) for an ROI of $2.12.

McLean Robertson has been the dominant trainer this year at Canterbury Park, as his 29 wins from 114 starters nearly doubles the win total of the second-place trainer in the standings.  Not only is Robertson leading in terms of win percentage (25%), he is also showing an ROI of $1.10 for every dollar wagered on each of his starters.  That’s a rare achievement for a trainer who is so well known by the local bettors.  Robertson is winning the big money races too, as 22 of his 29 wins have come in Allowance or Stakes races.  He even slipped a 23-1 shot past the crowd on July 3, when Teddy Time ran down A.P is Loose to win the Blair’s Cove Stakes on the turf with Quincy Hamilton aboard.  That was an easy name play exacta box for Vikings fans!

Summary:

That’s a brief look at how the favorites fared and who the top jockeys and trainers were over the first half of the Canterbury Park live meet from an ROI perspective.  Good luck in the second half of the meet!

 

Photo provided by Coady Photography

ON A WARM DAY MOJICA GETS HOT

Wings Locked Up wins Dark Star Cup

By JIM WELLS

There was a heat advisory on Saturday as the area got a taste of what typically doesn’t occur until the depths of summer in the Twin Cities, yet even what Minnesotans refer to as oven-like was mitigated significantly by a stiff breeze.

It was warm, 95 degrees at 3 p.m. with a southwest wind of 20 mph and relative humidity in the comfort zone, 36 percent. But it’s all relative, isn’t it!

“I haven’t even broken a sweat,’’ said trainer Gary Scherer, whose weather at home in Louisiana is not only warmer but considerably more sultry.

“It’s a hot one, eh mate! Absolutely stifling,’’ said former jockey Mark Irving, a native of England.

Actually, not a bad day at all, especially for trainers, riders and anyone else from southern or southwestern parts of the country. “This is nice,’’ said Star-Tribune handicapper Johnny Love, who recently moved to Arizona.

It was under those conditions, with temps in the mid 90s and what was called by the chart crew at Canterbury Park a 40 MPH headwind that Stormy Smith kicked off Belmont Stakes day by riding the winner in the first of four stakes races on the card.

Orlando Mojica caught on quickly, grasping early that a rider had to save enough horse for battling that headwind in the stretch, a realization that helped him win two $50,000 stakes and finish second in a third. On this particular day, it was not only weather one could describe as hot.

$32,750 GOPHER STATE DERBY

The winning rider of the first race on the card had the eponymous first name for the day, Stormy.  An exaggeration to be sure, but fitting somehow nonetheless.

Stormy Smith is from Purcell, Oklahoma, where big winds (we call them tornadoes) are quite common, so he had no trouble whatsoever dealing with the big headwind in this quarter horse 400 yard dash.

He was on La Mos Pyc for trainer Lori Harris and owner Thomas Scheckel and hit the wire a head in front of Lil Baby Eagle, who had a neck on Corona Springs, another Scheckel owned horse.

“She left (the gate) good, raced her butt off and ran a good race,’’ said Smith, who will stay another day in the Twin Cities. He has mounts in five of the Mystic Lake Northlands Futurity quarter horse trials on Sunday.

For the record, Smith’s account of the weather on Saturday was favorable. “I’d rather it hot than cold,’’ he said. “I’ve turned into a bit of wimp. Got too many (surgical) screws in me.’’

     

$50,000 MINNESOTA TURF DISTAFF

The winning horse in this race has been knocking at the door, to paraphrase one of her owners, Tim Rosin. Saturday, the door opened.

With Mojica playing his cards expertly, he kept Some Say So (4-1) at the front of the race, monitoring his fuel reserves expertly, and created a leisurely pace that left plenty in reserve for a winning stretch run, finishing 1 ¾ lengths in front of First Hunter and 2 ¼ ahead of Honey’s Sox Appeal, the even money favorite.

The winning time was 1:29.85 after a half mile in :48.67.

The winner is owned by Wisconsinites Tim Rosin, Patti Miller and Mark Kane, who arrived in Shakopee full of confidence.

“We knew we had a live horse,’’ said Rosin. “We’ve been very close several times. Two weeks ago we lost (by a head) for $18,000.’’

Some Say So made up for that on Saturday, collecting $30,000 as the winning share.

$50,000 DARK STAR CUP

Mojica had the winning strategy in the Turf Distaff, so why not try it again. He put Wings Locked Up at the front of a seven-horse field and kept the five-year-old gelding right there, took charge in the upper stretch and finished ½ length in front of Saturdaynitelites and 1 ½ ahead of Wabel, a ship in from Churchill Downs.

“If you have the lead in this headwind it helps, doesn’t it,’’ someone said to Mojica. “Yeah, but you have to have the horse,’’ he said.  For the second straight time, Mojica had just that, finishing in 1:15.72

The win was stiff throughout the afternoon, and readily apparent to horse and rider as they turned into the stretch. “Oh, you could really feel it,’’ said Mojica. “You had to have a lot of horse.’’

The winning trophy was presented in this instance by former Minnesota Twins manager Tom Kelly, who was a personal friend of Dark Star, the radio personality for whom the race is named.

Tom Kelly with Brian Arrigoni

$50,000 MINNESOTA TURF

For a couple of deep breaths, Jenna Joubert and Pennant Fever appeared headed for the winner’s circle at 34-1, a major upset in the making.

An instant later, A P Is Loose does what he generally does under such circumstances. He fired inside the 1/16th pole and finished a neck in front of surging Plenty of Sun who had the same margin on Pennant Fever at the wire.

“Oh, that was close,’’ said winning owner Joel Zamzow. “A great race.’’

Butler, the winning rider, had this to say about A P is Loose. “He knows where the wire is. He’s done that every time I’ve ridden him.’’

A P is Loose went off the 3/5 favorite and settled outside in the second flight, tracking pace-setting Pennant Fever, who gave up and then regained the lead.

But A P was running his typical race, picking off one horse when he came to him and then the next, finishing in 1:30.54.

LOVEBERRY DINES IN WHITE HOUSE

Jareth Loveberry started the day as the leading rider at Canterbury with 15 wins, two more than Orlando Mojica and defending champion Dean Butler.

Earlier in the week, you might recall, Loveberry and members of his family had dinner at the White House for a reception honoring Gold Star families, those who’ve lost someone in the military service.

Jareth’s brother, Justin, was killed in Iraq in 2004 returning from a mission. Alerted to a possible explosive, Justin exposed himself to the    IED, saving some of his comrades in the process.

Monday, Jareth, his mother, stepfather, and three brothers were greeted by the President who thanked them and other families in attendance for their sacrifice and enjoyed a stand-up dinner that consisted of multiple entrees. “There was a lot of food, an awful lot of food,’’ Loveberry reported.

Among the items he recalled were watermelon salad, crab cakes, top sirloin, London broil, lamb chops.

“Oh, yeah, and desserts, too,’’ he added.

He didn’t gain an ounce. “They were tiny servings,’’ he explained.

 

CANTERBURY RIDER INVITED TO DINNER AT THE WHITE HOUSE

BY JIM WELLS

Jareth Loveberry knew he was good for only a few words. To make himself heard, he knelt in front of Stan Kowalski, a 91-year-old  World War II veteran, during the Memorial Day ceremony last Monday in the winner’s circle.

Loveberry thanked Kowalski for the speech he has just given and then his words ran out.

“I choked up. I only got out ‘my brother,’ ” Loveberry said. Kowalski seemed to understand and nodded an acknowledgement only those who have undergone similar experiences can provide.

While Kowalski paid tribute to all the men and women who’ve lost their lives in the service of the United States, Loveberry was thinking of his brother, Justin, three years his elder.

The conversation shifted. “What horse are you on in the next race?’’ Kowalski asked. “The four horse,’’ Loveberry said. “I’ll be rooting for you,’’ Kowalski said.

In those brief moments, the past became the present.

“ It was November 13, 2004,’’ Loveberry said, the date branded in his memory.

Jareth, then 17,  was across the street from the family home on the edge of Mount Pleasant, Michigan that day, mucking stalls with a younger brother at the farm where he had worked since he was a  youngster. “Our boss told us we should go home early that day,’’ he said.

Jareth’s father gathered the family in the living room.  Justin, 20 years old, had been killed earlier that day in Iraq.  He had put himself in front of an IED, losing his life and sparing those of his comrades. “They were returning from a mission,’’ Jareth recalled.

Justin Ellsworth   Fallujah, Iraq. November 13, 2004. “We had different fathers, but we grew up together,’’ Jareth said, explaining the difference in their last names.

Jareth and other members of his family are invited to a dinner at the White House on Monday as part of a Gold Star Family acknowledgement. He’s not certain what to expect. “I’ve never been to D.C.,’’ he said.

Will the President be there? “I don’t know. They haven’t told us much,’’ Loveberry said.

Loveberry will fly to Washington, D.C., on Sunday and return Tuesday to Minnesota, where he is riding at Canterbury Park for the first time.

Loveberry will turn 30 in August and originally saw himself as an architect. He began school at a career college in Michigan before relenting and returning to what already had a hold of him _ horses. He had been breaking babies since he was 13 years old, and rode his first race at Great Lakes Downs on what would have been Justin’s 21st birthday in 2005.

He has ridden in Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia, Oklahoma and Arkansas. “I knew some Oklahoma people who liked coming up here,’’ he explained. “And while I was at Remington, Mac Robertson suggested that I come up here, too.’’

He is off to a good start, recording his ninth win of the meet on Friday’s card.

“I like it here,’’ Loveberry said, “everything about it…the weather, the community, the racing, the public. It’s kind of like Oaklawn (Park). People come out for the racing. That’s really neat.’’

Loveberry arrived without an agent but quickly found one in Richard Grunder. They had never met but Grunder had seen him ride on racing simulcasts. “I talked to people I trust who know him,’’ Grunder said. “He’s a good rider. I’m blessed to have him.’’

“This is a good place to be,’’ Loveberry added. “A good location.’’

Loveberry’s family _ his wife, Stacie and two children _ are living in Texas but are looking for a house in Oklahoma, something between, say, Remington Park and Oaklawn, where they can set down roots around Jareth’s career that takes him from place to place throughout the year.

Originally, his wife was to accompany him to the Gold Star dinner, and although she will accompany him to Washington, D.C., only immediate family members will attend the dinner after officials changed original plans.

The Loveberrys have two children, five-year-old Kennedy and seven-month old Colton, whose middle name is Justin.

That’s an additional tribute to Jareth’s brother, as was that win aboard the four horse on Memorial Day, with Kowalski rooting him on.

“It’s become my favorite day to win a race,’’ he said.

Opening Weekend Highlights; More to Come Friday

Aces High and Alex Canchari win the Canterbury Park 2017 opening race

The first race of the Canterbury 2017 live race meet, an allowance optional claimer, was won by Aces High. The 6-year-old chestnut gelding is owned by Pocket Aces Racing, LLC, trained by Eric Heitzmann, and ridden by Alex Canchari. “I’m leading trainer!” joked Heitzmann in the winners’ circle after the race. “It feels great to be back in Minnesota and that’s a good way to start off the meet. We love coming to Canterbury, the track, the atmosphere, the people! I’m a Louisiana boy, but if I had to pick up my roots and be somewhere else it would be here!”

Alex Canchari, last years’ second leading rider, went on to win two more races on opening night, giving him a riding triple. He won the third race on the only first time starter in the field, a 4-year-old gelding named Saganaga, trained by Gary Scherer. Saganaga actually has a bit of family history here at Canterbury Park – his dam, Pretty As A Smile, won the Minnesota Distaff Classic Championship Stakes in 2008. Later in the card, Canchari won the sixth race aboard Justfortherunofit, a 4-year-old gelding trained by Sandra Sweere.

Denny Velazquez also had a riding double, winning the second race on Trappingsofsilver and the seventh race on Fridaynitestar. Both are trained by Joel Berndt.

Chad Lindsay, a newcomer from the southern California circuit, was excited to win his first race at Canterbury Park for trainer Robertino Diodoro.  While the first three races were all decided in photo finishes, the fourth race was won in convincing fashion by Sidearm, Lindsay’s mount. “It feels good to win a race here on opening day,” said Lindsay, walking back to the jock’s room after the race. “I came here to win races, so it’s great to get off on the right foot.”

Alex Canchari continued his winning ways on Saturday, taking the L’Etoile Du Nord Stakes, the first stake of the Canterbury meet.  He was all smiles coming into the winners’ circle. “I was feeling really confident at the quarter-pole,” he beamed after the race.  Thoughtless, his mount, was the only entrant for trainer Mac Robertson on opening weekend, making every start a winning one for last year’s leading trainer.

Nik Goodwin made his first win of the meet aboard Shrewd Move look easy as he slipped through along the inside rail at the top of the stretch to take the Paul Bunyan Stakes. “I was tracking the horses in front of me, and when they came off the turn they were making their move and the rail opened up, and I had a lot of horse to take me through and he just kept running,” said Goodwin after the race. Shrewd Move was the longest shot in the field and paid a whopping $34.40 to win.

Speaking of big pay-outs, Jareth Loveberry won his first race of the meet Saturday on the aptly named Lookin Ata Runaway. The longshot paid $112.20 to win in the fifth race.  Lookin Ata Runaway was the second of three wins for trainer Tony Rengstorf.  He won the third race with Lasoeurcadetecheri and  the last race with My Apparition. Orlando Mojica was aboard that one who also paid a handsome price of 17.00 for the win. The three wins allowed Rengstorf to exit the weekend as the leading trainer. Scherer, Diodoro and Berndt each had two victories.

The 20,258 in attendance Saturday for live racing and Minnesota’s Biggest Kentucky Derby Party was the fourth largest crowd in Canterbury Park history.

Racing continues Friday and Saturday.

First post on Friday is 6:30 p.m. The fourth race, restricted to 3-year-old fillies, includes a trainer familiar to Canterbury horseplayers in Tammy Domenosky. She was a top conditioner herein the late 2000s, finishing in the top five in ’08 and ’09. Domenosky primarily trains in Chicago but raced a bit at Oaklawn over the winter. She has entered Lookforasmile who won her first start in a maiden claimer in February in Hot Springs. Leslie Mawing will ride the ship-in.

Saturday’s card will begin at 12:45.

 

Notes compiled by Katie Merritt.

Video by Michelle Blasko.

Katie Merritt is a senior at the University of Kentucky and currently an intern in the Canterbury Park Press Box. Before returning to school she galloped at several tracks around the country, but spent the majority of her time working for Carl Nafzger and Ian Wilkes.

 

Frost Wins HPWS Satellite; World Famous Sam T wires Grasmick

Kelly Frost of Maple Grove won Saturday’s Horse Player World Series Satellite Contest and will be headed to The Orleans Hotel Casino at the end of March to compete in the $1 million Horse Player World Series. Mike Ferrozzo of Eagan was second in the satellite and also earned a trip to Vegas. The contest format called for ten $2 mythical win and place wagers on races of choice. On a day that was short on big prices, Frost’s winning score was $64.60. Ferrozzo finished with $58.90. In a contest like this the winning score usually exceeds $100 but with few prices to be found the top two made the best of what was offered.

“I was surprised that $58 would win an entry,” Ferrozzo said. “But I will sure take it.”

Bob Lill finished third with $48.00, just 20 cents ahead of Michael Mills. Lill earned an $800 prize. In December, Steve Laurent and Bob Moore also won entries to the annual HPWS through a Canterbury satellite.

The Claim That Keeps On Giving

World Famous Sam T won the Grasmick Stakes on Saturday at Fonner Park for the second consecutive time. He was ridden by Larren Delorme for long-time Canterbury trainer Troy Bethke. Now 8 years old, the speedy sprinter was claimed by Bethke for $4,000 at Canterbury on June 20, 2015 and has since compiled a record of seven wins, three seconds and three third-place finishes from 15 starts and has earned $83,995 in purse money since the claim. The $25,000 Budweiser-Tondi Stakes on March 25 at Fonner is likely on the radar. World Famous Sam T finished second in that race last year.

News and Notes

With fewer than 50 days before horses begin arriving on the Canterbury backside in preparation for the meet that begins May 5, rumors of who is returning and who might try Shakopee for the first time are beginning to flourish.

Sources vary in degrees of reliability. Once the stall application deadline of March 13 comes and goes there should be a fairly clear vision of trainers that will race here this summer. But interest in racing and driving through the stable gate with a load of horses are not the same thing so speculation is on hold for now.

One a scale of one to 10 of reliability, a source rated as an 8 has indicated that the jockey colony should remain similar to last season with Dean Butler, Orlando Mojica and Alex Canchari all returning. The likely addition of journeyman rider Jareth Loveberry is welcomed. With more than a decade of experience and 1,000 plus wins, he should get plenty of calls. Loveberry is currently riding at Oaklawn.