Monday, May 18, 2009

What A Weekend!

There sure was a lot going on this weekend. We'll go with first things first and touch on the Preakness.

The Preakness is the race I would most like to win - that is no secret. I started my "racing career" there punching tickets in graduate school. This year was something special. I watched the race from the grandstand at Canterbury Park and there was cheering with every step the filly took around the track. Rachel Alexandra is something special and she appeared to win with something left in the tank. I have heard a lot in the last few days that the way Mine That Bird was charging, the extra distance of the Belmont will make all the difference. Maybe that's true, but to base that on the way the Preakness was run is a big mistake. There is a strategy going into every race and the way a mile and three sixteenths would be tackled is different than the way you'll set up for a mile and a half. The "shape" of the race, if you will, will be different and that opens up a lot of possibilities.

Canterbury Park opened this weekend. Two weeks later than usual, but still a highly anticipated and highly successful weekend of racing. I captured the sites and sounds of that earlier this weekend and that post was picked up by Equidaily - helping spread the word of our little jewel around the country. Over 20,000 fans watched the races this weekend launching a summer of racing in Shakopee.

I Am Woman is still struggling back East. On Saturday she moved from the Late Closing ranks into a Non-Winner of 3 race at Pocono Downs which actually carried a slightly higher purse and class rating than the Late Closer at Tioga. For the second race in a row she was well driven and well placed heading into the stretch but just could not keep up. We'll see what the folks at VIP Stables have in store for her next, but I hope it's a significant drop into the claiming ranks and let her re-establish her confidence and give her the opportunity to start picking up checks again.

On Sunday, Fizzy Pop made his 2009 Canterbury debut. It was a $25,000 Optional Claiming race going a mile and 40 yards on the dirt. He was being ridden by Jose Ferrer as regular rider Dean Butler was to ride 3-year old Minnesota bred (and outstanding colt) Perfect Bull. My biggest fear all this week was that the new rider would not have the same feel for the horse or understand his quirks like Dean does. I figured he and Bernell Rhone would cover that before the race. Unfortunately there was some type of delay in Ferrer getting to the paddock and he emerged in just enough time to get a leg up. Bernell didn't have time to go over anything with him, though he obviously tried. Sadly my worst fear came true. In theory the distance should have been a bit short for Fiz, what happened, however, made it look like it was too long.

Fizzy makes his move at the top of the turn for home or just as the field straightens out in the stretch. Ferrer moved him heading into the far turn and he was up by a length with most of the stretch to go. Despite the excitement around me, I didn't feel comfortable. I knew Chicago shipper (and big time closer) O'Connell's and Perfect Bull were yet to make their moves. Sure enough Fiz fizzled in deep stretch while Perfect Bull showed why he is going to be a horse to be reckoned with all summer long. The Bull won the race (congrads to the Red Dog folks - good people who deserve good things) and O'Connell's finished second (they may be good people too - just don't know 'em!). We were only 1.5 lengths out of it at the end. I don't know if Dean could have won the race for us, but I'm pretty sure the early move didn't help our boy either.

Finally there was the Upper Midwest Two-Year Olds in Training Sale put on by the Minnesota Thoroughbred Association. I don't know the final results yet, but I have heard they were a little disappointing. It certainly wasn't from lack of effort. Kay King, Executive Director of the Association, and her volunteers did a wonderful job organizing and setting up the sale. It's a big and thankless job, but it was done and done well. Thanks and congratulations - whatever the dollar outcome.

So there was good and not so good this weekend. But there will be other races and the upside is that the "other race" will be here at home for the summer.

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