Monday, May 2, 2011

MTA Awards Banquet

Saturday evening was the Minnesota Thoroughbred Association's annual awards banquet. Traditionally the breakfast and now the last few years, dinner, has been the official bow-tying of the previous season and a launch into the next. The 2010 seasonal champions were officially crowned and the last few days to the countdown of the new Canterbury Park season began in earnest (19 days in case you’re scoring at home).

Carin Offerman, a member of the Board of Directors at Canterbury, gave the official welcome and Dick Day and Jeff Hilger briefed the group on the progression of the racino legislation in St. Paul.

The featured speaker of the evening was Minnesota native and TVG personality Matt Carothers. He spent most of his formative years in Minnesota around Canterbury Downs and, later, Canterbury Park. Carothers cut his on-air teeth after Canterbury re-opened as Canterbury Park and it served as a springboard to larger market jobs and, finally, to his joining TVG where he has been since its inception.

On the air, while always humorous, Carothers can sometimes be so sure in his opinions that it comes across as arrogant. In person, the first word that comes to mind is engaging. One word that doesn’t come to mind when you watch him on the air is humble, but you can use that word – and every synonym for it – when you hear him speak in person. The obvious love he has for his family comes through in every story, especially those featuring his father. He radiates a sincere thankfulness for all he has obtained, and to those who helped him attain it, even though it is owed mostly to his own talent and hard work.

The stories about old Canterbury Downs were hilarious. Carothers recalled the early years when, “in the days before simulcasting, gamblers actually moved to Minnesota to bet races at Canterbury Downs.” The combination of enthusiastic wagering with a general lack of betting sophistication was simply too hard to resist, so up would swim the sharks and feast on the newbies.

Carothers was generous with his time and answered every question put to him. He came early and stayed late. The question on everyone’s mind was “Who do you like in the Derby?” I like to answer that right now with, “Who don’t you like?”

Given all the recent defections and the horses drawing in, Carothers said that anyone with a decent three year old has to be looking at this year’s Derby and thinking they have a shot. Because of that “this year you’re going to have mile and a sixteenth synthetic horses trying to win the Derby!” His early favorite, absolutely open to change given the length of time before the race: Shakleford. I would tune in to TVG later this week, though, just to be sure.

The awards were presented and several winners had back to back winning years including Win Willy as the top Minnesota owned horse; Bet Your Boots followed up his championship two year old season with a triumph in the two year old colt/gelding category; and Bella Notte returned to claim older filly and mare honors. All three will also be back this season trying for three-peats!

The stallion awards were given out to a pair of repeaters as well. Demidoff took home the top Minnesota Stallion award while Gold Fever was the Thoroughbred Times Stallion award winner. A complete list of winners is at the bottom of the page.

The evening was rounded off by Gary Speich, landscape businessman and horse owner, detailing the Fillies Race for Hope and Dr. Jennifer Selvig, DVM and Annie Ringwelski, Directors of the Minnesota Retired Racehorse Project.

The Fillies Race for Hope is going to be a full day of filly and mare racing at Canterbury Park topped off by the $75,000 Lady Canterbury Stakes. The day will honor those that have fought the battle against breast cancer and combine that with a fun and active day at the races. Sponsorships are available for this event with all proceeds going to benefit the Hope Chest for Breast Cancer Foundation, an organization that helps underserved or financially distressed individuals or families touched by breast cancer (much in the same way that the Cystic Dreams Fund does for families touched by cystic fibrosis). Circle the date on your calendar – July 31. It promises to be a memorable day.

The Minnesota Retired Racehorse Project is a relatively unknown yet extremely valuable resource in the racing community. Founded in August of 2009, the MRRP has directly placed or assisted in the sale of over 50 retired racehorses! All of this is accomplished strictly by volunteers. The organization is run on donations alone and 100% (yup, all of it!) is used directly for the horses. Many of us know that it takes a small fortune to keep a horse in training, but did you know that only a fraction of that can help retrain a horse for a new career or rehab it from injury? A $100 donation would feed a horse for a month. Even $5 would purchase a bale of hay. The MRRP recently received their 501(c)3 designation from the IRS so each and every contribution is tax deductible. A small live auction, run expertly by Jay Dailey, raised over $700 Saturday night, but more help is needed. Racing season is almost underway and their services are always in demand by summers end. I hope you’ll take a moment and click on the link and visit. Dr. Jen, Annie and their staff are doing all they can, but need your help, too.

So it was a night of awards and of giving back; a nod to the past and hope for the future. Canterbury Park opens in 19 days – I hope to see you there…all summer long.

2010 Minnesota Awards

2-year old filly – ESPRIT DE BLEU (Blue Valley Farms LLC breeder/owner)

2-year old colt – BLACK TIE BENNY (Barbara Rehbein breeder/owner)

3-year old filly – HUNTER’S TIGER PAW (Joel & Kris Zamzow breeder/owner)

3-year old colt – BET YOUR BOOTS (Richard Bremer & Cheryl Sprick breeders/owners)

Older filly/mare – BELLA NOTTE (Art & Gretchen Eaton breeders/owners)

Older colt/gelding – NOMOREWINEFOREDDIE (Wind N Wood Farm breeder; Anthony Didier owner)

Broodmare of the Year – MASQUERADE STAR (Joel & Kris Zamzow owners)

Minnesota Stallion Award – DEMIDOFF (Mohamed El Deeb of Cross Creek Farm owner)

Thoroughbred Times Stallion Award – GOLD FEVER (Jeff & Karen Greseth owner)

Minnesota Owned Horse – WIN WILLY (Jer-Mer Stables, LLC owner)

TOBA Award – Jeff & Deb Hilger

Charles Bellingham Award – Jeff & Deb Hilger

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