Admittedly there was not a lot to savor on the racetrack for us personally this year, we only managed one win this season, but there were certainly great moments.
Trainer Robertino Diodoro, in his second season training at Canterbury, seized the training title from 9 time champion Mac Robertson. This is the first year that I can remember that Mac didn't have the title wrapped up with 4 - 6 weeks to go. I had a chance to talk with Diodoro after his Castletown won the $40,000 HBPA Sprint Stakes and asked him what changed between his debut season, where he had a hard time reaching the winners' circle, to this season.
Diodoro tied the Canterbury Park record for wins by a trainer on a single card, taking six on the final day, albeit in a highly unusual way, winning both ends of a dead heat in the $75,000 Shakopee Juvenile stakes which counted as two wins. I'm not sure which feat is more impressive: winning six races or getting six wins in five races!
The jockey race was another that came down to the final day. The trio of defending champion Dean Butler, Ry Eikleberry and Alex Canchari entered the final day with Eikleberry sporting a two win lead over his rivals and was able to hold off Canchari, taking the title 64 - 63.
The Indian Horse Relay was again a highlight of the meet for me. These kids are truly amazing. For those not familiar, there are several teams that consist of a rider, holder and mugger. Three horses on each team go a lap each (1 mile) and at the end of the lap, the mugger grabs the horse coming in at nearly full speed while the rider jumps off one mount and vaults on another for another lap. This year's winner was Dolphus Racing from the Cheyenne River Sioux Nation.
The big race of the season was the $200,000 Mystic Lake Derby, run on closing day for the first time in it's 3-year existence. According to Canterbury's Vice President of Racing Operations Eric Halstrom,"“We had hoped that moving our biggest race to the end of the season would allow us to draw horses from tracks where we had not before."
Halstrom wasn't mistaken. Ten of the 12 entered for Saturday most recently raced at tracks other than Canterbury, including Saratoga, Monmouth, and Parx in the east, Del Mar in southern California, and Northlands Park and Woodbine in Canada.
The winner was Long on Value who swept passed the early leaders Chairman Crooks and the favorite General Jack to take the richest race in the Canterbury Park era of Minnesota racing.
While the leading owners of the meet were brothers Al & Bill Ulwelling for the third time in five years, it's hard to imagine an owner having a better year than Rake Farms LLC. Proprietor Scott Rake breeds and races a small stable but had some of the biggest wins of the year with filly Sky and Sea and gelding Bourbon County. Between the two, four divisional honors were captured including Sky and Sea being named the Horse of the Year for the 2014 season.
From a business perspective, stats at the track were relatively flat but in an era when contraction is the norm and tracks are struggling to fill fields and just stay open, flat is the new up.
From my recap in the DRF:
Total purses for the meet were up 5.4 percent over 2013 with the track paying out $13,120,706 over the 68-day season.
Field size, which was a decade-best 8.36 horses per race in 2013, remained steady with 2014 fields averaging 8.22 starters per race.
Claiming activity at the Shakopee oval was up sharply year over year, with the number of horses claimed nearly doubled from 2013, 165 compared to 65, with a total value of more than $1,000,000, an increase of 79.3 percent year over year.
Older horse – Bourbon County
3 year old colt/gelding – Speed is Life
Grass horse – Dear Fay
Older Filly/Mare – Talkin Bout
2-year old – Hold for More
Claimer of the meet – Terice
Quarter Horse – Dirt Road Queen