We’ll tackle the first four of the eight stakes race on the Festival card with the Futurity, Debutante and the pair of Classics up next.
Minnesota Quarter Horse Futurity
In the $45,000, 350 yard Futurity, trainer Jason Olmstead appears to have the pair to beat. On the inside, Vodka at Midnight with leading Quarter Horse jockey Nik Goodwin aboard, is two of three in her young career. She dueled mightily with Faster Than Hasta in the Minnesota Stallion Breeders’ Futurity but just couldn’t outfinish the winner who set a new stakes record with the performance.
On the outside is Pyc Jess Bite Mydust, also a winner of two of three with his last being a victory in the $165,600 Mystic Lake Northlands Futurity , the richest Quarter Horse race in Canterbury Park’s history.
The duo own the highest speed indexes in the race and with a clean break it should be the two of them down to the wire.
Minnesota Quarter Horse Derby
It’s hard not to like trainer Ed Ross Hardy’s VOs Filo in the 400 yard $45,000 Minnesota Quarter Horse Derby. He’s two of four on the season and is coming into the Derby off the strength of a pair of stakes wins in the Bob Morehouse and the Cash Caravan.
The steadily improving Blacks Cartel recently dispatched a field of state bred allowance runners while Squirt Guns has won two of the last three and Eyra Hayes has just missed against several of these in here in his last three starts
Crocrock Minnesota Sprint Championship
The shortest field of the day and perhaps the most compelling may be here in the $60,000 six furlong dash. Four current or past Canterbury divisional champions will be competing in this five horse field.
Longtime fan favorite Heliskier is back in this race after a two year absence. Heliskier has been training steadily since June and punctuated his workout schedule with bullet five furlong work on August 17. If anyone can have a horse ready to roll after an extended absence it’s trainer Mac Robertson, but it’s a tall order against this field.
Defending champion Bourbon County began the season with a win in the 10,000 Lakes but missed the board in his last two starts: one a turf route and the other a 4th place finish in an open allowance race that was clearly a prep for this race.
Last year’s three year old champion Hold for More has yet to win this year after reeling off six in a row last season and finishing a solid second behind AP is Loose in the Classic. Like his rival, Bourbon County, his only real clunker came in a turf route while his three dirt sprints have produced a 2nd to Bourbon County in the 10,000 Lakes and a second and third in open company allowance races.
Smooth Chiraz is this year’s Vic Myers winner and, along with Darkhorse Ty, one of two 3-year olds in the race. Heavily favored in the Minnesota Derby, Smooth Chiraz was scratched late after a mishap in the gate. He emerged with only a few scratches and will be looking for a measure of redemption in the Sprint.
Smooth Chiraz could end up as the lone speed in this race which will make the youngster very tough. Bourbon County has the speed to press the pace should the connections choose to do so. Hold for More should stalk the pace while Darkhorse Ty will be trying to close late. The unknown is how keen to go Heliskier will be after his long absence.
Bella Notte Minnesota Distaff Sprint Championship
Another short but accomplished field in the $60,000 Distaff Sprint.
Defending champion, Rockin the Bleu’s, won’t sneak up on anyone this year like she did last year at 16-1. Though she has yet to see the winners’ circle in 2016, she had a pair of solid second place efforts in the Lady Slipper to start the season and behind Ball and Chain in an open optional claiming race. Her last two look to be subpar but looking closer you can see two back she tried a route on the grass in the Princess Elaine and then caught a sloppy track in another open optional claiming race so she has legitimate excuses. Reunited with the returned Scott Stevens here, she’s the morning line favorite at 5/2.
Another with an excuse in her last is Dazzlingsweetheart. The three year old reeled off three wins in a row to start her career, including the Frances Genter Stakes, but faltered while stretching out in the Minnesota Oaks. She returns to sprinting here and should be on the engine and will be very dangerous if no one goes with her.
Honey’s Sox Appeal is 6 for 6 in the exacta spots in her career splitting wins and seconds evenly. Her seconds, though, have come in the biggest races and she’ll be looking to reverse that trend in the Sprint. If Sky and Sea and Shaboom go with Dazzlingsweetheart, she may have a race shape that will set up for her stalking style.
Shaboom has rounded into form nicely and will move into the starting gate riding a two race win streak.
Since taking the Lady Slipper on opening weekend, Sky and Sea has produced a pair of sub par efforts but she comes into the race on the strength of a pair of strong works including a swift :46 flat for four panels on the 16th.
Two year old champion, La Petite Cheri, started the season where she left off – with a win, beating older company to boot, but she’s had a hard time getting untracked since.
The early pace will really dictate this race. If Dazzlingswetheart gets off uncontested, it could be all over but the shouting. Should, however, a pace battle arise, Honey Sox Appeal could get her shot at the big win or Rockin the Bleu’s, should she be able to sit off a hot pace, could win back to back Distaff Sprints.