SHAKOPEE, MN – The $85,000 Minnesota Oaks and Derby were full of surprises Saturday afternoon at Canterbury Park for the assembled crowd of 16,358.
In the mile and 70 yards Oaks, the heavy favorite was 4/5 Dazzling Sweetheart, an undefeated filly that looked like she was going to just improve with the added distance of the Oaks coming off of three sprints. Hopping at the break, she was rank early and fought jockey Chris Rosier wide through the first turn and never really was involved, finishing 7th.
Pecos inherited the lead at the 3/4 pole, mostly because no one else seemed to want it with the field covering the distance in 1:12.81, but could not hold on down the stretch. Longshot Blazing Angel ($55.80), stalking the entire way, ran down Pecos and battled Honey Sox Appeal ($3.80) before putting that one away late to win by 2 1/2. Unbridled Mayhem closed to be third ($9.40).
Trainer Gary Scherer knew that his charge could get the distance even though she had been running on the turf.
“She ran into all kinds of trouble in her last,” Scherer said. “She was only able to really run from the gap [where the horses come on to the track] to the finish line. I knew stretching out was going to work.”
Jockey Geovanni Franco kept Blazing Angel out of trouble and had plenty of run late, covering the mile and 70 in 1:43.25 for Astar Linquist Stable.
The overwhelming favorite in the Derby, 3/5 Smooth Chiraz, broke through the gate prior to the race, injuring his hock and was ruled out of the race by the track veterinarian.
“It was just a small scratch on the stifle,” reported trainer Francisco Bravo. “It was heartbreaking. We had high hopes for him here and to not be able to compete was just heartbreaking.”
Bravo had a backup, however.
Jockey Orlando Mojica, aboard Bravo’s other entry in the race, Pensador, sat coyly off the early pace set by Smooth Stroke and moved to take command at the ¾ pole and steadily drew off to win by a length and a half.
“We always thought that he had it in him to go two turns,” Bravo said. “He was built for this and Mojica did a phenomenal job. The pace was good and he handled him perfectly.”
“What a gift this was,” said owner and co-breeder (with Bravo) Dale Schenian. “This was a miracle.”
Pensador covered the distance in 1:42.95 and returned $14.40. Smooth Stroke was a solid second ($5.20) and Reigning Warrior ($4.60) was a further 5 ¾ lengths back for third.
The inaugural $40,000 Minnesota Thoroughbred Association Sale Graduate Futurity was also held on Saturday. The race is for graduates of the 2015 MTA Yearling Sale that changed hands in the sales ring. This year, horses from consignors that sold horses in the sale were eligible to be nominated as well.
Fridaynitestar, bought for $4100, provided his owners with a great return on their investment, winning the stake in the first outing of his career. He broke well in the five furlong race and took command through the turn and never looked back under Denny Velazquez, winning by 2 ¾ lengths and returning $23.00 to his backers. Got Even Smarter ($4.60) was second while Nite Goggles ($5.40) was third.
Owner Kevin Lay, speaking for the ownership trio, said “We missed on several others that sold for a lot more, but we really thought he was a steal at $4100.