09/02/2011 2:47PM

Canterbury: Black Tie Benny star of Minnesota Festival of Champions

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SHAKOPEE, Minn. – The best Minnesota-breds in training will square off Sunday at Canterbury Park in the 18th Minnesota Festival of Champions. Eight Thoroughbred stakes worth a total of $345,000 will be contested.

The most interesting story line of the day comes in the $50,000 Minnesota Classic where the 3-year old Black Tie Benny will take on older rivals for the first time and try to become only the second horse to win the Northern Lights Futurity, the state’s top 2-year old race, the Minnesota Derby, the state’s top 3-year old race which he won wire to wire last out, and the Minnesota Classic for older horses. The only other horse to win all three races was J. P. Jet, who won the Minnesota Derby and Classic as a 3-year-old in 2002.

Black Tie Benny is owned by Barbara Rehbein and trained by Bernell Rhone.

Suddenly Silver, last year’s Classic champion, is back to defend his title in the 1 1/16-miles race. He will be only making his second dirt start of the meet after three successive starts over the Canterbury turf.

Jaival, a former stablemate of Black Tie Benny, claimed for $15,000 last out by trainer Valorie Lund, will be looking to try and upend the two favorites but has yet to hit the board in stakes company.

Jack and Max, last year’s Classic runner-up, will be looking for his first win of the year, as is Cubfanbudman. Ten-year-old Wally’s Choice, a winner of over $500,000 and the Oklahoma Derby in 2004 will be making the last start of his storied career before heading off into retirement.

◗ Distaff Sprint Championship: Bella Notte will be looking to repeat while facing familiar foes in the $50,000 race. Coming off a third-place finish in the Hoist Her Flag Stakes, Bella Notte will look to utilize her early speed and take the field wire to wire in the six-furlong dash, just as she did in the 2010 renewal.

Hidden Gold, who triumphed over most of these same rivals in the Lady Slipper Stakes in May, will attempt to sit behind Bella Notte and Chick Fight and run the two stablemates down.

As in the Lady Slipper, Hidden Gold will need to outfinish Special Occasion, who is coming off an impressive win in an open $20,000 optional claiming race.

◗ Minnesota Sprint Championship: The $50,000, six furlong event features Jost Van Dyke, a career winner of 3 of 4 starts, including an impressive allowance score last out. Rustic Road, running well in open company this season, Freedom First, winner of the 10,000 Lakes Stakes, and hard-trying Bizet will challenge.

◗ Northern Lights Futurity: The $55,000 2-year old male championship is highlighted by Heliskier, an impressive first-out winner. Prairie Meadows invader Sun Country had some trouble in the Prairie Meadows Mile, but should perk up cutting back to six furlongs.

◗ Minnesota Turf Championship: Tubby Time, the 7-5 morning line favorite, will try to run his winning streak to four in the $35,000 one-mile turf race. Tubby Time switched to the turf full time earlier this season. An impressive winner of the Blair’s Cove Stakes, Tubby Time faces Mack’s Blackhawk, who he has defeated twice this season.

◗ Northern Lights Debutante: The $55,000 2-year old filly championship, run at six furlongs, features Keewatin Ice and Go Go Jill. Keewatin Ice won at first asking last out, defeating Go Go Jill, who could not overcome a troubled start. Go Go Jill bounced back from that effort to win going away. Also entered is Assiniboia Debutante fourth-place finisher Jills Summer Raine.

◗ Minnesota Distaff Classic: The $50,000 older filly and mare championship features Princess Elaine winner Sheso Dazzling, who will try to run her winning streak to four. She faces the second- and third-place finishers from the Princess Elaine, Tickleyourfancy and TezSavitri, but switches to her preferred dirt surface while her rivals have run their best races over the turf.

First post Sunday is 1:30 p.m.