09/09/2011 2:30PM

Canterbury: Meet saves the best for last

Barbara D. Livingston
Grade 2 winner Atta Boy Roy has been stabled at Canterbury all summer. He will race on the meet's closing-day card.

SHAKOPEE, Minn. – The last stakes of the season at Canterbury Park is shaping up to be one of the best. Graded 2 winner Atta Boy Roy will take on track-record holder Humble Smarty in the $35,000 Shot of Gold Stakes on Sunday.

The marquee match-up provides a strong finish to a season marred by a three-week shutdown of state government due to a budget crisis that cost Canterbury 12 days of racing. While Canterbury officials estimate they lost $1 million a week during the closure, which also shuttered the track’s card room, many indicators point to a successful race meet. Heading into the final weekend, average daily race-day attendance is 6,269, 7 percent higher than 2010’s record season. Average daily ontrack handle is $173,956, up nearly 2 percent. Also, the annual Minnesota Thoroughbred Association yearling sale was up across the board with 86 percent of horses selling, up from 37 percent in 2010. The average sales price of $6,403 and total sales revenue of $198,500 were up 29 percent and 135 percent, respectively.

In the Shot of Gold, contested on the main track over six furlongs, 9-5 morning line favorite Atta Boy Roy is coming off an eighth-place finish in the Grade 1 Vanderbilt Stakes at Saratoga. He finished third in in the $125,000 Iowa Sprint at Prairie Meadows in his prior start and three races back finished a strong second to Noble’s Promise in the Grade 3 Aristides at Churchill Downs. Atta Boy Roy’s biggest career win came when he went wire to wire in the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Stakes in 2010.

Atta Boy Roy has been stabled at Canterbury all summer with trainer Valorie Lund. He will need to break well in the Shot of Gold in order to deal with the speedy Humble Smarty.

Humble Smarty’s last visit to Canterbury Park resulted in a five-furlong track record in the off-the-turf Honor the Hero. The 7-year old gelding has been unable to duplicate that performance in his ensuing three starts for trainer Brett Creighton but should be dangerous over the speed-favoring Canterbury surface.

Just Jebicah is coming off a front-running win in the HBPA Sprint Stakes and his dirt form makes him a contender.

Lightly raced Don’t Make Me Mad will looking for his third win of the meet while stepping up in class.

Sunday’s closing day post time is 11 a.m.