08/31/2012 1:20PM

Canterbury Park: Minnesota Festival of Champions offers more then $400,000 in purses


SHAKOPEE, Minn. – Canterbury Park will showcase statebred talent on Minnesota Festival of Champions Day on Sunday. Over $400,000 in purses will be up for grabs on the 11-race card, which includes two Quarter Horse and six Thoroughbred stakes, many of which will help to determine Minnesota divisional championships.

Post time for Festival Day is 1:30 p.m. Central. Canterbury Park concludes its meet Monday with a Labor Day card.

The conclusion of phenom Heliskier’s season after his Minnesota Derby victory has opened up the Minnesota Classic, with nine runners competing for the $65,000 purse in the 1 1/16-mile race. Mac Robertson, the trainer of Heliskier - who won four races at Canterbury this year while improving his career record to a perfect 6 for 6 – still has the morning-line favorite in Coconino Slim, who has narrowly missed in each of his last three starts, including a second-place finish in the Blair’s Cove earlier this summer, and a nose defeat last out in a first-level allowance at Arlington Park.

Last year’s Classic winner, Jaival, returns for trainer Valerie Lund, while open allowance winners Samendra and Eurasian will also look to make a run at the front-running Coconino Slim.

◗ In the $65,000 Distaff Classic at 1 1/16 miles, Keewatin Ice, winner of the MTA Lassie Stakes and the Minnesota Oaks this season, will take on older fillies and mares for the first time, including 5-year-old stakes winner Tickleyourfancy.

Princess Elaine winner Tickleyourfancy returns to the dirt riding a two-race winning streak. The third-place finisher in last year’s Distaff Classic, her stalking style is similar to that of favored Keewatin Ice and both should be rolling late while trying to catch probable pacesetter Sasha’s Fierce.

◗ Sprint Championship: Nomorewineforeddie will be sprinting toward history as he takes aim at his third straight $50,000 Sprint championship, a feat accomplished only by Canterbury Park Hall of Famer Crocrock from 2000 to 2002. He’ll be challenged by 10,000 Lakes victor Bet Your Boots and five others.

◗ Distaff Sprint: The $50,000 Distaff Sprint may be the most competitive race on the card and features six horses that have been facing each other all summer. Lady Slipper winner Hidden Gold and Frances Genter winner Happy Hour Honey will take on the talented 4-year olds Gypsy Melody and Polar Plunge.

◗ Northern Lights Futurity: Six 2-year-olds will take to the track for the $65,000 Futurity at six furlongs. The morning-line favorite is Sugar Business off the strength of a seven-length maiden win. Speak to Me, a 13 1/2-length winner after adding blinkers in his last start, is the horse to catch.

◗ Northern Lights Debutante: Trainer Bernell Rhone’s Badge of Glory earned a field best 65 Beyer Speed Figure in her maiden romp at the end of July while never really being asked for run. She has been installed the 9-5 morning line favorite in the $65,000 Debutante. Bleu Moon Magic, Sultry Queen, and Artic Prairie will try and keep her from running away from the pack in the six furlong contest.

◗ As the 62-day meet comes to its conclusion, handle and attendance figures offer encouragement for the future.

“Handle is currently up 4 percent ontrack and 14 percent through import from other betting locations out of state,” said Canterbury Park president Randy Sampson. “The number of horses entered daily has been consistent due to the Mystic Lake joint marketing and purse enhancement agreement reached in early June. I anticipate we will see even more horses at Canterbury in 2013 as the available purse money again increases.”