06/18/2002 11:00PM

Canterbury Park track report


SHAKOPEE, Minn. - Fans here were treated to a blast from the past after To Wit won Friday's fifth race.

Following To Wit into the winner's circle, cell phone in hand, was Pat Cuccurullo, who led the trainer standings at Canterbury Park for three straight years, from 1989-1991. Now based in Chicago with a high-profile claiming stable, Cuccurullo has shipped a string of some 20 head to Canterbury under the supervision of assistant trainer Randy Sweitzer.

Cuccurullo's presence should have tipped fans as to what was to come, and the next two races on the card were captured by Cuccurullo trainees Slewp'a Doop and She Goes West. Cuccurullo tallied a fourth win from as many starts at the meet in Saturday's second race when Amberrae galloped by four lengths. When the smoke cleared Sunday, Cuccurullo's outfit had won 5 races from 8 starters during the week and he had moved into second place in the trainers' standings, with 8 wins from 22 starts.

Trainer David Van Winkle led the trainer ranks through Wednesday, with 14 wins from 54 starts, and appears headed for a showdown with Cuccurullo.

* Van Winkle had to check his watch following the fifth race on Sunday when his charges Expert and Classy Sheikh came home first and second in a quickly run six-furlong allowance race. Classy Sheikh set blistering fractions of 21.36 seconds, 44.16, and 56.51 to go well clear, but couldn't hold the late charge of his stablemate. Expert finished 1 1/2 lengths clear of Classy Sheikh in 1:08.92 over a track that was listed as fast and yielding typical times. The track record at Canterbury for six furlongs is 1:08.60, suggesting Expert is a runner to follow.

* There were four daily double payoffs after Saturday's nightcap, when the last two races - both for Quarter Horses - ended in dead heats. In the 10th race, Punkys Pet and Love a Rainy Night finished together in a 250-yard trial for the Minnesota Stallion Breeders' Quarter Horse Futurity. Twenty-two minutes later, Gt Rumors of Gold and Feather Lite Touche dead heated in another trial heat for the Futurity, to be held on June 29.