05/25/2010 11:00PM

Favorites hitting at 50-percent clip


Canterbury Park is beginning to earn a reputation as a chalk-player's best friend. Favorites won 62 percent of the races on opening weekend, and after two weeks of racing, winning favorites are still clicking at 50 percent (25 for 50), well above the national average.

In 2001, 35 percent of the favorites won at Canterbury. That number grew to almost 45 percent over the past two seasons, and seems to be taking another step up this season.

Why do so many favorites win? It primarily has to do with the gap that has developed among the horsemen at Canterbury since the purses started increasing about seven years ago. A decade ago, Canterbury was still rebuilding and there was more parity on the backside. Over the past five years, trainers Mac Robertson, Jamie Ness, Bernell Rhone, and Michael Biehler have combined to win 884 races, about 26 percent of the races run at Canterbury in that time period.

Fans and handicappers have learned to trust the top connections, and they continue to come through year after year. The remaining trainers are usually at high odds and win below 10 percent of the time because their horses are just not as good as thos in the big stables.

With Ness taking his stable to Presque Isle Downs this season, some observers felt the door was open for other trainers to grab some of those victories. But through two weeks of racing, Biehler, Rhone, and Robertson have just grabbed most of the races that the Ness horses would have won.

It will be interesting to see as the meet moves to its traditional four-day week starting June 4 if those numbers change.