06/18/2017 6:47PM

Velazquez's timing gives Hay Dakota Mystic Lake win

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Hay Dakota paid $15.80 in winning the Mystic Lake Derby on Sunday.

Hay Dakota dropped too far behind a slow pace last summer at Canterbury Park in the $200,000 Mystic Lake Derby, his strong rally falling a neck short of victory. But his rider Sunday in the $100,000 Mystic Lake Mile, Denny Velazquez, timed things better and Hay Dakota won an exciting edition of the one-mile grass race by a neck.

Hay Dakota’s trainer, Joel Berndt, also timed things well. He brought Hay Dakota back from a four-month break May 27 in a Canterbury allowance prep for Sunday’s race. Hay Dakota finished third, but got just what he needed to move forward into the Mystic Lake Mile.

Way Striking, coming off a good dirt-stakes win at Prairie Meadows, went to the front Sunday and set up shop on a clear lead while running his first quarter-mile in 24.08 seconds and a half in 48.03. Majestic Pride to the outside and One Mean Man to the inside crept into contention around the far turn, and by then Velazquez had gotten Hay Dakota out of sixth and into a golden spot just behind the leaders.

“When I saw the three of them were battling, I thought I’d wait to make my move,” Velazquez said.

Hay Dakota pounced at the top of the stretch and appeared to be on his way to a decisive victory, but Majestic Pride, racing between horses, stayed on gamely, as did Way Striking, who was ever so slightly gaining again in the final yards. One Mean Man, the 2-1 favorite, couldn’t finish with the top three and was fourth, 1 1/2 lengths out of third. Hootenanny, the 3-1 morning-line favorite, was an early scratch.

Hay Dakota ran one mile on a course officially rated good in1:35.37 and paid $15.80 to win.

Alice Mettler owns Hay Dakota, a 4-year-old by Haynesfield out of the Harlan’s Holiday mare Churchill By the Sea. Berndt said last summer he remembered Chicago-based jockey Carlos Marquez Jr. telling him following a dirt breeze at Hawthorne several months before Hay Dakota even tried turf that Berndt and Mettler had a grass horse on their hands. After four dirt losses to start his career, Hay Dakota’s connections risked him for a $20,000 maiden-claiming tag in his Canterbury and turf debut.

Hay Dakota wasn’t taken, and by the end of 2016 he had become a graded-stakes winner after upsetting the Grade 3 Commonwealth Stakes last fall at Churchill.

“It’s very rewarding,” Berndt said. “He had some gate issues; that’s why we ran him for the $20,000.”

Hay Dakota won’t be running for a claiming tag anytime soon.

Sweet Tapper upsets Lady Canterbury

Sweet Tapper lost four second-level allowance races to start her 2017 campaign. Clearly all she needed was a bump up to stakes competition.

Despite his filly failing to clear her allowance condition, trainer Ian Wilkes took a swing at the $100,000 Lady Canterbury Stakes on Sunday at Canterbury Park, and Sweet Tapper hit the mark, splitting horses late under Orlando Mojica to win by a head over favored Insta Erma.

It was another 2 1/4 lengths back to Seeking Treasure as pace-setting second choice Gianna’s Dream faded to fourth. Sweet Tapper paid $18 to win and ran a mile in a snappy 1:35.88. The Canterbury turf officially was labeled “good” but produced times suggesting it was closer to firm.

Sweet Tapper is a 4-year-old filly bred by Courtlandt Farm and owned by Lorie Michaels’ Winchester Place Thoroughbreds LLC, which is based in Minnesota.

By Tapit, Sweet Tapper is out of the Grade 1-winning turf mare Sweet Talker. Her third win from 14 starts was her first in a stakes race.

Sweet Tapper finished her 3-year-old season with a distant third in the Grade 3 Mrs. Revere Stakes, and after a close encouraging fourth-place finish at Gulfstream Park in her 4-year-old debut, Sweet Tapper finished 11th on turf at Keeneland, then third in Churchill mud and second last out over Arlington Polytrack. Undeterred, Wilkes sent the filly into stakes competition and was duly rewarded.

Gianna’s Dream went out to lead and set moderate fractions of 24.34 and 48.19 while pressed mildly by Princess Erindelle. The eventual winner raced fourth on the inside, and with a quarter-mile to run was all dressed up with nowhere to go.

“I had a lot of horse turning for home,” Mojica said. “I took a shot coming up the rail.”

A good-sized gap soon opened two paths off the rail, Sweet Tapper went through it, and doing her best work in the final furlong ran down Insta Erma just in time.