Atta Boy Roy was the best horse Valorie Lund ever trained, a speed demon who sprinted all the way to the Breeders’ Cup. Frangelica was a lovely filly and a favorite in the Lund stable, even after her racing career ended prematurely because of an injury.
When they resided together at Canterbury Park, Lund viewed them as an equine Brangelina, the glamour duo of her Shakopee barn. “I kept thinking, ‘When they both retire, I’m going to breed her to him, because they’re like the prettiest Hollywood couple,’’ the trainer said. “And to get a first foal like this, it’s like, ‘Wow.’ It’s almost a fairy tale.’’
That sensational offspring — the 3-year-old colt Mr. Jagermeister — will wrap up his 2018 season Sunday as a heavy favorite in the $75,000 Minnesota Classic Championship, part of Canterbury’s Festival of Champions for state-bred horses. Already, he is being hailed as one of the best Minnesota-bred thoroughbreds in years.
The bay named for a German liqueur has won five of seven lifetime starts at Canterbury, including blowout victories in three state-bred stakes this summer. In his last race, the Minnesota Derby, Mr. Jagermeister romped to a 10-length win and nearly broke a 33-year-old track record — even though he raced wide the entire way and wasn’t asked for his best effort.
The colt earned a 99 Beyer Speed Figure for that race, a number surpassed by only 15 other 3-year-olds in the country this year.
“What he’s done is just incredible,’’ said Richard Grunder, who has seen all of Canterbury’s greats since the track opened in 1985 during a career as a track announcer and jockey agent. “I just get tingles when I see him run. In a lot of ways, he’s already proven he’s one of the best Minnesota-breds ever.’’
Lund still isn’t sure how good her late-blooming star might be. After rejecting offers as high as $300,000, she is targeting a berth in the Breeders’ Cup next year, predicting Mr. Jagermeister will be ready to step up to elite company.
“We wanted to keep him in Minnesota this season,’’ said Lund, who will give the colt a long vacation in Arizona before his 2019 campaign. “He’s still a maturing horse, so I wanted him to have a chance to build up his confidence and continue maturing.
“He is so talented. As a 4-year-old, I believe he’s going to be as good as anything in the country. He’s going to be a horse that represents Minnesota really well.’’
Until she played Cupid with her two favorite thoroughbreds, Lund had no intention of getting into the horse-breeding business. She was content with a training career highlighted by Atta Boy Roy, who earned $602,276 and finished 10th in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Sprint.
Lund’s sister Kristin Boice, who owns Frangelica, liked the idea of seeing what the former stablemates could produce. The growing purses at Canterbury Park convinced them to keep the mare in Minnesota, where Mr. Jagermeister was born on a farm near Roseau. Like his father, he was slow to develop physically, but he made an immediate impression as a gangly 2-year-old.
The colt finished first or second in all four of his races last year, including a pair of victories by a combined 27 lengths. Lund has brought him along patiently, viewing each race as a lesson. This summer, she said she has seen an “amazing change’’ in Mr. Jagermeister, as he added bulk and power to his 16-hand frame while learning to use his speed in a tactical way.
He has clocked Canterbury’s fastest times of the season at two distances, including 1 mile, 70 yards in the Minnesota Derby — a route that many thought would be beyond his capabilities. Mr. Jagermeister’s time in that race was 1 minute, 40.37 seconds, only .17 seconds off a track record that has stood since 1985.
“That race was absolutely breathtaking,’’ Grunder said. “What he can do on the national scene, nobody knows. But I know one thing: He’s an absolute stone-cold runner.’’
In addition to his $263,975 in winnings, Mr. Jagermeister has brought Lund immeasurable joy. He is owned by Lund, Boice and another sister, Leslie Cummings, and his races give the siblings more opportunities to get together. Though he is a high-spirited horse, he is gentle when searching Lund’s pockets for cookies and posing for photos with young fans.
The one thing he has not been able to do is make Lund a connoisseur of his namesake liqueur. Though she still doesn’t like the taste of Jagermeister, she hopes to be sipping it from a red cup Sunday, in a victory toast that has become a stable tradition.
“People breed hundreds of horses trying to get a horse as good as he is,’’ Lund said. “We got it on our first try.’’