It probably wasn’t the most convincing sales pitch Barry Butzow had ever given. “You invest a lot of money, and you don’t expect any return,” he said, trying to sell spectators at Canterbury Park on the virtues of buying a racehorse. “But you will have so much fun.”
Butzow and his wife, Joni, provided a perfect example Sunday. He made his spiel from the winner’s circle at the Shakopee track after their filly, Firstmate, won the $85,000 Northern Lights Debutante as part of Canterbury’s Festival of Champions. The Butzows dropped $50,000 to buy her at last summer’s Minnesota Thoroughbred Association yearling sale, but when some minor issues set back her training, they didn’t know what they were going to get for their money.
They found out in a hurry. In the first start of her career, Firstmate fell 18 lengths behind, then charged down the stretch to win the Debutante for 2-year-old fillies by nine lengths. She was among the new state-bred stars and old favorites showcased on the track’s annual day of racing for Minnesota-bred horses, which drew a crowd announced at 7,306.
Mr. Jagermeister ran off with the $85,000 Northern Lights Futurity for 2-year-old colts and geldings, winning by 15½ lengths in his second brilliant performance of the season. Trainer Jason Olmstead swept the two quarter horse stakes with a pair of full brothers, and in the $60,000 races for older males — the Sprint Championship and the Classic Championship — Smooth Chiraz and True West upset some bigger names.
Butzow was feeling pretty good about his $50,000 investment, which gave him his third Festival of Champions victory and first in the Debutante. Firstmate’s share of the purse: $51,000, putting a little extra in his pocket for the next purchase.
“When we saw her at the sale, we thought she had good size, and she was well put together,” said Butzow, a longtime horse owner from Eden Prairie. “And she had that look in her eye. She’s just a classy animal.
“She missed a lot of training. But all of a sudden, she just woke up. It’s a great feeling to win at the Festival.”
Some of Sunday’s winners, like Firstmate, were purchased. Others were owned by the people who bred and raised them, including Mr. Jagermeister. The colt created tremendous buzz with a spectacular maiden win in his first career start, at Canterbury on July 4, and is a family project for trainer Valorie Lund.
Both of Mr. Jagermeister’s parents raced for the Lund stable at the same time. She always imagined what fine offspring they might produce, and Mr. Jagermeister — owned by Lund and her sisters Kristin Boice and Leslie Cummings — is the first. His time of 1 minute, 10.9 seconds is the third-fastest in the history of the race.
“His mother, Frangelica, and father, Atta Boy Roy, were like a Hollywood couple in our barn,” said Lund, who might test the colt next against tougher company in Kentucky or California. “He’s a runner. To do this with your family, it’s really special.”
Blood ties dominated the Minnesota Quarter Horse Derby and Quarter Horse Futurity as well. Pyc Jess Bite Mydust won the $45,000 Derby, and his full brother, Dickey Bob, won the $45,000 Futurity as the quarter horse season ended at Canterbury Park.
Olmstead raced their mother, Paint Or More, for owners Bruce and Judy Lunderborg of Gibbon, Minn. Olmstead, who won the quarter horse training title for the third consecutive summer, said the Lunderborgs are among a group of Minnesota owners who are breeding better quality horses that can run at the country’s most prestigious tracks. Those who are a cut below come to Canterbury, where they have helped Olmstead overpower the competition.
Pyc Jess Bite Mydust, 3, and Dickey Bob, 2 — nearly identical dark brown geldings with broad blazes — both ran straight, true and fast in adding $50,650 to their bankrolls. Olmstead, who finished the season with 23 victories, trained five of the six in-the-money finishers in the two races.
“[Their mother] was a nice filly herself,” he said. “Getting to see her first two babies be stakes winners makes all the hard work worth it. It’s come full circle.”
The wheel will turn again Monday, when the MTA holds its annual yearling sale at Canterbury. After the thrill Butzow got from last year’s purchase, he left open the possibility that some of Sunday’s earnings might be spent at the auction, with an eye toward finding his next Festival champion.
“There’s a chance,” he said with a wink, as he accepted another round of congratulations.