Most of his rivals were chasing glory, trying to win one of the most prestigious races of Canterbury Park’s Festival of Champions. For Mr. Jagermeister, though, Sunday’s $75,000 Minnesota Classic Championship was just another test.
It’s not that trainer and co-owner Valorie Lund didn’t care about the title, or the $45,000 payday that came with it. What she really wanted, though, was to teach her speedy star a little bit more about how to be a racehorse. “He’s still learning, and we’re working on getting him to relax,’’ she said. “He was stellar today.’’
While five others chased him throughout the 1 1⁄16-mile race, Mr. Jagermeister made it look easy again, requiring nothing more of jockey Leandro Goncalves than to stay aboard. The 3-year-old colt beat a collection of elders by 4 ¼ lengths, burnishing his reputation as one of the best Minnesota-breds in history on the day Canterbury celebrated racehorses bred in the state.
None was a bigger favorite than Mr. Jagermeister, who went off at 1-9 and returned only $2.10 on a $2 bet to win, place or show. Several others, though, also put on impressive performances before a crowd announced at 11,130.
Dame Plata upset favorite Mister Banjoman in the $100,000 Northern Lights Futurity, which showcased a crop of 2-year-old colts and geldings considered Minnesota’s most talented in years. Honey’s Sox Appeal won the $75,000 Distaff Sprint Championship for the third consecutive time, and quarter horse Dickey Bob won his fourth race in a row, crushing the competition in the $55,200 Minnesota Quarter Horse Derby.
The card drew $1,005,728 in total wagering, second most in the Festival’s 25-year history.
The Classic might have been Mr. Jagermeister’s final race at Canterbury Park. Lund said again that she believes he will not hit full stride until next year, and after a four-month vacation in Arizona, she plans to test him against a higher level of competition.
“It just astounds me every time I watch him, to see how easily he’s doing what he’s doing,’’ Lund said of her colt, who won without any encouragement from Goncalves. “He got a little pressure from [second-place] True West, and he looked so relaxed.
“Next year, we’ll give him the opportunity to run wherever he can. We just feel so blessed.’’
Though Mr. Jagermeister was the big draw, the Northern Lights Futurity was the day’s most intriguing race. With the quality of Minnesota-bred horses improving, some have fetched unheard-of prices at auction, and two were part of a deep field in the Futurity. Mister Banjoman was bought for $200,000 at a Kentucky sale last fall, and Notte Oscura sold for $160,000.
Dame Plata cost $35,000 at the Minnesota Thoroughbred Association’s annual yearling sale last summer. He edged past pacesetter Mister Banjoman in the stretch to remain undefeated, winning by three-quarters of a length for trainer Francisco Bravo.
“Out of the whole group at that sale, there was just something about him,’’ Bravo said of Dame Plata, who is 3-for-3 and has won $110,400. “When you see those big-money horses, it can intimidate you a little bit, but he ran like we expected. What a dream.’’
Lund knew how he felt. All week long, people had been stopping her to wish Mr. Jagermeister well and express their admiration for him. The colt was so full of energy he was “tearing down the barn,’’ she said, showing he was primed to end his season with another inspired effort.
As Mr. Jagermeister struck his well-rehearsed pose in the winner’s circle, a crowd gathered five deep around the railing, holding phones aloft to capture photos and videos of the glistening bay. If this was his Shakopee farewell, they wanted something to remember him by.
“He has such a following,’’ Lund said. “If he goes on to big things, it would be so fun. It will highlight Minnesota to everyone.’’