Reluctant Canterbury racehorse now can't be beat

  • Article by: RACHEL BLOUNT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 30, 2014 - 12:22 AM

Dirt Road Queen used to throw riders and refuse to enter the starting gate. Now she’s a Canterbury horse of the year contender.


The formerly skittish Dirt Road Queen has blossomed under trainer Bill Harris and jockey Seth Martinez, winning all four of her races this summer going into Sunday’s Festival of Champions.

Photo: Coady Photography,

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Before he climbed aboard Dirt Road Queen in May, Seth Martinez had not ridden a quarter horse in five years. If the jockey had known the filly’s history, she might not have been the first choice for his return.

Dirt Road Queen didn’t even get to the gate in her first two attempted starts. Both times, the rowdy 2-year-old broke loose from her equine escort before she could be loaded, then dumped her rider and ran off. “I didn’t hear about how bad she was until I’d ridden her twice,” Martinez said. “Now, you’d never think she was anything like that.”

The reluctant racehorse of last year has matured into a model athlete, winning all four of her races this summer at Canterbury Park. Dirt Road Queen and Martinez will attempt to make it five-for-five when they run in Sunday’s Minnesota Quarter Horse Derby, part of Canterbury’s Festival of Champions for Minnesota-bred horses. Three of her victories have been in stakes races, fattening her season earnings to $44,865 and putting her in contention for the track’s horse of the year award.

The stout sorrel filly is as sweet as she is swift. Affectionate with everyone at trainer Bill Harris’ barn — including the young children of groom Tracie Aker — the horse known as “Princess” also found her form at an opportune time for owners Bob and Julie Petersen. Her success this summer has soothed their pain after the death of her half-brother Sportwagon, a rising star lost last spring.

Dirt Road Queen began the Canterbury meet with a reputation as an ill-mannered rogue. Though Harris and the Petersens knew better, they couldn’t have predicted how beautifully their filly would blossom.

“We thought she would be a nice mare, but I have to say we’re pleasantly surprised,” Harris said. “Now she loves what she’s doing, once she figured it out. She’s just kind of put it all together and grown into a racehorse.”

The Petersens have won nine Festival of Champions races, more than any other quarter horse owners. Dirt Road Queen represents a third generation of Petersen-bred runners at Canterbury Park, following her grandmother Inclined To Cash — the couple’s first racehorse — and her mother, Inclinda, the Minnesota Derby champion in 2002.

Inclinda was a late bloomer, a quality she passed to her daughter. Once Dirt Road Queen finally got into the starting gate last July, she didn’t show much, finishing third in her debut before running well back in the pack in two other races. The filly got some time off at the Petersens’ farm near Cokato, then Harris took over her training.

The group was heartbroken when Sportwagon, the winner of the Minnesota Quarter Horse Futurity on Festival day last year, cut his leg in the paddock and had to be euthanized when a severe infection set in. Dirt Road Queen’s progress helped lift their spirits. The first time Harris’s wife, Lori, galloped the filly, she gave a one-word review: Wow.

“We expected great things from Sportwagon, and that was hard to take,” Bob Petersen said. “But [Dirt Road Queen] picked it up. She was like a big kid last year; she just needed time to get on top of the game mentally. And then, she was ready to go.”

Dirt Road Queen broke her maiden in a claiming race May 25 with Martinez aboard. The pair followed up with victories in the Minnesota Stallion Breeders’ and NCQHRA Derby, the Bob Morehouse Stakes and the Cash Caravan Stakes.

The Petersens have won 79 races and more than $760,000 in purses at Canterbury, the most of any quarter horse owners in track history. The Festival of Champions always is a special day for them, Bob Petersen said, one that typically ends with a party at the barn. Dirt Road Queen already has given them reason to celebrate.

“She’s just a professional who does everything right,” Martinez said. “And she seems like she’s getting better and better.”

  • related content

  • Chart: Festival of Champions info

    Friday August 29, 2014

    Festival of ChampionsWhat: The 21st edition of Canterbury Park’s annual day of racing for Minnesota-bred horses, with 11 races offering...

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


Tennessee 12/18/14 7:25 PM
Philadelphia 12/20/14 3:30 PM
San Diego 12/20/14 7:25 PM
San Francisco
Minnesota 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Detroit 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Atlanta 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Green Bay 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Kansas City 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New England 12/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 12/21/14 3:05 PM
St. Louis
Buffalo 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Indianapolis 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Seattle 12/21/14 7:30 PM
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
Atlanta 121 4th Qtr 3:27
Cleveland 94
Phoenix 99 4th Qtr 5:14
Charlotte 102
Dallas 64 3rd Qtr 5:24
Detroit 61
Utah 60 3rd Qtr 9:14
Miami 47
Orlando 67 3rd Qtr 3:16
Boston 73
Brooklyn 48 2nd Qtr 2:07
Toronto 46
Memphis 31 1st Qtr 1:04
San Antonio 15
Milwaukee 9:00 PM
Houston 9:30 PM
Indiana 9:30 PM
LA Clippers
Ottawa 1 3rd Prd 16:04
New Jersey 0
Boston 2 2nd Prd
Minnesota 1
Dallas 9:00 PM
Langston 65 FINAL
North Texas 78
Delaware State 72 FINAL
St Francis-NY 64
James Madison 72 FINAL
Ball State 52
SIU Edwardsville 65 FINAL
Campbell 70
St Francis-PA 67 FINAL
Duquesne 52
North Florida 66 2nd Half 4:18
Florida State 85
Catawba 69 FINAL
George Mason 99
Ferrum 48 FINAL
High Point 106
Hampton 55 FINAL
Illinois 73
Gardner-Webb 65 2nd Half 1:07
Jacksonville 66
Longwood 60 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 71
Arkansas State 69 FINAL
Miss State 55
Tennessee 68 2nd Half 0:31
NC State 77
Ohio State 97
Manhattan 56 FINAL
Pittsburgh 65
Robert Morris 57 FINAL
Toledo 83
Char Southern 58 FINAL
Wofford 64
Kennesaw St 90 FINAL
Youngstown St 84
Barber-Scotia 52 2nd Half 0:03
NC Central 111
Detroit 49 2nd Half 7:14
UCF 61
Liberty 45 2nd Half 7:35
UNC-Wilmington 47
TX A&M-CC 18 1st Half 0:13
Denver 36
Ark-Pine Bluff 27 2nd Half
Houston 16
UT Martin 18 2nd Half
Illinois State 28
Milligan 43 2nd Half
Louisiana 64
Abilene Christian 29 2nd Half
Loyola-Chicago 38
USC Upstate 29 2nd Half
Memphis 42
Alcorn State 24 2nd Half
Murray State 40
Central Mich 36 2nd Half
Northwestern 29
Georgia State 27 2nd Half
Old Dominion 23
TX-Pan American 26 2nd Half
Saint Louis 36
Ill-Chicago 15 2nd Half
SMU 29
Texas State 30 2nd Half
Stephen F Austin 27
SC State 23 2nd Half
Texas Tech 53
Missouri State 31 2nd Half 17:05
Tulsa 35
Chicago State 33 2nd Half
Western Ky 37
Morehead State 27 2nd Half
Green Bay 36
Northern Colorado 32 2nd Half
Nebraska Omaha 46
Winthrop 8:00 PM
New Mexico St 8:00 PM
San Diego St 8:00 PM
Eastern Mich 8:00 PM
Michigan State
Loyola Marymount 8:00 PM
Incarnate Word 8:00 PM
Grand Canyon
Northeastern 9:00 PM
Cal Poly
Central Arkansas 9:00 PM
New Mexico
Howard 9:00 PM
Portland 9:30 PM
CS-Northridge 10:00 PM
Grambling St 10:00 PM
Nevada 12/20/14 10:00 AM
Utah State 12/20/14 1:20 PM
Texas-El Paso
(23) Utah 12/20/14 2:30 PM
Colorado State
Western Mich 12/20/14 4:45 PM
Air Force
South Alabama 12/20/14 8:15 PM
Bowling Green
BYU 12/22/14 1:00 PM
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Western Carolina 79 FINAL
UNC-Asheville 66
(21) Miss State 66 FINAL
Louisiana 51
(25) DePaul 109 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 84
Liberty 64 FINAL
NC State 67
Elon 77 FINAL
Campbell 51
Akron 73 FINAL
UCF 64
Richmond 77 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 67
Montana 70 FINAL
Seattle 64
(7) Stanford 46 FINAL
Chattanooga 54
Florida A&M 69 FINAL
Southern U 80
Oklahoma 72 FINAL
(13) Duke 92
Savannah State 56 FINAL
Auburn 62
Northern Colorado 43 FINAL
South Florida 84
Siena 75 FINAL
Sacred Heart 65
Vermont 63 FINAL
St Francis-NY 61
(1) South Carolina 69 FINAL
Hampton 49
Fla Gulf Coast 91 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 46
Texas Southern 92 FINAL
Houston Baptist 80
Northwestern 88 FINAL
NC Central 52 FINAL
Coastal Carolina 67
Drexel 50 FINAL
Quinnipiac 74
Cincinnati 52 FINAL
Northern Ky 66
Alabama State 53 FINAL
Georgia Tech 77
Arkansas State 59 FINAL
Kent State 44
American Univ 60 FINAL
Manhattan 52
UNC Greensboro 60 FINAL
St Bonaventure 78
Youngstown St 61 1st OT
Robert Morris 61
NC A&T 66 1st OT
Appalachian St 66
Morehead St 65 2nd Half 1:40
USC Upstate 70
Arkansas-Monticello 25 2nd Half 20:00
Northwestern St 21
Prairie View 51 2nd Half 9:42
Sam Houston St 35
McNeese State 19 2nd Half
(3) Texas 44
Yale 40 2nd Half 20:00
Wagner 32
Oakland 26 2nd Half
TX A&M-CC 33
Eastern Kentucky 41 2nd Half
Alabama A&M 20
SIU-Edwardsville 17 2nd Half
Northern Ill 36
McMurry 8 2nd Half
TX-Arlington 49
Portland 8:00 PM
Eastern Washington
North Texas 9:00 PM
San Francisco


question of the day

Poll: Who is your favorite pro sports coach in the Twin Cities?

Weekly Question





Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters