La Velle's 3-2 Pitch: Three observations and two predictions on Sundays.

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The horses spun out of the final turn and headed for home. And Canterbury Park roared.

Two Phil's, which won a race at the Shakopee track last September, led by a little over a length. He was a stretch run away from winning the Kentucky Derby, with Jareth Loveberry, Canterbury's champion jockey in 2017, in the driver's seat.

As an estimated crowd of 7,500 at Canterbury reacted to the possibility of a horse and jockey with ties to the track achieving glory, Jeff Maday, media relations manager at the track, had the same thought.

"Come on, Two Phil's!" Maday barked.

Two Phil's had surged down the backstretch to join the lead group. And when Verifying and Kingsbarns began to fall back, Two Phil's pounced. Now, the finish line in sights. A track employee, standing at the Canterbury finish line, pulled out a phone and prepared to take a picture of crowd celebrating Two Phil's, the Derby champion.

But Mage, ridden by Javier Castellano, overtook him with about a furlong to go. Mage had fallen back as far as 15th before turning it on.

"Jareth ran a great race," Maday said. "There was nothing else he could do."

Fans at Canterbury Park weren't sure if Two Phil's would win the Derby, but many threw him in their exacta, trifecta and superfecta wagers. All levels of the facility were full of gamblers/spectators/imbibers, and many had arrived early in the afternoon to set up and wager on the prelims and through simulcasting at other tracks across the country. A band played near the finish line and a show jumping exhibition was held until rain stopped it all.

A slightly husky, broken-down columnist and once-a-year horse wagerer moved through the crowd, running into gamblers of all levels. One group of gray-haired men planned to pool their money and have every horse in the field covered, hoping for a repeat of last year, when 80-to-1 shot Rich Strike won.

Then I approached a couple and asked, "Are you folks betting on Two Phil's?"

The woman of the pair responded, "Should we?"

While the rise of Two Phil's was on the minds of — most — of the wagering crowd on Saturday, a horse with owners from the Twin Cities made history at Churchill Downs.

Zozos, owned by Barry and Joni Butzow of Eden Prairie, went off as the favorite in the Knicks Go Overnight Stakes, one of the preliminary races. And it didn't take long for Zozos to show why. The 10th-place finisher in last year's Derby, he torched the field in a coast-to-coast victory in a stakes-record time of 1 minute, 34.42 seconds, winning by three-quarters of a length.

Attempts to reach the Butzows were unsuccessful. It's probably hard to get cellphone service on Cloud Nine.

Wild better off this way

The Wild must take a $14.7 million salary cap hit the next two seasons as a result of buying out Zach Parise and Ryan Suter in 2021. Quite a challenge for a team coming off a second consecutive first-round playoff exit.

Here's a reminder that the cash-strapped Wild are better off now than they were with Parise and Suter.

Parise's production had fallen off. Suter was still functional but had become difficult to deal with. GM Bill Guerin moved on from them.

Guerin has added depth during the last two trade deadlines while being cap-compliant. That will continue next season. This is Kirill Kaprizov's team. He is 26, as is fellow core member Joel Eriksson Ek. Matt Boldy and Brock Faber are young with upside. Marco Rossi and Calen Addison must become reliable players to help the Wild remain competitive.

Things could be worse. And they would have been if Guerin didn't bite the bullet a couple years ago.

Twins offense coming

I fell upside down in the rabbit hole while looking up Twins stats. I found reasons for hope that their offense will pick up.

The Twins were averaging 4.59 runs a game heading into their weekend series at Cleveland. The league average is 4.61. They were 26th in the league in hitting with the bases loaded, batting .154. Yuck.

They strike out 26% of the time, third-highest in baseball. They were 24th in on-base percentage. More yuck.

But wait. They were batting .280 on balls in play, 25th in the league, yet were eighth in hard-hit percentage. So they are hitting balls hard but right at people. Some of those hard-hit balls are going to start dropping in or getting through.

And they were sixth with runners in scoring position with a .282 average. Once more hits start falling in, the more run-scoring chances they will create.


Tough month ahead

The Twins' schedule in May is meaty, with series against the Padres, Cubs, Dodgers, Angels, Blue Jays and Astros. The local nine will go 12-15 this month.

Cut coming for Cook

The Vikings will find a way to keep Za'Darius Smith for the 2023 season, but they will likely release Dalvin Cook. It's hard to see a team trading for Cook and taking on his contract.