It wasn’t her beauty or conformation that caught his eye. John Mentz never even saw Ready to Runaway until after he bought her last summer, spending $25,000 to pluck the filly out of a claiming race at Canterbury Park.
Mentz had come to the track that day to watch Beach Flower, a horse he co-owns, run in the Lady Canterbury Stakes. While he was handicapping the race card, he was intrigued by Ready to Runaway, a 3-year-old entered in the last race of the day. He put in a claim, then left the track early to celebrate Beach Flower’s win.
“I missed her race and didn’t see her until she was in the barn,” said Mentz, of Lakeville. “She looked good on paper, but it worked out better than we could have expected.”
Ready to Runaway has since become the apple of Mentz’s eye — and perhaps the best claim ever at Canterbury Park. The favorite in Wednesday’s $50,000 Glitter Star Stakes has won seven of 10 races at the Shakopee track, earning nearly 10 times her purchase price under Mentz’s ownership. She has finished in the money in all 14 career starts, with four stakes wins.
At morning-line odds of 2-5, Ready to Runaway is the most heavily favored horse on Wednesday’s “Made in Minnesota” card for state-bred horses. Her next check will lift her career earnings past $270,000.
“She’s got a big heart, and she tries so hard in every race,” said Bernell Rhone, who trained Ready to Runaway for former owner Empire Racing Stables. “A lot of horses will have a good race, then a clunker. She runs every time. She’s just a really nice horse.”
Rhone was the first to spot Ready to Runaway’s potential. He bought her for Empire Racing Stables at the 2017 Minnesota Thoroughbred Association yearling sale, paying the bargain sum of $4,000.
She won her debut as a 2-year-old, then started last season with a pair of second-place finishes in allowance races. Rhone hoped to keep her at the allowance level, but at the time, there were no races at Canterbury that fit her. Ready to Runaway couldn’t stay idle, so Rhone put her in the $25,000 claiming race and crossed his fingers.
“You’ve got to run where you can make money, and those allowance races weren’t going,” he said. “It was a bad break to have her claimed. But we paid $4,000 for her, and she made money for her owner. Those things happen in racing.”
A sharp handicapper, Mentz has been picking winners at Canterbury since he started going to the track as a college student. Ready to Runaway was just the kind of horse he liked to claim, a young Minnesota-bred who seemed to be improving. After he put in the claim and left the track, Ready to Runaway romped to a 7¼-length victory.
Her new trainer, Mac Robertson, tested her only 12 days later. Ready to Runaway took on stakes company for the first time, in the $50,000 Frances Genter for state-bred 3-year-old fillies. She won handily, then extended her win streak to four with victories in two $100,000 stakes races.
“In the Genter, she got to the lead, and she just took off,” Mentz said. “Watching her come down the stretch, it was like, ‘Wow. We might have gotten super lucky with this one.’ ”
While all seven of Ready to Runaway’s wins have come at Canterbury, she is talented enough to go outside the state and hit the board. She has run second or third in four races against tougher competition at Oaklawn Park and Keeneland, and she is versatile enough to win at distances from 5 furlongs to 1-1/16 miles. In her turf debut last month, she finished second by a neck.
Mentz said Ready to Runaway is stronger and faster than she was last year, and he believes she can continue to improve. He intends to keep her as a broodmare after her racing career, though he’s having too much fun watching her run to look that far into the future.
“We’ve claimed some others that have won, but she’s by far the best claim I’ve had,” Mentz said. “She’s always on her game. She’s a very special horse.’’