The center of the horse racing universe migrates north to Minnesota’s Canterbury Park Wednesday, where the annual Mystic Lake Northern Stars Turf Festival offers five stakes and a rich smorgasbord of betting options.

Dowagiac Chief
Dowagiac Chief broke his maiden in this Kentucky Downs maiden special weight. He is one of the favorites for the marquee Mystic Lake Derby at Canterbury Park’s Northern Stars Turf Festival Wednesday. (Image: Coady Photgraphy)

Those options include an all-turf stakes Pick 5 that offers an industry low 10% takeout. That 50 cent wager encompasses Canterbury Park’s five turf stakes: races 3, 4, 6, 7 and 8.

The eighth race on the 10-race card is the featured $150,000 Mystic Lake Derby, sending its 11 3-year-olds a mile on the Canterbury grass. That $150,000 purse is the richest of Canterbury Park’s season.

There’s also a Pick 4 beginning with the first race, an all-stakes Pick 4 encompassing races 5 through 8, and a late Pick 5 on the final five races. All come with that 10% takeout.

Record Canterbury Park handle in last year’s Festival

“Based on horseplayer feedback from last year’s Festival, we put together a unique wager that features all five of the turf stakes races,” Canterbury Park Senior Vice President of Racing Andrew Offerman said in a statement. “It is a handicapping challenge we think fans will enjoy.”

They certainly did last year. The 2021 Northern Stars Festival set a single-day handle record of $3,795,180.

Given the deep fields and intriguing entries in several races, that record is in jeopardy this year. The biggest racing day on Canterbury Park’s schedule attracted trainers such as Brad Cox, Mike Maker, Tom Amoss, Greg Foley and Ron Moquett. They, in turn, brought in A-list jockeys such as Florent Geroux and Javier Castellano and the underrated Adam Beschizza, who tangle with local products Jareth Loveberry and Roimes Chirinos.

Big fields provide plenty of betting options

Options abound on those multi-race wagers. The $100,000 Lady Canterbury, $100,000 Dark Star Turf Sprint and $100,000 Curtis Sampson all drew 13 entries before scratches. The Dark Star Turf Sprint also has two also-eligibles. Meanwhile, the $100,000 Mystic Lake Mile drew 12.

“The card really came together well. All the turf stakes drew full fields,” Offerman said. “The Northern Stars Turf Festival will be extremely competitive, with horses from Kentucky, local horses, horses from around the country. It should make for very exciting racing.”

Six of the Mystic Lake Derby entries are Minnesota products, with Bens Malice (8/1) offering both value and the home-course advantage. He’s won twice on the Canterbury Park grass.

You may have heard of these two

That said, the two favorites are familiar names outside of the Land of 10,000 Lakes: Stitched (5/2) and Dowagiac Chief (4/1). Trained by Foley, Stitched comes in from his Churchill Downs stable after winning the Caesars Stakes at Horseshoe Indianapolis May 18. He’s 4-for-5 on turf and 4-for-6 in 2022, but outside of a 98 in an allowance score two starts back at Churchill Downs, carries rather pedestrian Equibase Speed FIgures.

Amoss’ Dowagiac Chief, meanwhile, comes in off a last-place finish in the Grade 2 American Turf on the Kentucky Derby undercard. But that came after he took the lead on a Churchill Downs turf course that was poison to front-runners that day. Before that, Dowagiac Chief finished a strong fourth in the Jeff Ruby Steaks on the Turfway Park synthetic and won the Black Gold Stakes at Fair Grounds by five lengths.

Before his 75 Equibase in the American Turf, Dowagiac Chief’s four previous Equibases were 95, 95, 97 and 92.

Three more Canterbury stakes candidates

Other key stakes horses to watch are XY Speed (4/1) in the five-furlong Dark Star Turf Sprint Stakes, Schlofmitz (3/1) in the one-mile Curtis Sampson Oaks, and Saranya (7/2) in the one-mile Lady Canterbury Stakes.

XY Speed has Maker pulling the strings. He’s 5-for-19 in Canterbury turf stakes the last four seasons. Along with that, you get Castellano in the irons and a horse who is 8-for-14 at this distance. Scholofmitz improved greatly his last two races, clocking career bests 88 and 82 Equibases. The 88 came in his last outing, a solid third in a Churchill Downs May allowance.

Canterbury Park Northern Stars Turf Festival-Key Stakes

Leg Race Post Time (CT)
Leg A Race 3 — $100,000 Curt Sampson Oaks 6:10 p.m.
Leg B Race 4 — $100,000 Dark Star Turf Sprint 6:41 p.m.
Leg C Race 6 — $100,000 Lady Cantrbury Stakes 7:43 p.m.
Leg D Race 7 — $100,000 Mystic Lake Mile 8:14 p.m.
Leg E Race 8 — $150,000 Mystic Lake Derby 8:45 p.m.

Last year, Saranya won the Curtis Sampson Oaks, the 3-year-old version of this race. The Cox product, with his faithful jockey Geroux holding the reins, hasn’t won since that Curtis Sampson score. But she’s coming off a fourth by a half-length in a strong, 1 1/16-mile Keeneland allowance. That came with a career-best 105 Equibase. This comes with a cutback to a mile.