Bet the ponies

class=img_thumbleft>It's down to the final three weekends of racing at

Canterbury Park

. This Sunday is the "Festival of Champions," an annual event for the top Minnesota-bred horses. There's a slew of big money (by Canterbury standards) stakes races with a total purse of $320,000.

Entries haven't been finalized yet, but a few intriguing horses will definitely be somewhere in the mix. Wally's Choice (partially owned by Wally the Beerman), who's already won a $40,000 stakes race at Canterbury this season and has nearly $300,000 in lifetime winnings, will certainly be one beast to watch. According to track analyst Kevin Gorg, Wally's Choice will most likely face off against Key Issues. That horse has already had a mammoth season, winning the $60,000 Minnesota Derby and another $40,000 stakes race.

The race for top jockey looks to be just about over. With 13 racing days left, Seth Martinez has a commanding 79-70 win advantage over Derek Bell. If Martinez can hold on it will mark just the second time in six years that Bell has not been the top jock at Canterbury. (Martinez bested him in 2002 as well.)

Gorg's not ready to completely dismiss Bell's chances, though, noting that his jockey agent, Richard Grinder, will land him top mounts for the rest of the campaign. "It's going to be tough for Bell to catch him, but with Richard Grinder calling the shots you never want to count him out," Gorg reasons.

Among trainers Mac Robertson is smoking every other barn on the backside. He's got 13 more wins and double the earnings of his closest competitor, Jamie Ness. It will be Robertson's second-straight season at the top of the trainer standings.

Rachel Blount had an excellent piece this week in the Star Tribune about the mounting competition Canterbury faces from on-line betting.

And oh yeah: the first $5,000 gamblers through the gate on Sunday get a free "Crocrock" t-shirt, honoring the track's all-time winningest thoroughbred.

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