Canterbury Park enjoys rebirth for 2013 racing season

  • Article by: RACHEL BLOUNT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 17, 2013 - 1:03 PM

A significant infusion of tribal funds has dramatically changed the racing landscape at Canterbury Park.

During the Minnesota winter, when Canterbury Park’s empty barns are blanketed with snow, Mark Stancato works his sales pitch. The stall superintendent for the Shakopee track visits with horse trainers around the country, trying to persuade them to spend the summer racing at Canterbury.

Declining purses had made it harder and harder for Stancato to close the deal in recent years. But last winter, he needed to say only one thing: Canterbury had signed a deal with the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community that would infuse $75 million into its purse fund over 10 years. “We have 25 new stables coming, and some of them we didn’t even recruit,’’ said Stancato, who has managed Canterbury’s barns for most of the track’s 27-year history. “The money did the recruiting for us.’’

As Canterbury prepared to open a 69-day racing season Friday, Stancato wrestled with an entirely different problem — how to find room for everyone who wants to be part of it. He received 2,500 applications for 1,500 stalls and expects all to be filled for the first time. Many returning trainers have expanded their stables, and several owners have bought higher-quality horses. There are some powerful new stables, including 30 horses owned by Midwest Thoroughbreds, the nation’s leading owner for the past two years.

The deal with the tribe that runs Mystic Lake Casino will add $5.3 million to this season’s purses, inflating them to about $190,000 per day — twice the level paid in 2011 and close to the amount offered at top Midwest tracks such as Chicago’s Arlington Park and Iowa’s Prairie Meadows. The tribe also is paying Canterbury $600,000 this year for marketing. That money has helped fund a new $1.5 million digital tote board and a giant video screen near the paddock.

The additional purse money will allow Canterbury to run its longest meet since 2006. According to president Randy Sampson, it also is allowing the track — and Minnesota’s horsemen — to plan for the future for the first time in years.

“It’s a game-changer,’’ Sampson said. “After so many years of uncertainty, people are really excited.’’

That includes people such as Dean and Teresa Benson. As Canterbury’s low purses caused people to get out of the racing business, Teresa Benson said her family was thinking of converting some of its 40-acre horse operation to farmland or development. This spring, 23 foals were born at their Wood-Mere farm near Webster — three times as many as in 2012 — and trainers who can’t get enough stalls at Canterbury have inquired about keeping horses there.

“We haven’t seen that for years,’’ Benson said. “People go where the money is. There hasn’t been this much excitement in a long time.’’

Sudden infusion

As other tracks around the country increased their purses via revenue from slot machines, Canterbury’s purses did not keep pace. Funded by wagering on live and simulcast horse racing, as well as a portion of revenue from its card club, the track’s purses had declined from $149,767 per day in 2006 to $114,319 per day in 2011.

Low purses and a short racing season made it challenging for horsemen to simply break even. As many trainers chose to run elsewhere, many breeders also cut back or got out of the business. Last year, only 96 thoroughbred foals were born in Minnesota, declining for the seventh consecutive year to an all-time low.

The agreement with the Shakopee Mdewakanton tribe had an immediate impact. After it was signed June 4 — just a few weeks into the 2012 racing season — an infusion of $2.7 million boosted purses by 35 percent. Total purses this season will be about $12 million, compared to $6 million in 2011.

Word of the unique deal spread through the national racing community. Stancato was so overwhelmed by requests for barn space that he had to give several trainers fewer stalls than they wanted, and Canterbury’s stable area opened a week early to accommodate demand.

Bernell Rhone was given 54 stalls, the maximum allowed, and still had to send some of his horses to the nearby training center run by his brother Russ. Rhone has raced at Canterbury since it opened in 1985, despite diminishing purses that made it hard to earn a living. He kept coming back for two reasons: He liked the track, and his Minnesota clients wanted to see their horses run, even if they couldn’t earn enough purse money to cover their costs.

This year’s expanded season means more opportunities to race, and purses for all but the lowest levels of competition have increased by as much as $10,000 per race. Purses now are high enough for owners to actually turn a profit with a good horse, which encouraged some of Rhone’s clients to invest in better-quality stock.

“Instead of buying a cheap horse for $5,000, some people are spending $16,000 or $20,000 or $25,000 on a horse,’’ said Rhone, who also has some new clients lured by the purse increase. “Before, they were just hoping to have fun and break even. With the purses now, you can pay for a $25,000 horse and try to make some money. That has people a lot more excited.’’

Better racing

The competition, however, will be sharper. The new stables include Robertino Diodoro, a trainer whose 43 victories at tracks in California and Canada rank 23rd in North America, and Midwest Thoroughbreds, which has become one of the most successful racing operations in the country.

  • related content

  • Johnny Love picks the Preakness

    Friday May 17, 2013

    The Star Tribune handicapper likes Orb to win Saturday's Preakness and thinks he has a shot at horse racing's Triple Crown.

  • Johnny Love's Canterbury Park line

    Thursday May 16, 2013

    JOHNNY LOVE’S CANTERBURY LINEPost time: 6:30 p.m. Best bet: Bless My Halo (8th race). Best play: 50 cent Pick 4...

  • Photo gallery: Canterbury prepares to open

    Thursday May 16, 2013

    The season of horse racing starts Friday, May 17.

  • Chart: Canterbury Park season information

    Friday May 17, 2013

    CANTERBURY PARK in 2013Canterbury Park in Shakopee opens a 69-day racing season — its longest since 2006 — on Friday.THE...

  • Canterbury Park was so overwhelmed by requests for barn space that it had to give several trainers fewer stalls than they wanted, and Canterbury’s stable area opened a week early to accommodate demand.

  • The track at Canterbury Park was crowded with riders during a recent morning workout. The barns in Shakopee are filled to capacity for the first time in years.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Cincinnati - LP: M. Latos 4 FINAL
Baltimore - WP: B. Norris 5
Boston - WP: J. Kelly 9 FINAL
NY Yankees - LP: S. Greene 4
Detroit - WP: P. Coke 4 FINAL
Cleveland - LP: C. Allen 2
NY Mets - WP: J. Niese 8 FINAL
Miami - LP: B. Penny 6
Philadelphia - WP: K. Kendrick 4 FINAL
Atlanta - LP: M. Minor 0
Toronto - WP: R. Dickey 8 FINAL
Tampa Bay - LP: J. Hellickson 2
Milwaukee - LP: Y. Gallardo 1 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - WP: J. Arrieta 7
LA Angels - LP: C. Wilson 3 FINAL
Houston - WP: B. Peacock 8
Chicago WSox - WP: D. Webb 6 FINAL
Minnesota - LP: L. Oliveros 3
Texas - LP: M. Kirkman 1 FINAL
Kansas City - WP: J. Frasor 2
Pittsburgh - LP: J. Locke 4 FINAL
St. Louis - WP: A. Wainwright 6
San Francisco - WP: G. Kontos 12 FINAL
Colorado - LP: M. Belisle 7
Seattle - WP: J. Paxton 6 FINAL
Oakland - LP: S. Gray 5
Washington 1 FINAL
Los Angeles 4
Arizona - LP: B. Ziegler 1 FINAL
San Diego - WP: K. Quackenbush 2
Green Bay 9/4/14 7:30 PM
Seattle
Buffalo 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
New Orleans 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Atlanta
Minnesota 9/7/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Cleveland 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Jacksonville 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Oakland 9/7/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
Cincinnati 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
Washington 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Tennessee 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
New England 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Carolina 9/7/14 3:25 PM
Tampa Bay
San Francisco 9/7/14 3:25 PM
Dallas
Indianapolis 9/7/14 7:30 PM
Denver
NY Giants 9/8/14 6:10 PM
Detroit
San Diego 9/8/14 9:20 PM
Arizona
Miami-Florida 13 FINAL
(25) Louisville 31
Arizona 9/4/14 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Pittsburgh 9/5/14 6:00 PM
Boston College
Washington St 9/5/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
SMU 9/6/14 11:00 AM
North Texas
Fla Atlantic 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(2) Alabama
Buffalo 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Army
(24) Missouri 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Toledo
Arkansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
(7) McNeese State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(19) Nebraska
Central Mich 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Akron 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
Western Ill 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(18) Wisconsin
(20) Kansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
(4) Oklahoma 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tulsa
Western Ky 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
SC State 9/6/14 11:30 AM
(23) Clemson
Navy 9/6/14 12:00 PM
Temple
UAB 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Miss State
South Alabama 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Kent State
New Mexico St 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Colorado 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Fresno State 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Utah
(2) Eastern Wash 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Washington
(14) USC 9/6/14 2:30 PM
(13) Stanford
Ohio U 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Middle Tennessee 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Minnesota
Northern Ill 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Missouri State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Ball State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Iowa
Maryland 9/6/14 2:30 PM
So Florida
Eastern Mich 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Florida
Georgia Tech 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Tulane
(15) Ole Miss 9/6/14 3:30 PM
Vanderbilt
Old Dominion 9/6/14 5:00 PM
NC State
(7) Michigan State 9/6/14 5:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(17) Arizona State 9/6/14 6:00 PM
New Mexico
Louisiana Tech 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana
San Jose St 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(5) Auburn
East Carolina 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(21) So Carolina
Duke 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Troy
Idaho 9/6/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(15) Sam Houston St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(12) LSU
Michigan 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(16) Notre Dame
Lamar 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(9) Texas A&M
Northwestern St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
BYU 9/6/14 6:30 PM
Texas
Citadel 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(1) Florida State
San Diego St 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(21) North Carolina
Virginia Tech 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(8) Ohio State
Memphis 9/6/14 9:00 PM
(11) UCLA
Colorado State 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Boise State
Air Force 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Wyoming
Oregon State 9/6/14 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Texas Tech 9/6/14 10:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Toronto 12 FINAL
Hamilton 13
Edmonton 13 FINAL
Calgary 28
Brt Columbia 9/5/14 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Saskatchewan 9/7/14 3:00 PM
Winnipeg
Minnesota 78 FINAL
Phoenix 96

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How many games will the Vikings win this season?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

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

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close