Canterbury Park opens 20th season

  • Article by: RACHEL BLOUNT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 29, 2014 - 12:00 AM
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The dirt will fly again at Canterbury Park on Friday night, when the 2014 season begins. Canterbury purses will rise to about $13 million this season, and the track’s 1,600 stalls are fully booked.

Photo: File photo by JIM GEHRZ • jgehrz@startribune.com,

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In 1995, two years after Canterbury Downs closed, the Shakopee racetrack was reborn as Canterbury Park. That second incarnation will celebrate its 20th anniversary this summer, with a 69-day live racing season that opens Friday. ¶ Curtis and Randy Sampson and Dale Schenian headed a group of investors who rescued the track in order to preserve horse racing in Minnesota. Canterbury Park has survived a national decline in the racing industry, numerous failed attempts to get slot machines, a 2011 government shutdown that closed it for three weeks, and competition from tracks that can pay higher purses. It enters the 2014 season on solid ground, thanks to a deal struck in 2012 with the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community that is injecting $75 million into its purse fund over 10 years. ¶ Canterbury’s purses will rise to about $13 million this season, the highest since its reopening. The state’s thoroughbred breeding industry, which had fallen to record lows in 2012, has rebounded sharply, and the track’s 1,600 stalls are fully booked. ¶ “Not many people gave us a chance to make it one year, much less 20,’’ said Randy Sampson, still Canterbury Park’s president. “Canterbury is still open today because of the support from the great fans of the sport and the owners and trainers that decide to race in Minnesota each summer.’’

2014 canterbury park season

The season: Friday through Sept. 13.

Racing days: Fridays through Sundays, plus Memorial Day, in May; Thursday racing begins June 5.

Post times: 6:30 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays; 12:45 p.m. Saturdays, Sundays and holidays; 6:30 p.m. Saturdays in August.

Admission: $6 general; $8 on premium dates; season passes $50. Children 17 and under are admitted free. Reserved clubhouse tables for six are $20 on regular days and $40 on premium days; tables for four are $15 on regular days and $35 on premium days. Call 952-445-7224 for reservations.

Parking: General parking is free, valet parking is $8 on regular days and $15 on premium days.

WHAT’S NEW

Afternoon post times have been moved ahead 45 minutes, to 12:45 p.m. Canterbury also will shift Saturday racing from afternoons to evenings during August.

The track has increased admission from $5 to $6 on most racing days, with higher prices on 10 newly designated “premium days.” Premium days this season are May 26 (Memorial Day), June 7 (Belmont Stakes), June 15 (Father’s Day), July 3 (fireworks show), July 4, July 12 (Mystic Lake Mile, human cannonball), July 19 (Extreme Race Day), Aug. 31 (Festival of Champions), Sept. 1 (Labor Day, wiener dog races) and Sept. 13 (closing day, Mystic Lake Derby, Indian horse relay races).

OPENING WEEKEND

Friday’s card includes eight races, highlighted by the 10,000 Lakes Stakes, a six-furlong sprint with a $60,000 purse for Minnesota-bred horses. The morning-line favorite combines three of Canterbury’s biggest stars. The 5-year-old gelding Heliskier, named horse of the meet in 2012 and 2013, is trained by Mac Robertson, Canterbury’s leading trainer for the past nine seasons, and ridden by young jockey Alex Canchari, second in the riders’ standings last summer.

Saturday’s nine-race card includes the $60,000 Lady Slipper Stakes for Minnesota-bred fillies and mares, as well as simulcast wagering on the Preakness Stakes. Eight races will be run Sunday.

SEASON HIGHLIGHTS

Canterbury will run three races this season with six-figure purses. A pair of one-mile turf races, the Mystic Lake Mile and Lady Canterbury Stakes, have purses of $100,000 each and will be contested July 12. The $200,000 Mystic Lake Derby, the season’s richest race, will be held Sept. 13 on the closing day.

The quarter horse stakes schedule includes 13 races, topped by the $100,000 Mystic Lake Northlands Futurity and the $50,000 Canterbury Park Quarter Horse Derby on July 6.

The Festival of Champions, a day of racing for Minnesota-bred thoroughbreds and quarter horses, will be Aug. 31. It includes eight stakes races with total purses of $460,000.

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