May 29: The mission lives on for Canterbury Park veterans

  • Article by: RACHEL BLOUNT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 27, 2014 - 5:15 PM
hide

Steve Kane has seen the ups and downs in his 20 years at Canterbury Park, and the trainer even relied on shoeing horses during difficult financial times. “But training is a lot more fun than shoeing,’’ said Kane, who has eight horses at Shakopee track this spring. “It’s nice to still be able to do something I really enjoy doing.’’

Photo: ELIZABETH FLORES • eflores@startribune.com,

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

 

He used to drive past the place regularly, just to look at the abandoned Canterbury Downs grandstand and remember how things used to be. When the Shakopee racetrack shut down in 1992, Randy Sampson was running his family’s thoroughbred operation, worrying that racing might never return to Minnesota.

“Weeds were growing up all over, and it wasn’t really even being maintained,’’ Sampson said. “They basically had a couple of security and facilities people to make sure the pipes didn’t freeze, and that was it. It was heartbreaking to think about what this place had been and could be.’’

He didn’t envision that his family would buy the track, much less that he would oversee its resurrection. Earlier this month, Canterbury Park opened its 20th live racing season under Sampson’s management. The track has weathered economic downturns, a nationwide decline in the racing industry and a host of other challenges through Sampson’s careful guidance, as well as the collective efforts of employees, horsemen and racing fans who have spent every summer in Shakopee for the past two decades.

Bartender Lois Rademacher, 82, has served many of the same patrons year after year at the Paddock Pub on the grandstand’s third level. Eric Schmidt started out taking bets as a mutuels teller and now juggles his career as a middle school teacher with his job as Canterbury’s assistant manager of wagering operations. Steve Kane has shod horses at Canterbury for all 20 years since it resumed live racing in 1995 and also has trained a small stable for most of that span.

“From the beginning, there was a group of people who bought into the idea that we were on a mission to try to keep horse racing alive and build it back up,’’ said Sampson, the track’s president. “It’s remarkable how many are still here.

“Now, I drive up and see this building and think, ‘Wow, I can’t believe this.’ This is pretty cool, that this has actually worked out the way it has.’’

 

 

Randy Sampson:

The mane man

Sampson was president of the Minnesota Thoroughbred Association when Canterbury Downs closed after six years of plummeting handle and attendance. Using his accounting and business background, he developed a plan for reopening the track, proposing a short meet with modest purses that would cater to Minnesota owners and breeders.

He initially pitched the idea to owners of out-of-state tracks and to local racing enthusiasts such as Wheelock Whitney and James Binger.

“It was never my intent to have anything to do with owning or running the track,’’ Sampson said. “I just wanted to find somebody to own it so we could run our horses here. Then my dad said, ‘Maybe we should do this ourselves.’ ’’

Curtis Sampson had one condition: that Randy take charge of the operation. Fellow horse owner Dale Schenian offered to put up money, too, and the group bought the track — which cost $80 million to build — for $8 million in 1994. Since then, Sampson’s conservative leadership has kept Canterbury afloat.

“As far as the likelihood of making this work long-term, we were not real confident,’’ Sampson said. “And nobody else was, either. We knew it was going to be tough. But we felt it deserved a shot.’’

Sampson gave credit to hundreds of Minnesota horsemen and racing fans who invested in the company when it went public in 1994, noting that many of them still own their stock. He has shepherded Canterbury through a government shutdown that interrupted the 2011 season, years of failed attempts to get slot machines and competition from wealthier tracks that lured many horsemen away. Through it all, Canterbury has maintained a reputation as one of the country’s most horseman- and fan-friendly tracks.

A 2012 deal with the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community solidified Canterbury’s future for the next decade by adding $75 million to its purses over 10 years. There had been times, Sampson said, when he feared the track would not make it. He is now planning for its long-range future by expanding its non-racing events business and studying proposals for mixed-use developments on its land.

“It’s become my life,’’ he said. “A lot of people were as depressed as me when it closed. With their loyalty, we’ve been able to build this as a team.’’

Lois Rademacher:

Queen of the pour

As busy as she was dispensing drinks on Preakness day, Rade- macher kept up her usual banter with the patrons she calls “my boys.’’ She is on a first-name basis with a hearty band of regulars, supplying beverages, bonhomie and the occasional hug — but not wagering advice.

“I enjoy placing a bet once in a while, but I don’t know anything about the horses,’’ the Shakopee resident said. “And I learned years ago not to listen when someone says they have a tip. If I lose my $5, it’s going to be on a horse I picked.’’

Rademacher has been tending bar for 30 years. She’s worked at Canterbury for 27 of those, returning as soon as the track reopened and happily staying put. The octogenarian has such affinity for Canterbury that she steered 11 of her 14 grandchildren into summer jobs at the track, where they also became fixtures throughout their high school and college years.

She has stayed at Canterbury, she said, because the fun and excitement that lured her have never left — and neither have some of her patrons. Rademacher is bound to her regulars by their shared devotion to the track, and she loves the yearly ritual of renewing acquaintances with the trainers and stable-area workers who return every summer.

“If I take a Saturday off, then the next week, I hear, ‘Where were you?’ ’’ she said. “It’s surprising how many people have been coming here since racing started, and how they remember me. That’s part of what makes it a special place.’’

Eric Schmidt:

Wanna bet?

During the last month of the school year, Schmidt doesn’t get a day off. When he’s not teaching eighth-grade English at Dakota Hills Middle School in Eagan, he’s at his Canterbury job, overseeing the tote department and running the infield tote board.

Schmidt started as a mutuel teller in 1989. He worked the wagering windows at a dog track after Canterbury closed, then rushed back as soon as it reopened for simulcasting in 1994. Over the past 20 years, he hasn’t seen any change in the low-stakes betting habits of risk-averse Minnesotans. But he had faith that Canterbury would endure, he said, because it reinvented itself as an entertainment venue built around the spectacle of horse racing.

“I’ll be on the phone with a vendor, and they’ll ask how many people are at the track,’’ he said. “I’ll tell them 10,000, and their response is always, ‘Wow.’ We still emphasize live racing, and that’s why we’re still here. It’s an event, like a mini-State Fair.’’

That also explains why Schmidt has stuck around for two decades. He now considers himself “part of the fabric’’ of Canterbury and speculated he still could be doing the same job in 40 years.

“I went to Hollywood Park in December, and there were about 3,000 people there,’’ he said. “A lot of tracks have become simulcast venues, but this is still a fun place, with good people. I see myself working here until I can’t.’’

 

Steve Kane:

A shoe-in

Kane got his start as a racehorse trainer at Canterbury Downs in 1988. When the track closed, he was ready to load his horses into a trailer and head to Texas, but his horseshoeing business kept him in Minnesota.

If the track had not reopened, Kane still would be tending to the hooves of pleasure horses and jumpers. He probably wouldn’t be indulging his true passion 20 years later. For the past few years, Kane has run his small stable only at Canterbury, bringing eight horses this spring to his usual spot in barn C-2.

Through his multifaceted involvement in the industry, Kane has ridden the volatile waves of Minnesota racing right along with his home track. He stood stallions at his farm near Cologne, Minn., during prosperous times; during the lean years, he relied on shoeing to pay the bills.

“But training is a lot more fun than shoeing,’’ he said. “It’s nice to still be able to do something I really enjoy doing.’’

Kane has a sentimental attachment to Canterbury, where he trained his first winner in 1988 and saw his daughter, Carrie, get to the winner’s circle as a trainer several years later. He hasn’t made a great deal of money by running in Shakopee, but that hasn’t been the point.

“I just try not to lose money,’’ he said, laughing. “The horse industry really took a beating in Minnesota for a while. It’s good to see how much it’s come back.’’











 

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Buffalo 17 FINAL
New England 9
Cleveland 10 FINAL
Baltimore 20
Dallas 44 FINAL
Washington 17
Indianapolis 27 FINAL
Tennessee 10
Jacksonville 17 FINAL
Houston 23
San Diego 7 FINAL
Kansas City 19
NY Jets 37 FINAL
Miami 24
Chicago 9 FINAL
Minnesota 13
Philadelphia 34 FINAL
NY Giants 26
New Orleans 23 FINAL
Tampa Bay 20
Carolina 34 FINAL
Atlanta 3
Detroit 20 FINAL
Green Bay 30
Oakland 14 FINAL
Denver 47
Arizona 17 FINAL
San Francisco 20
St. Louis 6 FINAL
Seattle 20
Cincinnati 17 FINAL
Pittsburgh 27
Arizona 1/3/15 3:35 PM
Carolina
Baltimore 1/3/15 7:15 PM
Pittsburgh
Detroit 103 FINAL
Cleveland 80
Houston 106 FINAL
San Antonio 110
Oklahoma City 107 FINAL
Dallas 112
New York 79 FINAL
Portland 101
Toronto 116 FINAL
Denver 102
Phoenix 116 FINAL
LA Lakers 107
Toronto 4 FINAL
Florida 6
Vancouver 1 FINAL(OT)
Anaheim 2
Tulane 57 FINAL
St Johns 82
Central Conn St 48 FINAL
Connecticut 81
Iona 81 FINAL
Drexel 62
Concordia (MI) 42 FINAL
Eastern Mich 100
Harvard 46 FINAL
Arizona State 56
Longwood 64 FINAL
Ball State 69
Sacred Heart 76 FINAL
Brown 79
Colgate 64 FINAL
Columbia 69
MD-Eastern Shore 78 FINAL
Duquesne 69
UNC Greensboro 50 FINAL
East Carolina 71
Marist 64 FINAL
Elon 69
NJIT 71 FINAL
Lafayette 76
Cincinnati Christian 58 FINAL
Liberty 78
Morgan State 53 FINAL
Marquette 81
Campbell 56 FINAL
Samford 65
Bucknell 71 FINAL
Siena 73
Long Beach State 67 FINAL
Syracuse 85
Coppin State 80 FINAL
Evansville 85
UMKC 73 FINAL
Indiana State 70
Hofstra 88 FINAL
Long Island 62
Coast Guard 48 FINAL
Army 93
Thomas (GA) 48 FINAL
High Point 85
Texas Southern 58 FINAL
Kansas State 56
Rutgers 59 FINAL
Monmouth 58
NC Wesleyan 54 FINAL
NC A&T 58
South Dakota St 63 FINAL
Northern Iowa 74
Central Penn College 69 FINAL
Radford 119
Bowling Green 79 FINAL
South Florida 70
Harris-Stowe 66 FINAL
SE Missouri St 94
Robert Morris-IL 56 FINAL
SIU Edwardsville 104
Northland College 59 FINAL
North Dakota St 83
Milwaukee 60 FINAL
South Dakota 84
Northwestern St 92 FINAL
Arkansas 100
Saint Peters 59 FINAL
Cornell 52
St Katherine 62 FINAL
Fresno State 93
Haskell 42 FINAL
Oral Roberts 94
Wake Forest 65 FINAL
Richmond 63
Fla Gulf Coast 57 FINAL
Xavier 71
SD Christian 45 FINAL
Northern Ariz 71
Judson 46 FINAL
IUPU-Ft Wayne 80
Ill-Chicago 60 FINAL
Bradley 68
Loyola-Maryland 61 FINAL
Fairfield 59
Miss Valley St 53 FINAL
Houston 80
Lehigh 58 FINAL
UMBC 55
Delaware State 56 FINAL
Temple 66
Belmont 56 FINAL
Butler 67
Howard 59 FINAL
Fordham 74
NW Christian 67 FINAL
Nevada 81
UC Davis 83 FINAL
Washington St 90
Abilene Christian 81 FINAL
Grand Canyon 83
UCLA 50 FINAL
Alabama 56
Stony Brook 62 FINAL
Washington 57
Buffalo 56 FINAL
Wisconsin 68
CS-Bakersfield 55 FINAL
California 52
Cincinnati 17 FINAL
Virginia Tech 33
(15) Arizona State 36 FINAL
Duke 31
Miami-Florida 21 FINAL
So Carolina 24
Boston College 30 FINAL
Penn State 31
(25) Nebraska 42 FINAL
(24) USC 45
Texas A&M 1:00 PM
West Virginia
Oklahoma 4:30 PM
(18) Clemson
Arkansas 8:00 PM
Texas
Notre Dame 12/30/14 2:00 PM
(22) LSU
(13) Georgia 12/30/14 5:45 PM
(20) Louisville
Maryland 12/30/14 9:00 PM
Stanford
(9) Ole Miss 12/31/14 11:30 AM
(6) TCU
(21) Boise State 12/31/14 3:00 PM
(12) Arizona
(8) Miss State 12/31/14 7:00 PM
(10) Georgia Tech
(19) Auburn 1/1/15 11:00 AM
(17) Wisconsin
(7) Michigan State 1/1/15 11:30 AM
(4) Baylor
(16) Missouri 1/1/15 12:00 PM
Minnesota
(2) Florida State 1/1/15 4:00 PM
(3) Oregon
(5) Ohio State 1/1/15 7:30 PM
(1) Alabama
Houston 1/2/15 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Iowa 1/2/15 2:20 PM
Tennessee
(11) Kansas State 1/2/15 5:45 PM
(14) UCLA
Washington 1/2/15 9:15 PM
Oklahoma State
East Carolina 1/3/15 11:00 AM
Florida
Toledo 1/4/15 8:00 PM
Arkansas State
Drexel 71 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 54
Holy Cross 63 FINAL
Norfolk State 62
East Carolina 62 FINAL
South Florida 69
(10) Oregon State 63 FINAL
(8) Tennessee 74
Providence 51 FINAL
Boston College 79
Florida A&M 47 FINAL
Miami-Florida 83
Oakland 69 FINAL
Central Michigan 74
Chattanooga 59 FINAL
SIU-Edwardsville 49
Fairfield 59 FINAL
La Salle 73
St Francis-PA 59 FINAL
Pittsburgh 97
Milwaukee 72 FINAL
IUPU-Ft Wayne 78
Gardner-Webb 59 FINAL
Longwood 63
New Hampshire 58 FINAL
Manhattan 54
Bucknell 68 FINAL
Binghamton 57
Northeastern 70 FINAL
Albany 67
George Mason 70 FINAL
Towson 72
Richmond 59 FINAL
William & Mary 56
Tulane 60 FINAL
Cincinnati 50
North Florida 51 FINAL
Florida 63
(14) Georgia 51 FINAL
Seton Hall 70
Tennessee St 75 FINAL
(12) Kentucky 87
American Univ 64 FINAL
Wake Forest 77
Massachusetts 78 FINAL
Boston U 57
Quinnipiac 69 FINAL
Saint Josephs 67
Lafayette 49 FINAL
Saint Peters 34
Northwestern 61 FINAL
(20) Michigan State 57
Duquesne 82 FINAL
Lehigh 75
George Washington 72 FINAL
Loyola-Maryland 49
(17) Rutgers 66 FINAL
Indiana 51
(24) Green Bay 66 FINAL
Dayton 72
Western Mich 55 FINAL
Stony Brook 59
Davidson 67 FINAL
Virginia 57
UNC Greensboro 61 FINAL
LSU 82
Denver 63 FINAL
North Texas 55
VA Commonwealth 63 FINAL
Coppin State 52
Huston-Tillotson 36 FINAL
Houston Baptist 86
Lamar 63 FINAL
Rice 97
Miss Valley St 40 FINAL
Alabama 71
Saint Louis 63 FINAL
Eastern Illinois 49
Middle Tennessee 98 FINAL
Tenn Tech 76
Penn State 52 FINAL
(23) Iowa 77
Purdue 62 FINAL
Illinois 55
DePaul 99 FINAL
Illinois State 62
Sam Houston St 46 FINAL
Wichita State 70
South Dakota 76 FINAL
TX-San Antonio 69
(4) Notre Dame 82 FINAL
UCLA 67
Coll of Charleston 51 FINAL
SC State 60
Alcorn State 53 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 63
Dartmouth 76 FINAL
Niagara 70
Colgate 68 FINAL
Siena 80
Michigan 53 FINAL
Wisconsin 63
Fla Gulf Coast 73 FINAL
CS-Northridge 64
Yale 51 FINAL
(25) Arizona State 69
UC Santa Barbara 34 FINAL
(16) Stanford 90
Long Island 63 FINAL
Long Beach St 71
Jackson State 56 FINAL
Louisiana 65
Eureka 50 FINAL
Western Ill 91
Cornell 59 FINAL
(22) Syracuse 76
Temple 58 FINAL
Memphis 57

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Grade the Vikings offense

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

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

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close