Canterbury Park and Running Aces received permission Thursday to open their stable areas, paving the way for horses to begin arriving in Minnesota to prepare for the summer racing season.
The barns at the Shakopee and Columbus racetracks are included in an executive order issued by Gov. Tim Walz, which will allow some businesses to reopen with modified protocols.
Canterbury’s stables and training track will open on May 8, with only essential personnel allowed on the grounds. Running Aces will open its stable area June 1 and begin four days of qualifiers on June 10.
Canterbury was scheduled to begin its 65-day racing season May 15, while Running Aces planned a 55-day season starting May 16. Officials at both tracks said Thursday they will announce new schedules in the coming weeks.
“We intend to race this summer, knowing that it will not be business as usual and that uncertainty is still high,” Canterbury Park President Randy Sampson said. “We want to provide a safe place for horses to race and for those that care for them to work. We also want to bring our team members, many of them employed here for two decades, back to work.”
Canterbury originally planned to open its barns April 24 before the state’s stay-at-home order shut down most businesses, including the card clubs at both tracks. In mid-April, Canterbury officials petitioned the state Department of Agriculture for a critical sector worker exemption that would allow horses and their caretakers to move into the track’s barns and dormitories.
As part of that proposal, Canterbury developed a set of detailed guidelines to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Horsemen and staff will be required to practice social distancing, sanitize equipment daily and submit to temperature checks. Running Aces also is creating safety protocols.
Andrew Offerman, Canterbury’s vice president of racing operations, expects 250 to 300 horses from Arizona’s Turf Paradise to be the first to arrive in Shakopee.
That track, which is the winter home for many Canterbury trainers, was set to close its stable area Thursday. It is now allowing horses to stay until May 10.
Seven U.S. tracks have continued their racing seasons with no spectators, with more likely to start soon.
Churchill Downs, which postponed this Saturday’s Kentucky Derby until Sept. 5, announced Thursday that it will begin racing May 16 without fans in attendance.