Canterbury Park officials confirmed Monday that the live racing season, scheduled to begin May 15, will not start on time.
Track president Randy Sampson said he is continuing to work with horsemen’s representatives to determine new dates for the season. It was supposed to run 65 days, from May 15 through Sept. 12, before the coronavirus pandemic triggered shutdowns of sports, businesses and public gatherings. Sampson said last month that it was highly unlikely the season would begin on time.
Horse racing is continuing without spectators at a few tracks around the country, with several Canterbury trainers racing at places such as Oaklawn Park in Arkansas and Florida’s Tampa Bay Downs. Andrew Offerman, Canterbury’s vice president of racing operations, said those trainers — along with officials at those tracks, veterinarians and the Minnesota Department of Health — are helping Canterbury create a plan for conducting live racing safely.
“[The horsemen] are important resources during these very challenging times,” Offerman said. “We are using the best information available from all known resources.
“We consult daily with other racetracks, assembling best practices that have been successful for those currently operating to ensure we are providing the best possible care for all equines, as well as those working with them.”
Offerman said earlier that Canterbury’s stable area will not open before May 1. Timing is a significant issue. Canterbury is expecting about 1,500 horses to come to Shakopee, with many currently racing elsewhere. As those tracks end their seasons, the horses — and staff who live in the track dormitories — will need someplace to go.
Canterbury officials and horsemen’s representatives have been discussing ways to accommodate those horses and people, despite the uncertainty surrounding the season.
“[We] will do as much as we can to assist the horses and their caretakers during this difficult time, but we need to do so in a smart and responsible manner, for Minnesota and the local community,” Offerman said.
Canterbury temporarily closed its card club and on-track simulcast area March 16 amid calls to limit public gatherings. It placed about 850 employees on temporary furloughs Wednesday and announced salary reductions for the few that are still working.