After a stellar season last summer, Clickbait got a long layoff. Canterbury Park's champion sprinter took a months-long sabbatical from racing, resting up during the months when the Shakopee track was dormant.
Wednesday, both the mare and the track picked up where they left off. On the opening night of Canterbury Park's 65-day season, Clickbait unleashed one of the evening's most impressive performances, setting a stakes record as she defended her title in the $50,000 Lady Slipper Stakes. The track came back strong as well, with $1,846,213 wagered on eight races.
The top choice at 4-5, Clickbait was one of several favorites to visit the winner's circle as Canterbury Park began its 28th season. Most everything else on opening night also went according to form. The track is not announcing attendance this season, but the summery evening drew a lively crowd, one large enough that more programs had to be printed. A total of $139,300 was wagered on track.
The 10,000 Lakes Stakes, the first stakes race of the season, required two win photos. Thealligatorhunter and Dame Plata, the top two choices in a field of seven, finished off a rousing stretch battle in a dead heat for first in the $50,000 race.
Clickbait had a much easier time in winning the Lady Slipper. Her time of one minute, 8.46 seconds was the fastest ever for the six-furlong race, giving the gray mare her seventh victory in 10 starts at Canterbury Park.
"She's just a spectacular horse,'' jockey Cecily Evans said. "She does everything so easily. I didn't necessarily want to be in the lead early, but I let her get comfortable, and she just did what she does.
"It's fun to win on opening night. It's fun just to ride her, and even just to be around her.''
Andrew Offerman, Canterbury's senior vice president of racing operations, said more than 1,000 horses have moved into the stables. He anticipates a peak population of about 1,300, despite the ongoing challenge of recruiting. There is fierce competition for horses among Midwestern tracks, with Indiana's Horseshoe Indianapolis, Iowa's Prairie Meadows and Chicago's Hawthorne among the many options.
Canterbury's purses will be similar to last season, when the track paid an average of $239,365 per day.
Clickbait finished off last season with a victory in the Minnesota Distaff Sprint, capping a summer that included two wins and two seconds in four starts. Another of Wednesday's winners, Shinny, also started the new season in the same way he ended last summer.
Shinny won the second race, a 6 ½-furlong sprint, for his seventh victory in seven starts at Canterbury. The gelding stumbled hard at the start but rallied to win handily under jockey Lindey Wade. Wade, who was Canterbury's champion jockey last year, was riding his first race since a hand injury sidelined him in January.
Shinny's 12 total victories last season were the most by any thoroughbred in the country.