Canterbury Park officials were hoping to have 1,000 horses on the grounds by Friday, when the Shakopee track opens its live racing season.
As of Thursday morning, there were 1,122 — and with more on the way, stall superintendent Mark Stancato was scrambling to find room for everybody.
The track’s agreement with the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community will pour $6.3 million into its purse fund this year, enabling Canterbury to pay $14 million in purses over a 70-day racing season. The purse money and the number of racing days are the most since the track reopened as Canterbury Park in 1995. That has attracted enough horses to fill its barns to capacity and created optimism among its executives, who anticipate wagering could increase from the $37 million bet during last year’s 68-day season.
“We’ve clicked up a level in terms of our overall quality and quantity,’’ said Eric Halstrom, vice president of racing operations. “We even turned some (horses) away. I don’t know of any other place where that’s happening.’’
The Friday, Saturday and Sunday cards all feature eight races. Friday’s program is highlighted by the 10,000 Lakes Stakes, a six-furlong sprint for Minnesota-bred colts and geldings with a purse of $60,000. Saturday’s card includes the $60,000 Lady Slipper Stakes for Minnesota-bred fillies and mares. Canterbury also will offer simulcast wagering on Saturday’s Preakness Stakes.
Canterbury will host three one-mile turf races this season with six-figure purses, as well as a $100,000 quarter horse race and the 22nd annual Festival of Champions. The $100,000 Lady Canterbury Stakes and the $100,000 Mystic Lake Mile will be run July 11. The track’s richest thoroughbred race of the season, the $200,000 Mystic Lake Derby, will be run Aug. 29; the $100,000 Mystic Lake Northlands Futurity, its richest quarter horse race, will be July 5. The Festival of Champions on Sept. 6 will include six stakes races for thoroughbreds and two for quarter horses, with total purses of $480,000.
Beginning in early June, Canterbury plans to add two new wagering options: a Pick 5 with a jackpot, and a Super High Five, in which bettors must pick the top five finishers in order. The track also has remodeled the clubhouse area. It has added suites, which can be reserved for a daily fee, and created the Triple Crown Club, a new upscale seating area featuring 80-inch TVs. In addition, turf racing will begin this weekend, marking the first time in Canterbury Park history that the grass course has been used on opening weekend.
The growing purses attracted some significant new horsemen to Canterbury Park. Trainer Tom Amoss, who is ranked 17th in the nation with earnings this year of $1.78 million, will bring 20 horses. Amoss also has brought his own jockey, Leandro Goncalves, who has won multiple graded stakes races and has 1,527 career victories. Trainer Dallas Keen will oversee a stable for Midwest Thoroughbreds, the country’s fifth-leading owner with $1.21 million in purses.
THE SEASON: friday through sept. 12
Racing days: Friday through Sunday in May; Thursday through Sunday beginning June 4; and holiday cards on Memorial Day and Labor Day.
Post times: 6:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday, and on the first four Saturdays in August. 12:45 p.m. Saturday (except August), Sunday and holidays. Special 4 p.m. post times on July 3 and Aug. 29.
Admission: General admission is $6 ($8 on premium dates). Admission for children 17-and-under is free (must be accompanied by an adult). Clubhouse tables for up to four people are $15 ($35 on premium dates), and tables for up to six people are $20 ($40 on premium dates). Call 952-445-7224 to reserve. Premium dates are May 25, June 6 and 21, July 3, 4, 11 and 18, Aug. 29 and Sept. 6 and 7.
Parking: General parking is free. Valet parking is $8 ($15 on premium dates).