By Noah Joseph
So far, the start of the 2021 Live Racing season at Canterbury Park has been pretty normal. The crowds are a healthy size, the money wagered on races at Canterbury is more than it has ever been, and the quality of racing is as strong as it’s always been. It’s a much needed reprieve, especially after last year. Canterbury, much like everything else, was affected by the pandemic. Very few people showed up due to capacity limits, racing days were moved, and less on-track money was wagered. Many would think that 2020 was the most unordinary year in Canterbury history, and to some extent that would be correct. But there was one other year that was almost as unordinary, and it just so happened to be 10 years ago.
In 2011, Canterbury Park was looking forward to having another solid racing season. And while the season got off to a strong start, a major roadblock threatened to hamper the track: A state government shutdown The Minnesota Racing Commission which oversees all operations at Canterbury Park operates on funds appropriated by the legislature. If the government shut down, Canterbury could not partake in racing, along with casino operations. The government had to agree to a budget deal before the constitutional deadline of midnight of June 30th, 2011otherwise, government services like the racing commission would shut down taking Canterbury with it until the legislature came to a deal. A deal was not reached in time, and the government, as well as Canterbury Park shut down.
Only 35 minutes earlier, the final race of that night’s card was run, with I Am That Hero winning
the $65,000 Canterbury Park Derby under jockey Stormy Smith for trainer Brent Clay. During the shutdown, the track halted operations completely. No racing, no casino, no nothing. Horses, as well as owners, trainers, and jockeys either went elsewhere or sat idle. Fortunately, a deal was reached by the legislature on July 20th, 2011. With that deal signed, Canterbury re-opened and the next day, live racing returned to Canterbury, with Champ Laila winning the first race back for trainer Bruce Riecken with Luis Robletto aboard.
Despite the unfortunate shutdown, two positives came out of the pause. The first was Canterbury adding the dates lost to later in the year. Instead of finishing in late August, the track finished in mid-September, much like they do now. The second positive was that the shutdown led to cooperation between the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community and Canterbury Park which led to the creation of the Mystic Lake purse enhancement and cooperative marketing fund, which bolstered purses.
It’s safe to say that Canterbury has had some unusual years, but good things can come out of those difficult situations; 2021 has been a sign that no matter how rough the previous year may have been, there’s a light at the end of every tunnel. Here’s to hopefully a normal, safe, and successful 2021 season.