Canterbury Park, Shakopee, Minn logo

Backside Tours With Mark Irving

By Lexi Mueller

The backside of Canterbury Park is a mystery to thousands of fans who walk through the front doors of the park every day. The dozens of barns behind the track offer a nice view for racewatchers, but very few have been able to experience all of the unique stuff that happens behind the scenes. This year, Canterbury Park has made it their priority to give fans a better look at what happens just outside the race track. Mark Irving has led the charge of this with his Backside Tours, an amazing way for fans to experience the stables and meet trainers and their horses.

While some may know him as the guy in the Winner’s Circle who wears patterned suits and bright colored shoes, others know him as former Canterbury jockey Mark Irving. With more than 4,700 lifetime mounts and 600-plus career victories, Irving offers lots of inside experience for long time fans of the park. During the tour, he’s filled with energy (even at 9:00AM!) and is excited to tell the stories that lie in Canterbury Park’s backside.

As someone relatively new to the Canterbury Park team, I was very excited to see everything that goes on in the backside. The backside is a place I had heard a lot about, but I still had no idea what really happened back there. This tour led us into the stable area, where Irving was able to introduce guests to a few of the trainers here at Canterbury Park. Meeting with the trainers was a very unique experience, as they have very personal, hands-on involvement with all of the horses under their care. Many of the trainers view their horses as children they’re immensely proud of and it made the connection much more personal.

Learning about the different training techniques used, the horses’ pre-race routines, and the proper way to give a horse a treat really gave us guests a glimpse into the lives of those who spend all of their summer weekends on the backside. Irving was able to offer helpful input from his own experience in the racetrack, such as explaining complicated racing techniques to all of us who had little to no experience on a horse. It really is a whole different world back there, but those who spend their time there wouldn’t trade it for anything. Their passion for the sport flows throughout the place and made it an exciting time for all. The Backside Tour is a perfect way for fans to really start understanding everything that goes into getting a horse out onto the track and ready for their big race.