A racing season that was postponed and shortened due to the COVID-19 pandemic concluded Thursday evening at Canterbury Park with the results leaving track officials pleased, considering the race meet was in jeopardy in April. The Shakopee, Minn. racetrack conducted an uninterrupted 53-day race meet that began on June 10, a month later and 12 days shorter than originally planned. With capacity limited to 750 spectators, when in 2019 the track averaged 6,592 daily, and race days reduced by 20%, wagering on track declined 65% to $3.7 million. Off-track wagering from across the country however increased 115.6% to $64.7 million. Average handle per race, perhaps the best comparison under the circumstances, increased 114% due to a 174% increase in per race out of state handle.
“We are pleased with the results of the 2020 live racing season and our record all-sources handle,” Vice President of Racing Andrew Offerman said. “Although the substantial increase in off-track handle didn’t fully offset our losses in admissions, food and beverage and on-track handle revenues, the increase in exposure of our racing product and the national acceptance of it were encouraging. These off-track gains helped us salvage a mostly successful season in the midst of a global pandemic.”
Canterbury officials made the decision to pivot from a traditional schedule that included weekends to a Monday through Thursday race week designed to capture national wagering dollars when facing less competition. The gamble paid off as total handle of $68,388,504 for 53 days far exceeded the 2018 record of $48,142,704 when 66 racing programs were conducted.
Jockey Francisco Arrieta won the final two stakes of the season with victories in the $50,000 Shakopee Juvenile aboard 2-year-old filly Heart Full of Soul and the $50,000 Tom Metzen HBPA Sprint on King of the Court. Heart Full of Soul is trained by Mac Robertson and is owned by Hugh Robertson and Gregory Erwin. She defeated five colts and geldings, winning by two lengths and paying $7.00.
Robertino Diodoro trains King of the Court for owner Gary Kropp and Clayton and Rick Wiest. Arrieta and King of the Court tracked the pace, took control in upper stretch and held off a late challenge by Arcadia Calls to win by a neck. As the wagering favorite, the 5-year-old paid $5.40.
The leading thoroughbred owner for the meet was Robert Lothenbach who won 32 races. Joel Berndt, whose primary owner is Lothenbach, won his first Canterbury training title with 45 wins. Ry Eikleberry was the leading thoroughbred jockey with 77 wins. This was his third riding title. The top quarter horse trainer was Jason Olmstead for the sixth consecutive season. He had 19 wins. Nik Goodwin won the quarter riding honors with 10 victories. Corey Wilmes was leading quarter horse owner with six wins.
Ready to Runaway, winner of four of five starts including the Lady Slipper Stakes, the Glitter Star Stakes and the Minnesota Distaff Sprint, was named Horse of the Meet. She is owned by John Mentz of Lakeville and is trained by Mac Robertson.
Canterbury Park’s 2020 Horse of the Year and divisional champions:
Horse of the Year – Ready to Runaway (owner: John Mentz : trainer: Mac Robertson)
Sprinter – Ready to Runaway (owner: John Mentz : trainer: Mac Robertson)
Older Filly or Mare – Ready to Runaway (owner: John Mentz : trainer: Mac Robertson)
Older Horse – Drop of Golden Sun (owner: Rengstorf Racing LLC : trainer: Tony Rengstorf)
Grass Horse – Tut’s Revenge (owner: Claim To Fame Stable : trainer: Clinton Stuart)
Three-Year-Old Colt or Gelding – Vo Fantastic Aira (QH) (owner: Corey Wilmes : trainer: Ed Ross Hardy)
Three-Year-Old Filly – Hotasapistol (owner: Gary and Brenda Bergsrud : trainer: Clinton Stuart)
Two-Year-Old – Sneeky Diversion (owner: Lothenbach Stables, Inc : trainer: Joel Berndt)
Claimer – Hotfoot (owner: Rocket Wrench Racing LLC : trainer: Karl Broberg)
Quarter Horse – Vo Fantastic Aira (owner: Corey Wilmes : trainer: Ed Ross Hardy)