Access limited to racehorses in need of shelter; planning for 2020 racing season remains ongoing.
Canterbury Park officials with the support of the Minnesota Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, the organization representing racehorse owners and trainers, have announced that the horse stabling area will open in a limited capacity on Friday, May 8 to accept horses from racetracks and other facilities around the country that will close in the coming weeks. Opening of the stable area, originally scheduled for April 24, had been delayed due to uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. On Thursday, Gov. Tim Walz issued Executive Order 20-48 which allows additional businesses, including the stable areas at the state’s two racetracks, to open with modified protocols.
Representatives from both organizations at the Shakopee, Minn. racetrack worked closely with state and local officials over the past weeks to confirm that the stable area will be allowed to operate at a minimum level to accommodate the care and exercise required by horses that will be displaced.
Track officials plan to announce a revised live racing schedule in the coming weeks when there is further clarity regarding available purse funds, likely operating requirements and specific protocols and approvals that may be required by state and local authorities.
Detailed plans including protocols and procedures that will be implemented upon the limited opening of the stable area were provided to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and the Minnesota Racing Commission earlier in April. Many of the protocols have proven successful at several U.S. racetracks that are currently racing or training. The Minnesota Racing Commission is the state body charged with regulating Minnesota’s horse racing industry which annually generates an economic impact in excess of $400 million and contributes more than 5,500 jobs to Minnesota’s economy.
“We are confident in the plans we have prepared for the May 8 limited opening of the stable area when we begin providing shelter for racehorses and those that care for them,” Vice President of Racing Operations Andrew Offerman said. “We have gathered the best information possible and assembled a series of best practices that have been proven to work in the current environment.” Canterbury’s 140 acre stable area is annually the summer home to nearly 1,500 horses and 300 workers.
Track officials expect that the majority of the horses arriving in early May will originate from Turf Paradise, a racetrack in Phoenix that ceased operations in March. Those still stabled at Turf Paradise have been notified that they and all horses will be required to leave the premises by May 10. Canterbury Park is the summer destination for trainers and horses throughout the country that spend the winter months racing in other states.
Canterbury Park’s live horseracing season was originally scheduled to run May 15 through Sept. 12, a total of 65 days, but company officials announced in early April that the season would be delayed following the temporary suspension of the company’s operations on March 16 and the subsequent furlough of 850 employees due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We intend to race this summer, knowing that it will not be business as usual and that uncertainly is still high,” Canterbury Park President and CEO Randy Sampson said. “We want to provide a safe place for horses to race and those that care for them to work. We also want to bring our team members, many of them employed here for two decades, back to work.” Sampson has overseen a race meet each summer at Canterbury Park for the past 26 years.
Trainers planning to arrive in early May must be pre-approved by Canterbury Park racing officials, schedule their arrival times in advance and confirm required protocol for entry and continued presence in the stable area, which includes access only to those essential for the operation of the stable area and daily care of the racehorses.