By Katie Merritt
Curtis Sampson was born and raised in Hector, Minnesota and has been attending the races at Canterbury since it first opened as Canterbury Downs. In 1994, after the track had been closed for two years, Sampson, his son Randy and Dale Schenian purchased the facility and brought live racing back to Shakopee the following summer under the new racetrack name of Canterbury Park. In addition to his massive influence on the racing and breeding industry in Minnesota, Sampson has also been a successful businessman.
Since Sampson purchased his first racehorse in the 80’s, he has been fortunate to have many successful runners. The first horse he owned in partnership, a Quarter Horse named Cash Caravan, won several stakes races at Canterbury and is in the Canterbury Hall of Fame. Over the years, Sampson continued to increase his involvement in the industry, purchasing more runners and starting a breeding operation where he had several mares and stood a stallion named Crossed Swords.
Every year, Canterbury Park holds the Minnesota Festival of Champions, a day of racing designed to promote, honor and reward horses born in Minnesota. Sampson has won the second-most number of Festival Races, with nine winners. One of his best horses, Wally’s Choice, won the Minnesota Classic Championship twice in a row. Wally’s Choice is now in the Hall of Fame and the Classic is named after him.
Sampson is still very involved at Canterbury Park, serving as the Chairman of the Board. One of his sons, Randy, is the CEO, and another son, Russ runs his racing operation. His grandkids, the next generation, have recently started to get involved in ownership as well with their cleverly named partnership, NEXTGEN Stables. Curtis Sampson has been leading owner at Canterbury Park twice, in 1996 and ’97, and looks to have a good chance to be leading owner again this year, for the first time in 20 years.