by JIM WELLS
Organizers put together final details for the tour of Canterbury Park’s stable area they will give for two DFL senators on Thursday.
The idea is to educate lawmakers on the community and state-wide jobs and small businesses created by and dependent on racing for their success.
Many, perhaps most, lawmakers have no background in racing and are ignorant of the financial impact the sport has on the agricultural sectors of the state’s economy and the potential for job creation in this aspect of the horse industry and beyond.
“They don’t know because they’ve never been exposed to it,” said Jim Olson, a former president of the Minnesota Quarter Horse Racing Assn.
Olson and others, who have been crisscrossing the state since last January with a message from the state’s horse industry, will escort Kathy Saltzman, majority whip of the state senate from Woodbury, and Terri Bonoff of Minnetonka on a morning tour of the backside.
Many of the same horsemen were involved in a similiar tour recently for state lawmakers.
Former MQHRA president Kelvin Childers, HBPA executive director Patrice Underwood, organizer Shannon Riley and Canterbury president/CEO Randy Sampson are also scheduled to be part of the tour.
The group is trying to win support from lawmakers for casino gaming at Minnesota’s two racetracks to keep race purses competitive with tracks that offer casino games in other states. As part of their argument, horsemen are predicting that racinos not only will strengthen the racing industry but help sustain thousands of jobs and generate a quarter billion dollars in new tax revenues at a time the state needs them most.
“We also want people who haven’t signed up yet to visit the website at Mn-Racinos. com,” said Underwood, “and log in their support for the proposal.”
The tour will begin with a stop at the Dean Kutz Memorial Chapel and include visits to several prominent backside areas.
Included is a visit to the pool, where trainer Jerry Livingston is scheduled to swim a horse. Legislators will be given information on the therapeutic benefits of the swimming for animals recovering from injury or soreness.
A visit to the starting gate is also planned. Trainers Troy Bethke and Bryan Porter are scheduled to work horses from the gate for the benefit of the visitors. One of the most beneficial stops on the first tour was at the barn of Bernell Rhone, where the trainer gave the visitors an educational spin around the facility. Legislators were informed about the investment in straw, feed and hay required to maintain a horse each day. They were informed of ownership involvement and witnessed a shoeing, done by Scott Rhone.
“You could almost read their minds,” said Olson. “You could almost see the wheels turning in their heads as they saw all the small businesses at work, the farriers, owners, the feed guy, the shavings guy. It put a face on the horse industry they hadn’t seen before.”
Olson and others were among horsemen who visited 24 of the 25 legislative town hall meetings last winter with a message from their industry.
“One of the things we heard over and over again in these meetings from people,” he said, “was the need for dental care for the poor and jobless around the state.”
Thus, Thursday’s tour will include a stop at the George Bango Memorial Dental Clinic that opened in June.
“The dental office is very impressive,” Olson added. “In those town hall meetings, people were talking about the need for help from the state for dental care. Here, we’re doing it on our own.”
General practitioners Dana Isaacson and Gene Kelley and oral surgeon Scott Rake, all horse owners, have donated portions of their week this summer to do dental work for people in the stable area.
“You know, at those town hall meetings, our horsemen’s group was the only one offering solutions to the state’s budget problems,” Olson added.
Olson hopes to distribute DVDs of the first tour at Canterbury to lawmakers next winter, demonstrating the industry, business and tax dollars racing can provide.