Minnesota Festival of Champions Sunday at Canterbury Park

Eight stakes races to offer total purse record for 26th running of “State Tournament of Horse Racing”

Each of the six thoroughbred stakes races on Sunday’s Minnesota Festival of Champions program will offer $100,000 in purse money, a record for the event, on a day restricted to racehorses bred in the state. Two quarter horse stakes will also pay record amounts. In addition to the eight stakes, four undercard races are included, all on the turf course, bringing the total purses for the day to $865,000. The Festival is now in its 26th edition. First post is scheduled for 12:45 p.m.

“Breeders and owners are investing in Minnesota horse racing like never before. Increasing the rewards on our most important day of the race meet shows an appreciation for that investment,” Senior Director of Racing Operations Andrew Offerman said. “These Minnesota bred racehorses can compete anywhere in the country but on Sunday they all will be here. Race fans are in for quite a show.”

Last year the Northern Lights Futurity and the Northern Light Debutante saw purses increases to $100,000. For the 2019 Festival the Wally’s Choice Minnesota Classic, Glitter Star Minnesota Distaff Classic, Crocrock Minnesota Sprint, and Bella Notte Minnesota Distaff Sprint each were increased by $25,000 to reach that same level.

“The State Tournament of Horse Racing” was first held in 1992 and was the final day of pari-mutuel horse racing in Minnesota until Curtis Sampson, his son Randy, and South St. Paul businessman Dale Schenian, purchased Canterbury in 1994 and revived live racing in 1995. The Festival of Champions has been a centerpiece of the racing season ever since at the Shakopee, Minn. racetrack.

Mr. Jagermeister, the 2018 Canterbury Park Horse of the Meet who has yet to race at Canterbury this year, is entered in the Crocrock Sprint. A setback sidelined him until earlier this month when trainer Valorie Lund shipped the 4-year-old to Colonial Downs in New Kent, Va. to win the $100,000 Chesapeake Stakes on Aug. 17. Jockey Leandro Goncalves, aboard that day, will ride the nine-time winner Sunday in the eighth race for owners, Kristin Boice, Leslie Cummings, and Lund.

“I’m excited to be racing [Mr. Jagermeister] at home,” Lund said “He is very, very sharp considering the long haul out there and the long haul back. He is really training well.”

Mr. Jagermeister, favored at 8 to 5 on the morning line, will face Mister Banjoman, winner of three of four starts this season including the $100,000 Minnesota Derby and the $50,000 Victor S. Myers Stakes. He is trained by Mac Robertson, the all-time leading Minnesota Festival trainer with 32 wins. The 3-year-old is owned by Joe Novogratz of Chanhassen, Minn. and will be ridden by Orlando Mojica. The seven-horse field also includes Dame Plata who won the Northern Lights Futurity last year.

Robertson is well represented in all thoroughbred stakes, having entered 11 horses. Hot Shot Kid, who won three stakes this meet, races in the Wally’s Choice Classic. Ready to Runaway, a $25,000 claim by Robertson who went on to win the $50,000 Frances Genter and $100,000 Minnesota Oaks, will race in the Glitter Star. He has one 2-year-old in the Northern Lights Futurity and two in the Debutante. Robertson will also saddle Honey’s Sox Appeal in her attempt to win a fourth consecutive Distaff Sprint. Owned by Robert Lindgren of Prior Lake, Minn., she has lifetime earnings of $384,120, all from 24 starts at Canterbury, the most accumulated by any Minnesota bred mare in the history of the track.

General admission on Sunday is $7. Children 17 and younger are admitted free. Parking is free. Admission gates open at 11:30 a.m.

Mac Robertson: MN Festival of Champions Leading Trainer

Mac Robertson

Mac Robertson has been an outstanding thoroughbred trainer at Canterbury Park since 1995. He is currently Canterbury’s leading trainer and was champion trainer for nine consecutive years from 2005 to 2013. He was inducted into the Canterbury Park Hall of Fame in 2011 and is the all-time leader in purse earnings at Canterbury.

His first career victory came in his first year of training in 1994 at Ak-Sar-Ben Racetrack in Omaha, Nebraska. Earlier this year, in his 22nd year of training, Robertson won his 1,000th career race with the horse Thunder and Honey. The multiple graded stakes-winning trainer achieved this milestone in the 4,412th start of his career. He has earned more than $24 million in purse money for his owners.

Mac has also been prominent throughout the history of the Minnesota Festival of Champions and is the leading thoroughbred trainer with 26 wins. The 2016 Festival is this Sunday, Aug. 21.

Some of Mac’s Festival winners include Sir Tricky, Tubby Time, Coconino Slim, A P Is Loose, Heliskier and Bella Notte. “I don’t have as much depth for the Festival this year as I have in the past,” he said. “But you don’t need depth if you have the best horse and I think I have the best horse in a few races.”

Robertson has been involved in the racing industry all his life since his father was a trainer at Penn National Race Course. When Robertson was 12 he started working for his father as an assistant trainer. After working for his dad, he worked for other trainers for a couple of years until he decided to go on his own.

While it may appear to some that Mac is always at the track, he does have other interests. “I like to fish and watch competitive sports, whether it be tennis, swimming, or anything,” he said. “I like collegiate sports over professional sports because I know I’m getting 100% from the participants.”