Canterbury Park Requests Revised 2020 Racing Season of 52 Days Beginning June 10

Live horse racing schedule would require approval of Minnesota Racing Commission; Operational procedures and protocols to be implemented during racing will be provided to state and local officials for review.

Canterbury Park officials today submitted a revision of their request for live racing dates for 2020 to the Minnesota Racing Commission. The amended request asks for a 52-day season beginning June 10 and concluding Sept. 9, with races conducted Monday through Thursday. The MRC in December approved a 2020 schedule of 65 days beginning May 15 but circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic have caused a postponement of those dates. Canterbury Park temporarily suspended operations, including card casino and simulcast wagering which are major sources of horsemen purse revenue, on March 16 and subsequently furloughed 850 employees.

The requested schedule is subject to approval by the MRC and the Minnesota Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association which represents racehorse owners and trainers. Operational procedures and protocols to be implemented during racing will be provided to state and local officials for review.

“This is another important step toward a racing season at Canterbury Park,” Vice President of Racing Operations Andrew Offerman said. “Determining a planned start date provides a timeline for those planning to participate in the 2020 race meet. The importance of this additional step and the cooperation required of all parties involved should not be underestimated. As in every industry during these times, the ability to remain open to change and agile enough to react and make decisions as needed will be crucial to success.”

Canterbury Park officials acknowledge in the request to the MRC that the racing season will likely be conducted with no or limited spectators for all or part of the 52 days. The request asks that the MRC delegate authority to its staff to work directly with racetrack officials and the HBPA to determine best post times to maximize handle and flexibility to alter racing days should those indicated in the request become oversaturated with other racetracks.

Strangis Operated At Racing’s Helm

By Jim Wells

Ralph Strangis typically impressed newly-made acquaintances the same way:  ” What a nice guy,” they would say.

As they got to know him, those impressions expanded: “Never met anyone like him, so gracious, understanding and knowledgeable.”

Those who really knew him understood even more:

“So smart, what a businessman, what a head for the law.”

Yet, only the men and women in Minnesota’s horse racing industry understood his role in a Minnesota Racing Commission decision that they largely agreed saved the sport in Minnesota.

It is standard practice to eulogize a person in glowing terms and disregard the blemishes, yet that was not the case with Strangis, who died last August. He was a person friends, acquaintances and family described in the same terms they used when he was alive.  Except, perhaps, for his own children, who had their private definition as youngsters. “We referred to him as a benevolent dictator,” said son Paul.

Strangis was a highly respected attorney, husband, father, grandfather and a racing fan to boot. He was a horse owner during the early days of Canterbury Downs and thereafter whenever he wasn’t serving two separate terms on the Minnesota Racing Commission, helping usher out the Ladbroke Racing Corp. in 1992, after it became clear that horse racing in Minnesota would not survive under that ownership.

“Really one of his remarkable accomplishments as a regulator was the leadership and ability he provided to back down Ladbroke,” said Canterbury Park CEO Randy Sampson. “It took a strong leader to take them on and let them know that the Racing Commission was not going to bend the rules and allow simulcasting without a commitment to live racing.”

Strangis’ unique style in a meeting was lauded by almost anyone in attendance and by the participants themselves. Time was of the essence to orderly discussion, and he demonstrated that repeatedly by preventing distractions from obtaining a foothold.

“I really liked that about him,” Sampson added. “I’ve never seen a guy run a meeting more efficiently than he did. It was remarkable how he could keep a meeting on track and keep it moving.”

The fifth race on Sunday has been dedicated to Strangis and will be run in his honor. He died last August at the age of 82. Among his survivors are his wife, Grace; children, Ralph, Jr., Paul, Jason and Anthea and his stepchildren, Sara Grace and Nathan, several grandchildren and countless friends and business associates.

Strangis had been a racing fan much of his life when the sport was ushered in for Minnesotans with the arrival of Canterbury Downs in 1985, and he was among the early horse owners who frequented the new facility to cheer on the stars of their stables.

Cachuma was a fan favorite in the 1980s, owned by Thoroughbreds, Inc., which included Minnesota Vikings general manager Mike Lynn, automobile dealer Jim Lupient and Strangis.

Cachuma ran with his head down, a distinguishing feature fans came to recognize and appreciate, particularly in the final sixteenth when his unique style was all the more on display.

“We all made money on Cachuma,” said Paul Strangis. “Win after win.”

Later, Ralph Strangis was involved as an owner with a Tom Metzen partnership .

Paul is still involved in racing as an owner, his love for the sport nurtured at the Southern California tracks as a youngster during trips there with his father and siblings.

“He was uniquely qualified (as a commissioner and later chairman) with his love of the sport,” said Sampson. “He always did what was right for the backside people and the horse. He made a unique contribution to horse racing, as chairman, and as an owner.”

Strangis was prohibited from owning horses while serving on the commission, but quickly reengaged when his terms expired, having helped regulate the sport with a participant’s understanding.

Jim Lane III, the acting chairman of the commission, got to know Strangis before serving on the commission with him. Lane, an attorney himself, was working at the time with North Ridge Farm and the late Franklin Groves, an Eclispse Award winning breeder, and trainer Carl Nafzger.

“I knew him (Strangis) as a horse owner and active participant along with Tom Metzen,” Lane said. “Ralph knew the racing business and liked it and was therefore a better informed regulator than perhaps people not exposed to racing.”

Strangis had other strengths that Lane says directed decisions in which he participated. “He was very interested in the two tracks (Canterbury Park and Running Aces) and their financial strength,” Lane added.  “He was a wonderful businessman and attorney.”

Strangis, in fact, was described in certain accounts as the “legal architect” of Target Field for the Minnesota Twins and Allianz Field, home to the Minnesota United soccer team.

Strangis designated Lane as first vice chairman of the racing commission after becoming chairman and he continued in that role until Strangis died last year. Lane has been the acting chairman since.

Lane recalls two “big” problems “percolating” when Strangis rejoined the commission five or six years ago. “The purse underpayment at Running Aces and the dispute between that track and the Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association regarding the financial agreement with the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community,” he said. “Ralph was instrumental in solving both problems,” said Lane. “Those things tend to be forgotten.”

Commissioner Alan Gingold first met Strangis in 1973. “He was representing the company I worked for (Piper Jaffrey and Hopwood),” Gingold said.

“He was an extraordinary man, 70 percent lawyer, 70 percent businessman and 70 percent community activist.”

Gingold grew to know Strangis in new ways upon serving with him on the Commission. “He had a natural love for racing, the beauty of racing and the horses, which is true of most of the commissioners. They love horses,” Gingold said.

Gingold also cited Strangis’ ability to get people together, talking and solving their problems.

His appreciation for Strangis, having known him four and one-half decades might  best be summed up in these comments:

“I think about him every day,” Gingold said. “He was larger than life, and I don’t expect to meet anybody like him.”

Who’s The Best?

By Noah Joseph

On Sunday, Mr. Jagermeister delivered possibly the best performance of the Minnesota Festival of Champions, winning the Wally’s Choice Minnesota Classic with ease. This capped a memorable season for the son of Atta Boy Roy, in which Mr. Jagermeister won four of five starts at Canterbury, and outside of Minnesota took on graded stakes company. Many in attendance said that Mr. Jagermeister could be the best Minnesota bred horse of all-time, and like in all sports, that question has many possible answers based on opinions. This begs the question: Who is the best Minnesota bred of all-time?

To find the greatest Minnesota bred horse off all-time, one can look at several angles. Some may go by pedigrees, some by past performances, some by competition the horse faced, some by career earnings, and the time they raced. Fans who were around during the Canterbury Downs days may say the greatest Minnesota bred was Princess Elaine in the distaff division, and in the male division, they might say Blair’s Cove and Timeless Prince were the greatest. All three horses are members of the Canterbury Park Hall of Fame. Some might contend that graded stakes winner Super Abound is overlooked. However, when Canterbury Downs closed, their Minnesota potential disappeared, leaving fans with the question of “What might have been”?

Fast forward to the present day, A.K.A, Canterbury Park, and the picture of who’s the best, which is already tough to determine, becomes even blurrier. Considering the name Canterbury Park has lasted three times longer than the name Canterbury Downs, more horses from Minnesota have raced here, and the quality continues to increase. In fact, so many top Minnesota breds have made a giant mark on racing here since the beginning of the century, that both sexes have had horses that definitely outrival their 80s and 90s counterparts. In the male category, along with Crocrock, fans may say Wally’s Choice, Sir Tricky, Tubby Time, Heliskier, Coconino Slim, Hold for More and A.P Is Loose may be the best. The female group is equally just as tough, with horses like Nidari, Glitter Star, Bella Notte, Chick Fight, Polar Plunge, and Congrats and Roses.

And so the debate of who the greatest Minnesota bred is will continue for a long time, but one answer is certain; all of these horses are greats in their own right, and have earned their place as legends of racing in Minnesota.

Share with us who you think the greatest Minnesota bred horse of all-time is in the comments section below.