Canterbury Park Enhances Starter Incentive Program for 2019

Preparation for the 25th season of horse racing at Canterbury Park, which begins May 3, is well underway. Officials recently announced enhanced incentives to lure trainers and owners with race-ready thoroughbreds to the Shakopee, Minn. racetrack by offering programs that will reward those that arrive and start horses early in the meet, pay more purse money to all starters throughout the 66 days of racing, and help with costs of shipping through a loan program.

Last fall an intense and comprehensive main track renovation took place, returning the one-mile dirt oval to its original specifications. Two key hires were also made with track superintendent Johnnie Jamison and racing secretary Matt Crawford. In January, a $2.235 million stakes schedule was unveiled.

The first condition book, listing races to be run through June 2, is now available. Total purses are projected to exceed $14.25 million, with a per-day average of approximately $215,000. Stall applications are also available.

“We are thrilled to celebrate a great milestone for Canterbury Park with our 25th live racing season under current ownership,” track president Randy Sampson said. “We are working hard in cooperation with our horsemen to provide incentives for horses that are ready to run and make racing at Canterbury Park a more appealing option for stables of all sizes from throughout the country.”

Racing officials and members of the Minnesota Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, which represents all horsemen racing at Canterbury, worked together to again make funding for this starter incentive program available.

Incentive #1 – $250 Guaranteed Thoroughbred Purse Payment in Overnight Races During the 2019 Racing Season. In 2019, every thoroughbred starter in all overnight races will be guaranteed 1% of the purse or $250, whichever is greater with the intent of providing purse money to cover a greater percentage of race-day costs.

Incentive #2 – $500 Per Start Participation Incentive for all Thoroughbreds in Condition Book #1.  Every thoroughbred starter in all overnight races during the first condition book (May 3 – June 2) will earn an additional $250 participation bonus. This participation incentive will be paid for each start a thoroughbred makes in an overnight race throughout the entirety of condition book #1. Therefore, a thoroughbred is guaranteed to make a minimum of $500 per start between May 3 and June 2

Incentive #3 – $250,000 Canterbury Park Shipping Loan Program.  Canterbury Park will again offer a shipping loan program to qualified applicants who arrive prior to the start of the 2019 racing season. Shipping loan applications will be due with stall applications and will be reviewed by the stall allocation committee. Upon review, the committee will authorize up to $25,000 per owner to cover the cost of horse transportation to Canterbury Park. The loan will be repaid through an agreement between the successful applicant and Canterbury Park. Full terms and conditions are available with the 2019 stall application.

“Competition for horses is fierce across the country. Shipping horses from meet to meet is a cost of doing business but it is also an upfront cost that can create a cash flow challenge,” Sampson said. “With the loan program we are looking to erase that barrier, help trainers ship their stock to Canterbury, and with the purse structure here, repay that loan throughout the meet.”

Canterbury Park stall applications are due Monday, March 18. All forms pertaining to Canterbury Park’s 2019 race meet, including full terms and conditions of the Starter Incentive Program, and minimum purse payments pertaining to quarter horses, can be found online at www.canterburypark.com/horsemen . The stable area opens for training in April.

Canterbury Park 2019 Racing Dates Approved By MRC

25th season includes 66-day meet, May 3 through Sept. 14

Canterbury Park’s 2019 thoroughbred and quarter horse race meet, as approved Thursday by the Minnesota Racing Commission, will include 66 race dates, commencing May 3, the Friday before Kentucky Derby, and running  through Sept. 14.

The upcoming meet will be the Shakopee, Minn., racetrack’s 25th season of live racing since reopening as Canterbury Park.

The facility originally opened in 1985 as Canterbury Downs but closed shortly after the 1992 season concluded. Current President and CEO Randy Sampson, his father Curtis Sampson, and businessman Dale Schenian purchased the track and surrounding property in 1994 and re-opened for simulcast racing in May of that year. Months later Canterbury Park became one of the few publicly held racetracks in the country.  Live racing returned in the summer of 1995.

On Thursdays and Fridays in 2019, racing will begin at 6 p.m., 30 minutes earlier than previous race meets, and weekend and holiday racing will begin at 12:45 p.m. On July 3 and 4 racing will begin at 4 p.m. There will be three Saturday evening programs, June 22, Aug. 10 and 24, with a 5 p.m. start time. A one-week break in the racing season will allow Canterbury to host Twin Cities Summer Jam, July 18-20. The three-day music festival will be held in the track infield.

Best Moments of 2018 Canterbury Park“I am very excited about 2019 as we celebrate our 25th racing season and the successes we have had as a company,” Randy Sampson said. “This is quite an accomplishment. We started in 1994 with simulcast racing, a few special events, and with many wondering how we could make horse racing work in Minnesota when others before us had failed. In 1995 live racing returned and we embellished the events schedule. Twenty-five years later we have a card casino, a flourishing events and catering business, and racing continues to thrive.”

The company recently broke ground on Canterbury Commons, a multi-use redevelopment expected to attract more than $400 million in private investment while creating new and in-demand housing options and high-wage employment opportunities, as well as additional dining and entertainment venues.

“Credit can be given to the dedication of many long-time employees as well as the horse owners, breeders, and trainers that have supported racing in Minnesota,” Sampson said. “And, of course, none of this is possible without the support of the great racing fans at Canterbury Park.”

Total purses are anticipated to exceed $14.25 million in 2019, at approximately $215,000 per day, similar to 2018. A 2012 cooperative marketing and purse enhancement agreement reached with the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, owners and operators of nearby Mystic Lake Casino Hotel, will supplement purses by $7.28 million. The agreement extends through 2022 with more than $83 million going toward purse supplements and joint marketing of the two properties and the region known as RiverSouth-Land of Big Fun.

The 2019 stakes schedule will be released in January. Racing officials recently hired industry veteran Johnnie Jamison as track superintendent. A racing secretary is expected to be announced before the New Year. The promotional calendar, which includes several popular events such as Corgis & Cupcakes and Extreme Race Day, will be revealed in March.

2019 Live Racing Calendar

Canterbury Park Live Racing Season Concludes Friday and Saturday

Purses and handle reach record numbers

Canterbury Park’s 2018 live racing season concludes with 13 races Friday and 14 on Saturday. In all, 318 horses have been entered for the final two days where more than $660,000 in purses will be awarded, bringing total purse disbursement during the 70-day season to record heights of more than $15.2 million, an average of approximately $220,000 per day.

Total handle, the amount of money bet on each live program, will also reach a new high. Through last Saturday, nearly $45 million, including on and off track dollars, has been wagered on Canterbury’s races, a jump of 9.4 percent compared to last season.

“We have had a very good summer of racing with solid attendance and wagering,” Canterbury President Randy Sampson said. “The month of May was difficult due to weather but we quickly hit our stride and made great gains in June, July, August, and September. We will conclude the meet with an exceptional two days of racing.”

Increases in purse payments is a direct result of a 2012 cooperative purse enhancement and marketing agreement between Canterbury and the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community which owns and operates Mystic Lake Casino Hotel, located just three miles south of the racetrack. The agreement, which calls for $75 million to be added to purses over 10 years, immediately drew the attention of racehorse owners and bolstered the state breeding program.

The increase in the quality of racing at the Shakopee, Minn. racetrack produced a rise in handle as more horseplayers took notice locally and nationally. Total handle has more than doubled since 2010, the last full racing season prior to the SMSC agreement, with revenues from the increased wagering also helping to grow purses.

“Our partnership with SMSC has been tremendous for the racing industry in Minnesota,” Sampson said. “Racing and breeding in the state can be done with confidence.”

Friday’s program begins at 5:00 p.m. and Saturday’s at 12:45 p.m. General admission is $7 for adults. Children 17 and younger are admitted free. Additional information is available at www.canterburypark.com .

Jockey Ry Eikleberry, with 83 victories, enters the final weekend with a 10-win lead over Orlando Mojica. Eikleberry last won the riding title in 2014.

Mac Robertson, who has won 11 training titles at Canterbury, leads Robertino Diodoro by three wins, 53 to 50. Robertson has entered 29 horses for the final two days while Diodoro, who has twice been top trainer, has 28.

Canterbury Park 2018 Racing Dates Approved By MRC

70-day meet runs May 4 through Sept. 15

Canterbury Park will conduct 70 days of horse racing in 2018. The Minnesota Racing Commission on Dec. 21 approved the Shakopee, Minn., racetrack’s request to run Friday, May 4 through Saturday, Sept. 15.

This will be only the second time in 23 seasons that Canterbury has raced as many days. Seventy days of racing were held in 2015. The 2017 season included 67 race dates.

“We’re thrilled to offer our fans and horsemen 70 days of great racing and wagering action. With record purses that could reach $15 million, we expect to continue our upward trend in attracting quality stables and creating great wagering opportunities,” Canterbury Park President Randy Sampson said. The season again opens on Kentucky Derby weekend.

On Thursdays and Fridays in 2018, racing will begin at 6:30 p.m. and weekend and holiday racing at 12:45 p.m. On July 3 racing will begin at 4 p.m. and will be followed by a fireworks display that last July attracted more than 20,000 onlookers. In August, Canterbury will race the first four Wednesdays of the month with no Sunday racing. The Wednesday start time will be 6:30 p.m.

“While Wednesday night racing in August will be new to our fans, we hope to capture the same success we have experienced on Thursday and Friday nights in a month when Sundays have been soft,” Sampson said. “Wednesday night racing will also display our signal more prominently on the simulcast landscape nationally. That increased exposure will not only generate what we expect to be exceptional handle on Wednesdays but will also translate to added wagering on other race days as horse players across the country continue to become more familiar with the Canterbury Park brand of racing.”

A 2012 cooperative marketing and purse enhancement agreement reached with the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, owners and operators of nearby Mystic Lake Casino Hotel, will supplement purses by $7.28 million in the coming race season. The agreement extends through 2022 with more than $83 million going toward purse supplements and joint marketing of the two properties and the region known as RiverSouth-Land of Big Fun.

Canterbury Park racing officials will release the 2018 stakes schedule in January. The promotional calendar, which includes several popular events such as Corgis & Cupcakes and Extreme Race Day, will be announced in March.

It's Official: 2017 Live Racing Returns Friday, May 5

Canterbury Park

Canterbury Park Receives MRC Approval For 2017 Racing Dates.

67-day meet runs May 5 through Sept. 16.

Canterbury Park’s 2017 live racing season will begin Friday, May 5 and run through Sept. 16. The Minnesota Racing Commission approved the Shakopee, Minn. racetrack’s request for a 67-day thoroughbred and quarter horse meet on Thursday evening.

Racing on Thursdays and Fridays in 2017 will begin at 6:30 p.m. and weekend and holiday racing at 12:45 p.m. On May 5 and July 3, racing will begin at 4:00 p.m.

“We are very pleased with the 2017 racing schedule,” Canterbury Park President Randy Sampson said. “We will begin racing earlier than we have for the past eight years, with opening weekend coinciding with the Kentucky Derby. This allows additional opportunities for owners to run their horses and also better accommodates trainers coming from race meets that end earlier in the spring.”

From 2005 to 2008 the Canterbury Park meet also opened on Kentucky Derby weekend and produced some of the largest crowds in track history including 18,230 on 2008 Kentucky Derby day and 17,111 in 2006. The Kentucky Derby will be run May 6, 2017.

With July 4 falling on a Tuesday, Canterbury Park will conduct six consecutive days of racing, June 29 through Independence Day, followed by an eight-day break with racing resuming on July 13. The down time will be used for track and turf maintenance.

“A week-long break in the schedule is unprecedented at Canterbury but it serves the horse population very well and allows our track crew to make sure the racing surfaces remain in top shape for the second half of the meet,” Sampson said.

Canterbury Park racing officials will announce the 2017 stakes schedule and purse structure in January.

Sunday's Festival of Champions Evokes Memories of 1992.

Festival of Champions

BY JIM WELLS

Turn back the pages of your calendar, day by day, week by week, month by month until you come to a gorgeous autumn afternoon in 1992. There it is, right there, September 12.

Okay, now, pause right here. The sun is shining, a television crew is at Canterbury Downs. A crowd is making its way into grandstand, a large crowd at that. There are smiles on the faces of horsemen_ in the paddock, everywhere you care to look.

Minnesota’s horsemen, reeling under the heavy hand of the Ladbroke Racing Corp., and its plans to limit if not entirely curtail live racing at Canterbury, are staging the first Minnesota Festival of Champions, a card designed to showcase state-bred horses and demonstrate to the track’s operators that Minnesotans would indeed support racing if it were promoted and presented correctly.

Here and there, the faces of Ladbroke’s management team reveal disgust for what is taking place. Their faces and moods seem to sour each time another group of patrons passes through the turnstiles. Success on this particular day merely presents another element to a narrative contrary to their own. Making matters even worse is that KMSP TV is televising the event, spreading the word.

Now, fast forward to the fourth race, the Northern Lights Debutante Stakes, a 6 ½ furlong sprint with a $50,000 estimated purse, which includes $25,000 from the Minnesota breeders fund. There are 11 horses in the program, including two couplings. Be The Magic and Meggie May are the 1 and 1A entrants at 15/1, both owned by Bette and Dale Schenian and trained by Cliff Darnell.

There is also L’Etoile Jolie and Bold Sharokee, the first owned by Curtis Sampson , the second by Paul Sampson. Both are trained by Mike Biehler. They are coupled as 2 and 2B and are the morning line favorite at 6/5…because of Bold Sharokee, unbeaten at 4-0 and the speediest 2-year-old filly on the grounds.

Scott Stevens, a Hall of Fame rider at Canterbury, has the mount and knows this filly well. He has been on her back for all four wins, one of them in the Graduation Stakes at Assiniboia Downs. He also helped break her the previous winter, telling everyone who would listen that she was the best of the bunch.

“They all laughed at me,” he recalled. “But she was a real professional even that young. That’s what made the difference. She was very quick, very professional and didn’t make mistakes.”

The Sampson family bred their own horses at the time, but Paul bought this one at the Minnesota Bred Select Yearling Sale, for $3,000, a dark bay filly, almost black, a daughter of Best of Both, by J.O. Tobin.

Sampson recalled his reasoning at the time of purchase. “We were looking for a filly bred for speed to run as a two-year-old,” he said. “The dam for this one was Sharokee, a Key to the Kingdown mare. Bold Sharokee was an early baby, foaled on January 28 of 1990, another asset.”

Sampson digs through old memorabilia to spark his recollections of that special day. There are yellow sticky notes still hanging tenuously to some of the items, resurrecting a memory here or there of a bittersweet afternoon. “”We didn’t know if there would be racing again after that day or not,” he said. “But it was such a successful day that it gave everyone hope.”

Sampson recalls the race as he sorts through clippings and memorabilia. “I remember Scott got her out of the gate quickly and over to the rail,” he said. “He was so good with those young fillies.”

Bold Sharokee made it five consecutive wins that day. “She was born earlier than a lot of the others and that was a factor, too,” said Sampson. She was ahead of the others in development, physical and mental.

More memories:

Scott Schindler rode Be the Magic. Canterbury Hall of Fame rider Luis Quinonez was on Meggie May. Donna Barton, now the articulate reporter on horseback for most of the top races in the U.S., was on Fortunate Faith (5/2), owned by Penny Lewis Whitney and trained by Joey Ruhsam. Vic Padilla saddled a hore named Paige Me First (20/1) and Mike Duschane saddled Victor’s Prize (5/1) for Berkshire Farms, Inc., and Irish Moment (9/2) for Richard Bremer and Cheryl Sprick. Vicki Warhol rode Victor’s Prize and Roger Gomez was on Irish Moment.

As it turned out, the Minnesota Racing Commission did not renew Ladbroke’s racing license in December because the company would not make a firm commitment to live racing. Canterbury Downs went dark for the next two years.

Yet, there are those who credit the success of that inaugural Festival of Champions with the revival of racing in 1995.

“If it hadn’t been for that festival, who would have been willing to come back and take the risk?” Sampson said.

More than 150 people from Hector and the surrounding community, the Sampsons’ home town, turned out that day to see Bold Sharokee run . As winners of a race that afternoon, Paul and his brother, Randy, the current CEO/President of the track, were invited to a buffet in the clubhouse. “I don’t know if I was in the place four or five times previously,” Paul recalled. “We were like strangers up there and felt fortunate and honored to be there.”

As it was, her victory that day was the last of the truly shining moments in the career of Bold Sharokee.

Sampson flew into Omaha in the spring of 1993 to see her race and called ahead to Fonner Park from an airport pay phone to discover that the races had been cancelled.

“She didn’t win a race in 1993 or 1994,” he said. “There was nothing really wrong with her. As we looked back, it seemed clear that she was an extremely fast two-year-old born at the end of January. The rest of her age group just caught up with her.”

Then, with the Shakopee racetrack reopened in 1995 under the direction of the Sampson family, Bold Sharokee reappeared in a mile race on the grass. Once again, Stevens was in the irons. “She looked brilliant,” Sampson said. “It was clear she belonged on the grass and we were just finding that out.” Alas, two weeks later Bold Sharokee cracked a leg kicking the back of her stall and never raced again.

Yet, she was one of the shining stars on September 12, 1992, when the first Festival of Champions convinced horsemen throughout the state that there was indeed a place for their sport in Minnesota.

2013 Meet Closes with Significant Increases

Turf ChuteCanterbury Park’s 69-day racing season, the longest since 2006, concluded on September 14 with gains in average handle and attendance. Off-track wagering, dollars bet on Canterbury races at other tracks and through internet sites, increased by 46.7 percent while average daily on-track wagering was up 4.8 percent. Average daily attendance was 6,656, a Canterbury Park record.

“We set a couple of goals this season,” Canterbury Park CEO Randy Sampson said. “First, we wanted to improve the quality of our racing product by attracting new stables and more horses. We knew if that happened we could accomplish our second goal which was to increase our national exposure and wagering handle.”

Canterbury’s races were broadcast by TVG, a national horse racing television network, on Thursdays and Fridays. Total off-track wagering on those nights increased by 80.3 percent.

Average field size, 8.36 starters per race, was up this season from 7.83 in 2012 which aided the wagering increase. The quality and depth of those fields also improved, witnessed by favorites winning at a 35 percent rate compared to 45 percent last year.

For the first time since 1991, Canterbury’s 1,600 stalls were filled by racehorses as several new trainers tried the Shakopee, MN racetrack for the first time. Purses this season were more than double what they were in 2011 due to a joint purse enhancement and marketing agreement signed in June of 2012 with the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community. The agreement will add $75 million to horsemen purses over the life of the 10-year deal. A record of $12,453,268 in purse money was paid this season.

The increased purses attracted Midwest Thoroughbreds Inc., the leading owners in the nation for the past three years, to Canterbury for the first time. Their stable was handled by trainer Roger Brueggemann who won 28 races making Midwest Thoroughbreds the meet’s leading owner.

“This year was a great step toward what we hope to accomplish with our live racing,” Sampson said. “Prominent horsemen find our purse structure attractive and horseplayers across the country are taking notice as well.”

Mac Robertson won his ninth consecutive training title with 51 victories. He set a single-season earnings record of $1,340,429.

Dean Butler won the riding title for the fourth time. He finished the season with 67 wins, two more than Alex Canchari.

Heliskier was voted Horse of the Year for the second consecutive season. The 4-year-old Minnesota-bred gelding won three of five starts including the $50,000 10,000 Lakes Stakes and the $55,000 Crocrock Minnesota Sprint Championship. Heliskier is owned by Marlene Colvin of Ethan, SD and is trained by Robertson. Heliskier also earned divisional titles in the categories of Sprinter and Older Horse.

Stacy Charette-Hill won the quarter horse training title with 19 wins from 37 starts. Her starters finished in the top three at a 92 percent rate. Charette-Hill won Canterbury’s two most prestigious quarter horse races, the $54,100 Canterbury Park Quarter Horse Derby and the $133,525 Mystic Lake Northlands Futurity. Jorge Torres was the leading quarter horse jockey with 20 wins. Brenda Reiswig of Bismarck, N.D. repeated as leading quarter horse owner with eight wins. Stone Cottrell, winner of the Skip Zimmerman and Dash In A Flash Stakes, was named quarter horse of the meet. He is trained by Charette-Hill.

Hermann to Make History

Angela Hermann 1Racing fans know her as the vivacious woman in the paddock, dispensing information with the rapid-fire delivery of a Gatling gun.

She can overwhelm the cerebral senses with a volley of facts and details that roll off her tongue with the authority and understanding of someone who knows her stuff inside and out.

Right or wrong on a given horse is not the issue. She can dissect what a thoroughbred has done and is apt to do with the precision of a surgeon and his scalpel.

She is Angela Hermann, the voice of Canterbury Park’s paddock and a disseminator of insight and detail on the horses that occupy the barns of Shakopee.

Now completing her third season in the paddock since the departure of Kevin Gorg. Ms. Hermann is about to break ground in the thoroughbred world on a national front.

Ms. Hermann, a native of Burnsville, will become the first woman in U.S. thoroughbred history to act as a race caller for an entire card when she takes over for Paul Allen on Saturday.

The idea came about gradually, building on the fact that Ms. Hermann called several races, 10 or more, one at time, during the course of the 2013 meet as preparation for the approaching assignment.

She called a three-horse race last winter at Hawthorne Race Course in suburban Chicago, so the experience was not brand new to her this summer, although the challenge was certainly greater, calling races with larger fields than the one in Cicero, Ill., and on the home front to boot.

“It wasn’t the most exciting race (to call in Cicero),” said Ms. Hermann. “They only changed order maybe twice in the entire race.”

That will not be the case for Saturday’s eight-race card which will involve the names of as many as 60 or more horses to memorize.

“I can do it. That doesn’t worry me,” said Ms. Hermann.

It doesn’t worry her colleagues, either.

Allen, who is the voice of the Minnesota Vikings, is missing an all-time high of eight racing days this year due to the extension of the racing season and his duties at the Vikings’ mike. After conferring with track president/CEO Randy Sampson, and after Hermann’s trials at the microphone were given stamps of approval, the decision was made to put Canterbury Park and Ms. Hermann into racing’s history books.

“She’s ready and she’ll do a terrific job,” said Allen.

Does Ms. Hermann view this as a step forward for women?

“Of course it is important,” she said. “Women in the sport can get offended when I say that we need more women in our sport. I can only imagine what it might be like if we had an equal number of women to men.”

Racing is said to have made much progress in gender equality in the last 30 years or so, but it still lags behind in many areas.

“As much progress as there has been, there are still way too many men who will not put a female jockey aboard their horses. The more of us in this sport the better chance we have of leveling the playing field.”

So, the difference between analyzing a race in the paddock and calling a race from the pressbox?

“You have to have all your ducks in a row to get everything exactly right,” she said. “If there’s a moment that you freeze up there is nothing and there is no second chance at it.”

Nonetheless, Ms. Hermann says her handicapping experience, her experience in what to expect from a certain horse, will help the call as a race progresses. “If a horse isn’t supposed to be on the lead but is, as a handicapper you know that,” she said. “If a horse is behaving or running differently than he has done in the past, it is valuable to know that ahead of time.”

Ms. Hermann hopes that Saturday is one of the biggest days of her career. She will measure it primarily by this standard:

“If one little girl, because she was hesitant, is inspired to get into the industry because of this, then I’ve done my job.”

If you’ve ever watched some of the small faces that circle the paddock area before a race, the job is probably already done.

THURSDAY DOINGS

Had you been at Canterbury Thursday night. Had you put $2 on Bandini’s Star, you would have invested your money in a 55-1 winner, ridden by Jordan Olesiak and the first winner of the meet for trainer Mike Bolinger.

Had you been at Canterbury, and had you put $2 on K C’s Misfit, you would have invested in a 32-1 winner, the first winner of the meet for trainer Mike Kirby.

BECKY MCDOWELL FUNDRAISER

Trainer/horsewoman Becky McDowell was injured recently doing the job she loves so much. Thus, her colleagues on the backside have joined together and will stage a fundraiser to help her through the expense of recovery.

Food, music and an auction will be held in the track kitchen after the last race on Saturday, around 5:30 p.m.

This blog was written by Canterbury Staff Writer Jim Wells. Wells was a longtime sportswriter at the Pioneer Press and is a member of the Canterbury Park Hall of Fame.

Festival Roots Run Deep

4080_MnFestivalOfChampions_REVISED_7.9Many of the same people have been part of this from the start and still celebrate this annual toast to the Minnesota thoroughbred and quarter horse, an idea spawned when international corporate interests were intent on changing the shape of horse racing in Minnesota.

The Minnesota Festival of Champions is an afternoon devoted exclusively to horses bred in the Gopher state by Minnesotans who’ve invested their time, money and energy into the continued improvement of an industry once destined for oblivion by outside business interests.

The Festival highlights a day on which Minnesota breeders and owners annually parade forth the best occupants of their barns to take a shot at prize money set aside exclusively for them and their kind – the Minnesota thoroughbred and quarter horse.

It is old history now that the first of these annual affairs began in 1992 as a response to the corporate intentions of the Ladbroke Racing Corp., then owners of Canterbury Downs, to shut down live racing in Minnesota.

It is old history that Minnesotans were laughed at when they suggested staging the first Festival on their own and that the results of 1992 convinced many of them to stay involved in the industry.

Their names fill the record books and the historic accounts of the 1992 Festival of Champions:

Thanks were extended to the numerous sponsors of the event in the racing program that day from the presiding board of directors: Gordon Bredeson, Allen Burdick, James Druck, Joe Friedberg, Gerry Herringer, Kathy Kissoon, Phillip Maas, Randall Sampson and Dale Schenian. Co-directors of the event were Steve Erban and Dan Mjolsness.

The very first winner was a 2-year-old colt by Aferd from Time Requested. His name was Request the Flag and he was ridden that afternoon by Canterbury Park Hall of Fame rider Scott Stevens, who rode four winners on the card. Owned by Bob Kessler of Skywood Farm and trained by Casey Hannum, Request the Flag won the Turf Sprint at 7 and 1/2 furlongs.

The next trip to the winner’s circle was taken by Northern Injun, a 2-year-old colt by North Pole from Indian Jennie, owned by John and Murray Valene, trained by Richie Scherer and ridden by Roger Gomez. The event? The Northern Lights Futurity, offering an estimated purse of $50,000. Gomez had another winner in the Sprint Classic at six furlongs, Silver Me Timbers, owned by Jan Chumas and trained by Mike Duschane.

Stevens’ next winner had unmistakable connections to what became the future of the racetrack and racing in Minnesota. “That’s the one I remember best,” he said.”Bold Sharokee.”

And why not! Bold Sharokee, owned by Paul Sampson, whose family would take control of the racetrack, and trained by Mike Biehler, won the $50,000 Northern Lights Debutante. “That horse was a home-grown,” Stevens recalled.”I had gone to Canada and won on her right before that. We broke her right there (at Malkersons). They had babies from Kentucky there, too, and I kept saying that this Minnesota-bred was the best one of the bunch.”

Good enough in 1992 to be Canterbury’s Horse of the Year.

So, the horses names go in the record books, and their owners, trainers and riders continue what they do, in many cases no different today than in 1992. In some cases quite different.

“Dale Schenian and Randy Sampson were horse owners back then,” Stevens added.”Now they own the racetrack.”

Along with numerous other investors whose names were part of that 1992 delegation determined to keep racing alive in Minnesota.

The Festival record book makes note of them:

Art and Gretchen Eaton are still breeding and racing and lead all owners in number of Festival wins with 10. Curtis Sampson, without whom Canterbury might be tumbleweed and memory, is right behind with eight wins, followed by Kissoon Thoroughbreds (7) and Almar Farm (6). Schenian is there, too, tied with Cam Casby and Anthony Didier with four wins apiece.

Hall of Fame quarter horse owners Bob and Julie Petersen lead their category with eight winners. Cam and Sylvia Casby are next with five, and then James Murray with four. Doug Hoseck and Rodney Van Ohlen have three apiece.

For the record, the other winners in the inaugural Festival were Belle of the Night, who defeated future Canterbury Park Hall of Fame horse Northbound Pride in the Distaff Classic. Belle of the Night was owned by Joseph Sand, ridden by Donna Barton and trained by Todd Hoffrogge. Canterbury Park Hall of Fame runner Timeless Prince, running for Lester Partners, ridden by Barton and trained by Joey Ruhsam, won the $40,000 Championship Classic, defeating fellow Hall of Fame runner Blair’s Cove.

The leading Festival rider of all time is Derek Bell who has 24 wins. He is sidelined by injuries and will not add to that total this year. Next is Stevens with nine wins and five chances to increase his total this time.

Stevens’ other winners on that grand afternoon in 1992 included Mark of Strength, owned by Sharon and Gordy Bredeson. A 2-1 morning line selection, Mark of Strength was the winner of the Turf Marathon, run at 1 7/8 miles. Stevens was also aboard Stillwater Sally in the Turf Route for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles, a horse owned by Marnee Grefe and trained by Bill Bethke.

John Alderman’s A Bit of a Gent won the 400-yard North Star Derby. Jim Olson’s Mor Mors Joy won the $40,000 Stallion Breeders Futurity. Shane Pollard was in the saddle on both.

Those were the names of the first winners on a list added to each summer since 1992, a list that will get additional names once again today.

This blog was written by Canterbury Staff Writer Jim Wells. Wells was a longtime sportswriter at the Pioneer Press and is a member of the Canterbury Park Hall of Fame.