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Canterbury Gets a Snow Day

58DF1977Not even stalwarts who have been on the grounds from the beginning could remember another such occasion. Canterbury Park got a snow day on Friday. School was closed.

Not even local trainers decided to budge from home and get a jump on the competition. They preferred not to wind up dealing with three inches of muck that lay beneath five inches of snow that lay throughout the stable area.

Besides, most of the barns that had heat didn’t have water.

…to watch his woods fill up with snow

My little horse must think it queer

to stop without a farmhouse near…


And, with apologies to Robert Frost, there wasn’t a horse on the grounds Thursday morning to have a queer thought or to register an expression of any other nature. Stall superintendent Mark Stancato was encouraging trainers, some of them en route, to hold off another day or so if they could, until conditions improve.

The barn doors were scheduled to open on Friday and stables were expected to begin arriving for the opening of the most anticipated meet since 1995 and before that in 1985.

Stancato was at the track for five seasons during its first run and has worked every meet since 1996 after it reopened in 1995. He does not recall another year that the local countryside looked as if it were early January instead of mid-April on barn-opening day. Nor does anyone else.

“The perimeter road has been plowed but if you pull up in a heavy truck you’ll be dealing with deep muck on the barn roads,” Stancato, the phone glued to an ear, told trainer after trainer.

By noon on Friday nary a single trailer had passed through the stable gates and Stancato was expecting only trainer Tim Padilla with a load of 10 horses late in the day.

The racing office itself was empty aside from Stancato, trainer Luis Canchari and Dr. Christy Klatt in the veterinarians’ office until racing steward Tom Davis walked in, followed shortly thereafter by veterinarian Dave Sorum, who was immediately greeted by an interloper with a question.

“Hey, was that you ridin’ a bull at some cowboy doin’s in Cave Creek, Az., winter before last?”

Indeed it was, although the affirmative reply came with a rather sheepish grin.

Also on hand with the announcement that Eddie Martin, the cagey Cajun who rode in Shakopee year before last, will return this summer was the rider’s agent, Chuck Costanzo, who had a promise for a waiting scribe.

“I’ll make sure that Eddie talks to the press this year,” he said. Eddie, for anyone unfamiliar with the situation, slipped away from reporter after reporter, sometimes disappearing before their very eyes, during the 2011 meet.

Canterbury is restricting the size of stables this meet for the first time in years largely because it has become an exceptionally attractive summertime location with purse sizes guaranteed by last year’s agreement with the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community. A recent visit to Turf Paradise in Phoenix confirmed this increased interest. The trailers on the backside there were primarily pointed north in anticipation of the awaiting trip when that meet ends the first week of May.

First, however, the Shakopee grounds will have to undergo a melting and thawing process, although that is expected within the next few days.

The track will undergo some significant changes in time for the start of this year’s meet on Friday, May 17. Post time for Thursday and Friday cards is 6:30 p.m., half and hour earlier than last year. First post on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays continues at 1:30 p.m.

The infield will take on a dramatically altered look with a new, considerably larger and updated tote board. Patrons who take in the paddock should appreciate the 25 by 12 (that’s feet, of course) video screen in that area of the track.

In another change, the quarter horse races will lead off the Thursday and Friday cards. In one last change for the currently mucky stable area there is a new rule this year:

No dogs allowed.

That includes the stalls as well.

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.