65-day season begins amidst loosening of COVID-19 restrictions
Canterbury Park’s 65-day horse racing season will begin Tuesday, May 18 with track officials having high hopes for a more traditional season of racing and promotional activities. Following a 2020 season that started later than usual and offered fewer race days with strict spectator capacity limits below 1,000 due to COVID-19, officials at the Shakopee, Minn. racetrack were encouraged by Gov. Tim Walz’ announcement last Thursday that lifts spectator capacity restrictions beginning Memorial Day weekend. Canterbury will race on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 5 PM as well as Sundays beginning May 30 at 1 PM through Sept. 16. In May, capacity will be 2,500 but will increase in June.
“We are thrilled to be racing and to have more fans in the stands,” Canterbury Park President Randy Sampson said. The announcement by Gov. Walz was welcomed but more sudden than most state entertainment venues like Canterbury had expected. Many are now facing the challenge of staffing to the levels needed to be successful. “Our priority is to provide the quality guest experience that we are known for,” Sampson said. “To do that we will start with 2,500 guests and increase capacity in a responsible and safe way as we onboard more employees. I expect to welcome in excess of 7,500 to 10,000 guests as the summer progresses.”
Canterbury’s marketing department made the decision this spring to release its promotional schedule and sell admission tickets month by month as guidance from the state regarding capacity became clear. Events such as Corgi Dog races, Extreme Day, and a fireworks display, which complement a day at the horse races and attract thousands of fans, are now possible and will be added to the schedule throughout the summer.
“Many of our most popular race-day events were just not operationally and financially feasible without knowing how many guests would be allowed,” Vice President of Marketing John Groen said. “We can now schedule those events that bring so much enjoyment to our fans.” Groen plans to push many of the events to the later months of summer.
The horse racing itself will be at full stride from the start if Tuesday’s opening night entries are any indication. The nine-race program drew a total of 86 horses in the body of the races and an additional nine on the also-eligible list. Racing officials expect nearly 1,500 horses to be stabled in the barn area.
Wednesday’s program features a pair of $50,000 sprint stakes for horses bred in Minnesota, the Lady Slipper and the 10,000 Lakes Stakes. Hot Shot Kid and Mr. Jagermeister, the all-time leaders in purse earnings by a Minnesota-bred thoroughbred, will meet again in the 10,000 Lakes. In 2020, Hot Shot Kid defeated Mr. Jagermeister by 1 1/2 lengths. Hot Shot Kid, trained by Mac Robertson, has earned $617,961 in a 35-race career, while Mr. Jagermeister, who has started 29 times, has earned $615,434. He is trained by Valorie Lund.
Canterbury officials are recommending that guests purchase admission tickets online for a touchless experience. A discount is offered to encourage advance purchases at: tickets.canterburypark.com.