Canterbury Park racing officials have submitted a request to the Minnesota Racing Commission for 65 racing dates in 2021 beginning May 18 and running through Sept. 16. With the request came the caveat that future impacts associated with the COVID-19 pandemic may necessitate an amendment to the request. Horsemen purses are projected to return to pre-COVID-19 levels of approximately $220,000 per day, a 13 percent increase over the $195,000 per day in 2020. The meet would feature both thoroughbred and quarter horse racing.
Canterbury Park’s 2020 race meet was delayed and shortened but once commencing on June 10 the meet ran uninterrupted for 53 days through Sept. 17 with limited spectators.
“We intend to run a more typical 65-day meet in 2021,” Vice President of Racing Operations Andrew Offerman said. “We have learned a lot about safely conducting a racing season during very trying circumstances. We will build on that knowledge next season knowing that there may be subsequent changes and alterations to the schedule. However, it is important for the racing industry to understand our intention to run a 65-day meet from mid-May through mid-September.”
With a capacity limit of 750 spectators in the recently concluded meet, track officials moved off the traditional Thursday through Sunday schedule and conducted racing Monday through Thursday evenings. The result was a 116 percent increase in out-of-state wagering handle. The request for 2021 is for a Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday schedule with racing on Memorial Day and Labor Day as well as Saturday, July 3.
Canterbury Park’s live racing success has been predicated on live crowds averaging more than 6,500 per day generating food, beverage, handle and admission revenues crucial to supporting a race meet that employs more than 1,000 workers, the majority of which was lost in 2020.
“We fully understand the severity and serious nature of the ongoing pandemic; however we remain optimistic and are planning a 2021 season for what might be possible,” Vice President of Marketing John Groen said. “Should venues like Canterbury Park be allowed to safely increase attendance capacity, Sunday afternoon would provide an opportunity to reintroduce popular family promotions tied to live horse racing that we are known for.”
Sunday afternoon racing in 2021 would replace Mondays which produced the weakest results during Canterbury Park’s 2020 meet. In past years, promotions such as corgi dog races and fireworks displays have attracted crowds three times larger than the daily average.
The 2021 schedule also includes a nine-day break to accommodate Twin Cities Summer Jam, a three-day music festival held in the racetrack infield July 22 through 24. The event was first held in 2019 but postponed in 2020 as a result of the pandemic.
The Minnesota Racing Commission, a nine-member panel appointed by the state’s governor tasked with overseeing the integrity and safety of horse racing at Minnesota’s two pari-mutuel racetracks, is expected to consider Canterbury’s race date request at its December meeting. Minnesota Administrative Rule 7872.0100 required Canterbury Park to submit for 2021 racing dates no later than November 15, 2020.
Canterbury Park’s 24/7 casino and simulcast racebook remain open daily.