The backside of a horse racing track is like its own little corner of the universe, hustling and bustling before the sun even thinks about rising. Hundreds of grooms, hot-walkers, exercise riders, jockeys, trainers and other backside personnel arrive at the barns before dawn to begin preparations for the horses’ morning routines, to get ready for that next big race.
For each horse that runs at Canterbury Park, there are countless people that have worked together to get that horse to the starting gate. The horse’s groom has cleaned his stall a couple times a day, given him food and water, put protective bandages on his legs. An exercise rider has taken him to the track almost daily, has guided him through his training routine of walking, trotting, galloping – following the trainer’s instructions exactly – or as best he can. The trainer watches every move his horse makes, gauging where he is in his training, and what he needs to do to get him to the finish line first. Sometimes a trainer decides to send the horse to the swimming pool, to change up the routine, the scenery. There, still more people that assist, guiding the horse through the motions of taking laps around the pool.
Back at the barn, a hot-walker cools the horse out after his exercise, makes sure he is comfortable in his stall. These are the people that are there day in and day out, seeing to the daily tasks, but there are also vets who keep the horses healthy, blacksmiths who trim their feet and replace their horseshoes every four to six weeks, even chiropractors to make sure all is aligned and well. There are outriders on the track during training, policing the track, keeping horses and riders safe. There are men on the starting gate, helping the horses get accustomed to the big metal contraption. Everyone on the backside has a role, and every role is important.
A visit to the backside is a unique experience, unlike any other, and is now being offered at Canterbury Park. Generally, racetrack barn areas are restricted to employees, but now Minnesota racing fans have the amazing opportunity to observe and better understand the intricacy of training and preparing racehorses to run.
There are two exciting options to experience the racetrack in a more intimate way. The first is the Sunrise Tour. This early morning tour takes place from 7:00 AM to 8:30 AM and includes a trip through the stable area, a visit to the horse swimming pool and the opportunity to watch workouts from the trainer’s overlook. Tour guests will also get the chance to meet and ask questions of a trainer and/or jockey, a luxury that is often not afforded to fans on the front-side during busy race days.
The second option is the Ownership Experience and the first one takes place June 10! This unique experience is designed to let guests feel what it is like to own a racehorse. Guests start the day with a pre-race stable area tour and meet a horse that is entered to run that afternoon. They then return trackside for live racing which includes a visit to the paddock and the chance to watch a live race from the winner’s circle! Tour tickets are limited and must be purchased in advance. Each tour, which includes admission to the races that day, is $18 for adults and $10 for children. Please visit the Canterbury Park website for available tour dates and to make your reservation.