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New Attendance Record Set and Handle Up 25%

Just like that it was over. A horse named Vini Vidi Vinci won the 11th race on Monday, bringing the 2012 live racing season to a close.

The name is a corruption of that note of humility in Latin from Julius Cesar, who proclaimed that “I came, I saw, I conquered.”  Vini, Vidi Vinci did, however, drop the curtain on arguably the most promising summer in track annals.

Closing day produces mixed emotions for the horsemen, the riders, track staff, just about anyone you care to mention. The fans, too.

As one fellow offered: “It’s like leaving my grandparents after a visit as a kid. I was ready to go home, but I didn’t want to leave them.”

There is a feeling of relief on the one hand. Nearly everyone is ready for a break. There is also an emotional letdown on the other, a letting go of the summer, for better or for worse, and a four-month piece of one’s life.

In the world of the thoroughbred and the quarter horse, there is another element to closing day – the presentation of awards.

The champion trainer once again, for the eighth consecutive year, is Mac Robertson, who had 19 wins more than the second place trainers, Bernell Rhone and Mike Biehler.

Tanner Riggs, on the other hand, accomplished something no jockey before him at Canterbury – the Downs or Park – had done. He rode five winners on three cards. “That’s something in itself,” he said. “It doesn’t really sink in at first, but a few days down the road you think about it and how cool it is.” Riggs had 74 wins for the meet.

Ruben Martinez, the close associate of the Miguel Silva barn, won the owner’s award with four more wins than Curtis Sampson.

Canterbury Park president and CEO Randy Sampson addressed the closing day crowd with remarks about the training and riding champions as well as the future of racing in Shakopee.

“Mac had another great meet and Tanner had a great meet as well,” he said. “Tanner was a wonderful addition to Canterbury this year and we hope to see more of him in the future.”

What was clear, too, on closing day is that most horsemen will leave Shakopee in a different frame of mind than they did a year ago, following a summer that included a shutdown of the state government and the racetrack and plenty of uncertainty about what lay ahead.

The marketing agreement signed this summer between Canterbury and Mystic Lake and the Mdewakanton Sioux not only enhanced the purses for the 2012 meet but will continue to do so over the next decade, providing stability to racing heretofore unseen in Minnesota.

“We’re already looking forward to next season,” said Sampson. “We have a lot to look forward to.”

Trainer Bryan Porter, for one, is anticipating a change that hasn’t received much public discussion. It is understood that the competition will likely improve over coming summers as additional stables arrive. Improved purses at Canterbury mean that owners accustomed to racing their horses throughout the winter to make ends meet can now turn them out for a few months rest instead.

“A lot of people haven’t even considered that,” Porter said. “But horses coming back here now can be fresh and rested and ready to compete.”

So the season closed on a positive note for a number of people. Among the riders, Dean Butler, who won the last three thoroughbred titles, finished second to Riggs with 65 wins. Derek Bell had 38 and Nik Goodwin, who won the quarter horse title, 33. Next was Scott Stevens with 30 and then Lori Keith with 29.

Among the trainers, Rhone had a solid meet as did Mike Biehler and Silva.

Edward Ross Hardy won his 11th quarter horse training title with 25 victories, 11 more than Vic Hanson. Hardy won at a 37% rate. His runners finished in the top three 78% of the time. Nik Goodwin won the quarter horse riding title for the second time. Goodwin had 21 wins. Three of Goodwin’s and Hardy’s victories came with Canterbury Derby winner Huckleberry Mojito, who was voted Canterbury Quarter Horse of the Year. Brenda Reiswig of Bismarck, ND was the leading owner with 10 victories.

Placing judge Peggy Davis made an observation as well. She arrived in the press box with the joyous proclamation that for the first time in four years Hall of Fame rider Scott Stevens was leaving the grounds without an injury of some kind and would open the meet in Phoenix the first week of October.

Of all the positive and thankful things to think about this winter, that one ranks near the top.

Record Average Attendance Set; Total Handle Up 25%

Also near the top of the positive list, the business aspects related to the meet showed extremely positive signs.

Average attendance for the 62-day meet was 6,595, an increase of 7.3% compared to 2011 when average attendance was 6,143. The 2012 average attendance figure set a new record.

The amount of money wagered throughout the meet, increased by 25% compared to 2011. As previously mentioned, the 2011 season was shortened by a state government shutdown and consisted of 56 race days. In 2012, average daily handle was $452,405, an increase of 12.9% over 2011.

“We are very pleased with this season and are already planning for 2013,” Canterbury President Randy Sampson said.

This season $2.7 million was injected into the purse fund thanks to the $75 million joint marketing and purse enhancement agreement between Canterbury Park and the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community which operates Mystic Lake Casino Hotel. This year’s increase represented a per day increase of 31.8%. A per day increase of an additional 25% is expected for 2013.

“The purse enhancement agreement will have a positive impact on the Minnesota racing industry in many ways,” Sampson said. “I expect to see more and higher quality horses and stables racing at Canterbury in 2013,” Sampson said. “I also expect to see breeding in the state increase and have already heard from several horse breeders that intend to increase operations in the coming years. The excitement level for Minnesota racing has never been higher.”

Heliskier Named Horse of the Year; Other Divisional Champions

Three-year-old Heliskier was named Horse of the Year. The undefeated Minnesota-bred won all four starts including victories in the $50,000 Victor S. Myers Stakes and $65,000 Minnesota Derby. Heliskier is owned by Marlene Colvin of Ethan, SD. He is trained by Mac Robertson and was ridden by Derek Bell.

Canterbury’s 2012 divisional champions include:

Horse of the Year – Heliskier (owner: Marlene Colvin; trainer: Mac Robertson)

Three-Year-Old Colt or Gelding – Heliskier (owner: Marlene Colvin; trainer: Mac Robertson)

Sprinter – Heliskier (owner: Marlene Colvin; trainer: Mac Robertson)

Older Horse – Tubby Time (owner: Jeff Larson; trainer: Mac Robertson)

Grass Horse – Tubby Time (owner: Jeff Larson; trainer: Mac Robertson)

Older Filly or Mare – Ruthville (owner: Arthur B Hancock, III; trainer: Michael Stidham )

Three-Year-Old Filly – Keewatin Ice (owner: Camelia Casby; trainer: Bryan Porter)

Two-Year-Old – Badge of Glory (owner: Cheryl Spick and Richard Bremer; trainer: Bernell Rhone)

Claimer – Patriate (owner: Robert Johnson; trainer: Robert Johnson)

Quarter Horse – Huckleberry Mojito (owner: L M R 2011; trainer: Edward Ross Hardy )