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News and Notes April 15

With the live racing season less than five weeks away, activity on the backstretch has reached hyper-speed in preparation for the opening on the backstretch on Wednesday, May 1.

Stable Gate

The three new 108-stall barns have been under construction since Fall and are nearing completion. A new stable gate entrance and guard shack near the quarter chute plus a new circulating road leading from that gate to the backstretch will also be completed early in the season.

The training track will open May 4 followed by the main track May 8. Entries for opening night May 18’s eight-race card will be taken Saturday, May 11. The turf course should see use opening night with two races plus a sub offered in the condition book. The course is springing to life with temperatures in the low 80s over the weekend and rain expected mid-week.

The $15 million backstretch improvement project continues. Demolition of the equine swimming pool began last week with D Row barns expected to come down this week.

Stall applications closed April 2. The racing office received requests for more than 1,100 stalls from 60 trainers. The list of applications came from many returning trainers as well as some new faces.

Oscar Quiroz, known as Big O and one of the best hands around, will be the starter pending Minnesota Racing Commission approval.

Equine pool demo

There is always turnover in the jockey colony and there are always rumors about which riders will show up, so a good rule of thumb is ‘don’t believe anything you hear about jockeys until they drive through the stable gate entrance.’

Top jockey from 2022 and 2023, Harry Hernandez, will not return to Shakopee. Harry has been riding at Oaklawn and will move to Lone Star. His agent at Canterbury was Hall of Fame rider Scott Stevens. Scott will now handle the versatile Luis Valenzuela and Luis Fuentes.

Lindey Wade is a question mark yet. Erica Murray is riding at Gulfstream and Daylor Berrios-Lopez may be settling in on the east coast.

Agent Richard Grunder has indicated that he will handle business for Alonso Quinonez and Constantino Roman. Chuck Costanzo is planning to represent newcomer Fausto Henrique Da Silva who is currently at Turf Paradise.

A fundraiser for Abijah’s on the Backside will be held Saturday evening at Brackett’s Crossing Country Club in Lakeville. The Run For The Roses Kentucky Derby Gala. Emceed by track announcer Paul Allen, begins at 5:30 p.m. and tickets are still available. Abijah’s does transformative mental health work, serving both backstretch workers and first responders from across the metro area. Learn more here.

There has been much talk about what is happening for the horse racing industry at the Minnesota State Capitol this legislative session. What can be said is this:  there is a sports betting bill in the Senate that provides some funding for racing purses. Some. Some but not enough. There is a sports betting bill in the House that provides next to nothing for the racing industry. Both bills seek to prohibit ADW on Historical Horse Racing (ADW on HHR) gaming which was approved earlier this month by the Minnesota Racing Commission. Neither of the bills would allow the state’s two racetracks to participate in sports betting, giving those licenses exclusively to tribal nations. There is also a stand-alone bill in both the House and Senate that would prohibit ADW on HHR and would also limit the powers of the MRC to regulatory only with no ability to approve new types of gaming.

Minnesotans are urged to contact their elected senators and representatives and ask them to support Minnesota’s half-a-billion dollar racing industry. Every independent poll conducted suggests that the majority of citizens want racing to be involved in and to benefit from any expansion of gaming.

The gaming market in Minnesota is large enough that tracks, tribes and charitable gaming can all flourish. The state seems determined to decide who wins and who loses.

—-Jeff Maday / Media Relations Department