BY JIM WELLS
Something is about to happen at Canterbury Park that hasn’t taken place since the facility was known as Canterbury Downs.
Wednesday cards were a regular occurrence in the Downs days, at least when the allure of racing and pari mutuel betting were new to the sports scene in Minnesota and there was no competition for the wagering dollar.
For the most part _ with certain exceptions, such as this summer when the Fourth of July fell on a Wednesday _ Canterbury Park has conducted a Thursday through Sunday schedule.
That changes with the next four Wednesdays replacing Sundays during August, post time, 6:30 p.m..
The reason is simple economics. “The four Sundays in August last year were the worst four Sundays of the entire meet,” said director of racing Andrew Offerman, referring to attendance and wagering.
The reasons seem clear, Offerman added, and are distinctly Minnesotan. Families are closing up the cabins on weekends and preparing for the return to school, the Minnesota Vikings begin training camp and, of course, the Minnesota State Fair takes place in August.
“There weren’t enough people here on some Sundays last August to get a decent fight going,” quipped one trainer.
The change has some horsemen confident or at least hopeful that it will have positive results.
“Horsemen don’t like working nights,” said trainer Valorie Lund, “but this is our business. This is what we choose to do. And this is something that could work. I hope it does.”
There is considerably less simulcast competition on Wednesdays, so the hope is, Offerman said, that Canterbury will corner a piece of that market while gaining additional exposure for its racing on other days of the week as well.
The change might also attract a live audience unable to attend other days of the week.
Trainer Mike Biehler was clearly optimistic about the changes. “I’ll bet it works,” he said. “I don’t know about the live crowd, but it should really help the simulcast wagering, running on that day especially.”
So today’s (July 29) card is the last on Sunday of the meet, with one exception _ the Festival of Racing on September 2.
A conversation took place in the winner’s circle Saturday regarding the race for leading rider.
Ry Eikleberry, the leading thoroughbred rider in 2014, has set the pace from the start this meet and seems clearly headed to a second title with a single caveat.
“I think it’s his if he stays healthy,” went the argument.
“I think so, too,” was the response.
The conversation took place with Eikleberry having ridden one winner on the card. He would ride four before the day ended.
With 25 days left in the scheduled 70-day meet, Eikleberry has built a 15-win lead in the standings.
Two of his four winners Saturday are conditioned by Miguel Silva.
His win in the third race with Path of Exile required constant urging to overtake Vested Creek inside the final 16th.
“Yeah, he fired a little and the other horse stopped. A perfect combination,” Eikleberry said.
Silva had another take. “That’s why he’s the leading rider,” he said.