Canterbury Park racing officials have high aspirations for the 65-day meet that begins Wednesday, May 18. Director of Racing & Racing secretary Rob Junk expects a stable area buzzing with activity and trainers aggressively entering. He carded turf races on opening night, filling two on the eight-race card that includes a pair of $50,000 state-bred dirt sprint stakes, the Lady Slipper and the 10,000 Lakes. First post is 5 p.m. central. Racing continues Thursday and Saturday at 5 p.m. with Sunday racing at 1 pm beginning May 29.
On the front side of the racetrack, marketing officials also hope to continue the trend of increasing handle that began in 2020 as well as attracting larger crowds to the fan-centric Shakopee, Minn. facility. To that end, a 10 percent takeout early pick four dubbed the Post Time Pick Four will begin each program and Saturday night racing returns to the schedule for the first time since 2019. Pre-pandemic, Canterbury averaged more than 6,500 guests per day racing Thursday through Sunday. When COVID-19 delayed the 2020 season and the track was faced with severe capacity restrictions, racing moved to Monday through Thursday to attract out-of-state handle. While on-track handle predictably dipped, off- track increased by 169 percent on average. Last year total average daily handle increased 8.4 percent. Sunday afternoon racing replaced Monday evening racing.
The success of a 10 percent takeout traditional 50 cent pick 5 in 2020 caused officials to try a $1 pick 6 last season with the same low rate. The wager did not have the impact hoped for, so in 2022 the pick 6 will not be offered while the Post Time Pick 4, a 50 cent wager with a 10 percent takeout, will begin daily in the first race. Ten percent takeout on the pick 4 and pick 5 are the lowest in the industry.
“We are willing to experiment and react to determine what works best both with our wagering menu and race days,” Vice President of Racing Operations Andrew Offerman said. “Saturday racing will bring in more on-track guests which is great for the business and our continued efforts to develop racing fans. The competition in the racing world will be deeper for sure on Saturday evening but the momentum gained over the past two years I feel will make us prominent with horse players regardless of the day of the week.”
Leading trainer Mac Robertson, 14-time training Canterbury champion, has returned for 2022 as have Robertino Diodoro and Karl Broberg, two of the top 20 trainers nationally in wins and purse earnings. Jockey Harry Hernandez, third nationally by wins, has joined the rider colony and has mounts in seven races on opening night.
10,000 Lakes and Lady Slipper Stakes
The 10,000 Lakes Stakes drew a field of seven including 2019 and 2020 winner Hot Shot Kid. The 8-year-old was winless during his local campaign last year, finishing sixth in the 2021 rendition of this six furlong stake. Trained by Mac Robertson, Hot Shot Kid’s lifetime earnings of $664,770 is $36,069 shy of the recently retired Mr. Jagermeister, the all-time earnings leader for a Minnesota bred. Dame Plata, trained by Francisco Bravo, is the likely favorite based on current form. The 6-year-old recorded a second-place finish and two wins at Will Rogers Downs this spring including a one-length victory in the $55,000 Highland Ice Stakes. The field also includes Thealligatorhunter, winner of last year’s Victor S. Myers Stakes and Minnesota Derby.
The Lady Slipper cast of seven includes 2020 Minnesota Oaks winner Hotasapistol, 2021 Minnesota Oaks winner Molly’s Angel, Clickbait, winner of last year’s Lady Slipper, and Ready to Runaway whose career earnings of $475,860 tops the field. The 6-year-old mare finished second in this race last year and has won 12 of 15 starts at Canterbury. Both Clickbait and Ready to Runaway are trained by Robertson.
Additional information is available at www.canterburypark.com.
(info and photo courtesy of Canterbury Park)