Shakopee, MN – Spring can come late to the North Star State: one year there was a Kentucky Derby blizzard and just the other day there was a frost warning to farmers who had taken advantage of nearly 80 degree weather two weeks ago to get corn and soybeans in the ground. One sure sign of spring that can’t get snatched away is the opening of Canterbury Park.
The Shakopee oval begins its longest meet since 1992 on Friday, May 15 at 6:30 PM. In addition to being the longest meet in over 20-years, 70 racing dates, the money that horsemen will be racing for, approximately $14 million, will be the richest in state history.
A cooperative marketing and purse enhancement agreement reached in 2012 with the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC), which owns and operates Mystic Lake Casino Hotel, is contributing $75 million to the horsemen’s purses over the deal’s 10-year span. This season’s record-level purses will increase by nearly 7 percent over 2014. This has led to the third season in a row that nearly all of the track’s 1600 will be at capacity.
“I can say with confidence that this race meet will provide the highest quality we have seen since we re-opened in 1995,” said track President Randy Sampson. “Horsemen that choose to race here know that we have a solid purse structure moving forward and that Canterbury Park can be their place to race each summer.”
Last year Robertino Diodoro brought in a large string after a disappointing 2013 and wrested the training title from perennial title holder Mac Robertson. Diodoro and Robertson are both back this season but another newcomer, Dallas Keen, is bringing in a large stable of his own and will train for national powerhouse Midwest Thoroughbreds. Local stalwarts Bernell Rhone, Mike Biehler, Gary Scherer, Tony Rengstorf and Clay Brinson are also back this season.
Last year’s top jockey race was a three way affair between Ry Eikleberry, Dean Butler and Alex Canchari that came down to the last weekend of the season with Eikleberry edging his rivals 64 wins to 63 for the trailing pair.
After some back and forth decision-making, Canchari will leave his tack in Iowa for now, but Eikleberry and Butler will both be back and be joined by newcomer Glenn Murphy and the return of multiple stakes winning jockey Jenna Joubert. This season should once again be a very competitive one for the Canterbury jockey colony.
“We have another exciting season planned with an improved quality of horse racing and many promotions that will have wide appeal,” Sampson said. “From Beerfest, to wiener dog races, to Indian Horse Relay there is something for thrill seekers of all ages. Plus our racing continues to draw higher levels of wagering from around the country.”
Fridays during the meet feature Minnesota’s Biggest Happy Hour with live music on the Mystic Lake Music Stage and drink specials. Sundays are Pepsi Family Day with free pony rides, face painting, and a petting zoo. The popular ‘Buck Night’ promotion returns again in 2015 when Thursday night racing begins June 4. Specials include $1 general admission and other $1, $2 and $3 beverage and food offers.
Here is the breakdown of post times and special events at Canterbury for this season:
Racing Days and Times
Thursdays beginning June 4 – 6:30 p.m.
Fridays – 6:30 p.m.
Saturdays, Sundays, and Holidays – 12:45 p.m.
Saturdays in August – 6:30 p.m. except August 29 which begins at 4:00 p.m.
July 3 – Special 4:00 p.m. post time
Friday, May 15 – Opening Night
Monday, May 25* – Memorial Day racing at 12:45 p.m. featuring the Running of the Bulldogs
Saturday, June 6* – Belmont Stakes Block Party with live music from Boogie Wonderland.
Sunday, June 21* – Father’s Day BBQ Sauce Giveaway
Friday, July 3* – 4:00 p.m. racing. Fireworks Spectacular and live music presented by Kwik Trip after the races
Saturday, July 4* – Independence Day with free Hormel hot dogs
Saturday, July 11* – Mystic Lake Mile Day with craft beer glass giveaway
Saturday, July 18* – Extreme Race Day with camel, ostrich, and zebra races
Saturday, August 29*-Mystic Lake Derby Day with Indian Horse Relay, Indian Market, and $200,000 Mystic Lake Derby
Sunday, September 6* – Minnesota Festival of Champions
Monday, Sept. 7* – Labor Day Wiener Dog Wars
*indicates Premium Day $8 admission. Standard admission is $6.