SHAKOPEE, MN – Some of the largest crowds in the history of Canterbury Park have come on the first Saturday in May and in its request for 2017 racing dates before the Minnesota Racing Commission the Shakopee, Minnesota oval looks to capitalize on that excitement next season.
Opening Day 2017 is proposed to be Friday, May 5 with the Kentucky Derby on May 6.
“We believe that extending the meet over a longer time period and once again starting on Kentucky Derby weekend will prove to be beneficial in recruiting new stables, generating additional business on our live races, and will provide owners of Minnesota-bred horses additional racing opportunities,” said track President Randy Sampson.
The proposed meet will run 67-days and will end on September 16. While this is two fewer racing days than 2016, given some of the short fields last season, the loss of two days should help bolster field size as well as enhance wagering opportunities.
Purses are once again expected to eclipse the $14 million dollar mark as the track’s joint marketing agreement with the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community reaches its halfway point.
“With the continuing purse enhancements from the SMSC agreement we have the ability to move race dates in a way that works well for the fans, the owners, and the trainers, and create a positive impact on the surrounding businesses in this community,” Sampson continued. “Kentucky Derby Day is our largest handle day each year and bringing live racing back in alignment with it will only make for a better racing experience.”
Proposed post times will once again be 6:30 PM for Thursday and Friday with weekends and holiday racing beginning at 12:45 PM. Post time for opening night and July 4 would be 4 PM. Saturday racing in August will move back to afternoons after a two year experiment racing in the evening.
While there was a spike in handle the first night of Saturday racing each year, the remainder of the month remained static compared to past years. With training hours in the morning, night racing can be difficult on trainers, grooms and riders.
“It was really tough on staff the next day,” remarked one horseman. With apparently no benefit in handle, it makes sense to return to the traditional afternoon racing schedule.
Live racing will be conducted on Friday and Saturday for the first three weeks of the meet. Memorial Day will be a four day racing weekend, Friday through Monday, while Thursday evening racing will commence on June 8.
There will also be a built in break from July 5 to July 12 with racing resuming on July 13. With the 4th of July on a Tuesday next season, Canterbury would end up running ten of eleven days which would place a strain on the horse population and be detrimental to the quality of racing. With the break after Independence Day there will be time to rest and recuperate from six consecutive days of racing and also allow for turf and track maintenance.
The Minnesota Racing Commission is expected to take up the dates request at the December meeting.