Blog: Canterbury's a Winner

Darrell Hare: A visit to Canterbury's Fillies Race for Hope day.

By Darrell Hare
August 6, 2012

Q Racing Blog

This past weekend, I traveled north to Shakopee, Minnesota, for the Fillies and Mares Race for Hope Bonus Challenge Stakes at Canterbury Park, a race for fillies and mares with an added purse of $25,000. This Bonus Challenge race was included on a full-day racing card written exclusively for fillies and mares, promoting the “Fillies Race for Hope,” a breast cancer awareness program promoted by Canterbury Park. The card also included the $100,000 Lady Canterbury Stakes, which attracted some of the top Thoroughbred mares in the upper Midwest, as well as two other Thoroughbred stakes. It provided a great day of racing for the huge crowd of mostly pink-clad attendees.

The Fillies and Mares Race For Hope Bonus Challenge Stakes was the featured Quarter Horse race of the day and attracted a very strong field of nine Challenge-enrolled fillies and mares from the prominent stables of Bob Johnson, a leading trainer with total career wins in excess of 1,000 (one of only 33 trainers in history to achieve the task!) who races mainly in the upper Midwest; Ed Hardy, Canterbury Park Hall of Fame trainer and winning trainer of two out of three of the most recent runnings of the Heritage Place Futurity (G1); Amber Blair, a consistent top-10 leading trainer at Canterbury Park and Prairie Meadows; and Charlton Hunt, recent leading trainer at Hialeah Park, near Miami. Needless to say, this strong collection of stables sent out a very competitive field of nine good fillies and mares for this race to complement this day of pink.
Huckleberry Mojito, a 3-year-old Feature Mr Jess filly trained by Hardy won her third straight by dominating the field. Huckleberry Mojito is owned by the same LMR 2011 syndicate headed up by Connie Nobles et al, that owned the winner of the 2011 Heritage Place Futurity. Believers Gathering, bred and owned by Pat and Walter Fletcher and trained by Charlton Hunt, finished second, and Bailey Nagurski, also trained by Hardy and owned by Albert Hogoboom and Fred Puthoff, finished third.

This was the first running of this race for Canterbury, but it is expected to become a part of this annual Fillies Race for Hope promotion.

“Winner-winner, chicken dinner” is an old expression often used in many gambling circles indicating a substantial successful wager on a game of chance.

Thanks to the hard work and brilliant negotiations executed by Canterbury Park president and CEO Randy Sampson, with the support of the Minnesota racing organizations, including the Minnesota Quarter Horse Racing Association, it will be “winner-winner, chicken dinner” for Canterbury Park, Minnesota horsemen, horse racing fans and the horse racing industry for many years in the future because of a 10-year agreement recently worked out between Canterbury Park and the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, which will provide a $75 million infusion of funds directly into purses at Canterbury Park for horsemen.

Translated, this agreement means that instead of Canterbury Park continuing its efforts to change current legislation that would legalize VLTs or other alternative gaming at the track in order to compete with the huge Mystic Lake Casino, which is owned by Mdewakanton Sioux and is located only four miles down the road from the track, the casino interests will pay $75 million directly to Canterbury Park for the opportunity to advertise its casino at the track. As part of this agreement, attractive Mystic Lake Casino advertising is located throughout the track complex, which provides great visibility for Mystic Lake Casino to all race track attendees. In summary, instead of both factions fighting each other in the legislature competing for opposing legislation and spending tens of millions of dollars each year, this agreement satisfies both sides resulting in a "winner-winner, chicken dinner" conclusion.

As an example of this agreement, the Canterbury Park’s daily racing program (which contains the most informational and best promotional materials of any race program I have seen anywhere) has a statement each day advising patrons how much purse money this agreement created for each day’s races, ie Thursday $26,400; Friday $32,400, Saturday $93,000 and Sunday $27,300, for a total of $179,100 in added purses for four days of races.

The Canterbury Park marketing staff also does an excellent job of promoting a special “themed” event each race day, in addition to providing fans with an abundance of informational material. Consequently, the track normally attracts huge race-day crowds, and because of the abundance of amenities, concessions stands, fan education services and other comfort services for fans, Canterbury Park has an excellent reputation for providing the best in racetrack excitement and entertainment for its huge fan base.

Additionally, horsemen whom I talked to on this trip and on prior visits to Canterbury Park tell me that they are treated in an excellent manner and they love to train and race at this track. With the additional purse funds for all purses at Canterbury Park projected for the future, Quarter Horse trainers will certainly have another excellent option for their summer racing circuit.

Prior to this new agreement being signed, Randy Sampson and his staff always did an excellent job of managing a great horse-racing facility; however they were unable to offer purses competitive with other area race tracks, which had a negative effect on the size of fields and consequently handles. Look for big improvements in both of these areas in the future.


Darrell Hare
Director of Racing Challenge