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Canterbury Park officials became adept at adapting over the past two years, as they navigated the challenges of hosting live racing during a pandemic. While they will hold on to some of those lessons learned, the Shakopee track also is restoring some pre-COVID traditions, hoping to recapture the feel of a typical Canterbury summer during a season that starts Wednesday.

For the first time since 2019, Saturdays are back on the schedule, with a slight twist: a 5 p.m. post time. Events such as wiener dog and corgi races — absent in 2020, and limited to the second half of the season last year — return in their full splendor. While Canterbury works to bring back spectators, it's also trying to retain an influx of online horseplayers, who drove unprecedented growth in out-of-state handle the past two seasons.


65 days, Wednesday through Sept. 17

First post: 5 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays; 1 p.m. Sundays

Admission: $10 adults, $5 for ages 6-17. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for youth on Wednesdays, including opening night. Discounted tickets for other nights, as well as seating upgrades, can be purchased online at


The track is cutting right to the chase, holding its first two stakes races Wednesday. The Lady Slipper Stakes and the 10,000 Lakes Stakes, a pair of $50,000 sprints for Minnesota-bred thoroughbreds, close out the eight-race card on opening night.

Each race drew a field of seven. The Lady Slipper includes Ready to Runaway, the track's 2020 Horse of the Year and winner of 12 of 15 starts at Canterbury, and 2021 sprint champion Clickbait. The 10,000 Lakes field features 2019 Horse of the Year Hot Shot Kid and Thealligatorhunter, the track's champion 3-year-old male last season.

The Thursday and Saturday cards include nine races each.


Canterbury Park's biggest racing days this season will be the Mystic Lake Northern Stars Turf Festival (June 22) and the Festival of Champions (Sept. 10).

The Northern Stars Turf Festival features the track's richest thoroughbred race of the summer, the $150,000 Mystic Lake Derby, and four other stakes worth $100,000 each. The annual Festival of Champions for Minnesota-bred horses will offer more than $700,000 in total purses. The Minnesota Derby and Minnesota Oaks, a pair of $100,000 races for state-bred 3-year-olds, will be Aug. 13.

The quarter horse stakes schedule is highlighted by the $150,000 Mystic Lake Northlands Futurity and the $100,000 Canterbury Park Quarter Horse Derby, both on Aug. 10.


Pandemic or not, one thing has remained predictable at Canterbury Park: trainer Mac Robertson will have a stable loaded with very fast horses. Count on that again this season, as Robertson shoots for his 15th training title in Shakopee and second in a row.

Three-time training champ Robertino Diodoro also will return, as will Karl Broberg. Both are ranked among the top 20 thoroughbred trainers in North America in victories and purse earnings. Another top-20 trainer, Jonathan Wong, will make his Canterbury debut.

The jockey colony will welcome one prominent new rider. Harry Hernandez, whose 115 wins this season rank third nationally, kicks off his first Canterbury summer with seven mounts on opening night. The track's 2021 riding champion, Lindey Wade, is back, as are Alonso Quinonez, Luis Negron and Luis Fuentes.


During the pandemic, when attendance restrictions diminished the on-track handle, Canterbury adjusted its schedule to attract more out-of-state wagering. The track held races during days and times when fewer tracks were running. It conducted no weekend cards in 2020, then added Sundays back into the mix last year.

The strategy exceeded expectations. Fueled by out-of-state wagering, average daily handle soared to $1.29 million in 2020 — nearly double the 2019 figure — and rose again last year to $1.4 million. This season, track officials have restored Saturday racing in the hope of bringing back more spectators. But they chose to start racing at 5 p.m. rather than in the afternoon, in an attempt to avoid overlap with major tracks and retain out-of-state wagering dollars.

"[Saturday] is probably the most contentious day of the week for racing across the country, but it's probably the most important to the on-track part of our business,'' said Andrew Offerman, Canterbury's senior vice president for racing operations. "By starting at 5 p.m., large venues in the East, like Kentucky and New York, will conclude before we begin, and we get a jump on night [simulcasting].''