Thursday, September 15, 2011

Canterbury: That's a Wrap

With the conclusion of the 2011 Canterbury Park season, it’s time to take a look back, both from our perspective and a bit big picture.

Professionally speaking, the summer could NOT have been better as I’ve outlined in my previous post.  Tabby Lane ran four times here this summer and won three.  She won on the grass and she won over the dirt.  If not for the need to be checked up in her losing effort, she probably would have hit the board.  As it was she came in fourth behind Avenue Sister and Monslewn, a couple of very nice fillies. In fact, Avenue Sister came back to win the HBPA Mile later in the summer after a third place finish in the Lady Canterbury.

Tabby’s stat line for the summer was: 4 Starts 3-0-0 $21,720.  No matter how you slice it, that’s a successful summer, especially when you consider her lost summer of 2010 when she finished a distant second once.  She took the group from a deficit to about where we were when we claimed her.  All in all, that’s not bad.

I made a strategic error with her however.  After her last race we faced a decision to either ship her to Remington or try and get one more race in at Canterbury.  We opted for Remington for reasons outlined in a previous post.  I was wrong.  A $25,000 Optional Claiming race did fill on Labor Day here in Minnesota and we would have been in the think of it.  It would have been quite the step up, but Bernell says that Tabs is as sharp as she’s ever been for us right now.  I want to test her against better and rolled the dice that Remington would be the way to do that.  While it still may be, the timing would have been better to stay at home so I whiffed on that one.

Personally, while unemployment is a huge burden and pretty damn stressful, it enabled me to spend time with my children in a way I haven’t in a very long time.  I was here during the day for them and, for Forrest especially who was here for nearly 2 months, we were able to log a lot of quality time.  Ben accompanied me to the track a few times and hung out in the press box.  The first time was a quiet Thursday night, the next was a busy Saturday with Dark Star entertaining from his spot on the couch.  Ben enjoyed that trip a lot more than the first.

At the racetrack, if you follow this blog at all you are familiar with the trials and tribulations that faced Minnesota racing this summer.  The largest hit was the government shutdown that forced the track to close for 21 days putting a bullet in the head of 12 race dates, though six of those were worked in later in the meet including a bonus weekend of racing tacked on to the end of the schedule.  It’s debatable how much the shutdown cost the track.  Some estimates have placed it at a million dollars a week, others at a million dollars for the shutdown period.  However you slice it, its real money.  The biggest attendance and handle weekend of the season, Independence Day, was wiped out and there is no way to get a weekend like that back.  The actual impact probably won’t be known until Canterbury files their next quarterly report.

The shutdown, however, will still loom as preparations begin for the 2012 racing season.  The loss of dates will affect horsemen’s purses next season.  “It is likely we will have to run fewer race days or offer lower purses,” said track president Randy Sampson.  “Neither option is good for the racing industry or the state of Minnesota.

Looking at the data, though, there is a lot to like about the Canterbury Park season.

Average daily attendance was up 5% to 6,143 people which once again set a track record.  People love their racing here and certainly enjoy a night at the Park (not The Downs, by the way, but that’s a rant for another time).  On track handle was up slightly per card, 0.8%, this year over 2010 as well, though not close to any records.  Import handle, the amount of money bet on Canterbury from off track sources was up a very healthy 6.3%.  Some of this may be due to the fact that the Thursday evening cards ran late and Canterbury was the only track running for several races each night.  This was certainly reflected in the tote board.  That can’t account for all of it, however, and maybe the folks that tuned in on Thursdays came back to bet later in the weekend as well.  Maybe there is a way to tweak next year’s schedule to try and take advantage of this phenomenon?  Make sure that the late Thursday cards are popular races that push up field size, for example.

“Overall the numbers are encouraging,” Sampson said.  “Fans continue to enjoy horse racing and that shows in the attendance increase.”

No day was that statement more true than Minnesota Festival of Champions Day.  A record Festival crowd of 11,214 showed up to see the best Minnesota breds in training compete for the state bred divisional titles.  It was a gorgeous day and the crowd was enthusiastic and even bet pretty well. As it should be it was the highlight of the meet and showcased some pretty bright stars.

Tubby Time, owned by Jeff Larson and trained by Mack Robertson, stamped himself as one of the best we’ve seen on the grass in a very long time.  Cam Casby’s Polar Plunge, victim of a horrendous trip in the Minnesota Oaks, is 3 for 4 in her career and was the best 3-year old filly at the meet.  Nomorewineforeddie, winner of the Minnesota Sprint Championship, earned a lifetime best 96 Beyer speed figure in that race, his only win of the season.  That said, if ‘Eddie could stay consistent, he shows flashes of being a brilliant speedster and the Sprint win was a great performance.  If Heliskier stays healthy, he may be one of the best Minn breds ever if he can build on this 2-year old season.

Getting to see Atta Boy Roy race in the Shot of Gold was a treat.  Rusty Shaw may have wrapped him up a bit early, but he still won with ease.  I don’t know if there is a better conformed horse in training right now; he is simply a thing of beauty.  My hat is off to Valerie Lund for racing him here so we could see him up close.

Speaking of Lund, I could not be more pleased with the impression she made here in Minnesota – at least on me.  She is engaging, friendly, open and during the shutdown, when she could have walked away and no one would have blamed her, she came front and center to be an example of how the shutdown affected the track and horsemen.  She advocated for the Racino and was there to answer questions that anyone might have had for her.  This isn’t her home base and she’s not a long timer here either, but she’s got a lot of class and I hope we see her back again.

While the shutdown lorded over the track like a shadow, there certainly were beams of light.  Talks continue of a racino bill but there has been talk for years now and it has almost become white noise. Maybe it gets rolled into a stadium bill.  Maybe it dies on the vine and the lobbyists continue to make their retainer while racing suffers.  Maybe there is a way that the Tribes, track and state can work together for the good of all.  I think that there is a way, but I’m not talking…yet.

As the frost starts to lift this morning here in Minnesota, my thoughts turn to 2012.  Where will I be and what will I be doing and what will the state of Minnesota racing be?  These are big questions that need to be answered in my life and the life of racing here.  The next few months will be telling for both of us.

2011 Canterbury Park Divisional Champions

·         Horse of the Year- Tubby Time (owner: Jeff Larson; trainer: Mac Robertson)
·         Older Horse -  Tubby Time (owner: Jeff Larson; trainer: Mac Robertson)
·         Grass Horse –  Tubby Time (owner: Jeff Larson; trainer: Mac Robertson)
·         Older Filly or Mare – Sheso Dazzling (owner: Eric Von Seggern and Kurt Kindschuh; trainer: Mac Robertson)
·         Three-Year-Old Colt or Gelding – Wild Jacob (owner: Stanley Mankin; trainer: Stanley Mankin)
·         Three-Year-Old Filly – Polar Plunge (owner: Camelia Casby; trainer: Gary Scherer)
·         Two-Year-Old – Heliskier (owner: Marlene Colvin; trainer Mac Robertson)
·         Sprinter – Just Jebicah (owner: Lonnie Arterburn and Ron Stolich; trainer: Lonnie Arterburn)
·         Claimer – Just Jebicah (owner: Lonnie Arterburn and Ron Stolich; trainer: Lonnie Arterburn)
·         Quarter Horse – Cruzin the Wagon (Terry and Mary Louise Pursel; trainer Brent Clay)

No comments: