How do we get new owners in the game? It’s a question that the industry has been asking for a long time. Owner and breeder groups have been putting on “New Owner Seminars” for years and every once in a while a celebrity owner like Bobby Flay or Jim Rome shines the spotlight on the sport, but more often than not, all that serves to do is reinforce the image of racing as an expensive luxury inaccessible to the middle class or a mystery shrouded riddle that could only be accessed by those “in the know”.
In 2009 Canterbury Park boldly stepped out to draw back the curtain and pull its fan base into the action by forming the Canterbury Racing Club. For $250 a person could buy into the Club and feel the joy of ownership without having to risk another dime. The initial Club drew 60 participants and campaigned a winning filly name Tahitian Queen.
The goal was to provide an educational experience for owners and give them the opportunity to see what it was like to own a racehorse. A blog was created where they could follow the action and also keep track of the monthly financial transactions. Videos from the trainer and jockey were posted to give members an understanding of what goes on during the training period between races. It was a way to demystify racing.
Since 2009 the Club has more than doubled in size and has gone from a single horse to a multiple horse stable with last year’s Club topping 140 members. With the partnership with the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (Mystic Lake Casino) heading into its first full season the stewards of the Club the last several years, Jeff Maday and Andrew Offerman, are stretched to limit with other responsibilities. This year I will be stepping in and managing the Club for Canterbury. I’m looking forward to building on the tremendous success that the Club has had and we’re hoping for an even larger membership this year.
Club “graduates” have gone on to form their own partnerships and buy and race their own horses, perhaps not in overwhelming numbers, but the fact that some have, and that the club keeps growing every year, are indications that there is movement in the right direction. Add in Canterbury’s three consecutive years of record average daily attendance numbers and there is a lot of positive going on right now at the Shakopee oval.
Here is how the Club is structured:
Each membership is $250. No other funds will be required. The member will receive free admission to Canterbury Park for the season and admission to the paddock and winners’ circle (these two may need to rotate depending upon the size of the membership). When possible, we will also try and set up a reserved area for the group on race days. We will also set up backside tours during the season to try and give members a glimpse of life on the backstretch.
The number of members will determine the number of horses we will claim. Clay Brinson, the outstanding trainer that worked with the Club last year has signed on board for another season and, if the demand is enough for additional horses, Canterbury Park Hall of Famer Bernell Rhone will also train for the team.
Interested folks can fill out the 2013 Club Enrollment Form to get started. We’ll be taking memberships into March, but the sooner we know the size of the group, the better we can plan our strategy.
I’m very happy to be a part of the Club this year, but I’m even happier that Canterbury Park has taken such a pro-active role to get new owners into the game. It’s a model worth emulating.