07/13/2011 6:32PM

Canterbury forced to cancel ninth card; some horsemen making alternative plans


SHAKOPEE, Minn. – Just hours after a well-attended Wednesday press conference by local leaders at Canterbury Park to support the reopening of the racetrack, track officials were forced to cancel racing for Thursday evening, the ninth consecutive race card canceled due to the ongoing budget stalemate which has resulted in a shutdown of Minnesota state government.

A week has passed since attorneys for Canterbury Park asked Judge Kathleen Gearin to reconsider her initial decision to keep the Minnesota Racing Commission closed during the shutdown, but no decision has been rendered.

“While we are disappointed that there has not been a decision, it could be that if she were inclined to rule against us that would have taken place immediately,” said track president and CEO Randy Sampson. “The delay gives us some hope that she still may yet rule our way.”

Local politicians, including State Representative Michael Beard and State Senator Claire Robling, spoke in support of the reopening of the racetrack. The two legislators also called upon negotiators to include alternative gaming for Canterbury Park in the final budget agreement. Canterbury already has a poker room but has been lobbying for additional forms of gaming for many years.

Jockey Paul Nolan, a transplanted Brit who chose to make the local area his home, also addressed the crowd. “I don’t want to go elsewhere,” he said. “This is my home, but at some point soon I will have no choice.”

Canterbury will continue to draw cards and be ready to reopen within 24 hours of either the judge’s decision or a legislative solution. The outlook for the remainder of the season will “depend upon the horse population” according to Sampson. “We’ll petition for extra days and race into September if possible.”

Earlier Wednesday, trainer Valerie Lund said the shutdown may force her to relocate her stable.

“I cannot afford to train these horses, employ grooms, pay feed, farrier and veterinarians without racing to generate income for the stable,” she said. “I do not wish to take my business elsewhere but I am finalizing plans to ship to Ellis Park in Kentucky on Thursday if Canterbury Park does not reopen for racing this week.”

Perennial leading Canterbury trainer Mac Robertson said, “I feel worse for the racetrack – the Sampsons and employees, than I do for myself. I can hold out for a while, but owners want to race.”

Canterbury has not been able to race, simulcast or open its card room since the state shutdown began on the evening of June 30.