07/29/2003 11:00PM

Canterbury Hall welcomes new members

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SHAKOPEE, Minn. - Mean Competitor, Valid Leader, Art and Gretchen Eaton, and the Curtis Sampson family will be the inductees at Canterbury Park's annual Hall of Fame induction on Saturday.

Mean Competitor, a Quarter Horse, will be remembered not only for his prowess in 870-yard contests at Shakopee, but for his victories over Thoroughbred rivals in mixed competition and his prominent, round-tipped ears, which were cropped after the gelding suffered frostbite on the North Dakota farm where he was raised.

Mean Competitor, who raced at Canterbury Park from 1986 to 1989, won the first mixed-breed race contested at Canterbury and twice set the track record for 870 yards - a record that still stands. Mean Competitor was trained by Mark Holder for owner Jim Bishop.

Valid Leader dominated the female ranks at Canterbury Park in the late 1990's, twice winning the Minneapolis Handicap and Hoist Her Flag Stakes as well as finishing second in the Canterbury Derby. Trained by a Canterbury Hall of Famer, Doug Oliver, for owners Jan and Connie Chumas, Valid Leader earned $411,218, winning 21 races in 57 starts over a five-year career.

Art and Gretchen Eaton will be recognized for their contributions as breeders and owners. The Eatons' Leanin' Tree Farm has produced a number of top Minnesota-breds, including Silver Me Timbers, who was sold at the Minnesota Thoroughbred yearling auction in 1989 and went on to win 14 races and earn $204,142. The Eatons also bred and raced a Minnesota Classic Championship winner, Rookie's Turn; a Northern Lights Futurity winner, Distinctive Turn; and a Minnesota Derby winner, Now Playing. The Eatons bred the accomplished It's Truly Obvious, who returned to the farm last year after the gelding was retired from an eight-year racing career in which he won 20 of 88 starts, including victories in the 10,000 Lakes Stakes and the Minnesota Classic Championship.

The Sampson family is being honored Saturday for its role as Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse owners. Curtis Sampson, chairman of Canterbury Park, was a partner in the ownership of the Quarter Horse Cash Caravan, a Hall of Fame member.

Along with his sons Randy, Russ, and Paul, Sampson became involved in all areas of breeding and raising Thoroughbred racehorses, including the purchase of the stallion Crossed Swords, who stood at the family farm in Hector, Minn. The family's first stakes-winning Thoroughbred was Bold Sharokee, who captured three stakes, including the Northern Lights Debutante in Canterbury's last season of live racing under the direction of Ladbroke racing. The Sampson family was instrumental in the revival of the Minnesota track and raced L'Etoile Jolie, D's Dancing Sophie, Dancing Prize and State Champion filly Samdanya in the years that ensued. The Sampson family was most recently represented by Tricky Pick Six, who won this season's Minnesota Derby.

* The Minnesota Thoroughbred Association is hosting its annual yearling auction on Aug. 9. The yearlings offered will be on display in the Canterbury Park paddock Saturday morning and inspections can be made until the sale commences at 7 p.m. Central. Catalogs and further information are available by contacting the MTA office at (952) 496-3672. The MTA can be contacted via e-mail at MTASSOC@voyager.net.