09/15/2013 9:00AM

Canterbury Park closes meet with gains in attendance, field size, handle


SHAKOPEE, Minn. – In the first full year of the joint marketing agreement with the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, which contributes $75 million to the Canterbury Park purse account over 10 years, the track’s 2013 season closed with the largest average field size in a decade, and attendance and handle records were set at the 69-day meet that closed Saturday.

“The purse agreement with SMSC allowed us to extend the race meet this season in addition to offering larger per-race purses,” Canterbury Park Chief Executive Randy Sampson said. “The extension provides additional racing opportunities for owners and trainers and also more race days for our fans.”

Canterbury raced 62 days in 2012.

Purses that had doubled since the start of the 2011 season brought a full complement of horses to Canterbury in 2013, with the track’s 1,600 stalls filled to capacity. The track’s horse population, which increased by more than 300 this season, resulted in an average field size of 8.36 starters per race, a 6.8 percent increase from last year’s figure of 7.83 starters per race and the largest average field size at the track since 2003.

For the fifth consecutive year, Canterbury Park set a track record for average daily attendance, with 6,656 fans attending per day, an increase of 12.3 percent from last season. The total attendance also was a track record at 459,276. The track’s 69-day meet tied for its longest since the venue reopened as Canterbury Park in 1995.

Handle also was stimulated by the larger crowds and field sizes. All-sources average daily handle set a Canterbury Park-era record at $546,532, an increase of almost 21 percent from 2012 (Canterbury Downs, as the track was known before shutting down for three years in the mid-1990s and reopening under the current management, set the Minnesota record for average daily handle at $1,014,588 in its inaugural season, 1985).  Ontrack handle was up 4.8 percent, while offtrack handle surged 31.8 percent.

On the racetrack, Mac Robertson won his ninth consecutive training title, amassing a season-record $1,340,429 in purse earnings. Dean Butler picked up his second consecutive riding title, topping Alex Canchari by two wins, 67-65, with his mounts earning $1,287,787.

For the second consecutive season, Heliskier was named horse of the year. He also was named champion sprinter and top older horse. Other divisional honors went to Dorsett (3-year-old male), Badge of Glory (3-year-old filly), Dontrattlemycage (grass horse), Second Street City (older female), Appeal to the King (2-year-old), Machorina (claimer of the meet), and Stone Cottrell (Quarter Horse).