09/17/2017 4:57PM

Canterbury Park closes meet with slightly higher handle figures

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Canterbury Park concluded its 67-day 2017 race meet Saturday with modest handle gains by several statistical measures despite threats of a boycott from a segment of the horseplaying population.

Canterbury experimented during its 2016 meet with lowering takeout well below industry standards, but while Canterbury did experience handle increases last year, they were insufficient to offset the takeout decrease and resulted in reduced revenue at the Twin Cities-area track.

While proponents of a lowered-takeout regime insisted the plan needed more than one season to bear fruit, Canterbury, saying it could not sustain the 2016 takeout level without support from other actors in the racing industry, reverted to its previous takeout levels.

That decision triggered an outcry from a vocal segment of the wagering population but did not stop Canterbury from showing several handle-related increases this year.

Racing two fewer days than in 2016, Canterbury’s gross handle rose 0.8 percent to $43,670,000 this season. Average daily handle was up 4 percent to $651,791, while per-race handle increased 2 percent to $67,391. Canterbury ran 648 races this year and 655 last year, including 150 grass races at both meets. All handle figures include Quarter Horse races, of which there were 105 this year compared with 110 in 2016.

Overall field size increased meaningfully this year to 8.05 starters per race from 7.74 in 2016; Thoroughbred starters per race were up to 8.01 from 7.67. Average handle per the 5,190 starters (both breeds) this year was $8,414, down 2 percent from $8,618 on 5,024 starters in 2016.

Mac Robertson won his 11th Canterbury training title by winning 69 races, including five on a 13-race closing-day card. Among his Saturday winners was Amy’s Challenge, the fast 2-year-old filly whose pair of exciting wins made her the horse of the meet for 2017. Amy’s Challenge is owned by Novogratz Racing Stable, which was the meet’s leading owner, and was ridden by Jareth Loveberry, who captured the riding title with 74 winners during his first season at Canterbury.