Updated on 09/22/2016 10:05AM

Canterbury's handle figures rise but not enough


Canterbury Park concluded its 69-day race meet Sunday with gains in total and out-of-state handle, but the track’s grand experiment with a lowered takeout rate this year produced results that disappointed track officials.

Canterbury dropped its blended takeout rate from 20.4 percent in 2015 to 16.5 percent in 2016. The takeout on straight wagers at this meet was just 15 percent, while the rake on exotic bets was 18 percent. Canterbury long has produced remarkably robust ontrack business for a track at its total-handle range, and the hope was that the well-publicized takeout decrease would lead to a large rise in out-of-state handle, historically very low at Canterbury.

Indeed, out-of-state handle did improve, rising from $28,621,480 in 2015 to $31,163,538 this year, an 8.9 percent increase, but Canterbury had hoped, according to director of racing Eric Halstrom, that out-of-state handle would rise 25 percent to 30 percent. As a result, the gain failed to offset the takeout decrease.

“Revenue-wise, it was a loser,” Halstrom said. “We didn’t get to where we needed to be. To speak frankly, we were disappointed in the way it turned out.”

Yet even a modest increase in a generally negative environment this season suggests that reduced takeout had a positive effect. Other tracks in the region, like Prairie Meadows and Arlington, have seen handle decline this year, and Canterbury had an unusually wet summer, with 43 races rained off the turf compared with 17 last year. Canterbury struggled to fill fields all meet, especially on dirt, and saw average field size in Thoroughbred races drop from eight starters per race last year to 7.68 this season.

“We’re not the only ones who struggle to get horses,” Halstrom said. “We’re going to have to come up with ideas for next year about how to get more horses in Minnesota.”

All-sources handle rose 5.3 percent to $43,303,974, for a daily average of $627,594 that was up 6.8 percent from 2015. Average handle per race was $66,214, up 5.4 percent from last year. Canterbury again did strong ontrack business, handling an average of $175,948 per card at the Shakopee, Minn., track just southeast of the Twin Cities.

Halstrom said no decisions had been made on takeout rates for the 2017 meeting. “We’re going to have to sit down and think about it,” he said.

Mac Robertson had a sensational season, winning with 30 percent of his starters and easily topping the trainers’ standings with 71 victories, 22 more than Robertino Diodoro in second place. The race for leading jockey went down to the wire, with Dean Butler winning 82 races at the meet, one more than Alex Canchari. Novogratz Racing Stables was the meet’s leading owner by wins with 17.

Shawn Dyer More than 1 year ago
I want to love Canterbury but it is hard to.  You play the pick 4 and these certain miracle trainers win every race at 3/5.  Beating a field of 5.  To many listless Minnesota bred races as well.  But at least you have a track my favorite track Rockingham in my backyard is getting ready for the wrecking ball.
Rob Kaegi More than 1 year ago
Very understandable why this didn't work. There is an oversaturation of summertime racing, too many tracks, too few horses. The racinos have caused everyone else's product to go down. Indiana Grand, Prairie Meadows, etc, does anybody even bet these tracks, either on-track or through simulcasting? Have you ever seen the daily handle or one day carryovers from these tracks, an absolute joke. But, they plug along year after year thanks to the slot money, and nobody cares about their racing product. Good owners and trainers, who might give some other tracks a shot, don't because the purses are good enough and the competition is thinned out throughout the Midwest. It just creates a worse product everywhere. Why stable at Canterbury for the summer when you can stable at Churchill, Indiana Grand, or Keeneland, and then easily ship to Kentucky, Indiana, WV, Pennsylvania, or Ohio? It's sad because people still do attend Canterbury and Arlington, but they don't have the horses to keep up a quality product. 
amber More than 1 year ago
no one bets that track with big money track is like lone star or evangeline  nothing great rather put money in million dollar pool pk 4 with higher take then 25,000 pool with lower take thanks but no thanks 
MichaelTomatz More than 1 year ago
I understand the disappointment, as I too am disappointed that Canterbury didn't get more bang for their buck with this experiment. It is very important to imagine where handle would have been without the experiment. It almost certainly would have decreased compared to last year when looking at other minor signals, looking at weather and looking at field size. I think a lot of emphasis has to be placed on field size, and even evaluating if the track is positioned with the ideal schedule to attract revenue from off-track sources. I would love to see Canterbury stay the course on takeout but I understand that this is a difficult decision. Reverting back to 2015 takeout for 2017 isn't without risk and it is possible that 2017 handle would drop below 2015 levels. Another concern as technology moves forward is the constitutional restriction preventing Minnesota bettors from betting Canterbury at OTBs or ADWs. Revisiting a constitutional amendment (this was attempted in the 90s and failed) is crucial to the track's future.
pacl111 More than 1 year ago
 Hate to say it, but small takeout drops will not produce large handle increases.  Need something dramatic, to attract the $$$$$$.  Try 10%