05/03/2006 11:00PM

Claiming Crown Day gets Lady Canterbury

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SHAKOPEE, Minn. - Canterbury Park begins its 20th season of live racing with anticipation running high among management, horsemen, and fans alike. The 69-day meeting will feature a new centerpiece on July 15, as Canterbury Park has combined its traditional $100,000 Lady Canterbury with the $600,000 Claiming Crown card.

Track management said that in combining its featured stakes events Canterbury hoped to encourage more entrants by streamlining shipping arrangements for stables that may bring in horses for both events. This will be the seventh year Canterbury Park stages the Claiming Crown, a seven race starter-allowance championship for runners who have raced for a claiming price in the previous year.

Because of the continued success of the Canterbury Park Card Club, purse distribution in the first condition book averages just over $100,000 daily. The track's 2005 fiscal operations report shows a 4.2 percent increase in card club revenue over the previous year. In that report, Canterbury Park's president, Randy Sampson, said the track would continue to pursue additional gaming, concentrating its efforts during the current legislative session on measures that would allow more tables in its card club, which is currently limited to 50 tables. According to a track spokesman, it did not appear that the proposed legislation would be signed into law this session.

The track continued its renovation of the backstretch, a $3 million project that began in the fall of 2004, by replacing 432 stalls over the winter. That renovation also included the resurfacing of Canterbury's training track, which was opened in conjunction with an equine swimming pool last year.

Canterbury Park has posted increases in attendance in nearly every year since the facility reopened in 1995 after being closed for live racing for two years. The track has added "Breakfast on the Rail" sessions on four Saturdays during the meeting, allowing racing fans to meet horsemen and jockeys and learn more about horse ownership and training.

Canterbury has made some alterations to its schedule this season, moving post times on Saturdays in July and Monday, July 3, to 4 p.m. Post times on weekday nights remain unchanged at 7 p.m. The remaining Saturdays and Sundays have a first post of 1:30 p.m.

Last year's leading rider, Seth Martinez, is not back this year, which should open things up for last year's runner-up, Derek Bell. Mac Robertson led the trainer standings last season and will be back to defend his title.