08/25/2009 11:00PM

Some bright signs as meet nears its end

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Canterbury Park is winding down to the end of its meeting, which will conclude with the Minnesota Festival of Champions Day on Sunday.

Though the industry-wide trend of decreased betting handle numbers has been in evidence at Canterbury Park this summer, early returns have also provided president and general manager Randy Sampson some positive news as the average daily attendance at the meet increased and predictions of short fields were not realized.

"We were concerned about a horse shortage before the meet began. So many other tracks faced that. But our horsemen showed up and were not afraid of the entry box. The average field size is about the same as last season and that I see as a positive sign."

Sampson said the track intends to explore ways to improve handle.

"One concern is the dramatic drop in import handle this season," Sampson said. "We have been looking at that all summer and will do a few things for next racing season that hopefully will make a difference."

* Trainer Christine Riddle saddled her first winner earlier this month, when Cienna Mist won her maiden under rider Lorie Keith, who used the occasion to win her first race at Canterbury this summer after shipping to Shakopee during the middle of the meeting.

Riddle, whose prior experience includes breaking yearlings, prepping show horses, and working with saddle stock, had been working previously as an assistant trainer at Canterbury with trainer Steve Kane.