Canterbury Park prepares for return of horse races

The dust of pandemic-driven uncertainty is starting to settle at Canterbury Park.  

Things at the track are looking more normal relative to 2020. The stables are filling up, and the grandstands will be doing the same soon as racing resumes on Tuesday for the 2021 season.

"We are ready to go, we are wanting to go," Canterbury Park jockey Lori Biehler said.

Biehler has raced at the track in Shakopee for the last 15 years. The last year for her and other riders, like many, was unlike any other before at the horse track.

"It was very different, and very different on the backside [of racing] as well," Biehler said. "No owners and no visitors [in the stable area], so it was very quiet. We are ready to hear the roar of the crowd."

The racing schedule in 2021 will include Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday races starting at 5 p.m. with Sunday afternoon races starting on May 30. Friday and Saturday are not included in this season’s schedule.  

As for admission limits, Canterbury Park plans to start small and work up as the season goes along.

"We have a 2,500 capacity for the first couple of weeks of racing, and then we can expand at Memorial Day," Canterbury Park media relations director Jeff Maday said.

That growth in stages is due in part to staffing needs at the track.

"What we’re doing now is trying to hire people," Maday said. "We’ve got to get ready here, and that’s what we’re going to do. We are going to make sure that we can provide that quality experience that our guests have come to expect."

Around 25 jockeys are on site right now, some impressive newcomers to Canterbury.

"It makes you up your game a little bit more," Biehler said of the new competition. "The better the riders that come, the better you have to perform."

It’s a slow trot to start with plans of reaching a full sprint by mid-summer.

"You have to get started somewhere, and that’s where we’re at," Maday said. "The excitement level is what is key to me."

Canterbury Park is also planning a summer concert series this year on Fridays and Saturdays when racing is not taking place at the track.