Jockey Lori Keith on Hammers Terror at Canterbury
SHAKOPEE, Minn. - At $161,000 the purse for Saturday's inaugural running of the Mystic Lake Derby was the biggest prize ever offered for a single race at Canterbury Park.
"It's the most prestigious race that we've conducted here since we reopened the track in 1995," Randy Sampson, Canterbury's president, told KARE.
"It's exciting and it's going to get much better, because purses are what drive the whole industry, both racing and breeding," he said.
It's the first of many milestones Canterbury expects to see. Now, the track has partnered with its neighbor, and one-time political adversary, the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, owners of the Mystic Lake Casino.
"We're very hopeful that with the introduction of the purse supplement, we're going to have quality horses staying here in Minnesota and not going to other tracks," Mystic Lake's president, Edward Stevenson, told KARE.
The best horses follow the money. The bigger the purses a track offers, the better the talent it can attract. The Mdewakanton are putting $3 million into the purses at Canterbury this year, part of 10-year, $75 million joint marketing deal.
"It's going to have a huge impact, and already we're seeing larger fields, and more horses coming in here to race," Sampson remarked.
He said attendance and wagering is on the rise, and more tracks in other states are buying Canterbury's simulcast feed for their off-track betting operations.
In exchange, Canterbury will drop its long-time quest at the State Capitol to gain approval for a Racino, a combination race track and casino. Now the track and the Mdewakanton community will promote each other's venues.
"We didn't see it in our interest to have additional slot machines here," Stevenson explained. "But we found a way to supplement those purses, the joint marketing opportunities there, and we think it solves the issue."
Half of the thoroughbreds in Saturday's field for the Mystic Lake Derby traveled to Shakopee from other places -- namely Chicago, Kentucky and Canada. Their owners picked the Mystic Lake Derby over other races on the circuit.
Hammers Terror won the race, with jockey Lorie Keith in the saddle. Owner Terry Hamilton, of Alberta, Canada, said he was impressed with the larger crowds and renewed energy he saw at Canterbury.
"I think it's fantastic, and I think horse racing's just going to blossom out here in Minnesota," Hamilton exclaimed moments after his 3-year-old thoroughbred trotted into the winners circle.
He predicted higher purses will bring a new era for the sport of kings in Minnesota.
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