You might not expect one of the bright spots in the racing industry to be a racetrack in Minnesota, but there's no denying that it is.
As MinnPost reports, Canterbury Park's on-track attendance is thriving, highlighted by a July Fourth weekend crowd of over 40,000. The track built a following by targeting young people and families instead of hard-core bettors until a marketing deal with a local casino kicked in, guaranteeing the track's future several years out. That agreement has led to increased purses, boosting field sizes, which has attracted – you guessed it – the hard-core bettors. Canterbury Park set a weeknight record last week, recording more than $1 million in simulcast handle.
Horsemen across the country have taken notice. Trainers Dallas and Donna Keen shipped up this year from Texas for the first time since 1997, and trainer Eric Heiztmann more than doubled his stable at Canterbury.
“It's not a racetrack that has things going on. It's an activities center that also has racing,” said Heitzmann. “They come for the activities, which is fine. And while they're here, they bet a few dollars on horses. They do a great job. You go to the grandstand, there's always a lot of young people who enjoy the racing and enjoy whatever else is going on. You're constantly keeping a fan base growing, which is great.”
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