Canterbury Handle Up, But Other Smaller Tracks Struggling
Canterbury Park made a bold move prior to their 69-day meet which opened May 20. The racetrack brain trust was prescient and gutsy enough that its executives were willing to think outside the trifecta box and shake up the industry. The Shakopee, MN track Southwest of Minneapolis lowered its takeout to the lowest in the country.
The opening weekend was a smashing success which resulted in a 31 percent increase in handle over the same opening weekend the prior year.
Now a month into the meet, overall handle has seen an increase of nearly 4 percent, while the per-entry handle is up close to 10 percent. These numbers are up despite Canterbury’s field sizes decreasing from a year ago. Six of Canterbury’s 18 race cards this meet have had less than 48 Thoroughbred entries; last year they had zero.
The reduced runners is a concerning trend for many small-to-medium size tracks around the country, but Canterbury’s four percent increase is an impressive margin given the field sizes.
Dean Towers is a racing blogger and insider providing stats, insight and opinions. His study of Canterbury suggests “a big jump, given the circumstances.”
“I would estimate that if Canterbury had done nothing for 2016, they would probably be down somewhere between 15% to 25% in handle this season,” Towers continues. “In fact, other tracks of their ilk, are struggling, despite fielding much more than 45 or 46 entries on a third of their cards. Small tracks overall, (those who have done less than $10M in 2016 so far) are down 10.35%. Tracks between $10M and $30M are down about 5%. It has not been a good year for smaller venues.”
In 2015, Canterbury paid a record $14.1 million in purses that averaged over $200,000 daily. The track averaged nearly 7,000 people per day.
Fortunately family-friendly Canterbury has continued to be progressive in making a day at the track a most enjoyable one to attract fans. And management’s willingness to be bold and break the mold on track takeout will keep bettors involved and the horses running for the foreseeable future.