Opening Days of The Past

By Noah Joseph

Springtime in Minnesota. The flowers are in bloom, the birds are singing, and every form of life is renewed. The same can be said for horse racing in Minnesota, which returns this Friday, May 5, opening day at Canterbury Park. Canterbury is preparing for its 31st opening day since June 26th, 1985, and its 23rd since reopening as Canterbury Park in 1995. Namewise, things have changed, but the excitement remains the same.

Every opening day has had its great memories. Memorable moments from the first day of pari-mutuel racing in the history of Minnesota included Canterbury’s first race when the British colt Faiz beat Forty Eight Facets in a close finish, and when Patch of Sun dead-heated with My Earl to win the Inaugural Stakes.

Chart from first race on opening day at Canterbury Downs in 1985

When Canterbury reopened in 1995, after not racing since 1992, the excitement and fanfare were just as magical. Billy Three won the first race in the new Canterbury Park, and the crowd was treated to great racing all day.

Billy Three

This year, Canterbury’s opening weekend coincides with Kentucky Derby weekend for the first time since 2008. By far one of the most iconic Canterbury/Kentucky Derby days was opening day 2007 when more than 16,000 fans jammed the track despite heavy rain with occasional thunder. And although not quite an opening day, Canterbury had re-opening day on July 22nd, 2011, twenty-one days after a government shutdown had halted racing.

The next summer came the Mystic Lake Purse Enhancement and Joint Marketing Agreement, which has helped to solidify racing in Minnesota.

Here’s to an exciting opening day/weekend, and to many more!

Noah Joseph is a longtime Canterbury Park and horse racing fan. He’s been attending races at Canterbury since 2000 when he was 3-years-old and has enjoyed every minute of it. Noah provides a weekly piece on



  1. Steve Beilke says:

    Thanks for the memories!

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