SHAKOPEE, Minn.(WCCO) –Friday night was a very special one at Canterbury Park in Shakopee.
Not only are they kicking off their latest racing season, they’re also celebrating their 20th year in Minnesota.
A lot has changed over the past 20 years, but at least one thing that has remained the same: Bernell Rhone has always worked there.
Like the horses he cares for, Rhone is a creature of habit. He’s held the same job, as a trainer, since the track was built.
“It’s like being a coach,” he said. “You get to work with the athletes. I get to see the sunrise every morning.”
He’s seen the sun rise on some good days and some bad days.
He brought the very first horse to Canterbury in 1985, back when it was called Canterbury Downs.
But the facility only stayed open for eight years. Canterbury Downs went out of business in 1992 and Rhone headed to Chicago for work.
“They were, basically, not that interested in the horseracing end as they were in the card-playing,” he said.
But in 1995, the track re-opened, under new ownership and a new name: Canterbury Park. It brought thoroughbred racing back to Minnesota.
It brought Rhone back, too.
“Everybody had so much optimism,” he said. “Because a year earlier, we thought we were done forever. Everybody wanted to make a go, and I think everybody did a little extra to see that it made it.”
It’s now made it 20 years. Ask Rhone why Canterbury’s been successful, and he’ll say it’s because Canterbury’s got its priorities right.
“We’re interested in the horseracing,” he said. “It’s our primary focus.”
“We’re on the upswing,” he added, “and we’re one of the few racetracks that have survived. In fact, we’re actually doing better each year. Our purses have been going up, most race tracks have been going down.”
But is there enough optimism at Canterbury for another 20 years in Shakopee?
“Oh, I think so. I think so,” Rhone said. “I mean, at my age, I want to get another 10 in there for sure.”