By Mike Max

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The 25th season of horse racing at Shakopee’s Canterbury Park kicks off Friday.

Randy Sampson and his family bought the racetrack from entrepreneur Irwin Jacobs in 1994.

“Twenty-five years ago I was thinking about are we going to make it a year or two, you know. How do we try to get racing back and, you know, give racing a chance again,” Sampson said.

Now he approaches another opening day, which is something special.

“It’s fun, it’s electric over the opening weekend, and Derby Day,” Sampson said. “It is fun to sit here, look back at the crowd and see people cheering for the horses.”

Yes, the horses, and their ability to draw people into it is an intangible.

Randy Sampson (credit: CBS)

“Once you get involved in the horse business, you’re in it for life,” Sampson said. “It is addicting. It is the horses to me. I mean, they’re such majestic animals.”

His philosophy has changed a bit, borrowing a mission from a baseball team in St Paul.

“I like to look at St. Paul Saints and what Mike Veeck has done there over the years as a great example of, you know, you don’t take yourself too seriously.”

That’s where the other features have come in, like ostrich races, and snocross in the winter. But the most memorable moment at Canterbury was another kind of race — when Jesse Ventura was there for his 1998 election night party.

It has been quite a 25-year run, for all kinds of reasons.

“Been a great, fun ride and really gratifying to still be here 25 years later, and things going great,” Sampson said.

Mike Max