With smaller tracks gradually disappearing over time, it takes a concerted effort to build a fan customer base that can sustain your business in a non-marquee racing state. Minnesota's Canterbury Park is one of those outliers, a track whose management has put in the work to run a profitable enterprise while managing to attract novice fans and satisfy horseplayers alike, all without the buttressing revenue of slots.
Wednesday morning, Canterbury's VP of Racing Operations Andrew Offerman joined the TDN Writers' Room presented by Keeneland to talk about the track's blueprint for standing out on a lesser circuit. Calling in as the Green Group Guest of the Week, Offerman discussed the track's decision to drop its Pick 5 takeout to an industry-low 10%, what it's trying to do to attract new owners and trainers and how to still bring fans to the track in 2021.
“We've had a couple different forays into takeout reduction,” Offerman said regarding the successful Pick 5 experiment. “We did some more across-the-board cuts a few years ago, and that didn't work as well as the Pick 5 takeout reduction did. Last year, when we were kind of forced to change our business strategy from being really on-track centric to trying to focus more on off-track betting markets, we knew we had to do something to become more attractive, beyond just running through the middle of the week. So looking at our Pick 5 and trying to do something unique with that wager as it continues to grow in popularity seemed like a good opportunity. The results were great. It enhanced our visibility, did a lot for our other pools around those races and really showed us a new ability to generate interest in a pool that ended up averaging around $80,000, which for us is pretty substantial.”
Faced with the difficulty of drawing owners, trainers and horses to a relatively remote part of the country, Offerman laid out some new incentive programs Canterbury is trying out for the 2021 meet, which starts May 18.
“We've always tried to come up with unique things,” he said. “We realized that when you look at the normal areas that race across the country, Minnesota's not necessarily on their map. So we came up with an early-meet incentive program that gives everyone who starts in an open overnight race an extra $1,000 throughout the month of May to try to help offset the costs of shipping, because we acknowledge that most people have a long van ride to get here from wherever they might be during the winter. We also guarantee stipends per starter over the course of the meet. It's tiered by purse level, but starts at $200 and works its way up from there. We've also been able to offer an interest-free loan program for qualified applicants where people can basically sign a zero-interest shipping loan that they can pay back over the course of the summer.”
Elsewhere in the podcast, the writers responded to the reaction from Bill Finley's critical op/ed about horsemen's groups' suit over HISA, and, in the West Point Thoroughbreds news segment, analyzed the delinquent Ramseys story and positive returns from OBS March. Click here to watch the podcast; click here for the audio-only version.