Running Aces’ license safe for now

Racing commission delays action on complaint as racing season approaches

Clint Riese
News Editor

The future of Running Aces Harness Park is safe for now. The Minnesota Racing Commission last Thursday voted 5-4 to table a request to pull the Columbus track’s racing license.

The request, which came from thoroughbred race horse owners at Canterbury Park in Shakopee, stems from Running Aces’ decision last August to stop making payments on a $400,000 annual purse contribution to the Minnesota Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association. The annual contribution dates to an agreement formed between the tracks when Running Aces originally sought licensing.

Running Aces filed suit in September, asserting that the Canterbury horsemen rendered the agreement void when they and the thoroughbred track signed a 10-year marketing agreement with the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community. The agreement will net Canterbury nearly $83 million in exchange for the track’s discontinuation of a pursuit of racino legislation. That pursuit, Running Aces claims, was included in the agreement between the tracks.

While that matter plays out in district court, the racing agency last week chose not to let the separate licensing fight linger. MHBPA filed the complaint with the MRC in January.

The commission’s slight majority felt it was important to clear the air heading into the racing season, said MRC Executive Deputy Director Mary Manney this week.

“It really was because they felt it was hanging over the upcoming racing season,” Manney said of the vote. “…Even the discussion of the revocation of someone’s license was making it difficult. There were horsemen needing to make commitments to come race here.”

Commissioner Kristine Sundberg made the successful motion to delay any action on the complaint until after the lawsuit plays out.

“This is great news for Columbus and Anoka County,” Rep. Tom Hackbarth, R-Cedar, said. “Running Aces employs up to 600 people and to lose those jobs, especially as we work to recover from the recession, would have been devastating to the local economy.”

The racing season at Running Aces is set to begin June 1. Racing will be on Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday.