Racing Executive Nat Wess Retires

a longtime presence in California and Minnesota, he leaves after 45 years.

(from Canterbury Park release)

Nat Wess, a longtime presence on the racing scene in California and Minnesota, retired December 31, 2009, completing a 45-year career in thoroughbred racing. Wess, 70, landed his first racing-related job in 1964 as a publicity assistant at Santa Anita Park.

“I was the low man on a four-person totem pole,” Wess said. He later held positions with Canterbury Park, Bay Meadows and the California Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association.

Wess served as assistant general manager at then-Canterbury Downs in Shakopee, MN, during its first years of operation from 1985–88. He would return to California to become vice president and general manager of the CTBA, where he was instrumental in the development and success of California Cup, a day of racing dedicated to horses bred in that state.

Wess was also assistant general manager at Bay Meadows in San Mateo, Calif., from 1995 through 1998. He made his first attempt at retirement in April 1998 and moved back to Minnesota. Retirement, however, did not last long for the dynamic Wess.

He soon became involved with Claiming Crown as the event’s coordinator from 1999 through 2009.

“I was just going to help out with recruiting for Claiming Crown for the first year,” Wess said. “But things changed at Canterbury and track president Randy Sampson asked me to stay on to help with the racing department after that.”

Wess and wife Ellen make their home in Eden Prairie, Minn.