by Tom LaMarra and James Platz
An expanded stakes schedule and an increase in overnight purses are part of the Hoosier Park Racing & Casino Thoroughbred meet that begins July 31.
The 63-day meet runs through Oct. 24 with racing mainly on a Wednesday-through-Sunday schedule. Racing begins at 5:30 p.m. EDT Wednesday through Friday, and 1 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.
For the first time the Anderson, Ind., track has bundled stakes together as part of its Indiana Derby (gr. II) program. Seven stakes will be offered the afternoon of Oct. 2.
The Indiana Derby is valued at $500,000. Other stakes that day will be the $200,000 Indiana Oaks (gr. II), which returns after a one-year hiatus; $100,000 Michael G. Schaefer Mile; $70,000 Indiana Futurity; $70,000 Miss Indiana Stakes; $70,000 Hoosier Breeders Sophomore Stakes; and $70,000 Hoosier Breeders Sophomore Stakes for fillies.
The Don K. Memorial Starter Handicap series kicks off opening night for the first of five legs, the purse for which is $33,000. The series beings at one mile and culminates at 1 3/8 miles.
Open and restricted purses have been increased at Hoosier Park, which will offer about $225,000 a day in purses. An open maiden special weight event will go for $35,000.
The Hoosier Park begins on heels of a successful meet at Indiana Downs, which also raised purses this season and was rewarded with higher-quality racing. Despite cancellations and a month that proved one of wettest on record in Indiana, the track near Shelbyville managed to finish its 60-day meet ahead of several 2009 benchmarks.
“We actually caught last year’s handle, but it took a single-day record to do it,” Indiana Downs general manager Jon Schuster said.
The meet concluded with a 13-race card July 14 during which a record $2,667,917 was handled. That helped push total handle for the meet to $61,041,293, a razor thin $42,734 more than what Indiana Downs generated over 62 days in 2009.
The track also reached a milestone in average daily handle, eclipsing the $1 million threshold with a daily average of $1,017,355, a 3.4% increase.
Off-track handle reached $58,786,601, good for a daily average of $979,777, both records. Total live handle slipped nearly 2.4% to $2,254,694, but the daily average improved nine-tenths of a percent.
“We lost two full days and ran two races on two different days, while one day was canceled after six races,” Schuster said. “In June the fields were getting down to sixes and fives and fours, and we were losing exotics left and right. Races were also taken off the turf. But we could tell people wanted to be involved in our product.”
In 2009, 18% of races offered at Indiana Downs were stakes, allowance, or claiming races for a price of $25,000 or more. The Indiana Horse Racing Commission set the bar at 20% this season, and the track finished the meet at 21.8%.
The commission also set a target of no more than 30% of races carded for claimers in for a tag of $6,250 or less. Indiana Downs lowered its rate from 33.2% in 2009 to 27.4% this year.
Hoosier Park is expected to monitor its race ratio this year as well.