The Indiana Horse Racing Commission has unanimously approved the Thoroughbred racing calendar for 2008, awarding 117 days for the state’s horsemen at two racetracks. The new schedule signals a net increase of eight days over the 2007 calendar.
Indiana Downs asked for, and was granted, 54 days of Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse racing next year. The meet will begin April 25 and conclude July 8.
The Shelbyville track conducted a 48-day race meet earlier this year. Indiana Downs will also offer 80 days of harness racing next season, from July 16 through Nov. 8.
Hoosier Park, currently in the midst of a 61-day Thoroughbred meet, will offer 63 days of Thoroughbred racing next summer and fall. The meet will begin Aug. 29 and conclude Nov. 23. The Anderson track will host 71 days of harness racing April 5 through July 6.
“We came together as a group, I mean, officials from Hoosier Park and Indiana Downs, and reached a consensus of 134 days at each track,” Hoosier Park president Rick Moore said. “Jon (Schuster, Indiana Downs general manager) and I wanted to see that the horsemen did not have to leave the state. Instead, they will be crisscrossing each other on the highway, and I think we have something all the stakeholders can agree to.”
As part of the slot-machine bill that was signed into law in July, each track is now required to conduct a minimum of 140 days of live racing, up from the 120 days previously required of each operator. However, the final decision on dates lies with the IHRC, which will allow management at both tracks to conduct six fewer days next season while each works to construct casinos to host slots.
According to Schuster, all parties want to make a smooth transition into Indiana’s slots era, and with both operators projected to open their facilities in the second quarter of 2008, no one wants diluted purses.
“There was some concern about getting too far ahead of the purse curve,” Schuster said. “We don’t want to offer too many days if the money isn’t there yet.”
The IHRC approved the calendar during its Sept. 27 meeting.