The Indiana Horse Racing Commission voted unanimously Thursday, Nov. 10 on a proposed 110-day calendar for the state's Thoroughbred horsemen in 2006. The schedule calls for a 61-day meeting at Hoosier Park in the fall and a revised 49-day program at Indiana Downs next spring.
The most significant change in the calendar will take place at Indiana Downs, where management at the Shelbyville oval will continue to fine-tune their product placement with an increase in twilight programs in 2006. This season the track instituted "Turf Tuesdays" and dropped Sunday matinee programs. The schedule change, combined with other factors, yielded a nearly 39% increase in total handle, which topped $20 million, over 2005 business levels.
Next year, Indiana Downs will offer twilight programs, with a 3:55 p.m. first post, each Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday in hopes of further building upon the turf program. Post times on Friday and Saturday for the meet, to be conducted April 21 through June 28, is 6:55 p.m.
Indiana Downs management had initially requested a Thoroughbred calendar beginning April 28 and concluding July 5, but the two-week shift from the 2005 created a 19-day gap between the conclusion of Hoosier Park's 60-day spring harness meet and the beginning of Indiana Downs' proposed 81-day harness meet. While the hope was to gain two weeks in late June and July to fully maximize the seven-eighths-mile turf course, the track compromised by shifting the race meeting back only one week on the calendar, shortening the gap for harness horsemen to a palatable 12 days.
Although horsemen's groups approved the change, some were not completely satisfied. Indiana Thoroughbred owners and trainers contend with a two-month gap in the schedule, and the uncertainty regarding Ellis Park's 2006 meet have left some unsure of their options next summer.
"We really wanted our dates moved back two weeks. I want to emphasize that we're losing a good week of grass racing," Don Kubovchik, executive director of the Indiana Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association told commissioners. "With Ellis Park being destroyed, some of our horsemen have nowhere to go."
Hoosier Park's 61-day Thoroughbred meet closely resembles what the Anderson oval has offered for more than a decade. Racing will begin Sept. 2 and conclude Nov. 25. The program will consist of a Wednesday through Sunday schedule. After the Labor Day weekend, when the track will offer three programs over the holiday, Hoosier Park will offer two dark days before returning to racing on Thursday evening. The change was made to ensure strong participation at the entry box the following weekend.
The IHRC mandates each racetrack offer a minimum of 120 racing programs in order to operate satellite-wagering facilities in the state.