Seeking to build upon a successful 2005 meet, Indiana Downs has submitted a proposal for 2006 race dates that would shift the 49-day meet back two weeks and incorporate afternoon racing three days a week. The Shelbyville track offered afternoon racing this spring in the form of a "Turf Tuesdays" program.
In the 2006 dates request filed with the Indiana Horse Racing Commission, Indiana Downs would race five days a week April 28-July 5. First post on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays is slated for 3:55 p.m. CST. Racing would commence on Fridays and Saturdays at 6:55 p.m.
"Everybody's trying to find the secret potion, and we're one of them," Indiana Downs general manager Jon Schuster said. "We're not alone. I'm looking at everything. I think all tracks that do anything right are in the same boat. This industry is changing so much and changing on so many levels."
Last season, Indiana Downs opened Thoroughbred racing April 15. With the success of Turf Tuesdays, management hopes to push back the opening to further utilize the turf course. Tuesday afternoon programs this spring offered three or four turf races front-loaded on the card, and near the end of the meet, handle reached new levels as one card generated total handle of $755,219, more than $200,000 above the previous record.
"The total shift has come out better than we'd hoped for," Schuster said. "It's a supply and demand thing, no question about it."
Indiana Downs, in the midst of an 82-day harness meet, hopes to further capitalize on industry demand for afternoon racing product in 2006.
Hoosier Park also hopes to make subtle shifts in 2006 racing dates. Officials have requested a 60-day Thoroughbred meet nearly identical to the program it is currently conducting. The proposed changes focus on racing during the Labor Day holiday weekend.
In 2004, Hoosier Park opened the Thursday before Labor Day and offered five programs during the first week of racing. The strain of filling races in the highly competitive Midwest caused management to scale back in 2005 to three programs. The track also was dark the Wednesday after Labor Day this year, and next year wants to close Wednesday and Thursday after the Monday holiday.
"The change in schedule will help with races filling the following weekend," Hoosier Park president and general manager Rick Moore said. "It will ensure we come back strong."
Hoosier Park also seeks a 60-day harness meet. According to commission guidelines, each track must race a minimum of 120 programs in order to operate satellite-wagering facilities. Commissioners could consider the proposals during a meeting scheduled for Sept. 28.