by James Platz
Thoroughbred racing gained eight days and Standardbred racing lost eight days under a 2004 schedule approved Oct. 15 by the Indiana Horse Racing Commission.
When Hoosier Park and Indiana Downs submitted dates requests in September, harness horsemen immediately objected. Hoosier Park's request asked for more Standardbred dates (60) from the first week in March to the last week in May. Indiana Downs cut days--from 100 programs to 84--and moved its harness meet back to July 14 to create a six-week gap between meets. Indiana Downs did so in order to close its 48-day Thoroughbred meet over the July 4 weekend.
"Hoosier Park in no way contributed to, or caused, this gap," Hoosier Park attorney Bill Deiner said. "We are not agreeable to racing more than 120 days."
Indiana Downs general manager Jon Schuster said the shift in 2004 dates was also done to maximize the use of the track's turf course, which is scheduled to debut next year. "We've made a significant investment," Schuster said. "If Hoosier Park were to move one calendar month, the entire problem goes away."
In the end, both tracks moved two weeks of their meets and closed the six-week gap to two. While Hoosier Park hoped to start its harness meet the first week of March, representatives agreed to shift the 60-day meet so it kicks off March 20 and concludes June 12. Standardbreds will be permitted to train there until June 26.
Hoosier Park trimmed its Thoroughbred meet by 10 days, from 70 this year to 60, in order to bolster a sagging purse structure. The meet will go from Sept. 2-Nov. 21.
Indiana Downs gave up the holiday weekend finale for its Thoroughbred meet, which will run from April 9-June 20. Harness racing will be conducted from July 1-Oct. 30.