By James Platz
Indiana Downs opens its 48-day Thoroughbred meeting Friday evening. The Shelbyville, Ind. track has received strong interest for this year's meet as it has received stall applications for nearly 1,300 horses. The oval offers only 400 stalls.
According to racing secretary Butch Cook, Indiana Downs will rely on a steady stream of shippers due to the lack of stall space and the track's close proximity to other Midwestern venues. He also said allotting stalls was a bigger headache than last year.
"It was a nightmare to allot stalls. We had 700 head last year, so applications nearly doubled this year," Cook explained. "I think part of it was that people were afraid to take a chance last year. We were new. Offering more days has helped a lot too."
Indiana Downs' inaugural meet offered 30 programs and a purse structure of roughly $100,000 a day. Purses have been cut slightly – horsemen will race for $85,000 a day this year – as a result of more days. But that hasn't stopped trainers from dropping horses in the box. Full fields will be offered the first three nights.
Tonight's card boasts 12 races, including two Quarter Horse events.
Bottom-level horses will race for $6,500, which Cook said is $1,100 to $1,500 more than is offered at other Midwest tracks currently racing. He estimates purses will attract an average of 50 shippers a night. Cook also said Indiana Downs will card the first races on its 7/8-mile turf track beginning May 14. After that, he hopes to card one or two races on the turf each evening throughout the last month of the meet.
"The turf course looks great right now. I think it's going to be fine for us," he said. "We're going to try not to overuse it."
Indiana Downs will conduct racing each week Wednesday through Sunday, with a first post time of 6:55 p.m. Eastern each evening. Racing concludes June 20.