Hoosier Park Racing & Casino kicks off a 14th season of Thoroughbred racing Aug. 29, and the 63-day meet will be one of change.
Traditionally offering evening post times, the Anderson, Ind., track has adopted a new schedule for 2008. Instead of a 6:10 p.m. first post each day, racing will begin at 6:45 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, and 12:45 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.
“It’s going to be interesting,” Rick Moore, general manager of racing for Hoosier Park, said of the afternoon posts. “We’re making our product available to the largest segment of the simulcast market. Hopefully people will see that Hoosier Park offers competitive fields.”
Moore noted that several years ago, Hoosier Park offered Sunday afternoon programs. At the time, the matinee racing was well-received locally, and he believes it will be once again.
“People have asked if we’re going back to afternoon posts on Sunday,” he said. “I think Sunday afternoons on track will be popular.”
Post times for Hoosier Park’s signature events, the $500,000 Indiana Derby and $400,000 Indiana Oaks (both gr. II), have also changed. First post for the Oaks program Oct. 3 is 3 p.m. The Oct. 4 Derby card will begin at 2 p.m.
“We’re still going to be racing those evenings toward the evening, but it may entice some trainers to come here,” Moore said. “It may help us get the races into California.”
One element that hasn’t changed is Hoosier Park’s ability to offer full fields. The opening day card boasts 11 races, eight of which offer 10 entries each. A total of 13 contests have been carded for the Aug. 30 program, including five Quarter Horse events.
“I’m pleased that we filled the first two days,” Moore said. “Opening on Labor Day is such a challenge with so many surrounding tracks in operation at that time.”
Moore said racing secretary Butch Cook received 2,000 stall applications this year for the roughly 920 available spaces, an increase fueled by outfits that want to race for slot machine-enhanced purses that will come in 2009.
Hoosier Park doesn’t plan to boost regular purses this year, though upper-level Indiana-bred events have received purse hikes. With the track’s 92,000-square-foot casino open since June, officials would like to base any adjustments on more than just a two- or three-month window.
“We’re being cautious,” Moore said. “Once we have a year of slots revenue under our belt, we’ll have a much better idea.”
As usual, most of the stakes on the Hoosier Park calendar are for Indiana-bred runners. Purses for those stakes have jumped from $50,000 to $100,000.