Indiana Downs Ups the Ante, Competition
by Tom LaMarra
Date Posted: 3/24/2009 9:20:20 AM
Last Updated: 3/25/2009 8:21:38 PM

Photo: Coady Photography

More competition for Kentucky racing will come April 20 when Indiana Downs begins a 62-day meet featuring purse increases for most overnight races and an expanded stakes schedule worth more than $1 million.

Most of the stakes are on the turf, including two new open events: the $200,000 Oliver Stakes for 3-year-olds July 7 and the companion $100,000 Indiana Downs Distaff Stakes for 3-year-old fillies July 6. Eight stakes, each worth $70,000, are for Indiana-breds.

The meet runs through July 15. Several Quarter Horse races will be carded each Friday and Saturday night. Live racing will be held Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays at 4:55 p.m. EDT, and Fridays and Saturdays at 6:55 p.m.

Slot machines began operating at Indiana Downs last year in a temporary facility. The permanent casino—Indiana Live!—opened in mid-March. It’s adjacent to the existing grandstand/clubhouse used for racing and year-round full-card simulcasts.

Discussion among horsemen, breeders, and the track resulted in a plan to funnel much of the revenue from slots to mid- and upper-level races at Indiana Downs. Thus, the bottom purse--$7,100 for $5,000 maiden claimers—is comparable to last year, according to the first condition book. But the purse for an open maiden special weight event is up about $4,000 to $18,000.

State-bred maiden special weight events will go for $22,000, up about $6,000 from 2008. The top allowance race in the first condition book goes for $28,000.

When turf racing begins in May, mid-level claimers will race for $14,000-$25,000 purses, which could lure horses from Churchill Downs and later Ellis Park in Kentucky. Indiana Downs also scheduled a turf starter handicap series with each leg worth $25,000.

Kentucky racing officials have said they expect Indiana Downs and Hoosier Park, which opens in late July, to have much more impact this year because of purse increases.

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