Hoosier Puts Bit More Pressure on Kentucky

Hoosier Park is putting on a bit more pressure by increasing purses again.

Hoosier Park Racing & Casino has announced purse increase that has put purses about 20% higher than they were when its meet began July 30. Thus far, the Indiana track has paid about $30,000 more a day than Turfway Park in neighboring Kentucky.

In August, the Indiana racetrack announced a 12% hike. The increase that took effect Sept. 13 is roughly 8%.

“This increase will assist our racing office to further strengthen and enhance our already improved racing program,” Hoosier Park general manager of racing Jeff Smith said in a statement. “Our improved purse structure will award our horsemen and fans with a better overall racing program from top to bottom.

“This would not have been possible without the assistance and support from the (Indiana Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association) and the horsemen.”

The minimum Thoroughbred purse is now $9,500 for a $5,000 maiden claiming event. The same race at Turfway Park in neighboring Kentucky goes for $6,000.

An open maiden special weight at Hoosier Park now goes for $27,500. Maiden special weight events at Turfway race for $22,000, but that figure includes $12,000 only available to Kentucky-registered horses.

Though Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund-eligible horses fill most maiden special weight races at Turfway, a non-eligible horse would race for only $10,000. The gap between Kentucky and other states continues to widen.

Hoosier Park has slot machines, revenue from which is funneled to purses and breed development. Kentucky tracks including Turfway are lobbying for racetrack video lottery terminals to “level the playing field,” officials have said.

Through 34 days of racing, purses at Hoosier Park have averaged $159,619 per program, according to The Jockey Club Information Systems. During the 2008 meet of 63 days, purses averaged $141,840.

So far in 2009, Hoosier Park has paid $5.4 million in purses, $2.8 million of it for Indiana-bred or -sired horses.

Track officials have said purses will average $214,000 per day this year, apparently based on the condition book and yet-to-be-run stakes.

Like many tracks, however, Hoosier Park is struggling a bit with field size, primarily in its open overnight events. Field size thus far has averaged 8.24 horses per race versus 9.22 last year, according to TJCIS.

Through the first five days of the Turfway meet, field size has averaged 8.28 horses per race and purses $128,762 per day, according to TJCIS statistics. Thus far, entries for the second week have been lighter than those for the first week of the meet.