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Indiana Downs Ups the Ante, Competition

Indiana Downs figures to provide more competition for Kentucky racing this year.

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.