Ellis Park

Ellis Park

Anne M. Eberhardt

Ellis Park, Others Squeezed by Indiana

Thoroughbred racing in the summer in Indiana is expected to expand next year.

Hoosier Park Racing & Casino and Indiana Downs have submitted requests for 2009 schedules that could significantly impact surrounding states.

The two tracks have asked the Indiana Horse Racing Commission for a combined 125 Thoroughbred dates in 2009, up from 116 programs this year. More importantly, Hoosier Park has asked for dates beginning July 30, nearly a month earlier than in previous years.

Both tracks open slot-machine casinos this year, and in 2009, purses are expected to get a big bump.

Hoosier Park has traditionally hosted a fall meet that kicked off Labor Day weekend. Hoosier Park officials submitted a request for a 63-day meet that would begin July 30 and conclude Oct. 24, about a month earlier than usual.

The proposal calls for 4:45 p.m. post times Wednesdays and Thursdays, and a 12:45 first post Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. The track would all but abandon night racing.

Indiana Downs requested 62 days of racing in 2009 beginning April 20 and concluding July 15. Earlier this year, Indiana Downs, which has a turf course, hosted a 53-day spring meet that ran from April 25-July 8.

Indiana Downs would continue to race at 4:55 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, and 6:55 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

If approved, the dates will put the biggest squeeze on Ellis Park, the western Kentucky track that in recent years has relied heavily on horses from Indiana. Ellis Park would have only two weeks—the last half of July—without an overlap with an Indiana track next summer.

Ellis Park was granted 48 days of racing in 2009 from July 4-Sept.7, but officials with the track and Kentucky Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association are discussing their options in light of increased competition.

Traditionally, some horsemen at Indiana Downs and Hoosier Park have spent the summer at Ellis Park, located on the Indiana border. With the likelihood that purses will double in Indiana next year because of slot machines, horsemen could cut back on participation at Ellis Park or skip the meet altogether.

River Downs in Ohio also figures to take a hit, as could Fairmount Park in Illinois.

The Indiana Horse Racing Commission will consider the requests, and approval could come before year’s end. In addition to Thoroughbred racing, Hoosier Park and Indiana Downs each requested 80 days of harness racing in 2009. By law, each operator is required to conduct a minimum 140 days of racing.