Hoosier: No Slots Yet, But Racing Packs 'em In

Thoroughbred racing returned to Hoosier Park Sept. 1 for the Indiana track’s 13th season in a big way--officials reported attendance of 7,203, the largest crowd in seven years.

Hoosier Park officials said the track, which uses turnstiles, last drew more than 7,000 people for one program in 2000, when 10,827 were on hand for the Indiana Derby (gr. II).

“I couldn’t be more pleased with the turnout for our Thoroughbred opening night,” Hoosier Park president and general manager Rick Moore said. “The weather was great, and even with the large crowd, our staff was able to accommodate them with the best possible customer service. I’m a big believer in momentum. With the addition of slots in our near future, this is a great way to start off our Thoroughbred season.”

Officials are looking forward to a solid meet.

“We received stall applications for almost 1,600 head of horses,” said racing secretary Raymond “Butch” Cook. “We have full fields for the first few days, which are what we strive for. Things are going pretty well.”

With a purse structure of roughly $130,000 per day, plenty of horses dropped in the box to compete opening weekend. Of the 13 races carded Sept. 1--nine Thoroughbred and four Quarter Horse contests--eight attracted full fields. The Sept. 2-3 programs attracted similar interest.

“Our focus is on full, competitive fields,” Cook said. “Last year, we averaged over nine starters a race. That’s a very nice number.”

The condition book and stakes schedule haven’t changed much from previous years. Cook said his bottom condition is a $9,000 purse for $4,000 claimers. That, of course, could change next year after Hoosier Park realizes revenue from on-track slot machines, which were legalized earlier this year.

Hoosier Park will offer the $500,000 Indiana Derby, its signature event, Oct. 6. The $400,000 Indiana Breeders’ Cup Oaks (gr. III) is slated Oct. 5. In all, five stakes will be offered that weekend, including the $100,000 Michael G. Schaefer Mile, which was paired with the Indiana Derby for the first time in 2006.

“That’s a big weekend for us,” Cook said. “We’ll offer five stakes that weekend. We moved the Schaefer Mile last year and had an 11-horse field.  With its place on the schedule, it’s a good prep for the Clark Handicap (gr. I at Churchill Downs in November).”

Though ground hasn’t been broken on Hoosier Park’s 92,000-square-foot casino, the interest and excitement is present around the track. Cook said he received several stall applications from outfits that had not applied in previous years, resulting in nearly 300 more horses vying for space in Hoosier Park’s barn area than in 2006.

“There is a lot of new interest from the slots bill,” he said. “You see a lot of excitement among the horsemen.”

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