Turf Racing Debuts in Indiana; Rain Helps a Bit

by James Platz

Turf racing debuted in Indiana May 14 when Indiana Downs unveiled its seven-furlong grass course. The track near Shelbyville held its inaugural Thoroughbred meet last spring.

Indiana Downs offered three turf races over three days. Well-timed rain in the Indianapolis area may have hurt on-track attendance May 14-15, but it helped put the finishing touches on a $3-million course that received positive reviews.

The first race on the turf, a $15,000 handicap for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles, drew a short field of six. The winner, Andrea Gabbard's Such a Lady, led the field from start to finish under Bonnie Castaneda.

Heavy rains leading up to the first race on the card had management questioning whether the race would even take place. General manager Jon Schuster said Indiana Downs received close to two inches in total rainfall May 14-15.

"We made the final decision 45 minutes before the first post," Schuster said. "We've had a dry spring, so the rain helped out a lot."

Favored Millennium Storm and Rodney Prescott won a $15,000 handicap May 15. Despite cold, overcast conditions and a yielding course condition, Indiana Downs' leading rider offered high praise for the course.

"It's similar to Keeneland and Churchill," Prescott said. "We had a lot of rain (May 14) and overnight, so it's a little softer than it was for the first race. The horses seem to be getting a hold of it really good. I don't have any complaints."

Schuster was pleased with how the course fared in its first test. He said horsemen can expect race secretary Butch Cook to card up to two races a day on the turf, with the potential for more on Sunday matinee cards.

Indiana's other racetrack, Hoosier Park, has a seven-furlong dirt track and therefore no turf course.