Indiana Tracks Submit Requests for 2004 Dates

by James Platz

With a exceptions, the 2004 racing calendar for Indiana Thoroughbred and Standardbred racing could closely resemble this year's program, though Thoroughbred dates would increase slightly under the proposals.

Hoosier Park and Indiana Downs filed their 2004 dates requests with the Indiana Horse Racing Commission the week of Sept. 1. Each association asked for 130 total dates.

Hoosier Park's preliminary request calls for 60 days of Thoroughbred racing from Sept. 2-Nov. 21. The submission is for 10 fewer programs than what the track will conduct this season. Hoosier Park is in the second week of its ninth Thoroughbred meet, which will conclude Dec. 4. Horsemen are racing for daily purses of $90,000 to $100,000, down about $90,000 a night from last year.

In his letter to Joe Gorajec, executive director of the racing commission, Hoosier Park president and general manager Rick Moore cites larger purses and avoidance of inclement weather as the reasons for the reduction in racing days. Projected daily purses for the 2004 meet are $110,000 to $120,000, not including breed development funds.

Management is asking for 70 days of harness racing--20 more dates than the track offered this year--to be conducted March 6-June 12. Purses are projected to be $80,000 to $90,000 daily, not including breed development funds.

Indiana Downs officials have requested 48 days of Thoroughbred racing from April 16-July 5. Purses are projected to be nearly $111,000 a day. Indiana Downs is also planning to offer matinee programs each Sunday during the meet.

Indiana Downs this year offered 30 days of Thoroughbred racing, so the number is up by 18. Even with Hoosier Park having asked for 10 fewer days next year, the total number for both tracks is up by eight.

Track general manager Jon Schuster noted in Indiana Downs' submission that purse projections are based on a 50-50 split of the riverboat casino admission tax subsidy, as well as nine months of operation at the track's proposed Clarksville off-track betting parlors. Currently, the rules call for a purses-generated formula for 2004, whereby a portion of the subsidy will be distributed based on the business generated by each association.

"While we realize the formula for next year is not 50-50 at this time, it is our belief that not only is this formula the only fundamentally fair distribution mechanism, but that the current rule has been shown over the course of 2003 to have such obvious inequities to Indiana Downs that we believe it must, and will be, changed prior to year end," Schuster said in his letter.

In the midst of a 100-day harness meet, Indiana Downs has asked for 82 Standardbred dates for next year. Racing would be conducted July 14-Nov. 13 with daily purses of about $83,000. Matinee programs will also be held each Sunday of the meet.

Racing commissioners are scheduled to meet later in September. While 2004 dates requests will be on the agenda, it is uncertain whether next year's schedule will be finalized at that time.