by James Platz
Hoosier Park will kick off its ninth season of Thoroughbred racing Aug. 29 with a streamlined program: Because of the presence of second racetrack in Indiana, purses are down a substantial $80,000 to $90,000 a day from 2002.
Remarkably, Hoosier Park, whose majority owner is Churchill Downs Inc., still attracted 2,000 applications for its 1,000 stalls available during the 70-day meet.
Hoosier Park president and general manager Rick Moore said the purse structure reflects a track living within its means. Hoosier Park must split the state's riverboat casino admissions tax subsidy with Indiana Downs, which opened in late 2002 and is currently open for a live Standardbred meet.
"Two tracks are now sharing the riverboat money," Moore said. "Naturally, something has to give. When purses decline, it's a concern."
Indiana-bred maiden special weight events will go for $12,000, down from $22,000 last year. Indiana-bred allowance events will carry a purse of $14,000, also down about $10,000 from the 2002 season. Claimers will vie for a bottom purse of $7,000, while starter allowance races will go for $10,000.
This year, Hoosier Park will benefit from exposure in New York, where many new wagering outlets will take its nighttime signal. In past years, Hoosier races received only limited exposure in the Empire state. The track is part of the Churchill Downs Simulcast Network.
"I'm real excited," Moore said. "Everyone is energized. I'm just looking for a lot of interest in Hoosier Park."
Stakes highlights of the meet are the $300,000 Indiana Breeders' Cup Oaks (gr. III) for 3-year-old fillies Oct. 3, and the $400,000 Indiana Derby (gr. III) for 3-year-olds Oct. 4. Late-season features are the $100,000 Michael G. Schaefer Mile Nov. 15, and the $100,000 Hoosier Juvenile Nov. 22.