Two Tracks, Two Breeds: Indy Dates No Easy Task

by James Platz

The Indiana Horse Racing Commission has approved the framework for the state's 2003 racing calendar. Now, it must OK specific dates, which could be difficult with two racetracks and two breeds.

Hoosier Park will conduct a 50-day Standardbred meet next spring, and will offer a 70-day Thoroughbred meet during the fall. Indianapolis Downs' 30-day Thoroughbred meet will take place in the spring, while its 100-day harness meet will occupy the summer and fall.

Joe Gorajec, executive director of the racing commission, has asked both tracks to submit proposed racing schedules based on the approved structure. The deadline for the proposals is Oct. 15. Commissioners will then discuss the submissions at their next scheduled meeting.

While Thoroughbred and harness horsemen will race an unprecedented number of dates in 2003, not everyone was happy following the Oct. 7 commission meeting.

Commissioners Pete Beck and Janet Bozzelli each pushed for 160 Standardbred dates. Beck, in particular, was troubled by Indianapolis Downs' initial request--80 Standardbred dates and 40 Thoroughbred dates--as well as the eventual outcome.

"I'm miffed at Indianapolis Downs," Beck told the Anderson Herald-Bulletin. "During the licensing process, they said they would race 120 Standardbred dates. They have now backed away from that. I voted for the second license based on the 120 days of Standardbred racing."

The impetus for Indianapolis Downs was a desire by some in the Standardbred industry for more live racing dates.

Gorajec said commissioners also discussed the idea of overlapping dates between the tracks, located only 45 minutes apart. He said that, in order for winter racing to be avoided, commissioners agreed some overlap is inevitable. However, due to the structure of the calendar, each track would host different breeds during overlapping days.

Hoosier Park and Indianapolis Downs are required by commission rules to offer 120 days of live racing in order to operate off-track betting facilities in the state. Additionally, Indianapolis downs must conduct a 30-day Thoroughbred meet in order to avoid forfeiting simulcast revenue to Hoosier Park.

Indianapolis Downs, located in Shelbyville, is scheduled to open Dec. 6 for harness racing.