Indiana Tracks Have Different View of 2003 Schedule

by James Platz

Hoosier Park and Indianapolis Downs both submitted tentative 2003 racing schedules to the Indiana Horse Racing Commission Oct. 1, with each plan dividing the days in drastically different fashion.

Hoosier Park's plan for Indiana racing calls for 130 Standardbred dates and 110 Thoroughbred dates, while Indianapolis Downs proposes 160 harness racing programs and 80 dates for Thoroughbreds. The interest comes in how each operator divides up their respective calendars.

Under the Hoosier Park scenario, Standardbred racing would be conducted at Indianapolis Downs from March 5 to April 27 (40 days), from June 7 to Aug. 15 at Hoosier Park (50 days), and would return to Indianapolis Downs from Sept. 12 to Nov. 6 (40 days). Racing would be offered at both facilities five days a week, Wednesday through Sunday.

Thoroughbred racing would be held May 17 to July 10 at Indianapolis Downs (40 days), and Aug. 29 to Dec. 4 (70 days) at Hoosier Park.

The Hoosier Park model provides for overlapping dates between both tracks in June, July, and September through November. There would be no breed overlap. This is a policy Hoosier Park officials previously opposed, but now embrace in the hopes of avoiding racing by any breed in January, February, or December, typically bad weather months in the state.

The proposed calendar also calls for a longer racing season for Standardbreds, long coveted by many in the industry.

"The Standardbred horsemen will race for a total of 130 days under our proposal, which would be a record number of days for pari-mutuel harness racing in Indiana," Hoosier Park president and general manager Rick Moore stated in a letter to Joe Gorajec, executive director of the racing commission. "More important, the harness horsemen will for the first time have racing during the fall, allowing them maximum time to race their 2-year-olds."

The Indianapolis Downs proposal calls for each association to conduct an 80-day harness meet and 40-day Thoroughbred meet. Hoosier Park would conduct Standardbred racing from Feb. 2 through June 21. It would race unopposed until mid April, when Indianapolis Downs' Thoroughbred meet would begin.

Indianapolis Downs, slated to open in December, would race four days a week from April 13 to June 18. After a change in track surfaces, the facility would open for its 80-day harness meet (June 26 to Oct. 17). Indianapolis Downs would race unopposed until Thoroughbred racing commenced at Hoosier Park Sept. 3. The state's racing program would conclude Nov. 8.

Indianapolis Downs officials said their schedule benefits Thoroughbreds by offering training opportunities that horsemen are not currently afforded.

"The proposed schedule also gives the Thoroughbred horsemen the opportunity to train, on the associations' tracks, during breaks between the associations' Thoroughbred and Standardbred meets," Indianapolis Downs attorney Doug Brown noted in a letter to Gorajec. "The proposed schedule gives the Thoroughbred horsemen the spring and fall meets they desire, while affording the Standardbred horsemen fall racing and continuity of their racing schedule."

Racing commissioners will entertain each proposal Oct. 7. A 2003 racing schedule could be approved at the meeting, or commissioners may elect to set dates at a later meeting.