by James Platz
The Indiana Horse Racing Commission granted 2002 racing dates to Hoosier Park and Indianapolis Downs Tuesday, but not without some changes. Hoosier Park will conduct a 90-day Standardbred meet and 70-day Thoroughbred meet, while Indianapolis Downs will offer 19 days of Standardbred racing next December.
Churchill Downs Inc.-owned Hoosier Park, which originally requested 120 days split equally between both breeds, did not agree to the revised schedule without compromise. Hoosier Park agreed to conduct 160 days of racing next year under two conditions. First, the emergency rules, which govern how riverboat admission taxes will be distributed between the two tracks, cannot be changed in 2002. Second, Indianapolis Downs cannot be granted Thoroughbred dates in the coming year.
Commissioner Ed Martin Jr. offered the revised schedule, which met with mixed reviews. The commission passed the revision 3-2; commissioners Pete Beck and Janet Bozzelli dissented. Both hoped to see more harness dates.
"I was not surprised by the request for a reduction in days. I was surprised the cut was so severe," Beck said before Martin's proposal passed. "I'd like to see us progress and add."
Hoosier Park president Rick Moore said the 2001 schedule, comprised of 193 race dates, was undertaken as a test. He cited continued declines in attendance and handle as the basis for reducing days. However, he voiced his approval in adding another 40 days to the schedule.
"We do want to cooperate with the commission," Moore said. "We are prepared to accept commissioner Martin's proposal."
Hoosier Park officials roughly outlined meet dates based on the revised schedule. Standardbred racing would be conducted from April 13 through Aug. 15. Thoroughbred racing would begin Aug. 29 and conclude Dec. 1.
Indianapolis Downs submitted an amended request that calls for 19 days of Standardbred racing. In the request filed Nov. 21, track attorney Doug Brown stated: "It has come to our attention that our request for 2002 Thoroughbred dates has generated some controversy given the fact that inclement weather would likely render a December turf meet difficult or impossible to conduct."
He reiterated Indianapolis Downs' position at Tuesday's meeting. "We are convinced that Thoroughbred dates for 2002 are out of the question," he said.