Indiana Step Closer to Consolidation of Dates
by Tom LaMarra
Date Posted: 12/16/2012 1:15:45 PM
Last Updated: 12/17/2012 4:59:53 PM

Indiana Downs
Photo: Coady Photography

Indiana Downs is one step closer to becoming the sole location for Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse racing in the state.

The Indiana Horse Racing Commission Dec. 14 approved a petition by Centaur Holdings, owner of Hoosier Park Racing & Casino, to acquire Indiana Downs, which is owned by Indianapolis Downs LLC. Centaur, which purchased the racing and gaming facility for $500 million at a bankruptcy auction, is awaiting final approval from state and federal authorities to seal the deal.

Both tracks have slot machines but both ended up filing for bankruptcy protection. Each track had to pay the state $250 million for the right to have slots, and it ultimately took its financial toll.

Centaur was able to regroup, but Indiana Downs was not.

Hoosier Park and Indiana Downs have both hosted Thoroughbred, Quarter Horse, and Standardbred meets. But Indiana Downs has a one-mile main track and seven-furlong turf course, while Hoosier Park has only a seven-eighths-mile main track.

According to individuals who attended the Dec. 14 IHRC meeting, Centaur must meet a list of conditions. In addition, a move to what officials have called the "one breed, one track" plan hinges on Centaur taking control of Indiana Downs by March 1, 2013.

The deadline would allow for proper planning in advance of live Thoroughbred racing, which usually begins at Indiana Downs in mid-April. Horsemen earlier said there have been talks with Centaur about making improvements to the dirt surface at Indiana Downs.

Conditions set forth by the IHRC include addition of roughly 300 stalls over a period of time at Indiana Downs, as well as accreditation of the facility by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association Safety and Integrity Alliance. An Indiana Downs only-Thoroughbred meet would be held from April through late October, meaning the overall schedule wouldn't change in the state.

Plans call for 114 Thoroughbred dates and six Quarter Horse-only dates. It is expected major races such as the Indiana Derby and Indiana Oaks (both gr. II) would move to the mile track at Indiana Downs.

The Indiana Gaming Commission must approve the transfer of the Indiana Downs slots license to Centaur.

The Herald Bulletin newspaper of Anderson, where Hoosier Park is located, reported IHRC chairman Bill Diener as saying the consolidation would be "in the best interest of racing and the state."

The move comes at a time of change for horse racing in the region. There is a good chance River Downs in neighboring Ohio will not hold its meet on site next year, meaning there would be no turf racing in the state. Also, Churchill Downs in Kentucky has obtained the September dates from Turfway Park.

Hoosier Park in recent years has opened in late July for Thoroughbred racing and operated through late October. There was no competition for Kentucky, particularly Ellis Park and Kentucky Downs, in the form of grass races in Indiana during that period, but that would change under the planned scenario.



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