04/19/2006 12:00AM

Big fields anticipated at new meet


Large and competitive fields will be the rule during Indiana Downs 49-day meeting, which begins Friday evening.

"We are looking to average over nine starters per race," said racing secretary Butch Cook.

Indiana Downs, located in Shelbyville and now in its fourth season, averaged 8.3 starters per race in 2004 and 8.7 horses per race last year.

Purses are up $500 per race from last season, according to Cook, and are expected average over $95,000 per day. Additionally, Turfway Park, located less than 100 miles southeast of Indiana Downs, has remained open for training since the close of its meeting, which surely will lead to extra starters at Indiana Downs, which has only 500 of its own permanent stalls.

Indiana Downs got off to a fast start when 131 horses were entered for Friday night's opening 12-race card.

Cook will look to make extensive use of the turf course at Indiana Downs when it opens on on Kentucky Derby Day, May 6. Plans are to card three turf races per day on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays and one turf race on Fridays and Saturdays.

Barbara McBride is back to defend her 2005 training title. Also back are Gary Patrick, the leading trainer in 2004, and Kim Hammond, who finished third in the standings each of the last two years. Ralph Martinez, who tied for fifth in the trainer standings here last year while shipping in a limited number of starters, will be stabled here for the first time and might well compete for the title.

Rodney Prescott will seek his third straight riding title at Indiana Downs. Jose Delgado and Eddie Zuniga, who finished second and third in last year's standings, are also back.

Indiana Downs will race on Mondays, Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays in April and add Wednesdays to the schedule beginning on May 3. Post time is 4:55 p.m. Eastern Monday through Wednesday and 6:55 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

At a glance: Indiana Downs

RACING SCHEDULE: 49 days; Friday to June 28. Friday, Saturday, Monday, Tuesdays in April. Add Wednesdays in May through the end of the meeting.

POST TIME: Monday to Wednesday, 4:55 p.m. Eastern; Friday and Saturday, 6:55 p.m.; Memorial Day, May 29, 12:55 p.m.

HIGHLIGHTS: Six $40,000 stakes

ADMISSIONS: First floor, free; second floor, $5

PARKING: General, free; valet, $3

LOCATION: 4200 Michigan Road, Shelbyville, Ind.; off Interstate 74 at exit 109


PHONE: (317) 421-0000

INTERNET: Indianadowns.com