04/18/2009 12:00AM

Bigger purses, lots more turf racing


Indiana Downs in Shelbyville, Ind., opens its 2009 Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse meet Monday with bigger purses, two new six-figure stakes, and more Quarter Horse and turf racing than last year.

The 62-day meet runs through July 15. Last year, the meet was 54 days.

An agreement to use extra money generated by the track's slots to supplement upper claiming and allowance races has boosted the purse for statebred maiden special weight races to $22,000, up from about $16,000 last year. An open maiden special weight race will rise about $4,000, to $18,000, while the top allowance race will be $28,000.

Indiana Downs started with a temporary facility when slots began operating last year. A permanent slots casino, named Indiana Live!, opened in mid-March. The $35 million, three-level casino, open 24 hours daily, has 2,000 gaming devices.

The additional money generated from the casino has allowed Indiana Downs to add two open stakes to its schedule: the $100,000 Indiana Downs Distaff for 3-year-old fillies July 6 and the $200,000 Oliver Stakes for 3-year-olds July 7. Both will be run at a mile over the seven-furlong turf course. Four other open stakes are scheduled, all on the turf.

In 2008, Quarter Horse races were run every other weekend. This year, six Quarter Horse events are scheduled for every weekend, three on Friday and three on Saturday.

The turf course will also get more use than in the past. "We will try to run three or four a day, Monday through Wednesday," said Butch Cook, Indiana Downs racing secretary.

Leading trainer Gary Patrick will return, as well as other top trainers Tracey Wisner, Kim Hammond, and Barbara McBride. Ralph Martinez will not be back this year, although Bill Helmbrecht, Francine Faraci-Walder, and Bill Gorham have received stalls. Three-time leading rider Orlando Mojica will defend his riding title against his top challengers last season, Rodney Prescott and Tommy Pompell.