08/05/2009 12:00AM

Hoosier meet off to strong start

Email

Things are looking up at Hoosier Park this year and continued improvement can be expected, according to Jeff Smith, general manager of racing.

"We have really gotten off to a great start in 2009," Smith said after the recently concluded four-day opening weekend. "We had bigger crowds than expected all four days and very competitive racing. The purse structure has been elevated greatly by added money from casino operations, bringing our average daily purse distribution to $190,000 a day, and that doesn't even include the money added for owner, breeder, and stallion awards from the state, which moves the total up to $220,000 per day in purses. This figure is compared to $142,000 per day in 2008. I believe the combination of our starting our season earlier and the increased purse structure will provide our guests with a stronger racing product this year."

Smith also feels that things will only get better.

"The full impact of the slots has not yet been realized." he said. "We only had them in for a few months last year and then again only a few this year, so it is transitional. We will have had them in for a full year next year, so the purses could grow even more."

Hoosier Park purses are fueled by 2,000 slot machines in a casino adjacent to the track.

Hoosier had 37 Thoroughbred races and three Quarter Horse races over the four-day opening weekend. More than 340 horses started, for an average of more than nine starters per race.

It was a big weekend for jockey agent Jimmy McNerny. The 33-year-old McNerny has the book of both Victor Lebron and Orlando Mojica. Lebron led all riders with seven wins over the weekend, and Mojica is tied for second with five.

"I need the money now that my wife and I have a daughter," McNerny said of newborn daughter Reagan.