12/17/2012 2:20PM

Indiana approves new racing schedules


The Indiana Horse Racing Commission on Friday approved two plans that will each provide a total of 114 Thoroughbred racing dates in the state for next year, a reduction of nine live racing dates from the number run this year.

The two plans were approved at the request of New Centaur Gaming Inc., the owner of Hoosier Park, after the commission approved the company’s purchase of Indiana’s other racetrack, Indiana Downs. New Centaur reached an agreement to buy Indiana Downs and its casino for $500 million last year after the bankruptcy of the track’s parent company.

New Centaur has indicated that it wants to consolidate Thoroughbred racing at Indiana Downs while using Hoosier Park for harness racing. The schedules approved by the commission on Friday will allow the company to run the entire 114-date allotment for Thoroughbreds at Indiana Downs next year provided the company is able to secure other approvals for its purchase in time to make modifications to the racing surfaces at the two tracks.

Though horsemen did not object to the consolidation of racing at the track, officials of the Indiana Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association raised concerns about New Centaur’s plan to reduce

the total number of Thoroughbred dates, according to Michael Brown, the executive director of the association. Brown said on Monday that field size has remained strong at the two tracks over the past two years, and that a reduction in dates was not warranted.

Nationally, the Thoroughbred foal crop has declined precipitously over the past five years, and many racetracks are seeking to trim live racing dates from their schedules. Purses at Indiana racetracks are heavily subsidized by casinos in the state.

If Thoroughbred racing is not consolidated at Indiana Downs next year, then each track will run 57 live racing dates, according to the schedule approved by the Indiana racing commission. Under both plans, racing will be conducted from April to October.

New Centaur has said that the consolidation will allow the company to save on the annual expenses of converting the racing surfaces at both tracks to suit harness racing or Thoroughbred racing.