06/15/2012 4:00PM

Indiana Downs: Horsemen's complaint led to commission's order to halt racing

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The dispute that has led to the temporary cancellation of live racing at Indiana Downs originated with a complaint by the track’s Thoroughbred horsemen that the track was too hard, an official of the Indiana Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association said Friday.

Randy Klopp, a trainer who also serves as the president of the IHBPA, said that he first took the horsemen’s complaint to the track’s superintendent on June 9 after two tracks records had been broken earlier in the week. Klopp said that horsemen were concerned that the racing surface had been modified to cater to Quarter Horse trainers who had begun to conduct time trials at the track earlier that week.

“I told him that the track was way too fast,” Klopp said. “I told him that it was way too hard.”

Klopp said that the horsemen’s concerns had not been addressed by the middle of this week, leading the Indiana HBPA to begin to collect signatures from horsemen with similar complaints. After 43 trainers signed the complaint, a letter was drafted and sent to the Indiana Horse Racing Commission, which announced on Thursday night that live racing would be suspended at the track until at least Monday so that the complaints could be addressed. As a result, two live race cards, on Friday and Saturday, have been cancelled.

Klopp said that horses had not suffered injuries because of the track’s condition, but he said that the hardness of the track created risks to horses over the long-term.

“We didn’t think the track was dangerous,” Klopp said. “We just wanted it slowed down.”

Jon Schuster, the general manager of Indiana Downs, did not return a phone call on Friday. However, in a release, the track stressed that the cancellation of live racing was a “directive” from the racing commission, and said that it “vehemently disagrees” with any allegation that the track was unsafe.

“In fact, in 2012 Indiana Downs is on pace, after 42 of 60 scheduled days, to have one of the very safest race meets in North America,” the release said.

Officials of the Indiana Horse Racing Commission met with trainers, jockeys, and track officials on Friday. Indiana Downs said that it expected to re-open for training and live racing on Monday.