04/14/2010 11:00PM

Indiana Downs opening with purses up 20 percent


Things couldn't be brighter at Indiana Downs this season. Purses are up, there are four more open stakes races, and new trainers are coming in from all over. That's quite the opposite of many tracks in the Midwest these days.

Purses will be up at least 20 percent said the track's racing secretary, Butch Cook.

"Our maiden special weight races went from $22,000 to $32,000, our allowance races went from a top of of $28,000 to $46,000."

Indiana Downs Purses are fueled by slot machines at the track's $35 million casino, which holds 2,000 high-tech slot machines and electronic games. Cook expects the purses to get even better next year.

Cook said, "I talked to our general manager, Jon Schuster, and he feels that as long as the laws stay written the way they are, with the purse accounts getting 15 percent, they will keep getting better, especially if the economy picks up."

The casino is open all day every day and includes live entertainment and dining as well.

Once again the barn area is full, with more applicants than stalls.

"We have a total of 640 stalls," Cook said. "We allotted 40 to the Quarter Horses. I had requests for stall for over 1,600 horses. That is a nice problem to have."

Four open stakes were added, with purses of $75,000, making for a total of 10 open stakes. Indiana Downs also has eight Indiana-bred stakes with purses of $70,000 each.

The two highlights of the meet will be the $200,000 Oliver on June 30, and the $100,000 Indiana Downs Distaff, the first stakes of the year, on May 5. The Oliver is a one-mile event for 3-year-olds on the turf course. The Indiana Downs Distaff is a mile turf race for 3-year-old fillies.

Several new trainers have been granted stalls this year. Tom Amoss will have 20 stalls, as will Jamie Ness. Frank Kirby will also have a string at Indiana Downs. Other trainers include Joe Davis, who was last year's leading trainer, Paula Bacon, Barbara McBride, Randy Klopp, Gary Patrick, and Ralph Martinez.

New riders here include Abel Castellano, Rex Stokes and apprentice Jansen Melancon, the 21-year-old son of Gerald Melancon, a top rider in Louisiana. Returning riders at Indiana include Victor Lebron, Rodney Prescott, Leandro Goncalves, Orlando Mojica, Tommy Pompell, and Fernando De La Cruz.

The opening night card will feature eight Thoroughbred and three Quarter Horse events.

Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated last year's leading trainer at Indiana Downs. It was Joe Davis, not Paula Bacon.