04/13/2004 11:00PM

A second surface for second season


The addition of a turf course will provide an new dimension to the second season of Thoroughbred racing at Indiana Downs.

Although the meet begins Friday night, fans will have to wait a bit for the unveiling of the turf course as racing secretary Butch Cook plans to begin carding races on the new surface in mid-May.

Indiana Downs, which is located in Shelbyville, Ind., near Indianapolis, had a successful first season, averaging 9.5 starters per race during its 30-day meeting last spring despite having only 400 permanent stalls on the grounds.

Average purses per day are expected to be about $85,000 during the 48-day meeting, down from $100,000 per day last year when 18 fewer programs were carded.

Gary Patrick, who easily captured the training title here last year, returns this season as do the rest of the top four trainers from 2003 - Kim Hammond, Ron Powell, and Joe Martin. Barbara McBride, currently tied for fourth in the standings at Tampa Bay Downs, heads the list of new trainers.

Orlando Mojica and Sidney LeJeune Jr., who tied at the top of the rider standings last season with 38 winners, return, as do Rodney Prescott and Mike Morgan, who rounded out the top four in 2003. Tampa's leading rider, Terry Houghton, and Tommy Pompell are among the new additions to the jockey colony.

Indiana Downs has been at odds with Kentucky racing factions since its inception. Hoosier Park, owned by Churchill Downs and located 40 miles to the northwest of Indiana Downs, opposed the granting of a license to a second track in the Indianapolis region. The tracks now share a purse subsidy that comes from admission fees charged at the state's riverboat casinos. Prior to last year, Hoosier received 100 percent of that subsidy.

Indiana Downs is currently in a dispute with the Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, and the Kentucky simulcast signal is being withheld from Indiana Downs's offtrack betting sites.

Indiana Downs has two OTB sites located just across state line from Kentucky that the HBPA says will negatively impact purses if given the Kentucky signal. One of the OTB's is in Evansville, across the Ohio River from Ellis Park, the other is in Clarksville, across the Ohio River from Louisville.

Indiana Downs will conduct racing on a Wednesday-through-Sunday schedule throughout the meeting, which concludes on June 20. First post will be 6:55 p.m. Central Wednesday through Saturday and 12:55 p.m. on Sundays.