08/30/2007 12:00AM

Slots money not flowing just yet


With alternative gaming about to come to fruition at Indiana's two racetracks, perhaps as soon as next summer, the horse racing landscape in the state will soon be radically altered. For the time being, however, the status quo will remain in effect as Hoosier Park, in Anderson, begins a 61-day Thoroughbred meet on Saturday.

Groundbreaking on a 92,000-square-foot slots facility, which will be connected to the Hoosier Park grandstand, could occur as early mid-September, according to Rick Moore, the track's president and general manager. The installation of up to 2,000 machines did not come cheaply, as Hoosier was required to pay a $250 million licensing fee. Moore said the Hoosier slots facility could be up and running in the second quarter of 2008, but the benefits to horsemen may not be immediate.

"We anticipate daily average purses for the 2008 meet to start at 2007 levels, which is $130,000 a day," said Moore, citing the uncertainty of revenue from the slots operation. Noting the lower-than-expected revenue at newer racino facilities, such as the one at Gulfstream Park, Moore said a conservative approach will be taken before making any significant changes to the purse structure next season.

With higher purses on the horizon, Hoosier Park is expected to have a deeper jockey colony this season. In addition to defending riding champ Tommy Pompell, former Hoosier mainstays Terry Thompson, Orlando Mojica, and Otto Thorwarth are all expected to be on hand this meet, as is Victor Lebron, the leading rider at Indiana Downs last spring. Ralph Martinez, who counted Hoosier among the four racetracks he won titles at in 2006, is the likely favorite to repeat as leading trainer.

The stakes schedule, worth nearly $1.5 million, is again anchored by the Grade 2, $500,000 Indiana Derby on Oct. 6, part of a blockbuster weekend that will also include the Grade 3, $400,000 Indiana Oaks on Oct. 5, and the $100,000 Schaefer Mile for older horses on the derby undercard.

The remaining 12 stakes on the Hoosier schedule are all restricted to Indiana-breds. They include the Richmond Stakes for fillies and mares on Oct. 5, which is the next scheduled start for Lady Blue Sky, who has gained notoriety for having won her last 10 starts.

Claimed in June 2006 at Mountaineer for $5,000 by owner-trainer Don Roberson, Lady Blue Sky's win streak began with a victory in the 2006 Richmond Stakes. She later added wins, mostly in starter allowances, at Charles Town, Fair Grounds, Delta Downs, Indiana Downs, Evangeline Downs, Prairie Meadows, and Remington Park.