Indiana Downs concluded another successful and exciting thoroughbred season last Wednesday night.
The Downs is quickly becoming a “boutique” like meet, in the sense that it has top owners and trainers shipping their horses to Indiana to cash in on the elevated purses.
Unlike the other track in Indiana – Hoosier Park – Indiana Downs has a turf course, and the condition book is usually full of turf races for horses of all levels. The flexibility of the condition book has attracted several of the nations top trainers – Steve Asmussen,Tom Amoss,Steve Margolis,Mike Maker,Greg Foley,Bret Calhoun,Eric Reed,Bernie Flint,Helen Pitts,and Tom Proctor to name just a few. All of them have notched multiple wins at the Downs during the meet.
Indiana Downs has also become a gambler's dream, with full competitive fields that often lead to big payoffs. Take closing day for instance. The early pick 3 returned $1,124.60 for a $2.00 wager, this despite the fact that no winner in the sequence went off at odds of more then 9-1. The early pick 4 paid $4,378.80, with no horse in the sequence paying more than $20.00.
Indiana Downs offers a plethora of betting opportunities, with 50 cent perfecta's,pick 3's, and pick 4's along with 10 cent superfecta's. The casual fan can enjoy a day at the track without spending a lot of money. But by the same token, the pools are large enough to accommodate the bigger players as well.
Let's recap some of the top performers of the meet, starting with jockeys. Leandro Goncalves rode an astonishing 99 winners to top the standings. His mounts earned over $2.3 Million dollars in purse money. If you compare Goncalves's money earned to jockey Julien Leparoux – winner of Churchill Downs riding title - you will see that Leparoux won only $1.8 million. Goncalves was definitely in a “Hoosier State of Mind.”
Fernando De La Cruz finished a strong 2nd in the jockey standings. De La Cruz won 53 races from 365 mounts and scored over $1.3 million in purse money. Fernando was 46 wins behind Goncalves, yet he still won over a million dollars.
The race for leading trainer wasn't even close, as Tom Amoss cruised to an easy victory. Amoss conditioned 32 winners out of 75 total starters. His trainees earned $628,499 in purse money. Indiana based trainer Richard Kohnhorst finished second with 23 wins out of 78 starters and his trainees banked nearly as much as Amoss's - $614,077.
The title for leading owners went to Hunt and Smith Ventures. H&S Ventures toppled the competition as their horses won 20 races out of 67 starts and nearly $500,000 in purses. Penny Lauer finished 2nd as her horses won 8 races out of 43 starts and nearly $300,000
The racing at Indiana Downs is great, there is no questioning that. The track is wonderfully accessible. It's centrally located just outside of Shelbyville,Indiana, a mere 20 minutes from the capital city of Indianapolis and only about 1 ½ hours from Louisville and Cincinnati. There is no charge for parking or admission, so you truly can enjoy a day at the races with little or no cost.
With that being said, it's time for some improvements. The management at Indiana Downs needs to utilize all the wonderful things the track has to offer.
It's time to UPDATE the betting machines, these 1970 robot looking machines often eat tickets and not to mention cash which has caused hours of frustration and money lost. Not only that, Mcdonalds has flat screen televisions,isn't it time to treat the gamblers that support the track to a little modernization?
Indiana Downs is a wonderful place to watch a horse race, as you stand at the rail you're literally inches away from the horses. I've never been to a track where you are this close to the stars of our sport. But, unfortunately it's not marketed properly.
Our very own Brian Zipse made the drive down to experience what racing in Indiana was all about. He came to watch the featured race of the meet, the $200,000 Oliver Stakes. The one thing Brian noticed amongst all the great things about the track was the fact that on the biggest day of the meet, the attendance was extremely poor.
The future of our sport and racing in Indiana is at risk, we can't just sit on our hands and be satisfied just because the quality of racing is so good. We have to get people to the track and introduce them to what an awesome place Indiana Downs is and can be.
My suggestions for improving attendance: How about taking a page from Churchill Downs and have a “theme” night? C.D.I. does a great job marketing towards a younger crowd by having a party like atmosphere on certain nights of the meet. Also, improve the bar in the simulcast area, patrons some times wait through long lines for mediocre food, the menu is short with very few choices.
We must keep the fans interested from the moment they enter the facility, so how about a pre-show? And no, I'm not talking about the track announcer spewing off the changes and giving out quick picks for each race. I'm talking about an actual pre-show, Beulah Park does it, there is no reason Indiana Downs can't.
Indiana Downs has potential to be one of the premier tracks in the Midwest, it just needs a few tweaks here and there. The quality of horse racing is strong. It's time to cater to the fans and get people in those seats!