Centaur has big plans for both of their “racinos” which could include a 1,500 person music venue in Anderson while proposing the construction of 300 more stalls at Indiana Downs. There are also talks of adding a music venue to Indiana Downs according to the Anderson Herald.
What does this mean for racing in Indiana? Centaur and the IHRC have adopted a “One track, One Breed” philosophy. Hoosier Park will be the only home for Harness racing fans in Indiana. The 160 day meet will open for business on April 2nd and run till November 9th.
The excitement of thoroughbred racing will be found only at Indiana Downs. The 116 day meet will open on April 23rd with a closing date of October 19th. Indiana Downs was the logical choice for the permanent home of thoroughbred racing in Indiana. The Shelbyville oval offers turf racing along with a 1 mile dirt “thoroughbred friendly” surface. Hoosier Park was built more for Harness racing with the track's “Nascar” like banked turns.
Centaur has to make some major improvements to Indiana Downs if it expects to accommodate serious thoroughbred racing fans. Several obstacles have hindered the “downs” in the past. The simulcast center which is located on the 1st floor of the track needs a serious make over. Though the building has a quaint feel to it the old style televisions and betting machines has been a major frustration to the serious horse players in Indiana over the past few years.
Racing in Indiana has improved by leaps and bounds in the past few years with the reemergence of depth and quality in open and stakes racing. The grade II Indiana Derby is now a major prep race for many divisions of the Breeders’ Cup. Last year’s Indiana Derby day was not only the richest day in Hoosier racing history it was also one of the strongest.
Centaur needs to build on Hoosier Park’s success by changing the mind-set at Indiana Downs. It’s been apparent to me that the management of Indiana Downs was satisfied with the status quo. This has to change with the new ownership if racing in Indiana is going to survive and thrive. I’ve listed five bullet points of what I think needs to change at Indiana Downs.
1. Fan appreciation. Reach out to the people that keep you in business. Though the track doesn’t charge admission they also don’t cater to their patrons. Hoosier Park has been great about having handicapping contest, t-shirt tosses, mystery wagering ticket night and all kinds of different give-a-ways. This needs to happen at Indiana Downs to get people to the track.
2. Good Press. Reach out to the press! The only publicity I’ve read about Indiana Downs has always been in a negative light. I remember when Horse Racing Nation’s managing editor Brian Zipse first attended Indiana Downs he asked a worker in the elevator where the press box was, well there isn’t one. This is unacceptable for any track that has graded races and that wants to improve. Build a press box!
3. Horseman Appreciation. As I’ve talked to many trainers and owners over the past 10 year’s one of their major issues with Indiana Downs is the lack of appreciation for the horses and horseman. Indiana Grand Casino has always been #1. It’s time that Indiana Downs is a race track with a casino, not a casino with a race track.
4. Guaranteed Pools. The pick 4 at Indiana Downs is always a challenging wager so why not reward the bettor by offering a guaranteed pool of maybe 10 or 15 thousand? This will take a major marketing scheme by management but it will give on-track and off-track players a reason to play the tough pick 4.
5. Objectivity and Fan Education. Be objective! Be open to working with a website like Horse Racing Nation. Take the lead from Horse Player Now and Night School. Educate your fans about the sport. Embrace the handicapping aspect and intellectual stimulation that horse racing offers.
I believe this change in Indiana racing will improve the sport in this state if we‘re just willing to take chances and spend the money needed to get the fans in Indiana interested about the most charming game of all, horse racing!
I encourage all of you to take a trip to Indiana Downs the spring and spend a day with me enjoying this sport!