Changes to the 2020 Indiana Thoroughbred racing program have been approved as Indiana’s racetracks prepare to commence racing in mid-June after the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the start of the racing season. The Indiana Horse Racing Commission approved the recommended program in a virtual meeting last week.
Due to casino closures and the potential for revenues once reopened, funding available for the program decreased significantly, with the new projected revenue being around $8.2 million. However, even with the decreased numbers, the Indiana Thoroughbred racing program offered for 2020 remains strong.
“Going into this year’s racing program, we were excited to offer a program with many enhancements; however, due to the unique situation we are now in, many of those elements had to be put on hold until the 2021 program,” says Jessica Barnes, Director of Racing and Breed Development for the Indiana Horse Racing Commission. “I’m thankful the tracks, horsemen’s groups and commission were able to all come together to offer the best program we could during these unprecedented times.”
Indiana Grand Racing & Casino was originally scheduled to open April 14, but the track and the backside were closed due to the statewide COVID-19 pandemic quarantine on March 16. With approval from the Governor’s Office, the Indiana Horse Racing Commission (IHRC) recently released a phased approach to begin horse racing in Indiana, with the backside of the tracks now open. The plan calls for racing to commence at the two pari-mutuel tracks the week of June 16 without spectators. If there is no change to Governor Holcomb’s “Back on Track Indiana” plan, spectators will be able to return to the tracks on July 4.
The new race schedule will see a reduced number of races, totaling 206 restricted Thoroughbred races. While the lucrative restricted Indiana-bred stakes schedule remains intact, there have been purse reductions enacted across the board. The six Indiana Signature Stakes (which includes the two newest races that were approved in February), and typically pay out $150,000, have been reduced to $100,000, while the other 22 restricted Indiana-bred and Indiana-sired stakes will be contested at $75,000. In total, the restricted stakes will pay more than $2 million in 2020.
One noticeable change between the initial 2020 program and the one recently approved is within the Indiana Breeders Awards. The award percentage, designed to reward breeders for foaling in Indiana, will remain at 2019 levels.
“I’d like to thank the track for the assistance they’ve offered the program,” says Blaine Davidson, member of the Indiana Thoroughbred Breed Development Advisory Committee. “We’re very, very fortunate to even be able to race this year, and I’m very pleased with what I’ve seen. I know it’s not what everyone expected, but we’re making it work.”
While the commission has approved the revised plan, Barnes is quick to point out that things are able to change as the casinos open up and patrons return to the track for on-track wagering.
“If we get a month or two into the reopening, and projections are better than what we have forecasted, we have the flexibility to go back to the commission with a revised proposal,” explains Barnes. “This is a fluid situation, and our program has the ability to adjust in a manner that will best benefit our breeders, owners and trainers.”
More information can be found on the program’s website (http://in.gov/hrc/tb/).
Photos available upon request.
ABOUT THE INDIANA THOROUGHBRED BREED DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM
The Thoroughbred Breed Development program was established to promote the Indiana Thoroughbred industry. In 2007, legislation was passed which approved slot machines at Indiana’s pari-mutuel racetracks. The Indiana Thoroughbred Breed Development Fund receives 45% of the revenue generated from slot machines and table games that is allocated for Thoroughbred Racing.
For more information, see the Indiana Horse Racing Commission’s website: http://www.in.gov/hrc/