Amended breed development program approved in Indiana

“We tried to keep the program intact as best we could,” said Indiana Standardbred Association (ISA) president Joe Putnam. “We still feel like it’s going to be a first-class, quality-driven program.”

by James Platz

The Indiana Horse Racing Commission (IHRC) approved an amended breed development program Thursday (May 28) that will offer just over $8.8 million in purses and awards. While the new plan signals decreases across the board, it resets the program based on decreased casino revenue the horse racing industry depends on for its revenue. The Indiana Standardbred Breed Development Advisory Committee (ISBDAC) and Standardbred Advisory Board (SAB) met twice in May to draft the amended program.

The modified Indiana Sires Stakes schedule has 3-year-olds competing in seven legs instead of the previously published eight rounds leading into the $250,000 Super Final. The opening leg is slated for the first few days of July, with the second leg coming two weeks later, July 15-18. Two-year-olds previously were set to begin the season during the second week of July. Now, they will kick off the fourth week of the month (July 21-25). With the reconfigured schedule, Harrah’s Hoosier Park race secretary Scott Peine placed sires stakes at times that did not interfere with the Indiana State Fair or the Grand Circuit.

The most significant change in the sires stakes program comes in the funding. In 2019, breed development seeded purses for freshman divisions at a minimum of $121,000 per leg, with nomination and entry fees then added and the total money split between divisions. Sophomore legs were funded at a minimum $87,000 per leg before nomination and entry fees. Based on figures provided by Jessica Barnes, director of racing and breed development for the IHRC, the program’s 2020 contribution for 2-year-olds will be just shy of $57,000 per leg, with $48,813 allocated per leg for 3-year-olds. Projections offered during Thursday’s meeting showed a single 2-year-old division could offer a $71,000 purse, with sophomores racing for $56,500 in a single division or $31,750 over two divisions.

“If the (casino) projections come in a lot higher, these groups will call a meeting and bring updated proposals to the commission,” Barnes said of the revised program during the May 20 breed development meeting, and reiterated again after the plan received IHRC approval. The casino operations at Hoosier Park and Indiana Grand closed in mid-March and have yet to reopen.

Part of the revised program also included a restructuring of the late closing series offered at Hoosier Park. In the new plan, four events – the Jerry Landess, Miss Windfall, Cardinal and Mya Tri – remain with augmentation. Instead of two legs and a final, a single leg will lead into the final. They are set to start the first week of live racing at Hoosier Park, with the finals contested one week later. The other 10 late closing series were cut from the calendar, and the money set aside to fund them shifted to the Indiana Sired Overnight Supplement. Peine will use the funds to write mini-series with the same conditions of those events removed from the schedule.

Finally, a trimmed down Indiana Sired Fair Circuit offers 12 programs leading into the championships. In order to qualify for the $20,000 championships and $8,000 consolations, a horse must make six fair starts, one less than required in 2019. Fair racing venues include Converse (July 4 & 5; Aug. 25), Portland (July 8; Aug. 8), Kentland (July 11), Frankfort (July 14 & 15; Aug. 29), Goshen (July 25, 27 & 28), Connersville (July 27 & 28), Shelbyville (Aug. 3 & 4; September 4) and Corydon (Aug. 19). Championship races traditionally take place during the Indiana State Fair. However, with fair racing beginning July 4, the Indiana State Fairgrounds will play host to the championships and consolations, on the new date of Thursday, Sept. 10. The ISA Elite races, normally held after the Indiana State Fair in late August, are set for Aug. 13. Grand Circuit racing at the Indiana State Fair is unaffected by the changes and will continue in the Aug. 12 slot.

“We tried to keep the program intact as best we could,” said Joe Putnam, Indiana Standardbred Association (ISA) president and a member of the breed development advisory committee. “We still feel like it’s going to be a first-class, quality-driven program. I think we have, if not the best, one of the best regional stakes programs in the country.”

During Thursday’s meeting, the IHRC also approved Hoosier Park’s revised 2020 racing calendar. The meet will offer 111 programs, beginning Tuesday, June 16 and concluding Saturday, Nov. 21. Racing will be conducted Tuesday through Saturday with the exception of the last two weeks of the season.