Cross, Putnam inducted into Indiana Horse Racing Hall of Fame

by James Platz

Jay Cross and Joe Putnam, both longtime horsemen competing in and outside the Hoosier State, were inducted into the Indiana Horse Racing Association, Inc. Hall of Fame Sunday evening (Oct. 22). Family and friends gathered in the clubhouse at Harrah’s Hoosier Park Racing & Casino for the ceremonies.

Cross began his career in the trottingbred pony circuit, and achieved great success working alongside his father, Harry, as well as training on his own horses. By the time he moved into standardbreds, he had compiled a resume that earned him entry into the Midwestern Big Four Trottingbred Association Hall of Fame.

Picking up his first win at the LaPorte County Fair in 1982, Cross became a reputable catch driver competing at Raceway Park, Scioto Downs, Louisville Downs and Fairmount Park throughout the ’80s and early ’90s. When Hoosier Park opened in 1994, the native of northern Indiana settled in at the newly-opened track, becoming a perennial top driver throughout the first decade of the Anderson oval’s existence. Cross has been affiliated with many champions in the state, his most recent being trotting filly Sure Do, Governor’s Cup champion on the fair circuit in 2022 and 2023, and a horse he drives and trains. The veteran horseman has collected more than 3,200 trips to the winner’s circle as a driver. He has guided more than 15 different horses to Indiana Sires Stakes finals wins.

What separates Cross from his contemporaries is his contributions to the industry away from the track. He has served as a United States Trotting Association director in District 2 for more than two decades. He was a two-term director for the Indiana Standardbred Association, and previously served as race secretary for the Elkhart County 4-H Fair, his home fair track in Goshen, IN. It was at Goshen in 2017 that he scored his 3,000th career victory.

In his induction speech, Cross spoke of his faith and the family and extended support system that made it all possible. He credited his wife, Pam, as an irreplaceable partner and key to his success.

Like Cross, Putnam has accumulated wins and success over decades of competition on the track. Prior to his arrival at Hoosier Park in 1996, he was an accomplished trainer/driver in Michigan, named to the Hall of Fame in his home state in 2020. Putnam found Indiana to his liking and never left, establishing himself as a top conditioner and driver in the state.

He earned Indiana Sires Stakes finals wins steering Marks-Mindy and Vicki’s Bunny, and he trained and piloted B L Swift Dakota, Super Kay and the trio of ABC Glory, ABC Bay Bee and ABC Mercedes, the last of which became his first million-dollar winner. Most recently, Putnam has conditioned pacing mare Rockin Nola, five-time Indiana Sires Stakes champion with just over $985,000 on her card. He has eclipsed 3,000 driving wins and 1,500 trips to the winner’s circle.

Putnam’s time in the Hoosier State is also marked by service. He has helped shape policy with two terms on the Indiana Standardbred Development Board. He also served four terms as an ISA director, holding the office of president in his final term.

Addressing those in attendance, Putnam recalled how his move to Hoosier Park in 1996 was meant to be temporary. Now, nearly three decades later, he has become an elder statesman of Indiana harness racing.

Joining Cross and Putnam in the IHRA’s Class of 2023 is the late Paul Martin, a prominent quarter horse trainer and owner in the state who also served as president of the Quarter Horse Racing Association of Indiana.