Updated: Sep 3, 2019
Horse racing has been a big part of Indiana for many years. Harness racing has been occurring at county fairs since the mid-1800s. The state’s proximity to Kentucky also gave Thoroughbred breeders the chance to ship their horses to race in the horse capital of the world.
But, Indiana Thoroughbred racing took a huge step forward in 1992 when Churchill Downs Incorporated announced plans to build a racetrack in Anderson, Indiana. In 1994, a contract for construction was signed and approximately $14 million was put into constructing a racetrack and facilities.
The first pari-mutuel Thoroughbred race in Indiana was held at Hoosier Park in 1995. Thoroughbred horse racing has been an official part of Indiana every since. The first Indiana Derby was held on October 7, 1995 and was won by Peruvian. At that time the race was just a listed stakes race.
It was announced in 2002 that a new racetrack would be constructed in Shelbyville, Indiana. The track, Indiana Downs, opened for the first time April 11, 2003. It would host seven Thoroughbred stakes race. On Grand Opening Day, April 12th, the 6f $40k Oliver Stakes for 3-year old fillies was the headliner.
Over the years, Indiana Downs grew and plans began to transition all Thoroughbred racing to that track, making Hoosier Park a Harness Racing track. In 2012, Indiana Downs held the Indiana Derby for the very first time. It has been at that track ever since.
In 2013, Indiana Downs was rebranded as Indiana Grand Racing & Casino and officially held all Thoroughbred dates in the state that year. In order to accommodate the new plans of turning Indiana Grand into the state’s Thoroughbred track, four new barns were built to increase the track’s backside capacity to 1,000 horses. The track also spent millions of dollars to install a new main track, and a new LED video board.
The track also worked to improve backside dormitories and to integrate the grandstands and the casino. In 2014 they were accredited by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association Safety and Integrity Alliance.
Today Indiana Grand is an outstanding racetrack. The facilities are clean, the employees are nice, and the racing is exciting. Indiana Grand has helped the state of Indiana increase its importance to the Thoroughbred industry. There are countless Thoroughbred farms in the state that are helping to develop the breed. There is a total of 550 Thoroughbred, Quarter Horse, and Standardbred Farms in Indiana.
The horse racing industry is important to Indiana thanks to places like Indiana Grand. It creates 6,734 full time jobs and generates an economical impact of $874 million.
When you get the chance, pay a visit to Indiana Grand. With free parking and no admission fee, there is no reason to not spend a fun day at the track! Grab a drink, place a few bets, and enjoy all that Indiana horse racing has to offer.
Author - Kaeli Bartholomew: I run Champions of the Track as a way to spread the love of horse racing through writing, photography, and videography. The best way to increase the popularity and respect for this sport is by sharing stories and memories! Thank you for joining me on my mission to improve and grow the sport of horse racing.
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