Dave Magee to drive regularly at Hoosier
March 28, 2011
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Hoosier Park Racing & Casino kicks off an 80-day harness meet Thursday with a new emphasis on raising its profile in the simulcast market. Offering a retooled weekly schedule, the Indiana track looks to leave the gate quickly to start off the season. A total of 163 horses dropped in the box for the opening night program, producing an 11-race card for the opener.
Also of note, Hall of Famer Dave Magee plans to be a regular at Hoosier Park this year.
As for the changes in the racing schedule, after offering a Wednesday through Sunday calendar in the past, Hoosier Park will conduct live racing Tuesday through Saturday during the 2011 meet. Post time each day is set for 5:30 pm, with 4:30 pm first posts on Saturdays. According to race secretary Kevin Mack, Hoosier Park’s traditional Sunday night card will be moved to Tuesday in hopes of optimizing simulcast exposure.
“There are not a lot of Standardbred tracks available on Tuesday afternoons,” Mack explained. “We’re moving our Sunday card to Tuesdays to see if we can showcase our product and pick up some bettors. We want the Standardbred bettors of the world to get a good look at our signal.”
Despite setbacks Midwest horsemen have encountered as a result of often brutal weather conditions this winter, participation was high in the first three qualifiers leading up to the first draw. Hoosier Park’s “dress rehearsal” qualifier Friday night, March 25, the last before the draw, yielded 22 races. In turn, a total of 163 horses dropped in the box for the opening night program, producing an 11-race card for the opener.
“Everybody says they’re a couple of weeks behind because of the winter we had,” said Mack. “We were cautious going 11 races the first day, but we’ll average 12 or 13 races a day.”
Hoosier Park’s racing program will remain relatively unchanged compared to previous seasons. Invitational horses will race for $24,000 purses, with $6,000 claimers representing the bottom class. Indiana Sires Stakes action won’t begin until May, but Mack will write mini series events for ISS-caliber sophomore pacers and trotters that will offer a $10,000 leg and $25,000 final.
In previous seasons Illinois horsemen have competed at Hoosier Park with increased regularity. The 2011 meet will be no different as a trio of top horsemen will become regulars in Indiana. Drivers Dave Magee and Dale Hiteman have set their sights on Hoosier Park and this year Nelson Willis will stable horses on the grounds.
For Magee, the decision came after legislation aimed at helping the race industry in Illinois failed earlier this year. “I’ve tried to stick it out here as long as I could, hoping something brighter was on the horizon,” said the Hall of Fame driver. “I was considering it all winter. When legislation fell through this spring I decided to make the move.”
A winner of more than 11,000 races in his career, Magee has competed in Indiana in the past. Last year he drove several horses for Indiana-based trainer Bobby Brower, including North America Cup consolation winner Allthatgltrsisgold. Magee said he is looking forward to the opportunity.
“It’s really an easy move for me, actually,” he added. “As easy as a move can be. The people there are very friendly and receptive.”--By James Platz