The question is; what is Orb? While it may be a play on the sire’s name, Malibu Moon, or the circumference of the moon, at Hoosier Park Racing & Casino it is the name of the Kentucky Derby winning horse that Stuart Silvers placed a $10,000 win bet upon and won over $60,000 on Saturday, May 4. At odds of 5-1, Silvers’ answer to the age-old $64,000 question was Orb. The three-year-old gelding used a late surge down the homestretch to coast home a winner in the 139th running of horse racing’s signature event.
After reading an edition of his local newspaper that named Orb as the early favorite, Silvers decided that was the horse for him. Silvers, 82, is a retired Butler University professor who walked through the doors of Hoosier Park on Saturday, May 4 and walked out $64,000 richer after he won the signature Derby Day promotion at Hoosier Park.
Hoosier Park provided invited guests a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ opportunity to place a $10,000 Kentucky Derby win bet on the horse of their choice. The winner had to wager the entire $10,000 sum on the horse they believed would win first place honors. Silvers was randomly selected and without hesitation, chose Orb as his horse. Thousands walked in to Hoosier Park to watch and wager on the Kentucky Derby, but it was Silvers that walked out with the thousands, 64 to be exact.
The $10,000 mega-bet promotion culminated two of the biggest days in the sport of horse racing as Hoosier Park also welcomed guests with extended hours, wagering promotions, and property wide dining specials. Silvers, a frequent visitor of Hoosier Park, occasionally tries his luck wagering on horse racing, but never misses an opportunity to bet the Kentucky Derby.
“I’ve been betting on the Derby for awhile now,” Silvers noted. “But I’ve never won, at least not compared to what I won today. I came here today wishing for the best and I just got lucky. I didn’t expect this year to be any different than years’ past, but it hasn’t hit me that I won just yet.”
Derby weekend included property-wide dining specials, expanded beverage options, and official Kentucky Derby merchandise sales at Hoosier Park. Patrons that sported a Kentucky Derby hat also had the opportunity to receive a free Kentucky Derby win wager. While many other promotions were taking place throughout the facility none culminated the adrenaline of a horse race quite like the one experienced by Silvers.
Live racing resumes at Hoosier Park Racing & Casino on Tuesday, May 7 with a 5:30 post. The 160-day all harness racing meet will follow a Tuesday-Saturday schedule and run through November 9.
Thunder Steeler Wins $24,000 Invitational Pace
Thunder Steeler made his presence felt in the late stages of the $24,000 Invitational pace at Hoosier Park Racing & Casino as he rallied sharply to take home top honors in the featured event on Saturday (Apr 27). Shipping in from Balmoral Park, the four-year-old gelding’s 1:50.1 victory marks the fastest mile over Hoosier Park’s oval thus far into the 2013 meet.
As the gate closed, Ricky Macomber Jr. and I Trust You attempted to get a quick jump on their rivals as they left alertly from post six, however, Paco Labrook and Brad Hanners had the same idea from post nine. The front end was the coveted spot as the early fractions of :27.0 and :55.1 saw much movement. Unable to find position along the rail, Thunder Steeler and Dillander pressed on to the front and reached the top spot as the tightly knit field of ten continued down the backside. Thunder Steeler sprinted to a 1:22.1 third quarter spilt and waited for the cavalry charge from behind as they turned for home. Uncle Smoothie and Sam Widger were in the outer flow with Sammy’s Cool Win and Trace Tetrick in tow. Dillander asked Thunder Steeler for more and he responded with a :28.0 final panel to hold off a hard charging Paco Labrook. Sammy’ s Cool Win rallied from off the pace to get up for the third place finish. As the publics’ choice, I Trust You overcame traffic trouble to finish fourth. Thunder Steeler returned $6.60 to his backers for the victory.
Sired by Lis Mara, Thunder Steeler has now won six of ten seasonal starts with over $40,000 on his card in 2013. Owned by Uncirculated Stable and Frank Smyth, the four-year-old gelding is trained by Donna Lee Ozment. Bred by Concord Stud Farm, Thunder Steeler has now won nine of 30 lifetime starts while amassing over $120,000 lifetime.
On the trotting side of things, Abc Mercedes continued his winning ways in the $24,000 Invitational trot with a sharp, front running effort for driver, trainer Trace Tetrick.
Abc Mercedes notched his third consecutive victory for the season as he pushed his seasonal earnings over $30,000. The eight-year-old gelding has amassed over $1 million in earnings for owner Larry Miller of Springport, IN. Sired by Abc Garland, Abc Mercedes has won a remarkable 59 times in 106 lifetime outings. With over $1 million in purse earnings, the Indiana standout finds himself in elite company as he ranks as the richest trotter in Indiana history.
The season at Hoosier Park Racing & Casino continues to trend in a positive direction with all-sources handle showing a 17% increase for the first 20 days of the meet. Live racing at Hoosier Park Racing & Casino will follow a Tuesday through Saturday schedule. With a daily post time of 5:30 p.m., the 160-day, all harness racing meet will be conducted through November 9.
Mystic Karissa made amends for her first loss of the season last week as she captured the fastest division of the Bill Thompson series, a late closing event open to Indiana sired, three-year-old and older fillies and mares that are non-winners of $30,000 lifetime, at Hoosier Park Racing & Casino on Thursday, April 25. The three-year-old filly notched her fifth win in six lifetime performances in career best fashion, scoring in 1:53.3.
With Ricky Macomber Jr. at the lines once again, the heavily favored duo showed no hesitation as they left the gate alertly from post five to reach the front through an opening panel of :27.3. Fritzie Chic and Trace Tetrick benefitted from a pocket trip as the public’s second choice while Thunder Flight and Tyler Smith were well placed along the rail in third. The field remained in single file order down the backside through a leisurely second panel in :57.2. Always As Fast was the first to commit to the outer flow as driver Jason Dillander had her out and firing approaching the final turn. Mystic Karissa remained untouched through the three-quarter clocking in 1:26.1 and when Macomber asked for more, she responded with a :27.2 final clip to reach the wire four lengths in front. Fritzie Chic paced evenly to finish second while Thunder Flight took home third place honors. At even money odds, Mystic Karissa returned $4.00 for the victory.
Unraced at two, Mystic Karissa has now earned over $15,000 in career earnings for her connections of Burke Racing Stable, Weaver Bruscemi, Frank Baldachino and L. Karr. Sired by Always A Virgin, the brown filly is conditioned by Hoosier Park’s 2012 leading trainer, Ron Burke.
In the opening leg of the late closing action on the evening’s fourteen race card, Virgin Girl and driver Ross Leonard were able to edge out their rivals late in the lane to reach the winner’s circle in 1:56.2. It was the first win of the season for Virgin Girl as she equaled her lifetime mark set at two.
Leaving from post seven in the nine horse field, Leonard sent the filly from the gate quickly but would have to work for the top spot as Charlie Conrad also sent Two Green Peppers to the front. Two Green Peppers reached the first quarter mark in :27.1 but yielded the lead and opted for a pocket trip. Virgin Girl reached the front at the half mile mark in :58.3 but was quickly challenged on the outside by Always Handi and Don Eash. With a three-quarter clocking in 1:27.1, the top duo continued to battle it out as the field turned for home. It was Virgin Girl who was able to find a :29.0 final quarter to best her rivals by three-parts of a length. Always Handi held on gamely to finish second while Jd’s Infinite Lady and Ed Hensley rounded out the trifecta.
Trained by Katie Dircksen, Virgin Girl has now won two of 13 career starts as she sent her lifetime bankroll over $20,000 for owners Scott and Kimberly Rudnick of Greenville, OH. Sired by Always A Virgin, the three-year-old filly was victorious in a leg of the Indiana Silver Sire Stakes at two.
Virgin Girl returned $6.40 for the win but the biggest payout of the night was found just four races later when Go Gaspy Go crossed the wire. The superfecta ticket that included Go Gaspy Go, Leanto Scarlet, Justice For Belle, and JS Foxy Lady returned $4,633.55.
The Bill Thompson series continues with a second, $10,000 leg on May 2. The $20,000 series final is slated for Thursday, May 9 at Hoosier Park Racing & Casino. Live racing will follow a Tuesday-Saturday schedule at Hoosier Park with a daily post time of 5:30 p.m.
For more information on the upcoming entertainment and live racing schedule at Hoosier Park Racing & Casino, please visit www.hoosierpark.com
Tim Konkle Named Racing Scholar at Hoosier Park Racing & Casino
By: Zach Groth
Tim Konkle, 53, has a professional goal to promote and help grow the Indiana harness racing industry; plain and simple. With more than 50 years of horse racing experience, 15 years at Hoosier Park alone, Konkle brings a level of professionalism and expertise that is unparalleled in the greater Indiana region. For this reason, Hoosier Park has transitioned Konkle from backside maintenance manager and recently declared Konkle as Hoosier Park’s first racing scholar. In this new role, Konkle will educate racing fans, answer racing questions, and give professional insight into the sport.
Konkle currently offers brief sessions to groups that visit Hoosier Park to expand their knowledge of harness racing and to give patrons tips on how to go through the wagering process. Konkle offers insight into the new FastBet Mobile way of wagering as well as offering advice on how to efficiently read the programs distributed nightly. Although there are racing fans at Hoosier Park that do not need professional tips, they can still be found asking Konkle for an answer to the potential million dollar question – “Who would you pick to win?”.
Another substantial part of Konkle’s position involves the sports media and race marketing industry. Reaching out to sports reporters in the local and regional areas and getting them more involved in harness racing is one of Konkle’s favorite parts of the job. Walking the journalist through the industry and teaching them what the sport is all about is extremely rewarding Konkle noted.
Many journalists are able to ride along in a two-seated jog cart when they visit Hoosier Park. Konkle believes this is one of the easiest ways to allow journalists to effectively write about harness racing. Along with the experience of a lifetime, journalists also have the opportunity to videotape the experience so they can go back and watch it at a later date.
“They can feel the power of the horse,” Konkle explained. “The speed and the passion that the drivers have for these animals when they are right there next to them is something that can only be felt first-hand.”
After all is said and done, Konkle does not believe that his expertise is any different than any other racing professional out there; instead his passion for the sport and his deep involvement in the success of Hoosier Park is something unique and different.
A decade and a half ago, Hoosier Park welcomed Tim Konkle for the first time and from that moment on Konkle, who has been to most race tracks in the country, knew that he could confidently call Hoosier Park his home.
“Harness racing is an exciting sport with deep tradition in Indiana,” Konkle said. “I am extremely fortunate that I get to come to work every day and do something that I love. If I can create new racing fans through my experience and knowledge in the horse racing industry, I feel that I have done my job.”
Konkle can be found at Hoosier Park Racing & Casino during every night of live racing with a daily post time of 5:30 p.m. The all-harness racing meet will follow a Tuesday-Saturday schedule and commence on Nov. 9. For more information on the upcoming entertainment and live race meet at Hoosier Park Racing & Casino, please visit www.hoosierpark.com.
Blueridge Doc, driven by Andy Shetler, got up in the final strides of the mile to pull a 20-1 upset in the co-featured $24,000 Invitational pace at Hoosier Park Racing & Casino on Saturday, April 20. With a final time of 1:52.2, Blueridge Doc was able to take advantage of a pocket trip to notch his second win of the season.
It was a cavalry charge for early position as Pete Wrenn sent Sunday Poker out alertly from post five with Ed Hensley and Willy Mucha following suit. Leaving from post two, Shetler sent Blueridge Doc out from the gate and maintained their position along the rail in second. With a brisk opening panel in :26.0, it was Sunday Poker calling the shots on the front. Hensley wrestled Willy Mucha to settle along the rail in third while Casey’s Lil’ Harry and Ross Leonard followed intently in third. As the public’s choice, Sammy’s Cool Win and Trace Tetrick opted for a trip off the pace and were eighth along the rail through the opening fractions. Sunday Poker continued to call the shots down the backside as the field of ten began to tighten. Reaching the three-quarter mark in 1:25.2, Sunday Poker looked down a long Hoosier Park stretch. Shetler gave Blueridge Doc the green light and the seven-year-old gelding responded with a 26.4 final panel down the homestretch to get the win. Sammy’s Cool Win rallied late in the lane to get up for the second place finish while I Trust You and Ricky Macomber Jr. marched home in :26.3 to finish third. Blueridge Doc returned $42.80 to his backers for the victory.
“He raced really tough tonight,” Andy Shetler noted. “I knew there was going to be a lot of speed in the race so I wanted to get in good position. He is a tough horse that tries hard every time and tonight he showed that.”
With over $230,000 amassed in career earnings, Blueridge Doc captured his 25th lifetime victory in 118 outings. Andy Shetler trains Blueridge Doc and also co-owns the son of Mattnamaras Band with Joe Lemmon of Goshen, IN.
On the trotting side of things, Abc Mercedes continued his winning ways in the $24,000 Invitational trot with a sharp, front running effort for driver, trainer Trace Tetrick. With a field of ten going postward, Tetrick sent ABC Mercedes to the front from the assigned post nine and remained unchallenged through opening splits of :27.0 and :57.1. Jessejo and Ed Hensley made a costly break around the first turn while Cantab Lindy and Pete Wrenn avoided trouble sitting second. Solvent and Jason Dillander were well placed in third as the field remained in single file order down the backside. Reaching the three-quarter mark in 1:26.1, Abc Mercedes put his talent on display as he began to trot away from the field. Solvent took aim at the leader as they headed for home but could not catch the four-time Indiana trotter of the year who stopped the clock in 1:55.1 five lengths in front of his closest competitor. Solvent finished second as Celebrity Hercules rounded out the trifecta. As the heavy favorite, Abc Mercedes returned $3.20 for the victory.
Abc Mercedes notched his second consecutive victory for the season as he pushed his seasonal earnings over $20,000. The eight-year-old gelding has amassed over $1 million in earnings for owner Larry Miller of Springport, IN. Sired by Abc Garland, Abc Mercedes has won 58 of 105 lifetime starts.
The season at Hoosier Park Racing & Casino continues to trend in a positive direction with all-sources handle showing a 20% increase for the first 15 days of the meet. Live racing at Hoosier Park Racing & Casino will follow a Tuesday through Saturday schedule. With a daily post time of 5:30 p.m., the 160-day, all harness racing meet will be conducted through November 9.
Night Pro made his third consecutive trip to Hoosier Park’s winner circle as he completed the Jerry Landess series sweep winning the $15,000 final of the late closing event open to three and four-year-old Indiana sired colts and geldings that are non-winners of $7,500 lifetime at Hoosier Park Racing & Casino on Wednesday, April 17.
The three-year-old colt notched his fourth consecutive victory in a lifetime best effort of 1:53.1 as he pushed his career earnings over $15,000.
Barley Pop and Trace Tetrick left the gate alertly from post three to control the early fractions through a first quarter clocking in :28.0. Using much the same strategy as weeks past, Night Pro and Pete Wrenn were content to sit along the rail in third before making their move to the front down the backside. Bullwinkle and Kayne Kauffman benefitted from a pocket trip as the field remained in single file line through the half mile time in :56.4. Barley Pop continued to lead the field of ten as Pete Wrenn gave Night Pro the green light approaching the final turn. Shooters Dream and Roger Cullipher were well placed second over as they reached the three-quarter mark in 1:25.3. Pete Wrenn urged Night Pro to the front, and the son of Pro Bono Best responded with a :27.3 final panel to win going away by nine lengths. Shooters Dream was able to take advantage of a perfect trip to finish second while Endeavors King and Tony Hall rallied from off the pace to finish third. Heavily backed at the windows, Night Pro returned $2.80 for the win.
“I didn’t want to rush him tonight,” Pete Wrenn noted. “I just wanted to float out of there and stay out of trouble. He relaxed down the backside and was able to get a breather before I ever had to ask him to do anything. He’s an extremely smart colt and looks like he has a future ahead of him.”
Unraced at two, Night Pro is trained and owned by Dale Decker of Temperance, MI. A $14,000 yearling purchase, the black colt is the first foal from the multiple stakes winning mare, Midnight Jewel.
“He’s an extremely smart colt,” Decker said. “People ask me why I’m not driving him and I tell them it’s because Pete (Wrenn) has about 8,000 more wins than me. He is the one that should be driving a colt like him.”
Live racing at Hoosier Park Racing & Casino will follow a Tuesday through Saturday schedule. With a daily post time of 5:30 p.m., the 160-day, all harness racing meet will be conducted through November 9.
Anderson, Ind.—April 6, 2013—The opening week of live harness racing action at Hoosier Park Racing & Casino saw measurable success on all fronts. Excitement pervaded throughout the grandstand as large, enthusiastic crowds welcomed the 20th season of harness racing back to the seven-eighths mile oval.
On the racing front, Abc Mercedes and driver Trace Tetrick both returned to their winning ways as they wired the field in the co-featured event, a $24,000 Invitational trot. The eight-year-old gelding reached the front and never looked back before stopping the clock in 1:55.4. Ricky Macomber Jr. and I Trust You followed suit on the pacing side of things and benefitted from fast early fractions to capture the $24,000 Invitational pace in 1:52.4. Trained by Ron Burke, I Trust You brushed home in :28.4 to post the first win of his 2013 season.
Hoosier Park’s track surface, with the addition of a brown limestone material, proved to be in mint condition for the opening week of live racing. The track, now a noticeably darker color, has been meticulously groomed by Hoosier Park’s track superintendent, Jimmy Shelton, and received rave reviews from all who encountered it.
“The track is in great shape right now considering the weather we’ve had lately,” Trace Tetrick noted. “I think it will only continue to get better and I look for it to be extremely fast and very durable throughout the meet. The entire track crew has done a great job with all of their improvements to the surface.”
The wagering front also saw much success and offered remarkable value to the horseplayer with the introduction of a signature Pick-4 wager and an improved racing product. The bettors came out in full force through the first week of wagering as the handle increases were felt both on track and through export wagering.
Through the first five nights of racing, Hoosier Park has seen an overall increase of 33 percent in all sources wagering over the corresponding week in 2012.
“Through the first week, I am genuinely excited about the progress we are seeing on most fronts,” said Rick Moore, Hoosier Park’s general manager of racing. “The reality is that one week doesn’t make an entire meet, but if this opening week is any indication of the season to come, we are hopeful for a very successful meet.”
“The prolonged winter has made it difficult for horseman to get ready,” he continued. “But, we are grateful to the horsemen who have supported us thus far and hope they will continue to support our efforts at the entry box as we continually work to improve our racing product for the racing fans.”
Live racing at Hoosier Park will follow a Tuesday-Saturday schedule, with a daily post time of 5:30 p.m. The 160-day all harness racing meet will be conducted through November 9.
About Centaur Gaming: Founded in 1993, Indianapolis-based Centaur Gaming’s mission is to bring the entertainment and economic benefits of casino gaming and horse racing to communities across Indiana. Centaur, a privately held company, employs more than 2,000 Indiana residents through the award-winning entertainment destinations of Indiana Grand Casino and Indiana Downs in Shelbyville, Ind. and Hoosier Park Racing & Casino in Anderson, Ind. In addition to the two racetrack and casino properties, Centaur’s operations extend to nearly every corner of the state with Hoosier Park’s Winner’s Circle Pub, Grille & OTB in Indianapolis and Off-Track Betting facilities in Clarksville, Fort Wayne and Merrillville, Ind.
ANDERSON, IND. – March 6, 2013 –Final preparations are underway on the backstretch at Hoosier Park Racing & Casino in anticipation of the return of live Standardbred racing. Now in its’ 20th season, the Standardbred meet will begin on April 2 and offer five days of racing per week through November 9, with a daily post time of 5:30 p.m. EST.
Horseman who have been granted stalls for the meet may begin moving in equipment and setting up stalls on Saturday, March 9th and Sunday, March 10th. Horses will be permitted on the grounds on Monday, March 11th. All horses entering the grounds must have all valid paperwork available before being allowed entry to the grounds. Dormitories will also be available for occupancy on Monday, March 11th as well.
The racetrack will open for training on Thursday, March 14th, pending the weather conditions. The first round of qualifiers are slated for Saturday, March 16th and will be conducted on a Wednesday and Saturday schedule throughout the remainder of the meet. The entry box closes for qualifiers one day prior at 1 p.m. Condition sheets and stakes schedules will be posted as soon as they become available.
ANDERSON, IND. – July 30, 2012 – Hoosier Park Racing & Casino will kick off its 18th season of Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse racing on Wednesday, Aug., 1. The 64-day meet runs through Saturday, Oct., 27, with racing held Tuesday through Friday beginning at 5:30 p.m. and Saturday beginning at 12:30 p.m. Building on the successful ‘Family-Friendly’ themed events and activities of the Standardbred meet, Hoosier Park will include additional promotions, dining specials, giveaways, and entertainment to run alongside live racing.
To open the second meet of the year, the first 2,000 racing fans to visit the Trackside Club Centaur Rewards center will receive up to $1,000 in free race wagering. The nine race opener will also offer two times points to those guests using their Club Centaur Rewards cards while wagering on Hoosier Park live races and $1 draft beer and hot dog specials.
As an added bonus on Saturday Aug., 4, guests can meet the ESPY award-winning Julie Krone from 4 p.m. to
5 p.m. in the Yard. Krone, a female jockey, is known as the most successful in history and the first woman inducted into the National Racing Hall of Fame. Additionally, the first 2,000 guests to visit the Terrace Club Centaur Rewards center beginning at noon will receive a free Hoosier Park Thoroughbred racing t-shirt.
Weekends during the meet will once again offer fans the enjoyment of both live racing and numerous entertainment opportunities throughout the venue. ‘Fan-tastic Fridays,’ offering $1 customer specials including beer, hot dogs, wagers, and racing programs and ‘Family Fun Saturdays,’ full of live entertainment, kid-friendly outdoor games and activities, winner’s circle giveaways, and dining specials will round out each racing week. Friday’s ‘Beat the Big Guy’ handicapping competition will give guests an opportunity to out-handicap Centaur Gaming chairman and CEO, Rod Ratcliff, for a chance to win up to $750.
“We are looking toward our 18th season of Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse racing with much anticipation and excitement,” Brian Elmore, Hoosier Park’s vice president and general manager of racing noted. “We are going above and beyond expectations to provide everyone a better experience and I’m confident that the horsemen and patrons will appreciate Hoosier Park’s efforts and multiple facility enhancements.”
The racing competition is starting to take shape with word that, Leandro Goncalves, last year’s leading jockey will return to Indiana to defend his second consecutive leading jockey title at Hoosier Park. Goncalves earned more than $2.1 million in purse earnings during the 2011 meet, which was just shy of his track record setting year in 2010 with a total of $2,405,286. Fernando De La Cruz finished second with a total of 81 wins while Hoosier Park’s all-time leading rider, Rodney Prescott, was third with 50 wins.
On the training side of things, Gary Patrick earned his third leading trainer title at Hoosier Park in 2011 with 36 wins. Patrick also topped the owner charts for the second straight year with his 2011 record. A native of Circleville, Ohio, Patrick won his first leading trainer title at Hoosier Park in 1998 and picked up his second title in 2002. He is currently ranked second on the list of all-time leading trainers at Hoosier Park behind Ralph Martinez. Patrick was followed in the standings by Barbara McBride and the 2010 leading trainer Tom Amoss, each ending the season with 19 wins.
Quarter Horse racing will experience another exciting day devoted to their breed. Now in its 16th year, an all Quarter Horse racing program is set for Saturday, Oct. 13. Tagged as the “Wild West Adventure”, the afternoon event will include trials for some of the biggest Quarter Horse events in the state. Patrons can enjoy Indiana’s best Quarter Horse racing along with Wild West-themed food and drink and lots of fun family entertainment.
Known in recent years for attracting some of the biggest names in horse racing, the 18th running of the Grade II $500,000-added Indiana Derby will take place Saturday Oct. 6. The fan-favorite event will highlight the stakes schedule of the Thoroughbred meet and promises to be an exciting day at the races. The $500,000-added Grade II Indiana Derby will be the featured event on the card along with the $200,000-added Grade II Indiana Oaks, the $100,000-added Michael G. Schaefer Memorial Mile, and the $100,000-added Mari Hulman George Stakes, filling completing Indiana’s richest day of racing.
About Centaur Gaming and Hoosier Park Racing & Casino: Indianapolis-based, Centaur Gaming, owns and operates Hoosier Park Racing & Casino. Hoosier Park Racing & Casino was recently ranked as the Indianapolis Area’s Most Popular Attraction for the second year in a row by the Indianapolis Business Journal and holds multiple awards from industry publications for customer service, entertainment, gaming and dining. Hoosier Park Racing & Casino, a fully integrated gaming and racing facility, features 2,000 of the latest slots and electronic table games and a 7/8 mile oval horse track offering live and simulcast Standardbred, Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse racing each year. Simulcast wagering is also offered year-round at the Winner’s Circle Pub, Grille & OTB in Indianapolis and two off-track betting properties located in Fort Wayne and Merrillville, Indiana.
Written by: Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star. Kravitz is a columnist for The Indianapolis Star
ANDERSON, Ind. — I felt like a wide-eyed little kid approaching the bank teller with my first-ever lemonade-stand deposit.
“Ummmm, I think I want an exacta box with the 1, 3, 5 and 7 horses,” I told the nice lady at Hoosier Park.
She smiled, and not just because she was taking my $12 bet.
“This is your first time, isn’t it?” she asked, fully knowing the answer.
What gave me away? The sweating? The fact I had to read the words right off my notebook? Perhaps she could hear my internal conversation:
Pick-4 . . . no, that’s not it. What’s an exacta box? How many horses do I need to finish in the top three? How’s all this different from a superfecta? When will my brain explode, and can’t I just go play blackjack in the casino?
“Maybe you’ll have beginner’s luck,” she said, still smiling.
Yeah, beginner’s luck.
Two of the horses I picked battled it out for last place. The other two finished only a little closer to the winner.
Life as a gambler. And one heck of a wonderful day, and night, at Hoosier Park.
I’ll be honest here: I’ve been to only one horse track in my life — Churchill Downs, which isn’t a bad one if you’re going to attend one track — but had absolutely no idea what was going on at that Kentucky Derby. If memory serves, I wrote that day about hats and my failed attempt to get to the Queen of England’s private box.
You can take everything I know about horse racing (and several other subjects), pour it into a thimble and still have plenty left over for a martini with three olives.
In fact, it wasn’t until I showed up Thursday that I came to understand the difference between thoroughbreds and standardbreds, the difference between pacers and trotters.
Go ahead, quiz me:
What’s the difference between a thoroughbred and standardbred?
To put it in basketball terms, or something I understand, a thoroughbred is Kevin Durant: long, lithe, capable of great speed and power but a little bit brittle.
The standardbred, which ran in the night’s harness races, is like Kendrick Perkins, but without the scowl: tough, muscular, sturdy, capable of going greater distances and running more frequently at less breakneck speeds.
What’s the difference between a pacer and a trotter?
A pacer’s right legs go in one direction while the left legs go in the other direction. It’s an odd gait, not unlike our friend Kendrick Perkins. But that’s how they’re bred to run, just as I’ve been suitably bred to drink beer and lie around the house.
How do you like them horse apples?
Speaking of which, I am happy to report that the horse who took me on my first harness ride, along with driver Trent Stohler, has a very solid, high-fiber diet.
Tearful Reunion, who is now my horse, left a hefty trail of manure on the limestone track. I have no way of proving this, but I think it made him run faster. Horses in competition get up to about 30 to 35 mph. For my ride, Tearful Reunion was going about 20.
Not exactly a two-seater at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but thrilling nonetheless.
“Here, you take the reins,” Stohler told me. “Pull on the left one, he’ll go left. Pull on the right, he’ll go right. Pull on both, he’ll slow down.”
Which seemed simple until I tried to guide Tearful Reunion, who seemed to be interested in running off track and into the giant lake in the middle of Hoosier Park. “I think something spooked him,” Stohler said.
Yeah, like the idiot holding the reins.
I discovered that horses are like teenage kids: The more you try to set them in a certain direction, the harder you pull on the reins, the more likely it is they’ll do whatever the heck they want.
“Here,” Stohler said, “I’ll take them.”
At which point, Tearful Reunion behaved and returned to a safe pace around the seven-eighths mile long track.
By the way, Tearful Reunion is a stud. So we had that in common.
I’ll be honest again here, too: My completely ignorant impression of horse tracks was that they were populated exclusively by degenerate gamblers who don’t appear to have showered since the Carter administration.
I expected a certain cross section of our population, old men with cigs dangling from their lips, ratty clothes, and a far-away look in their eyes.
Maybe that’s true at some places, but at Hoosier Park?
“We’re the best track for families going,” said Hoosier Park’s Tim Konkle, my gracious host for the day.
There were families, and I wouldn’t hesitate to bring my family at some future date. The clientele was decidedly middle class and upper crust (based totally on first impressions). It was almost disappointing; I was expecting whacked-out railbirds with dirty hands and rolled-up racing forms in their back pockets.
No such luck. I hate when my preconceived notions are blown to smithereens.
Hoosier Park isn’t just a horse track and a casino. It has concerts. It has fireworks. It has a pristine-looking clubhouse with white table cloths and menu items like seared ahi tuna, Kobe beef burgers and Chilean sea bass. I was expecting nachos with ersatz cheese.
Nope. Not on the menu.
But I came to win money.
“You have a hundred bucks,” my wife told me. “Remember, we just dropped a bunch of cash on our daughter’s open house. We’re tight this week.”
Now, I’m not in the habit of simply giving away money, so I dutifully scanned the horses’ past performances. Why, I don’t know. There were lots of acronyms and numbers, and it might as well have been written in some obscure Ukrainian dialect. All I understood were the odds, which, in the end, change as the pari-mutuel bets come in from across the country.
So I relied on my two betting studs, Konkle and Hoosier Park publicist Emily Gaskin.
Konkle, I was told, couldn’t miss last Saturday. And Gaskin knows horses so well, she picked out a $900 horse as a graduation gift, and that horse won more than $200,000 in harness racing.
Then we promptly got our brains beat in.
We tried exactas, superfectas and a couple of bets that I couldn’t even begin to describe, and things didn’t go well.
“We just lost to a 39-1 shot,” Gaskin groused.
At one point, I had so many losing tickets, you could have lit them and started a small forest fire.
One time, on a $30 bet, we won. I was totally excited. My first win ever.
Except the horses paid $28.75, so I won and lost $1.25.
Don’t spend more than $100.
“You should do a pick-4,” Gaskin said. “Pick the next four winners in the next four races.”
So I put my handicapping skills to work, skills not unlike those owned by my late mother, who used to pick NFL games based on how well she liked the team’s uniforms. She usually crushed me.
I took Getontheway in the first race, since my driver, Trent Stohler, was on that horse.
I picked Canadian Justice in the second because I’m a huge hockey fan and used to spend lots of time in Canada.
I chose Amy Jo’s Angel next because, well, I was in love with a girl named Amy in high school. Sadly, she was not aware I existed as a life form at the time. Her loss.
Finally, I picked Bluebird Kidsqueen, the rationale being that I spent many idle hours at the Bluebird in Bloomington during my college years. Actually saw a young John Cougar there, but that’s another story.
I didn’t win any of them.
Ultimately, I probably broke even, although over time, I started to impress the nice cashier with my improving knowledge of superfectas and exacta boxes. (And it’s not brain surgery; if you don’t know the game, there is lots of information available to guide you through the various bets. And they’re very nice to newcomers, likely because they enjoy taking and investing your cash.)
“Sorry we couldn’t help you pick more winners,” Konkle said.
You kidding? This was one of the most enjoyable days I had all summer.
I wasn’t done, though.
With most of my original $100 still in hand, I hit the casino and played video blackjack with a dealer so nice, she fist-bumped players every time they beat her hand.
I’m used to Vegas dealers, who chortle every time they turned a 3 into a five-card 21.
I ran my winnings from $50 to $200 but didn’t have the ability to walk away. A half-hour later, I’d lost it all. Which proves that with gambling, it doesn’t necessarily matter if you do or don’t know what you’re doing, you’re probably going to leave your money in Anderson.
The truth, though? It was worth every lost penny.