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February 23, 2013

Rick Teverbaugh: Harness racing good choice for HP

Now that it has become official that we won’t be seeing the thoroughbreds race at Hoosier Park any more, it is a good time to put this in print.

Here are the top 10 reasons Hoosier Park is better off as the exclusive home of harness racing in this state.

10. There will be no interruption in racing. Without having to make the expensive change from one breed to another, standardbreds will race from April 2 to Nov. 9. That’s 160 days of racing, running Tuesday through Saturday each week with a post time of 5:30 p.m.

9. Hoosier Park gets to keep the Dan Patch Invitational. This signature race will be held this season on May 25. It will go for a purse of $200,000. With this race’s ties back to Indiana and the great standardbred that it is named for, it would have been a shame to lose it.

8. People in this state grew up with harness racing. There is a heritage about this sport in Indiana. I always remember the sulkies racing around the track at Athletic Park during the Anderson Free Fair in July. Thoroughbreds were the ones that I only watch on television and then generally just three times a year.

7. The drivers are easier to identify than the jockeys. Not only are the drivers easier to see behind the horse rather than on top, but they always wear their own colors. Jockeys wear the colors of their owners so each race they have different silks.

6. Hoosier Park is a big fish in the standardbred pond, where it would always have been a little fish in the thoroughbred pond because of the proximity of Churchill Downs. Anderson was only very important to thoroughbreds once a year, at Indiana Derby. Hoosier Park is as important to the harness racing world as any track except The Meadowlands.

5. Harness racing is a family affair. A very high percentage of the people who are involved in the sport are second or third generation into it. I believe they are as much in it for the love of the sport and the horses as they are for the money. But we all gotta eat.

4. Rick Moore is coming back. Moore is one of the nicest people in the entire sport. He helped me many, many times as I was learning about harness racing when HP opened. It was announced Friday that he is back as general manager of racing in Anderson. Welcome back, Rick.

3. I have actually driven in three celebrity harness races, so I know how that feels. I think I can better report on standardbreds.

2. Standardbred horsemen are more a part of this community. Many of them have permanent homes not that far away from the track. Many are native Hoosiers.

1. I have always been able to make more money wagering on standardbreds. Nearly every race is the same distance and handicapping is a bit easier to decipher. Why is that important? See reason No. 5.

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