The 15th season of Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse racing is less than one month away and horsemen have returned to prepare for opening day Tuesday, April 18. The racetrack opened for training Monday, March 20 and includes a new safety rail, installed during the off-season to boost safety measures at the track.
The new rail, known as Rider Protection Systems, was installed by Horsemen’s Track and Equipment at a cost of $300,000 covered by Indiana Grand. It includes new posts, new base rail and an expanded top surface that stretches 18 inches in width across the top of the base rail, providing a flat surface that is deemed safer for all equine and human athletes at the track. The rail is designed to create fewer shadows on the track and is weather resistant to UV rays as well as inclement conditions, allowing for easy drainage of rain or snow. Installation took place within a two-week period in early March to be ready for the 2017 racing season.
“We had three tractor trailers of aluminum railing arrive the last week of February in preparation for the installation,” said Roy Smith, track maintenance manager. “This is the same rail that is utilized at tracks such as Churchill Downs and Gulfstream Park. The purpose of the rail is to provide a bounce and slide type surface if a horse or jockey goes over it, which is much safer. It probably won’t appear much different to the public, but it’s definitely something our horsemen and jockeys will appreciate this season.”
One aspect of the track that the public will notice is the new construction on the backstretch of the track. A new six-foot tall berm has been installed and existing fencing has been removed along the backstretch. On top of the new berm, new eight-foot fencing with astro-turf like material on the slats has been installed, providing an aesthetically appealing green backdrop for racing. The purpose of the berm, which will also include landscaping, is to separate the track from the new $3.5 million track maintenance building that is being erected along the backstretch.
“The only part of the new track maintenance facility that you will see from the grandstand will be the roofline,” said Smith. “The building will be in the same location as before at the half-mile pole. Right now, we have relocated the maintenance yard to the three-quarter chute area and will work from that location until everything gets completed.”
In addition to the new maintenance building, the water pump stations will receive an upgrade and will be relocated to the new area. This will include an upgraded water system for the turf course.
“Everything will be under one roof,” continued Smith. “The new building will have a two-car garage and two support buildings. There will be enough storage (almost 300 feet) to put all track equipment under one roof. It will also contain a whole office complex for track maintenance as well as for Terril (Gabbard), the backstretch maintenance manager.”
To complement the 364-foot long facility, new state of the art equipment will be installed, providing team members with the proper tools to conduct maintenance and service on all machinery utilized at Indiana Grand, from water trucks to tractors and lawn mowers. In the past, the facility had very limited maintenance capabilities and repairs had to be sent off-site.
“All racing enhancements and projects are part of our ongoing pledge to operate one of the safest Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse tracks in the country,” said Jim Brown, president and COO of Centaur Gaming. “Safety enhancements and improvements are always at the forefront of our projects for our racing operations.”
Other racing improvements for the 2017 racing season include expanded Wi-Fi services, some paving projects, refurbished jockeys quarters including paint and furniture and a backstretch greenhouse.
Racing begins Tuesday, April 18 and concludes Saturday, Oct. 28. Racing will be conducted Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday at 2:05 p.m. EST with Saturday racing beginning at 6:05 p.m. EST. Thursday racing will be held July 6 – Aug. 24 at 2:05 p.m. EST.
(from Indiana Grand news release)