Indiana Grand set for horse racing’s return

SHELBYVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — Life around Indiana Grand Racing & Casino usually sounds like a chorus of trumpets, with hoofs pounding into the dirt and cheers after the first thoroughbred crosses the finish line.

The casino and horse racing track in Shelbyville has served as the Indiana Derby’s home since 2013, and is considered the mecca of thoroughbred racing within the Hoosier state. But with no races until later in June, and no spectators allowed on the grounds until July 4, the odds for those that make a living around the stables just got tough.

“Big hit, big hit. I haven’t seen anything like it,” said Joe Davis, president of the Indiana Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association and a local trainer.

“I have been doing it for 35 years. It is not like a race car or a business; you can’t just shut it down,” Davis said.

“The horses have to be fed, taken care of, and exercised — expenses go on,” Davis said.

Davis is lucky: His crew at Indiana Grand is still intact following the long hiatus. 

Indiana Grand got a little break, too. With the 146th Kentucky Derby moving to September, the Indiana Derby is now listed as an official qualifier and may help decide the field at Churchill Downs.

“(We) are grateful to Churchill Downs for giving us this opportunity,” said Eric Halstrom, Indiana Grand vice president and general manager of racing. “I think you will see come July 8, some really, really good horses who are trying to get into the Kentucky Derby (here).” 

“We have never been a part of this and we probably never will be again,” Halstrom said.

The racing action resumes on June 15 at Indiana Grand. Weekly races are set to run Monday through Thursday until mid-November, and from owners to trainers to the thoroughbreds that have remained here during the pandemic training, finally it is time to go racing.

“We have a really great product here,” Halstrom said. “We can be a really big player on the national scene once we get going.”

In an industry where the work never ends, a victory for everyone is approaching the finish line.