Turf Racing begins next week

Indiana Grand Racing & Casino will hold its first turf races of the 2015 racing season next week. The first turf races were scheduled for Friday, May 15 and Saturday, May 16, but due to heavy rains in the area, the races were moved off the turf. Three races, the fourth, sixth and eighth, are scheduled for the turf course on the Tuesday, May 19 racing program.


Roy Smith, track superintendent at Indiana Grand, leads the team that has been working diligently on both the turf and dirt courses at Indiana Grand this season.

Roy Smith, track superintendent at Indiana Grand, leads the team that has been working diligently on both the turf and dirt courses at Indiana Grand this season.

Roy Smith, track superintendent, and his crew have been working diligently on the turf course in preparation for the first races of the season. They began in early spring by conducting a first overseeding of Kentucky Bluegrass on the seven-eighths mile grass course. To help the new seed take root, Smith implemented new geothermal blankets over the course, a quarter mile at a time, to promote early turf growth. When the blankets were moved to a different section of the turf course, the vibrant green color of grass has been very evident over the past two months.

“The turf blankets are new to Indiana Grand this year and we have enough to cover 1,000 feet at a time,” said Smith. “We left it on a section at a time and then relocated it to another section of the turf course after a few days. You could see a big difference in the color of the grass when we moved the geothermal blankets.”

Smith went on to explain he has a new fertilization program in place for the turf course, which will also enhance growth and durability during the season. He has been working closely with Dave Hendricksen of Advanced Turf Solutions for the right mixture of fertilizer and enhanced chemical products to fight off unwanted weeds in order to provide a carpet of grass that is the best it can be for horse traffic.

Advanced Turf Solutions, based in Fishers, Ind., provides all types of lawn care support, both commercial and residential. They emphasis early season health is crucial to repair or enhance grass following recovery from the winter months. Hendricksen worked closely with Smith to design and implement the perfect mixture for top quality care of Indiana Grand’s turf course.

The first two turf stakes of the year are slated for Saturday, May 30, which is Jockeys & Jeans night. The evening is dedicated to raising money for the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund (PDJF) and will include appearances by more than a dozen Hall of Fame jockeys. Two stakes races will enhance the night, including the $65,000 PDJF Stakes and the $65,000 Indy Star Stakes, both overnight stakes and both held on the turf.

The track maintenance crew also continues to keep the one-mile dirt surface in top shape. Even following rainy days, the surface is very horse friendly and offers the sought after “bounce” to horses hooves upon impact.

“We sealed the racing surface really well in November and put it to bed,” said Smith. “When we opened it up this spring, it was fine. The surface wintered very well.”

Smith noted that equipment is crucial in preparing and maintaining a racing surface. The track maintenance crew are driving a new fleet of John Deere tractors, mowers and gators this season, giving the crew a perfect foundation to care for both race courses.

“We have eight new John Deere tractors to utilize this year,” said Smith. “Track maintenance is all about the tools that are available. We need the proper tools to do a good job and Indiana Grand has stepped up to provide the necessary equipment to get the job done. In the end, we are all striving for a safe, consistent racetrack.”

A native of New England, Smith brings in more than 38 years of experience as the head of the track maintenance division at Indiana Grand. Prior to his move to Indiana last summer, Smith held a similar position for 30 years for PARX Racing. In addition, he is the founding member of the Track Superintendent’s Meeting held annually. The multi-day event, now supported by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA), attracts track superintendents from around the world and provides them with information from industry leaders as well as cutting edge technology that is now available to assist in maintaining safe racing surfaces.

The 13th season of live Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse continues through Saturday, Oct. 31, 2015. Racing is conducted Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 2:05 p.m. with first post for Saturdays set at 6:05 p.m.