Horsemen reflect on successful 2016 racing season

By Nancy Holthus, on-air paddock analyst

As the end of the 120-day race meet nears at Indiana Grand, it is the perfect time to reflect. This year brought the 2016 Indiana Derby winner Cupid from the barn of Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, the first ever Miss Indiana Derby Queen pageant, and regular participation from barns in surrounding states giving full field sizes. Here are some highlights and thoughts from some of those involved in the racing program:

David Dwyer, former long-time assistant trainer / first year jockey agent (represents Richard Bracho and Tommy Pompell) – “It’s been fun. Probably the biggest highlight is getting the call from Tom Amoss to come over and start riding his horses. That and getting the support of my mentor, Jeff Greenhill, and of course Kim (Hammond). They’ve stuck by us the whole meet and we’ve had great success. The plan is to try Fair Grounds for the winter. And I’m counting the days until here next year.”

Tony Granitz, Trainer – “It’s been a great summer with us moving our family here and we’re real excited to see what’s going on in Indiana, especially with state bred stakes races being $100,000. Closing day I’m looking forward to it because I have a lot of nice two-year-olds, and Lady Fog Horn coming back for the finale that day in the Francis Slocum. There’s a lot of memories and looking forward next year to being a resident of Indiana.”

Kevin Greely, Director of Racing and Racing Secretary – “The Indiana Derby was fantastic this year, we handled over $3 million. The card was beautiful and the betting public responded. We’ve had many days over $2 million and had a couple $2.5 million days. Our marketing department has done an excellent job in getting our message out there. We’d like to build on that for 2017; it’ll be hard to match it, but we can slowly increase the quality of our racing.”

Tammy Knox, Race Marketing Manager – “I think having our handle up by nearly 20% for the second straight year (it was up roughly 22% last year) would be a focal point. Also, our Indiana Derby set records for both attendance and handle in 2016 and brought in the first $3 million-plus handle for the season. We also had our first non-event $2 million day in handle in September (this excludes KY Derby Day, IN Derby Day, etc.)”

Rodney Prescott, jockey – “June 11 was a major highlight. I won the ITOBA Stallion Season Jim Elliott Memorial Stakes on Easy Doer for (trainer) Robert Sturgeon AND won the ITOBA Stallion Season Fillies Linda Swingley Memorial Stakes on Carmalley Chrome for (trainer) Mike Nance. That was a good day.”

Bill Downes, Track Announcer – “Cupid. Cupid. Cupid. And just happy as a whole on the improvement of the overall racing program.”

Mike Nance, Trainer – “A win that stands out is Carmalley Chrome’s first stakes race (ITOBA Stallion Season Fillies Linda Swingley Memorial Stakes). It was the first stakes race that Mr. (Tom) Roche ever won and it was really a great day. M.Y. Stables is looking forward to next year since we have some promising two-year-olds in the stable and Grandpa Grumpy will be back too.”

Rachel McLaughlin, Racing Broadcast Production Manager – “A major highlight was the new ownership program – perks for the owners. It was much needed and I’ve had tons of people tell me how much they’ve appreciated Centaur Gaming doing something special for them. They get dining discounts, special trips and perks. And on a personal level I enjoyed hosting two new WISH-TV specials and received the honor of being nominated for a Regional Emmy for Hands to the Finish Line.”

Roy Smith, Track Superintendent – “One of the best things was the Indiana Derby. It was such a great day and we had such great horses on the card. And when you look at the handle people were betting us all across the country. And a lot of those horses have gone on to win stakes at other tracks and that’s quite an accomplishment and compliment to Indiana Grand.”

John Herbstreit, jockey agent for Rodney Prescott and Marcelino Pedroza – “I’m beyond happy with the meet my riders had. Both were over $2 million in earnings and within the top five in the standings. They’re both amazingly hard workers in the mornings and afternoons. And we couldn’t have accomplished what we did without the support of the horsemen.”

Leandro Goncalves, jockey – “I’m satisfied with my meet. It could always be better though; I look at it as a rebuilding year. I was leading rider here for several years, and want to be back on top again. That just means next year I work harder.”

Brittany Waugh, valet (first female to hold the position in Indiana) – “I’ve had a very good meet; a great first experience. I’m much more confident than I was in April, especially with the tough horses. Everyone was super supportive and encouraging and if I ever needed anything I could ask any one of the guys for help. And I’m definitely looking forward to next year.”

The 2016 race meet exceeded the expectations of many horsemen and members of management. Hopefully that is a sign of what is to come in 2017. Safe travels to all and see you in the spring.

Racing dates for 2017 will be approved and announced soon by the Indiana Horse Racing Commission.