Fans Return To Horse Races As Indiana Slowly Reopens

Posted on July 6, 2020 - Last Updated on February 12, 2021

Indiana horse racing is almost back to full speed.

Horse racing returned in the Hoosier State on June 15, but without fans. That was the same day that casinos reopened throughout the state.

Now that the Fourth of July has passed, spectators can return to Indiana’s racetracks.

The holiday marked the start of a new stage in the state’s reopening plan, although it wasn’t the stage businesses were expecting.

Indiana is now in reopening stage 4.5

Indiana is starting to pump the brakes when it comes to reopening.

The state has been following Gov. Eric Holcomb’s Back on Track reopening plan.

Indiana entered stage four of the plan back in mid-June, which is what allowed casinos and racetracks to reopen in the first place.

Originally, the Fourth of July was going to mark the start of stage five, where all restrictions would be lifted off of businesses.

However, that’s no longer the case. Rising COVID-19 cases around the country prompted Gov. Holcomb to add an extra stage to the plan.

The new stage 4.5 will be running from July 4 through July 17.

The rules for the new half stage haven’t changed much, so it’s mostly just an extension of the fourth stage by a handful of weeks.

Some casinos are making their own new rules, even in the absence of extra restrictions coming from the state. For example, Caesars now requires gamblers to wear masks inside at all of its properties.

However, that doesn’t apply to the company’s outdoor racetracks at locations like Shelbyville’s Indiana Grand Casino.

For now, raceways and entertainment sites can only operate at half capacity. Social distancing guidelines also have to be in place.

Holcomb may end up extending the state’s restrictions even further. There’s no way to know for sure yet, but as we get closer to that July 17 date, Indiana will release new info on whether or not the state will finally be moving to stage five.

Indiana Grand hosts Kentucky Derby qualifier

Since the coronavirus pandemic pushed the Kentucky Derby back to September 5, its qualifying races had to find new dates as well.

One of those rescheduled qualifiers will now be taking place at Indiana Grand’s racetrack.

The “Indiana Derby” will take place on July 8 and it is featuring plenty of Churchill Downs regulars.

Eric Halstrom, Indiana Grand’s vice president, told WISH-TV that he’s thankful that the casino was able to land one of the Derby’s rescheduled qualifiers.

“We are grateful to Churchill Downs for giving us this opportunity. I think you will see come July 8, some really, really good horses who are trying to get into the Kentucky Derby. We have never been a part of this and we probably never will be again.”

A qualifier for the Kentucky Derby is a big score for Indiana Grand’s racetrack. It’s sure to attract racing fans from all around Indiana.

However, even though things are back up and running, there are still some concerns about the future.

The first round of shutdowns took a toll on the state’s racetracks. Joe Davis, the president of the Indiana Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, is worried that more closures could be on the horizon.

“I haven’t seen anything like it. 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. The horses have to be fed, taken care of and exercised, the expenses go on.”

Even if more closures are coming in the future, racetracks can at least try to make the most of the time they have now. With fans back in attendance, weekly races will be running until mid-November at Indiana Grand’s racetrack.

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Jake Garza

Jake Garza is a US Gambling Industry Analyst for Catena Media. He specializes in Midwest sports betting and casino content. Prior to covering the legal gambling industry, he spent time as a professional sports writer, reporting on teams such as the Cincinnati Bengals, Indianapolis Colts and Indiana Pacers. Garza is currently working as a Managing Editor for PlayIndiana and PlayOhio, with previous stops at other well-known brands such as PlayIllinois and PlayMichigan. He has been covering the gambling industry since 2019, and currently works with a team of other journalists to provide comprehensive coverage of the legal U.S. gambling industry.

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