by SCOTT SHAPIRO

The Indiana Grand racing calendar began on Tuesday, as did my role as Daily Selections handicapper for the 120-day meet that runs through October 28.

It was a great start to the meet at the Shelbyville, Indiana, venue largely in part to a rapidly improving jockey colony, large field sizes, and a ton of opportunities to find value over the eight Thoroughbred races run over each of the first two days.

The riding colony at Indiana Grand in 2016 was solid led by leading riders Fernando De La Cruz, Albin Jimenez, Rodney Prescott, and Marcelino Pedroza. However, the group of quality jockeys improved dramatically in 2017 with the additions of several strong riders from other regions of the United States.

46-year-old Deshawn Parker leads the list of new jocks this calendar year. Parker has won more than 5,200 races, mostly at Mountaineer Race Track but decided to move to Indiana Grand in 2017 due to a decrease in racing days and purses at the West Virginia.

With agent Jimmy McNerny handling his book, Parker got off to a fast start, winning 2 races and hitting the board in 6 others from his first 11 mounts. Expect big things from Parker all meet long.

In addition to Parker, jockey Alonso Quinonez also shifted his tack to Indiana this year after winning the riding title at Turfway Park. Quinonez had several successful seasons in California, including a win on Premier Pegasus in the 2011 rendition of the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes and Richard’s Kid in the Grade 1 Goodwood Stakes at Hollywood Park in 2010.

Quinonez has found his way into some strong barns and picked up his first victory of the meet on Wednesday aboard Midwest Thorougbreds, Arsenalofdemocracy. His 7 in-the-money efforts over his first 12 mounts is extremely encouraging. His patience and ability to win from off the pace should be greatly appreciated in Indiana.

Florida based rider Manoel Cruz and veteran Gabriel Saez also will make Indiana Grand home over the next several months.

When I first started to dig in to my research at Indiana Grand one of the most notable statistics was the incredibly strong average field sizes.

The 8.33 horses per race in 2016 over a 962-race sample made me salivate. Sure, a track can still have quality racing without massive fields, but few things ensure opportunities for horseplayers more than a consistent quantity of runners on each card.  

Little changed over the first couple of days at Indiana Grand as the racing office put together cards that easily surpassed an average of over 9 horses per race over the first 16 races of the meeting, including an incredibly strong 77 runners over the 8 thoroughbred races written on Opening Day.

It is hardly surprising that with the large field sizes came strong numbers in the pari-mutuel pools, including an average Win payoff of over $15 and an average payout in the Pick 4 pools offered daily in Races 2 through 5 and 5 through 8 of $2332.59 on a fifty-cent denomination (for more stats, see the Brisnet.com At-A-Glance tables below).

Things should get even better when turf racing commences in Indiana, but in the interim, racing continues on Friday, and I’m look forward to the first weekend of the meeting.

INDIANA GRAND RACE COURSE AT A GLANCE
Avg. Winning Odds: 6.58 - 1
Favorite Win%: 31%, Favorite Itm%: 75%
EXOTICS PAYOFF
Exacta 90.59
Daily Double 100.81
Trifecta 536.59
Pick 3 562.39
Superfecta 4,041.75
Pick 4 9,330.35
Super High Five 9,987.00
 
TRACK BIAS WEEK(04/18 - 04/19)
Distance #
Race
%
Wire
Best
Style
Best
Posts
 
5.5fDirt 8 63% E Outside  
6.0fDirt 4 50% E Mid/Out  
1 MileDirt 1 0% E/P Inside  
1m 70yDirt 3 33% E/P Middle  
Turf Sprint 0 0% - na  
Turf Routes 0 0% - na  
Who's HOT, Who's NOT
HOT TRAINERS Starts Wins Place Show Avg.
Odds
Winning
Favorites
'16-' 17
Win%
Kobiskie Dane 3 2 1 0 0.67 2 18%
Hammond Kim 4 2 0 1 13.13 1 19%
Klopp Randy L. 5 2 1 1 6.52 0 10%
HOT JOCKEYS Starts Wins Place Show Avg.
Odds
Winning
Favorites
'16-' 17
Win%
Pompell Thomas L. 9 3 2 1 22.68 0 9%
COLD JOCKEYS Starts Wins Place Show Avg.
Odds
Beaten
Favorites
'16-' 17
Win%
Prescott Rodney A. 10 0 1 1 34.39 0 13%