(Edited press release)
Evangeline Downs Racetrack & Casino will introduce turf racing on opening night of its 89-day spring/summer racing season April 8.
The seven-furlong turf course, with a 1 1/8-mile chute has been christened the “David A. Yount Turf Course” in honor of Evangeline’s former executive director of racing and assistant general manager.
Yount, who passed away last April after a year-long battle with cancer, was a racing executive for nearly 20 years at Louisiana Downs and El Commandante Racetrack in Puerto Rico before joining Evangeline Downs in 2002.
Coming off a record breaking 2008, which featured all-time records in both simulcast handle and total handle, and in field size average, Evangeline Downs will offer horsemen a solid stakes schedule, as well as a nightly overnight purse structure of approx. $175,000.
Evangeline Downs last year averaged nearly 10.2 starters per race over the spring/summer season, according to a track release. At press time entries have been drawn for the first three nights of racing, and horsemen have filled the entry box with a total of 356 horses, an average of nearly 12 runners per race set to compete on the opening night and the Thursday and Friday programs.
New racing secretary Coleman Lloyd, who was hired in January to take the reins from Jason Boulet, who departed to the Fairgrounds, has enticed several new stables for the upcoming season. They include Stanley Roberts and John Locke, as well as Steve Asmussen and Florida-based Kenny Decker.
The stakes schedule is highlighted by the fifth edition of “Louisiana Legends Night,” which features 24 stakes events worth more than $1.85 million, with five events scheduled to be run on the new turf course.
The new turf events are as follows: The April 18 John Henry Stakes; the May 2 Tellike Stakes; the July 4 Mervin Muniz Starter and Attaway Darbonne Stakes; and the July 26 Matron Stakes. All of these events, with the exception of the Attaway Darbonne, will have a purse of $50,000. The Darbonne will be worth $100,000.
“We are excited to begin racing again,” Steve Darbonne, director of racing operations. “Despite all the uncertainty regarding the current economic climate, we are optimistic we will have another excellent season, our product continues to improve in quality, and our fan base continues to expand nationally as people have really embraced the exciting and competitive racing product Evangeline Downs offers.”
A total of 118 horses were entered the April 8 10-race program, including six oversubscribed events. The following two programs drew 121 and 117 entries respectively.
This year’s meet will again run through the traditional closing night, Sept. 7, with racing conducted Wednesday through Saturday. Post time will be 6:20 p.m. CT on all nights.