(from Evangeline Downs report)
Jockey Gerard Melancon recorded the 3,000th victory of his career in the ninth race, a $31,000 entry level allowance race for Louisiana breds, Thursday evening at Evangeline Downs Racetrack and Casino.
The 39 year-old native of Rayne, La. who now resides in nearby Scott, La., rode Switch Grass Gas to a 5 3/4-length victory in his sixth and final mount on the program.
After beginning his career at Evangeline Downs in 1983, Melancon won riding titles at Evangeline Downs on four occasions (1984, '86, '97, and '00) as well as back to back titles at Louisiana Downs (2002 and 2003). Back riding at Evangeline Downs on a regular basis for the first time since 2000, Melancon now splits his time between the Fair Grounds and Evangeline Downs.
Melancon, who captured the 2002 Vosburgh Handicap (gr. I) at Belmont Park aboard Bonapaw (the best of 10 stakes wins he and the millionaire sprinter racked up in their partnership) also won the 2004 Super Derby (gr. II) with Fantasticat in a career in which his mounts have earned more than $41 million dollars. In addition to his victory total, Melancon has also recorded 2,943 seconds and 2,768 thirds in 21,743 mounts.
“I feel great," Melancon said after reaching the milestone. "After I won the second race, I called my wife and told her to hurry up and bring the boys because I thought tonight was going to be the night. Switch Grass Gas was nice and relaxed the entire way and, when I called on him, he responded and I just had to keep him out of traffic”.
Melancon was joined in the winner’s circle by his wife, Annette, and sons, Jansen and Jonas, as well as the members of the Evangeline Downs jockey colony.
Also in the winner’s circle making a presentation to Melancon in honor of his career milestone was David A. Yount, executive director of racing operations at Evangeline Downs. “We are so pleased that Gerard earned his milestone victory tonight in front of his family and most ardent and loyal fans,” Yount said.
Making his first start at Evangeline Downs after racing at the Fairgrounds this past winter, Switch Grass Gas, a 3-year-old gelding by Malagra, powered to the lead mid-stretch after racing well off the pace in the early stages of the one mile, 70-yard event. The running time of 1:43 3/5 on a track labeled fast was just two-fifths of a second off the track record set by Biloxi Breeze last year. Trained by Sturges Ducoing for owner Valene Farms, Switch Grass Gas returned $11.40 for the win, the second in his eight race career.