An appearance by Jake Delhomme -- this time in the role of Thoroughbred owner -- was just one of many highlights on an evening when more than $1 million in purse money was up for grabs for Louisiana-breds at Delta Downs Racetrack & Casino.
The Feb. 7 Louisiana Premier Night, which featured 10 stakes for purses of $50,000 to $200,000, generated total handle of more than $2.1 million. Attendance wasn't available, but the parking lot at Delta Downs, located in Vinton near the Texas line, was jammed, in part because of a late-night car giveaway in the slots casino.
The $200,000 Premier Night Classic at 1 1/16 miles went to Heiligbrodt Racing Stable's Spritely Walker, who gave jockey Shane Sellers, in from New Orleans, his third and final victory on the program. Trained by Steve Asmussen, Spritely Walker, the 123-pound highweight, had the rail and held on under constant pressure to win by 1¾ lengths in 1:46. 71. Mr. Archibald was second and Prince Slew third.
Purchased privately by Bill Heiligbrodt a year ago, the 4-year-old gelding Spritely Walker (Skywalker -- Knightly Spritely, by Knightly Dawn) won the Louisiana Champions Day Classic at Fair Grounds in mid-December.
Another of Sellers' wins came aboard Vickie Krantz's Destiny Calls in the $150,000 Premier Night Distaff at one mile. A homebred by With Approval -- Longue Vue, by Miswaki, Destiny Calls also had the rail and lead under hounding pressure but had enough class to hold off Legs O'Neal by a neck in 1:40.29. Cute N Noble checked in third.
Destiny Calls, a 4-year-old filly, is now five for eight in her career. The Premier Night Distaff was her first stakes victory.
Delhomme, quarterback for the Carolina Panthers, entered Ruthy Red in the first race of the night, the $50,000 Premier Night Bon Temps Starter Stakes at five furlongs. Trained by Delhomme's father, Jerry, Ruthy Red was claimed for $7,500 Jan. 10 at Delta Downs and fit the starter-allowance conditions of the race.
Ruthy Red checked in seventh and last after an early duel in the race won by heavy favorite Auntie's Bag. Still, Jake Delhomme was a big hit. He walked over with his new purchase from the barn area, signed some autographs, watched the race on the apron, and walked back to the barn after the race.
Delhomme looked the part of a horseman -- jeans, boots, a cap, and a jacket -- and told The Blood-Horse
he loves the business.
"I stay in the barn area (with the horses), and go right back after the races," said Delhomme, of Breaux Bridge, La. "We keep the operation small, but it's a lot of fun."
Delhomme, whose Panthers lost this year's Super Bowl in a close one to the New England Patriots, said he has no plans to give up football for horse racing. Still, he has plans to get more involved in the future.
"I don't like to play golf, and I don't hunt or fish," Delhomme said. "After football is over, I think I'll play around with the horses."
Premier Night was the second program in which Delta Downs gave away more than $1 million in purses. In December, the track offered the $1-million Delta Jackpot, now its signature race for 2-year-olds.