The final season of racing at 38-year-old Evangeline Downs kicks off the evening of April 1 with a 100% increase in daily average purses and regular fan appreciation nights.
The 87-date Thoroughbred meet will be the last at the Carencro, La., racetrack before the entire operation moves north to Opelousas, where the Evangeline Downs Racetrack & Casino is located. The slot-machine casino opened in late December, and construction of the grandstand/clubhouse continues.
The programs of April 1-2 drew full fields for most races. Since the slots casino opened, $1.5 million has been generated for Thoroughbred purses. In all, purses and breed development for Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses earn 18% of slots proceeds.
"Purses are the mechanism that drives racing," said David Yount, executive director of racing operations at Evangeline Downs. "Higher purses bring better horses, which bring fuller fields and more competitive racing, which bring higher handles thus generating even higher purses. It all feeds off itself.
"We are very fortunate the casino was able to open early and begin contributing to our racing program. The outlook is not only bright for this season, but for years to come as well. At this time next year, we will be at our new home and have purses moneys generated from an entire off-season. This is only the beginning."
The first stakes of the meet, the $50,000 Inaugural, is slated for April 3. Peninsula Gaming Co., owner of the track, added $125,000 to the stakes program this season. The purse for the Aug. 14 Evangeline Mile purse was raised $25,000 to $100,000; the Sept. 6 Lafayette Stakes went from $50,000 to $75,000; and purses for other stakes were raised from $5,000 to $15,000.
The July 3 D. S. "Shine" Young Memorial Futurity is now guaranteed at $100,000. The $75,000 John Franks Memorial Sales Stakes, set for July 31, will replace the Evangeline Downs Sales Stakes and is named in honor of the late owner/breeder who had a major impact on racing in Louisiana.
For the first time since 1983, a Quarter Horse meet will be held. The 29-date session is scheduled for Sept. 16-Oct. 31, though a full day of Quarter Horse racing is set for Aug. 22 as well.