My Pal Charlie won the Super Derby, one of the highlights of the 2008 Louisiana Downs meet.

My Pal Charlie won the Super Derby, one of the highlights of the 2008 Louisiana Downs meet.

Lou Hodges Jr.

La. Downs Closes Meet with Gains

Bucking the national trend, Louisiana Downs posted gains at the close of the 2008 meet. According to a release from the track, the race meet posted increases in handle of 6% on-track, 2% off-track and 2.5% overall.

Fueled by an increase in field size, solid growth in on-track wagering, marketing partnerships with wagering providers, and a near-record Super Derby card, Louisiana Downs posted numbers in the black across the board.

The racing product featured some of the largest fields in the country. The average horse-per-race grew this year to 9.3 from 8.8 last year. Since 2004, field size at Louisiana Downs has grown steadily.

"Our racing signal is growing nationally because of consistently large fields and the value it offers to handicappers," said Mark Midland, vice president of racing operations. "We appreciate the response of the horsemen to our racing program."

Interest in the Louisiana Downs product was strong locally as well.

"Our fans were excited about Louisiana Downs racing and responded accordingly," said Midland. "We saw increases in attendance and handle on our Super Saturday cards, the big national days of racing and Super Derby Day."

Now in the third year of a marketing partnership, posted increases on Louisiana Downs racing once again.  The online provider doubled their handle on Louisiana Downs from 2005 to 2007, and grew by another 10% in 2008.  Louisiana Downs also reached an agreement with TVG network in late July, and the racing network's average handle jumped by 105% each day.

The meet highlight was My Pal Charlie scoring a definitive win in the Super Derby over the talented Macho Again and Forest Command. The Al Stall-trainee will start next in the $1-million Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile at Santa Anita Oct. 25.

The Super Derby day handle of $7,139,542 was the second highest of all time in the 35-year history of Louisiana Downs.

Other meet highlights included Tortuga Flats, one of the most consistent grass mares in the region, taking home the River Cities against open-company on the Super Derby under card. Also, Patrick Valenzuela  earned his 4,000th victory during the season.

The leading trainer title went to Jorge Lara, leading owner to Jan Haynes and the meet's leading rider was Don Simington.

The meet was originally scheduled for 85 days but was shortened by a half-day when the Sept. 13th card was shortened due to high winds caused by Hurricane Ike. Last year's meet was 91 days long.