Quarter Horses Give Evangeline Momentum

As the Evangeline Downs Racetrack & Casino prepares for its first Thoroughbred meet at its new facility, the track reported positive numbers for a 20-night Quarter Horse meet that concluded March 27.

Evangeline Downs had been located in Carencro, La., but moved about 15 minutes north to Opelousas. The final live meets at the Carencro facility were held last year, though the slot-machine parlor was open at the new facility in 2004.

The Quarter Horse meet generated total all-sources handle of $8,625,927, for an average of $413,296 a night. The closing-night program on Easter Sunday produced total handle of $744,292.

On-track handle on the live product averaged $37,726, up 41.5% from last fall's Quarter Horse meet. Average field size, however, decreased from 7.57 to 7.18.

"I have experienced many openings in my years of racing, but I have never seen an opening go so smoothly," Evangeline executive director of racing operations David Yount said in a release. "We brought a seasoned, dedicated, hard-working, professional staff with us from Carencro, and they easily handled all the issues that frequently present themselves during an opening. I think this carried over positively to our guests in attendance and enhanced their racing experience.

"This was reflected by an increase in our live on-track handle. I am a firm believer in momentum. We closed with a record-setting night for Quarter Horse racing at Evangeline Downs. I believe we have positive momentum on our side as we move toward our April 7 Thoroughbred opening."

The Thoroughbred meet will feature racing four nights a week: Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Mondays. The new Evangeline has a one-mile dirt track compared with a seven-furlong track at the old facility, which is now being used as a training center.

The opening-night feature is the $50,000 Inaugural Handicap for 3-year-olds at six furlongs. The lowest overnight purse for the first three nights of racing is $6,500 for a $3,500 claiming event.

Revenue from slots boosted purses for the 2005 meet. For instance, a $22,000 purse for a Louisiana-bred maiden special weight test includes $13,800 in slots revenue, according to the track condition book. An open maiden special weight event goes for $16,500, of which $10,200 will come from slots revenue.