Edited from Evangeline Downs Press Release--
'Louisiana Legends Night,' showcasing eight Louisiana-bred stakes events, highlights a revamped stakes calendar for the 2005 Evangeline Downs Racetrack & Casino Thoroughbred Meeting.
The 2005 meet, which begins April 7, marks the 40th anniversary of racing at Evangeline Downs and the first at the new Racetrack & Casino in Opelousas, Louisiana. Six new stakes events have been added, with a total of $965,000 to be distributed throughout the 17 events. The 40th running of the $100,000 guaranteed D. S. Shine Young Memorial Futurity is the featured event on Louisiana Legends Night, to be run on Saturday, July 2.
"I felt it was important for Evangeline Downs to develop a night of racing dedicated to our Louisiana-bred horses," said new racing secretary Jason Boulet. "Fair Grounds has 'Champions Day', Delta Downs has 'Premier Night' and Louisiana Downs has the 'Louisiana Breeders' Festival.'
"I believe this night will be a success and hopefully, we can begin working with the other tracks to develop this series of races into a year-long event that owners and trainers will want to point their horses toward, and one that will excite racing fans in this state. We have eight events scheduled for 'Legends Night' this year and we plan on adding two more in 2006 when we begin racing on the turf."
The purse for the headline event on Louisiana Legends Night, the D. S. Shine Young Memorial Futurity, remains at its 2004 level of $100,000 guaranteed. One of the premier events for 2-year-olds in the state, the "Shine" will be contested at its traditional five-furlong distance. Last year's edition was captured by The Valene Farm's Smilin Fine, who just nailed front-running Mr. Excellent on the wire to post a head victory abd went on to be named horse of the meet.
Two established events, the $50,000 B. B. "Sixty" Rayburn Stakes and the $50,000 Frank A. "Buddy" Abadie Memorial Stakes, have been moved from earlier stand-alone dates in the season to undercard events on 'Legends Night.' The Rayburn is for 3-year-olds at one mile, while the Abadie is for 3-year-old fillies also contested at the same one-mile distance.
The Rayburn Stakes is named in honor of the former president of the Louisiana Senate who served as a member of the legislature for fifty years. He was instrumental in passing legislation that established the Louisiana Thoroughbred Breeders Association, also serving as its president.
The Abadie Stakes is named in honor of former secretary- treasurer of the LTBA. Abadie was involved in the passage of all legislation related to racing or breeding in the state of Louisiana from 1969-1985. Upon retiring from the group, Abadie became a state steward at Fair Grounds Race Course in New Orleans where he served until retirement.
Five new events that will debut on 'Legends Night' are the $25,000 Mervin Muniz Memorial Starter Handicap Stakes; the $50,000 Pola Benoit Memorial Stakes; the $50,000 J. Archie Sebastien Memorial Stakes; the $50,000 Junius Delahoussaye Memorial Sprint Stakes, and the $50,000 Pierre LeBlanc Memorial Ladies Sprint Stakes.
The Mervin Muniz is named for the popular racing official who began his career at Evangeline Downs in 1966. He served in nearly every official capacity possible in racing, including general manager, prior to his death in 2003.
The Pola Benoit is named for the Rayne, Louisiana native known best for his work with 2-year-olds. Benoit became known as the "King of the 2-year-old Races" run every Jan. 1 at the Fair Grounds in the 1950's and 1960's.
Older fillies and mares will contest the J. Archie Sebastian Memorial Stakes named for the St. Landry Parish native. Sebastien is the third all-time leading trainer at Louisiana Downs and will best be remembered for conditioning top Louisiana-breds Dixie Poker, Ace, and Noztrem.
The Junius Delahoussaye Memorial Sprint Stakes is named for the local conditioner who became known as the "King of the Baby Races" in recognition of his work with young horses. His son, Glenn Delahoussaye, has followed in his footsteps and is a regular fixture on the Evangeline Downs backstretch.
The Pierre LeBlanc honors the former jockey, trainer, owner, breeder, and trader. LeBlanc was one of the first owners of Evangeline Downs and was affectionately known as "The Cajun's Cajun." LeBlanc, a Breaux Bridge native, was also instrumental in the foundation of the LTBA.
Two longstanding events bookend the calendar and make their 40th renewals in 2005. The $50,000 Inaugural Handicap returns to opening night and will highlight the April 7th christening of Thoroughbred racing at the new facility. The 6-furlong event for three-year-olds typically draws the sharpest sprinters in the region.
The $75,000 Lafayette Stakes brings the curtain down on the meeting on Labor Day, September 5 and features 2-year-olds at the distance of 6 furlongs. Last year's winner, My Parade most recently finished fourth in the $1,000,000 Delta Jackpot at Delta Downs on December 4.
The 5-1/2 furlong $50,000 Hallowed Dreams Stakes will be run for the first time in 2005 and is named for the popular filly trained by former HBPA president Lloyd Romero. The sensational filly captured national attention by winning her first 16 lifetime starts with 6 of those coming at Evangeline Downs.
Hallowed Dreams recorded stakes wins in the D. S. Shine Young Memorial Futurity on July 3, 1999 and the Tellike Handicap on June 3, 2000. She lost her first race at the Carencro oval when fading to third in the Millennium Stakes on August 12, 2000.
The fleet-footed daughter of Malagra retired in 2002 with 25 wins from 30 lifetime starts, and amassed lifetime earnings of $740,144.
"We wanted to establish a sprint early in the meeting for 3-year-old fillies," said Boulet. "It seemed natural to name such an event after such an incredibly fast filly."
The $100,000 Evangeline Mile (August 14); the $50,000 John Henry Handicap (May 6); $50,000 Tellike Handicap (May 20); the EvD Need For Speed Sprint Championship; the $75,000-estimated John Franks Memorial Sales Stakes, and the $50,000 Matron Handicap round out the remainder of the Stakes Calendar.
Last year's Evangeline Mile was won for the second year in a row by the Cole Norman trained Pie N Burger. The EvD Need For Speed Sprint Championship has been renamed in 2005 and will be contested at 4 furlongs.
"The Need For Speed Sprint should be one of the most entertaining races of the meeting," said Boulet. "We ran so many sprints at the old track, but had to limit our fields to 10 with the proximity of the starting gate to the first turn when running 4 furlongs. On this new strip, there is plenty of run to the first turn and the sweeping turns should provide for a very fast and competitive sprint."