09/12/2017 4:16PM

Delta cancels Jackpot, Princess for 2017

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Exaggerator, winning the Delta Jackpot in 2015, went on to win the Preakness and the Haskell.

Delta Downs announced Wednesday it was cancelling eight stakes races for 2017 including the $1 million Delta Downs Jackpot and the $500,000 Delta Downs Princess Stakes.

Delta said the economic impact from Hurricane Harvey spurred the stakes cancellation, which includes races in October and November worth $2.3 million. Delta is located in Vinton, La., not far from the Texas border. Owned by Boyd Gaming, Delta operates a casino that generates a significant portion of purse money.

“While we are disappointed to scale back our first-half calendar, we believe this decision is appropriate, given the tremendous amount of damage throughout the region and the current focus on recovery efforts," Steve Kuypers, Delta’s vice president and general manager, said in a press release.

The release said the decision to cancel the stakes, all for open company, was made on the recommendation of the Louisiana Horsemen's  Benevolent and Protective Association’s board of directors, which negotiates purse allocations with tracks before every race meet. Delta hosts a Quarter Horse meet part of the year and runs a Thoroughbred meet from October through late March.

Ed Fenasci, executive director of the LHBPA, confirmed that the organization’s board of directors had voted for the stakes cancellation. Fenasci said Delta reported to the board that they expected business to decline from 30 to 40 percent as a result of Hurricane Harvey, and that the drop lowered the projected purses available from $2.8 to $2.1 million.

“Our board recommended that they first maintain the overnight purse levels, next the Louisiana-bred stakes, and next the open stakes,” Fenasci said.

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Cutting the eight open stakes closed the budgetary hole opened by the hurricane, and Delta intends to keep intact its intended overnight purse structure as well as the Louisiana-bred portion of its stakes schedule.

It is not believed that Delta’s decision at the behest of the HBPA must be approved by the Louisiana Racing Commission, but the matter is expected to come before the LRC at a regularly scheduled meeting on Sept. 25.

The Grade 3 Jackpot dates to 2002, though it was not run in 2005 because of Hurricane Rita. Gunnevera, who recently finished second in the Travers Stakes, won the 2016 edition, and Exaggerator, who would win the 2016 Preakness Stakes, won in 2015. The 2017 Jackpot was scheduled for Nov. 18. The Jackpot and the Grade 3 Princess are Delta’s only two graded stakes. The North American Graded Stakes Committee will review the two races’ grade for 2018, but races don’t become ineligible for grading until they have not been run for two years.

The Jackpot was on the schedule of Kentucky Derby qualifying races and offered 17 points with a 10-4-2-1 distribution to the first four finishers.