03/24/2004 12:00AM

Delta Downs track report


Steve Bourque will collect his seventh Delta Downs riding title when the track closes out its Thoroughbred meet Saturday night. Bourque said he remembers riding for $1,600 purses at Delta. This meet, his mounts have earned more than $1.9 million at the slots-rich track, located in Vinton, La.

Bourque, 41, had won 115 races from 491 mounts through Tuesday.

"This meet has been great for me, especially since the purses have been so good," said Bourque.

The second-leading rider, Guy Smith, has won 74 races and $1.3 million this meet at Delta.

Another rider who has made a splash at the meet is apprentice Brian Hernandez Jr. The son of a Delta-based journeyman rider, Hernandez ranked fifth in the standings through Tuesday, with 56 wins from 344 starts and mount earnings of $895,379.

"He can horseback," said Keith Bourgeois, the leading trainer at Delta. "He's real patient. It looks like he can get a horse to really relax the first part of a race. He's got good hands."

Hernandez, an 18-year-old who attends school during the day and rides at night, will graduate from high school this spring. His agent, Wesley Landry, said that Hernandez will ride at Evangeline Downs in nearby Lafayette after this meet. Landry said that in May Hernandez plans to ride in Kentucky, where he will be represented by agent Fred Aime.

Bourgeois leads the standings with 57 wins, five more than Doris Hebert. Last year, the two tied for leading trainer.

One of Bourgeois's top horses, Oak Hall, has resumed training after getting a vacation. He could make his comeback in the $50,000 John Henry Handicap at Evangeline on May 1.

* Spritely Walker, Kodema and Crowned King will face off in the $100,000 Gulf Coast Classic on Saturday night. Also on Saturday night, Zarb's Magic will run on the undercard in the $40,000 Cajun.