10/27/2008 11:00PM

Delta drawing new stables for 88-night meet


Delta Downs in Vinton, La., has adjusted the purses for its two richest stakes races, lured some strong new stables to town, and named a new racing secretary last week in a handful of changes made for its 88-date meet that opens Wednesday night. The season will run through March 28.

Delta has reduced the purse of its Grade 3 Jackpot from $1 million to $750,000 this meet in part to boost the value of the Grade 3 Delta Princess from $300,000 to $500,000. Both races are for 2-year-olds and are part of an expanded, six-stakes card worth $1.5 million at the track Dec. 5.

"This is the first year for the Delta Princess to be a Grade 3, and with the purse being so big, we hope we get some really good fillies for the race," said Chris Warren, director of racing at Delta. "Now we've got two grade threes with Grade 1 purses. We've got two major races."

The Jackpot, at 1 1/16 miles, was introduced in 2002 with a purse of $500,000. It was boosted to $1 million a year later and remained at that level through 2007. The Delta Princess, to be run at a mile, is the second Thoroughbred stakes to be given graded status in the more than 30-year history of Delta.

The track, which operates 1,620 slot machines, has budgeted purses at $220,000 a day. The purse structure, as well as the cancellation of the Sam Houston Race Park meet due to damage from Hurricane Ike, has led to some new names on the backstretch. Warren said Delta expects to have divisions of horses from high-percentage trainers Tom Amoss, John Locke, and Bob Young. Locke and Young had been mainstays at Sam Houston, which sustained structural damage to its grandstand roof in the storm.

"We'll get a few more horses, and some more people betting on our signal out there," Warren said.

Delta is located just two hours from Sam Houston, but the track avoided serious damage from Hurricane Ike.

"We're in good shape here," Warren said.

John Simon, the assistant racing secretary at Delta since 2006, has been promoted to racing secretary in the wake of Trent McIntosh taking a similar position at Louisiana Downs. McIntosh had been the racing secretary at Delta since 1998.

"John's been the assistant and also our stakes coordinator, so a lot of people know him pretty well around here," Warren said.

Simon has a 38-race, $4 million stakes program for this meet. Among the highlights are Jackpot Night and the $1 million Louisiana Premier Night program of 10 statebred stakes Feb. 7.

Keith Bourgeois is back to defend his training title, while Gerard Melancon, who last meet set a single-season record for wins by a jockey at Delta, is back to lead this year's colony.

New faces include John Hirdes, who in the ninth race Wednesday night has his first mount since 1999. Don Simington, winner of the riding title at Louisiana Downs, also will be based at Delta this meet.