09/27/2005 11:00PM

Delta meeting in doubt

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There was standing room only at a two-hour horsemen's meeting at Evangeline Downs in Opelousas, La., on Wednesday, with the immediate future of Delta Downs in Vinton. La., the main topic of discussion. Delta Downs was scheduled to open an 88-date Thoroughbred meet Oct. 21, but was hit hard last Saturday by Hurricane Rita.

The stable area suffered significant damage, according to a preliminary assessment by the Louisiana Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association.

"It's far too great to hold any meet in the foreseeable future," said Sean Alfortish, president of the Louisiana horsemen's association.

Alfortish said his organization estimates Delta will not be able to conduct racing until the early part or middle of 2006.

As a result, the Louisiana horsemen's group is in the process of trying to negotiate moving the Delta meet to Evangeline, which is located about 120 miles to the east and will open a meet for Quarter Horses on Saturday. Alfortish said the goal would be to start the Delta meet on or before Dec. 1. Delta's signature race, the $1 million Delta Jackpot, is scheduled for Dec. 2.

Delta is the second track in Louisiana to have an upcoming meet jeopardized by a hurricane. Fair Grounds in New Orleans suffered damage to its facility during Hurricane Katrina, and an abbreviated 2005-2006 meet is expected to be conducted this winter at Louisiana Downs. In order for that to happen, the scheduled Quarter Horse meet at Louisiana Downs would probably also have to be moved to Evangeline Downs.

Both moves are subject to approval from the Louisiana Racing Commission.