05/10/2004 11:00PM

Entries strong at Louisiana Downs

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A total of 118 horses were entered Tuesday for Friday's 11-race opening day program at Louisiana Downs.

Louisiana Downs will race 102 dates for Thoroughbreds this year, through Oct. 31. The track, which installed slot machines last year, is opening several weeks earlier than usual this season. For the past few years, opening weekend has been in late June.

The feature on Friday is the $50,000 John Franks Memorial. It drew the biggest field, with 13 starters entered in the one-mile turf race for Louisiana-breds, including stakes winners Pink Duck, Witt Ante, White Star, and Old Lee.

Pat Pope, director of racing operations and racing secretary at Louisiana Downs, said the track will run a minimum of 10 races a day. The track will race on a Thursday-through-Sunday schedule, as well as on holiday Mondays.

Louisiana Downs, located in Bossier City, La., is about a 3 1/2-hour drive from Lone Star Park near Dallas, and with its longer season this year, there will be more overlap than ever before between the two tracks. They will conflict for eight weeks this summer, and another four during the month of October, when Lone Star runs a fall meet to accommodate the Breeders' Cup.

That could test the region's horse population, although that was not the case on Tuesday. Lone Star also took entries, but for Thursday night. There were 98 horses entered in nine races at Lone Star.