08/26/2003 11:00PM

Era ends at Evangeline this weekend

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LAFAYETTE, La. - When the Evangeline Downs meet concludes on Monday, it will mark the end of an era.

It won't be a melancholy occasion, however, as good things lie ahead for Evangeline Downs, which will have a slots casino up and running by the time it begins its 2004 racing season next April 1. The present facility will host one more season of racing, while the casino will be located at Evangeline's new site 15 miles north on I-49. Racing is scheduled to begin there in 2005.

Closing weekend will have its moments. A pair of stakes highlight the holiday weekend - the $35,000 Matron Handicap for fillies and mares on Saturday night and Monday's closing night feature, the $50,000 Lafayette Stakes for 2-year-olds.

Eagle Lake is the highweight in the Matron, carrying 122 pounds. Cole Norman, who successfully shipped Pie N Burger in from his Louisiana Downs home base to win the $75,000 Evangeline Mile two weeks ago, trains Eagle Lake.

Defending Matron champ Prized Amberpro is also a win possibility, bringing a record of 3-1-0 from four starts at this track into the race.

Streak of Smoke, winner of the Evangeline Sales Stakes and second in the D. A. "Shine" Young Futurity in his two previous local starts, should be heavy favorite in the Lafayette.