04/04/2011 2:16PM

Evangeline Downs meet opens with big fields

Barbara D. Livingston
Chipshot is the morning-line favorite for Wednesday's $50,000 Inaugural Stakes, the opening-day feature at Evangeline Downs.

OPELOUSAS. La. – Evangeline Downs calls itself “home of the biggest fields,” and while it officially lost that distinction in 2010 when surpassed by Remington Park in the average number of starters per race, it looks poised to make a run at regaining the top position.

Evangeline Downs, which averaged 9.7 starters per race last year compared to Remington’s 10.1, opens its 2011 meet Wednesday with a total of 110 horses entered for its 10-race program. Another 115 are slated for Thursday night’s card, and Friday’s 11-race slate drew a whopping 129 runners.

“We have almost 4,000 sets of foal papers on file,” Evangeline racing secretary Coleman Lloyd said about his wealth of horses to draw from. “We have four training centers within easy driving distance that are all full, and of course we had more stall applications than we have space here at the track.”

In addition to sheer numbers at the 89-day stand that runs through Labor Day, bettors can expect additional turf racing as well as a new 50-cent trifecta on all races with six or more betting interests. Daily purse distribution will approach $180,000 a day, with maiden special weights carrying a $22,000 purse. First post time for the Wednesday through Saturday schedule will be 5:40 Central.

“The turf course is in great shape now that it is in its third year of use,” Lloyd said. “Our first grass race will be the John Henry Stakes on April 16, and from then on we plan on using the course quite a bit.”

Other major events include Louisiana Showcase Night, a program of all Louisiana-bred stakes on July 2; the $125,000 Evangeline Mile on Aug. 23; and the closing-day $100,000 Lafayette Stakes for 2-year-olds, which has been moved to the grass this year.

The season’s stakes schedule kicks off Wednesday with the $50,000 Inaugural Stakes. The six-furlong affair for 3-year-olds drew a filed of 10, with the Steve Asmussen-trained Chipshot the 3-1 morning-line favorite. A son of Peace Rules, Chipshot has been idle since a fifth-place performance in the Springboard Mile at Remington in December. Gerard Melancon will handle the riding chores.

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