10/03/2011 1:20PM

Evangeline Downs Quarter Horses meet gets under way

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Evangeline Downs in Opelousas, La., shifts into Quarter Horse mode Wednesday night, when it opens for a 46-date meet for the blazing-fast breed. The season will run through Dec. 17.

Evangeline’s biggest night of racing will be Nov. 19, when the slots-rich track puts on three stakes led by the Louisiana Quarter Horse Breeders’ Association Breeders’ Futurity. Last year, the restricted Grade 1 was worth $526,593, which made the 400-yard race for Louisiana-breds the most lucrative stakes run in 2010 at Evangeline. Trials for this year’s Breeders’ Futurity will be held Nov. 4.

The other two stakes on the Nov. 19 card will be a consolation for the Breeders’ Futurity and the $50,000 Evangeline Downs Derby.

The meet’s seven-race stakes schedule also includes the $75,000-added Evangeline Downs Futurity on Dec. 17. Trials for the 400-yard race will be held Dec. 1. The first stakes of the meet comes Saturday night, with the running of the $30,000-added Don Cravins. The 400-yard race is for 3-year-olds and up bred in Louisiana.

Jockey Alfonso Lujan is back for the new meet in search of his fifth consecutive Evangeline riding title. He leads a colony that includes Danny Lavergne, who won the title at last month’s Quarter Horse meet at Fair Grounds in New Orleans. Gilbert Ortiz also is expected to ride on a regular basis at Evangeline.

Among trainers, Vann Haywood has returned to defend his Evangeline title against a group of horsemen that includes Kenneth Roberts Sr. Roberts picked up his second consecutive Fair Grounds training title last month, when he won four races on the track’s closing-day card Sept. 24.

Haywood and Roberts will square off in Wednesday’s opening-night feature, a conditioned allowance for 3-year-olds and up. Haywood will send out possible favorite Big Streakin in the 300-yard race, while Roberts will counter with a capable filly, The Louisiana Lassie.

Evangeline will race on a Wednesday through Saturday night basis most weeks, with no live racing on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 24. The track also will add Tuesday cards to its raceweek in December, on both Dec. 6 and Dec. 13. Evangeline has set a regular first post of 5:40 p.m. Central.