01/05/2005 12:00AM

Evangeline Downs: Trials start it off

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Evangeline Downs will offer seven Quarter Horse stakes worth a cumulative $165,000 during its inaugural meet at the track's new site in Opelousas, La. Trials for the estimated $100,000 Mardi Gras Futurity for Louisiana-breds, the richest stakes on the schedule, will usher in racing in Opelousas on Feb. 5. The 300-yard finale will be held on Feb. 26.

Evangeline has moved operations from its old site in Carencro, La., and now operates a slots casino in Opelousas.

The Mardi Gras is on the Evangeline stakes calendar for the first time. Previously it was held at Fair Grounds in New Orleans. Other Quarter Horse stakes of note during the Evangeline meet are the

$50,000-estimated Mardi Gras Derby for Louisiana-breds on Feb. 26, and the $20,000-added Rockets Magic Stakes for 3-year-old Louisiana-breds on March 27.

Though Evangeline has races on Feb. 5, it will not begin its Quarter Horse meet in earnest until Feb. 24. The 21-night meet will then be conducted on a Thursday through Sunday night basis through March 27.

The first Thoroughbred meet at Evangeline's new site will run for 88 days, from April 7 to Sept. 5.