02/03/2005 1:00AM

Evangeline opening for a day


The new Evangeline Downs Racetrack and Casino in Opelousas, La., will hold its first card on Saturday, with 10 Quarter Horse trial races for the Mardi Gras Futurity and the Mardi Gras Derby. The track will then be dark until it officially begins its inaugural Quarter Horse meet, to run from Feb. 24 through March 27. The finals for both the Mardi Gras Futurity and Derby will be Feb. 26.

The new racetrack-casino complex is the first such facility to be built from the ground up anywhere in the country. The casino portion of the operation opened in December 2003.

The new facility has a one-mile dirt track, a furlong larger than the original Evangeline Downs, which is located in Lafayette, La., approximately 25 miles away. That track is now being used as a training center.

Saturday's program will begin at 6:45 p.m. Central. The first Thoroughbred meeting will run 88 days, from April. 7 through Sept. 5.