08/13/2003 12:00AM

Evangeline track report


LAFAYETTE, La. - Many jockeys go through dry spells, but few can rival the 25 years between wins for Don LeBlanc. Now 45, LeBlanc retired from racing at age 20 and sat on the sidelines until early this year when he made a comeback, highlighted by a win last month.

LeBlanc cut his teeth in the famed Louisiana bushes, regularly competing against fellow Bayou State natives Randy Romero, Mark Guidry, Ronald Ardoin, Eddie Delahoussaye, and Ray Sibille. He formally began his riding career upon completion of high school in 1974. Riding at Delta Downs and the now defunct Jefferson Downs, he recorded 74 wins in his first three years. In 1978, when his wife Michele was about to give birth, he decided to hang up his tack.

After several years in private business and a steady increase in his body weight, LeBlanc began to suffer from back problems. In an attempt to relieve pressure on his back, he enrolled in a weight reduction program at the Fontana Center in Lafayette.

"They told me for every one pound of weight that came off, it is equal to four pounds of pressure on your back," LeBlanc said. "When I got down to 130 pounds, I felt great. I realized if I just lost another 12-14 pounds, I could return to racing."

LeBlanc now rides because he wants to. He currently tacks 118 pounds and has ridden 107 horses this summer.