08/22/2006 11:00PM

Evangeline track report


Few in Louisiana need to be reminded that it was a year ago this week that Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. Rita followed a month later, and all of a sudden the state saw its functioning racetracks reduced from four to two with the damage suffered by Fair Grounds in New Orleans and Delta Downs in the southwestern part of the state.

As a result of these storms and a willingness to cooperate rarely seen in this business, Evangeline Downs has now conducted racing virtually non-stop for about 17 months. It was quite a change for a track that, in recent years, was accustomed to have live racing only from April to early September.

Evangeline's marathon season began in early April 2005. That meet, interrupted for six weeks while the new track's surface was reconfigured, was extended from early to late September.

A new Quarter Horse meeting, mandated by the arrival of slot machines at Evangeline in late 2004, came next with scarcely a day off. A second Quarter Horse season followed, inherited from Louisiana Downs so that the north Louisiana oval could host the transplanted Fair Grounds meeting.

Following the conclusion of the second Quarter Horse meeting in early December, Evangeline announced that it would take over the traditional winter dates lost to Delta Downs as that track rebuilt from the hurricanes. That meeting concluded a week before Evangeline's regular 2006 season got under way in late March. The current stand comes to an end on Labor Day.

The time off will be brief, however, as the fall Quarter Horse meeting gets under way on Sept. 20 and runs through Nov. 25. Following that meeting, David Yount, head of racing operations, has indicated that work should get under way on the long awaited turf course. Its opening was one of the casualties of the busy hurricane season of 2005.