09/01/2004 12:00AM

Evangeline track report

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CARENCRO, La. - When the curtain comes down on the current season Monday, it will mark the end of an era. Following a Quarter Horse meeting later this fall, racing operations will move 15 miles north on I-49 to the new facility in Opelousas, where the slots portion of the new racino has been in operation since last December. The construction schedule for the new track is running on time, and the new oval should be ready for the 2005 season, which will begin in early April.

There were many highlights during the final season of the 30-year-old present facility, including Pie N Burger's defense of his title in the $100,000 Evangeline Mile, Smilin Fine's stirring rally to capture the $100,000 Shine Young Futurity, and True Concern's domination in the starter allowance ranks.

What may prove to be most memorable, however, is the emergence of yet another young south Louisiana rider, something that has been Evangeline's legacy. Brian Hernandez Jr., a homegrown product of Lafayette and son of journeyman rider Brian Hernandez, will capture his first riding title Monday, despite taking several weeks off to ride the spring Churchill Downs meeting. Hernandez Jr. made quite an impression in Louisville and rode that momentum to a terrific summer here.

Hernandez joins a long list of riders that includes Eddie Delahoussaye, Randy Romero, Ronald Ardoin, Calvin Borel, Robby Albarado, and recent Hall of Fame inductee Kent Desormeaux, all of whom began their careers here.