04/06/2005 12:00AM

Evangeline track report


Due in large part to the continued development of the slots casino, purses are up a healthy 25 percent from 2004 in the first condition book for the first season at the new Evangeline Downs in Opelousas, La. The meet began Thursday night.

Purses are at approximately $150,000 per day in 2005 as compared with the $120,000 per day at the end of the 2004 season at the former racing facility, in nearby Carencro, La.

Since the drop of the first coin at Evangeline Downs Racetrack and Casino on Dec. 19, 2003, Thoroughbred purses have increased a remarkable 140 percent from their 2003 levels of $63,000 per day.

"Purses are the mechanism that drive racing," said David A. Yount, Evangeline Downs's executive director of racing operations. "Higher purses bring better horses, which bring fuller fields and more competitive racing, generating larger handles. It all feeds off itself.

"Last year we averaged 9.45 starters per race, one of the highest in the country. Our ultimate goal is to have the largest field sizes in the country and to be one of the premier racing facilities in North America."

Fields averaged 10.45 starters the first two days through the entry box.

"The response by horsemen thus far has been outstanding," said new racing secretary Jason Boulet. "The first two days of entries exceeded my expectations and I think our fans will enjoy the product we put on the track."

* Interest also ran high in the third annual Evangeline Downs 2-year-old in training sale, held last week. A group of 49 youngsters passed through the sales ring for a total of $479,000, an average of $9,775. The average showed an increase of 13 percent over the 2004 sale.

The sale-topper was the Louisiana-bred Gays Dream Girl. A daughter of Wire Me Collect out of the Carr de Naskra mare Fly de Naskra, Gays Dream Girl was bought by Gerald Patin for $44,000. All graduates of the sale are automatically eligible for the $75,000 John Franks Memorial Sales Stakes, to be held on July 30.