06/11/2014 1:08PM

Former NFL star Delhomme enjoying second career


OPELOUSAS. La. – What does an NFL quarterback who grew up in horse-rich Cajun country do when he retires? He goes to work at the racetrack, of course.

“I love it,” said Jake Delhomme, whose Carolina Panthers lost to the heavily favored New England Patriots, 32-29, in the Super Bowl following the 2003 regular season, his first with the team.

Delhomme owns and breeds horses and works as a bloodstock agent.

“It is very humbling,” he said. “I guess that is why I like it so much. It’s a lot of work. It can be a grind sometimes, but at the same time, it can be very rewarding.”

Delhomme can be found most mornings on the Evangeline backside with his father, Jerry, and brother, Jeff, both licensed trainers. Racing has always been a big part of the Delhomme family.

“We didn’t grow up doing a lot of hunting or fishing or playing golf,” Jake Delhomme said. “We were always doing something with the horses. We had a barn behind the house; it was a lot of fun. Dad always had a couple of horses that he trained part time when he was still working for the state. When he retired, he went full time. He started with Quarter Horses, then we transitioned to Thoroughbreds in the early ‘90s.”

Delhomme, who played college ball nearby at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, was selected to play in the Pro Bowl following the 2005 regular season and retired from football in 2011.

“Football allowed me to do a lot of things, including taking our horse operation to a new level,” he said. “Playing ball took a lot of time, and I enjoyed it, but when the season was over, I really liked getting back into racing.”

In addition to being a hands-on owner, Delhomme dabbles in the sales ring.

“I do some pinhooking,” he said. “It is something I find extremely interesting – going to the sales, researching pedigrees.”

Delhomme also is involved as a breeder and serves as president of the Louisiana Thoroughbred Breeders Association. When asked about the state of the breeding industry in Louisiana, Delhomme was decidedly upbeat.

“I think the quality of Louisiana-breds is 10 times better than it was a few years ago,” he said. “I look around and see how competitive we are on a national level and feel good about where we are. Of course, I wish the total number of foals were a little better in the state, but I think that is the case everywhere. I think we are still working through the recession, and the numbers will come back.”

◗ Alex Cortez, one of several apprentice riders here, picked up his first win Saturday, when he booted home Raising a Star ($27.60) in the evening’s seventh race. A native of Mexico, Cortez is known for his sunny demeanor. “I feel good, and I love my job,” he likes to say.

◗ A field of seven will go 7 1/2 furlongs in Friday night’s allowance feature, headed by Monkey’s Three. Trained by Allen Landry, Monkey’s Three just missed for the same condition in her last start and returns to the surface that produced her maiden win here last year. Gerard Melancon will handle the riding chores.