08/14/2006 11:00PM

Gaston-breds hit the track


Jim Gaston has broadened the scope of his involvement in Louisiana racing. Not only is he a trainer winning races at a 25 percent rate at Louisiana Downs and a 32 percent clip at Evangeline Downs, but he also has entered the breeding market. Gaston has imported the stallion A.P. Delta to Louisiana, and he and his wife, Rene, have purchased a handful of broodmares, bringing them in from Kentucky and Florida.

"The breeding program is so lucrative here, we thought we'd give it a try," he said. "I've got a little bit of land, you can sell them for a nice profit, and get [a percentage] of what they earn after you sell the horse."

Gaston's first shot at breeder awards comes this year, as the first group of horses that he and Rene bred hit the track. Validation, a colt Gaston sold as a weanling at auction for $75,000, was purchased last year as a yearling at Keeneland for $185,000. He is a Louisiana-bred son of Yes It's True and shows some June works at Aqueduct.

Closer to home, the group of Louisiana-bred juveniles that will debut later in the meet for Gaston includes offspring of Doneraile Court, Time Bandit, Running Stag, West Acre, and Dance Master.

"They're all by good studs that are doing well, and out of good mares," said Gaston. "We bought these mares in foal in Kentucky and Florida, and foaled them out here in Louisiana."

Some of them were bred back to A.P. Delta, whom Gaston stands at Moon Lake Equine Center, just south of Louisiana Downs. He put out word he was looking for a stallion, and was helped in his search by bloodstock agent Jim Cullen.

A.P. Delta was imported from Kentucky. He is a son of A.P. Indy and out of the Group 2-winning mare Lyphard's Delta. He is a winning full brother to Grade 1 winner Indy Five Hundred and multiple Grade 3 winner Delta Princess.

Gaston said he plans to sell five A.P. Delta yearlings that he bred at an auction at Louisiana Downs in October. Gaston has long been a fixture here, winning the training titles at Louisiana Downs in 1993, 1995, and 1996. Through the years, he has developed such 2-year-old stakes winners as Brassy Wells, Came Unwound, Lonely Concorde, Picture I.D., and Smithquick.

Gaston opened the Louisiana Downs meet by winning with seven of his first eight starters. His recent winners include 10-year-old Luck Arrives, who picked up his fifth win in his last seven starts over the weekend.

Happy Ticket to parade Saturday

Louisiana Downs will card $1.3 million worth of stakes for Louisiana-breds on Saturday, and during the program will honor one of the best Louisiana-breds of all time, Happy Ticket. She is to be paraded before the public after the third race, said Mark Midland, vice president of racing operations for Louisiana Downs.

Happy Ticket is a Grade 1 winner of $1,236,838, and ranks as the second-richest Louisiana-bred of all time behind Scott's Scoundrel, a winner of $1,270,052.

"It's a perfect day to do a tribute to her," said Midland.

The first 2,500 patrons through the gates Saturday will receive a commemorative photo of Happy Ticket winning the $50,000 Seneca on turf at Louisiana Downs in 2004. She is based in Bossier City, and will be at her best for Saturday.

"We're going to have her all fancied up, and take her out there and just jog her around a little bit," said Andrew Leggio, who trains Happy Ticket for Stewart Madison.

Happy Ticket's year-end goal is the Breeders' Cup Distaff.

Saturday's card will feature eight stakes for Thoroughbreds worth $100,000 each, and five additional stakes for Quarter Horses. Formerly called the Breeders' Festival, the program now goes by the name Louisiana Downs Champions Day.

Date requests submitted for 2007

Louisiana Downs has asked the Louisiana Racing Commission for an 88-date Thoroughbred meet next year, opening on May 4 and running through Oct. 6. The track would like to race primarily four days a week, on a Thursday-through-Sunday basis, said Midland. For the month of September 2007, the track has asked to race Wednesday through Saturday.

Louisiana Downs raced three days a week this May and will have some three-day race weeks in October. Dates requests will be heard at a commission meeting later this month.

* Mudder Mary moves into an optional claiming race on turf Thursday following her 17-length romp against conditioned claimers here July 28. Lonnie Meche has the mount for trainer Edward Johnston.

* Midland will be at Saratoga on Thursday and Friday to recruit horses for the Grade 2, $500,000 Super Derby and its supporting stakes on Sept. 23.