11/15/2001 1:00AM

Hallowed Dreams and slots are Delta's lures


Hallowed Dreams and slots machines. It seems that's what every track in Louisiana wants, and it seems that's what Delta Downs in Vinton, La., will get during its 26-night Thoroughbred season that opens Saturday and runs through Dec. 30.

Hallowed Dreams will jump-start what could be a historic meet for Delta by making an appearance in an allowance feature opening night. Before the meet closes, officials hope to be the first track in Louisiana to open a slots casino. Their target date for operation, which hinges on layout approval from the Louisiana Gaming Control Board that could come as early as Nov. 20, is set at mid-December.

The new meet will be the first under the ownership of Boyd Gaming, a Las Vegas-based casino firm that purchased Delta for approximately $100 million in May and is in the process of making $35 million in renovations to the track. The most notable is the casino, which occupies a new west-end addition to the grandstand's the first floor.

Some of the 1,700 slot machines planned for the facility have been installed, and in anticipation of the revenue they will provide, Boyd has already boosted purses from the first condition book offering of $35,000 a day to $85,000.

The money has lured a stable of horses from the nation's second-leading trainer, Steve Asmussen, as well as Hallowed Dreams, who has not raced since she suffered just the second loss of her 25-race career Aug. 26 when she ran third in the $50,000 Monique Rene at Louisiana Downs. On opening night she takes on male rivals, including the fast Dr. Lewis, in a five-furlong allowance worth $17,000.

The race will serve as a springboard for Hallowed Dreams to the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Sprint at Fair Grounds on Dec. 8. She has trained well for her return, working a bullet five furlongs in 58 seconds on Nov. 3. Trainer Lloyd Romero has given the mount once again to Sylvester Carmouche.

Other riders making up the colony will be Steve Bourque, who moved his tack from Sam Houston, and defending Delta champ Brian Hernandez.

The track's grandstand, stable area, and six-furlong racing surface have been renovated. The ownership has also brought in a new announcer, Chris Kotulak, a new general manager, Jack Bernsmeier, and new director of racing, Chris Warren.

Boyd has also added a pick four bet on the final races of the night and, for the first time, will use color-coordinated saddlecloths.

The Thanksgiving night card has been dropped in favor of live racing on Dec. 26. The one constant at the meet is post time, which will remain 6:30 p.m. Central.