12/10/2003 1:00AM

Jackpot purse to remain $1 million


The purse for the Delta Jackpot, a $1 million race for 2-year-olds run last Friday night at Delta Downs, will remain $1 million, said Jack Bernsmeier, senior vice president of Louisiana properties for Boyd Gaming, which owns Delta. But he wants to take the $1 million race concept a step further in Louisiana.

"What I'd like to see happen is that the other three tracks in the state also do a $1 million race," said Bernsmeier. "I think there's a very unique opportunity in Louisiana, because we have four racetracks that are reasonably close together, and as of next summer, all four of them will have slot machines.

"Just as there's a Triple Crown, we could have the grand slam of horse racing in Louisiana as a series."

Bernsmeier said that a package of four stakes worth $4 million run over a three-month period would give the tracks an opportunity to secure national sponsorship for the races, as well as television coverage.

Bernsmeier has approached the state's other tracks about the concept, and said that although the idea is in its infant stages, there is interest.

The Jackpot is the richest race in Louisiana.

Delta, a small track whose purse structure has exploded thanks to slot machines, is in the beginning stages of three different phases of construction on the property. The track plans to enlarge its casino floor, create a new entrance to the facility, and build a hotel. Initially, the hotel will have 200 rooms. It is scheduled to be complete by the end of 2004.

"I think it's the only hotel that will actually have rooms that face the racetrack, where you could be in your room and watch a race," said Bernsmeier.