10/02/2003 11:00PM

Jackpot tops rich stakes list

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The $1 million Delta Jackpot for 2-year-olds at Delta Downs on Dec. 5, which has been doubled in value for the upcoming meet, speaks to the riches that slot machines have produced for the Vinton, La., track since its casino opened in February 2001.

Before then, stakes for Thoroughbreds were almost nonexistent at Delta. But fast-forward to the 2003-04 season, which will run 86 nights from Oct. 31 to March 27, and the riches are almost embarrassing. Delta has scheduled 45 stakes worth about $4 million. Last year, the track had 36 stakes worth $2.5 million.

The centerpiece will again be the Delta Jackpot, which has had a makeover for its second running. In addition to the purse, the distance has been changed, from one mile to 1 1/16 miles, and the date has been moved up on the calendar. Last year the race was Dec. 21.

The changes were made with the hopes of attracting horses who compete in the $1.5 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile on Oct. 25. The Delta Jackpot is the second-richest race for 2-year-olds in North America behind the Juvenile.

Other highlights of the stakes calendar include Louisiana Premier Night on Feb. 7, when 10 stakes for statebreds worth a cumulative $1 million will be held. The highlight is the $200,000 Championship.

For open company, top events include the $250,000 Delta Princess for 2-year-old fillies at one mile on Dec. 5; the $100,000 Jean Lafitte, a prep for the Delta Jackpot, on Nov. 8; and the $100,000 Gulf Coast Classic on March 27.