08/08/2003 11:00PM

La. Downs seeks more dates

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Louisiana Downs, which installed 905 slot machines in May, wants to add 20 days of Thoroughbred racing to its meet in 2004, and if the track's proposal is approved, it would mean a significant overlap in dates with Lone Star Park.

The tracks, which share a number of stables, have conflicted for about three weeks each summer for the past several years. But that could turn into months next year. Louisiana Downs is seeking to back up its start date to April 30, about the same time the Bossier City, La., track opened each year until Lone Star launched its inaugural meet in the spring of 1997.

The beefed-up Louisiana Downs meet would run through Oct. 31, for a total of 100 dates of Throughbred racing in 2004. The track has also requested an inaugural meet for Quarter Horses next year that would run 19 days, from Nov. 10-Dec. 12.

Louisiana Downs submitted its request to the Louisiana Racing Commission late Friday.

Lone Star's 2004 dates were set last month. The track will run its traditional spring meet from April 15-July 11, as well as a special fall meet for Thoroughbreds from Oct. 1-31. That meet complements the Breeders' Cup, which Lone Star will host on Oct. 30, 2004.

A return to spring dates at Louisiana Downs is something the track's horsemen and patrons have requested for years, said Ray Tromba, the track's general manager. The recent addition of slot machines has made it financially possible for the track to oblige.

"This is what we passed the slot bill for, to add more racing dates to the calendar for Louisiana horsemen and to add more purse money to those days," Tromba said.

According to Tromba, it is too early to make purse projections for next year because a permanent casino housing 1,500 slot machines will not open until May 2004, but he said the Thoroughbred meet would open with daily purses of at least $200,000, which is competitive with Lone Star's purses.