05/04/2011 3:44PM

Louisiana Downs opens 84-date meeting

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The wagering format changes, and facility improvements Louisiana Downs has made for its 84-date meet that opens Friday were done with the horseplayer in mind. The Bossier City, La., track has even moved the date of the Grade 2, $500,000 Super Derby back two weeks to Sept. 10, with the hopes of putting on the most competitive running possible. The race is the richest of the meet that continues through Sept. 25.

Louisiana Downs will offer 50-cent trifectas and 50-cent pick fours for the first time after introducing the wagers during its meet for Quarter Horses. The track also has created a new high-limit player room and lounge for simulcast patrons, said Trent McIntosh, director of operations for Louisiana Downs.

The new room is 2,200 square feet and will seat approximately 60 customers, he said. Initially, the room will be for the track’s top-tier players that are indentified through its rewards card program. But eventually, a general admission of sorts will be available for $10. The room includes 22 new flat-screen televisions and is located near the first-floor mutuel line. There also is a special patio area that enables players to go and watch the live races from outside, McIntosh said.

In other improvements, Louisiana Downs has added 240 new flat-screen televisions throughout the building, McIntosh said. It also has amped up the rewards available to handicappers through the card loyalty program.

“We’re trying to create more benefits for our regular players,” he said.

The Super Derby is the centerpiece of a 28-race, $2.6 million stakes schedule at Louisiana Downs. It was repositioned for a couple of different reasons, McIntosh said. He said the 1 1/8-mile race should be the biggest on the national calendar Sept. 10, a year after being run on the same date as the Pennsylvania Derby. The new date also flows well with the placement of a number of Grade 2 and Grade 3 races for the division, giving the Super Derby a chance to fit into the schedules of more horses, McIntosh said.

The Super Derby will be supported by five undercard stakes, with the six races worth a cumulative $1 million. Other top events on the richest program of the meet will include a pair of one-mile turf races for 2-year-olds, the $150,000 Sunday Silence and the $100,000 Happy Ticket for fillies. Louisiana Downs has grouped most of its stakes into four major cards, the others being the $100,000 Prelude and three supporting stakes Aug. 6; the $570,000 Louisiana Cup Day of eight statebred stakes Aug. 20; and the $600,000 Southern Showcase of restricted stakes Sept. 24.

Louisiana Downs has a projected purse structure of $150,000 a day.

Tony Richey, who won the training title last year, is back for the new season. Allen Milligan, who finished second in the trainer standings last month at Oaklawn Park, has a division at Louisiana Downs. Other trainers expected for the meet include Jorge Lara, a past title winner at Louisiana Downs, and Stanley Roberts, who is returning after a one-year absence. Trainer Andrew Leggio Jr., who will start St. John’s River in the $1 million Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs on Friday, is part of the list of Louisiana Downs regulars that includes Jerry Cart, Morris Nicks, and Bob Young.

Jockey Don Simington will be seeking his fourth consecutive riding title in Bossier City. He was injured in a Delta Downs spill in February but resumed riding at Evangeline Downs on April 29.

Simington suffered nine broken ribs and a collapsed lung when his mount, Flower Lake, clipped heels, fell, and threw him. Simington’s riding rivals at Louisiana Downs will include Richard Eramia, Carlos Gonzalez, and new faces Quincy Hamilton, Justin Shepherd, and Jansen Melancon.

David Wedlake is another newcomer. He will serve as an association steward. He has been a steward or racing official at Evangeline Downs, Fair Grounds, and Keeneland and has come in from Keeneland, McIntosh said.

First post Friday is 1:25 p.m. Central.