05/01/2013 1:38PM

Louisiana Downs: Super Derby meet adds rolling daily doubles

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The Grade 2, $500,000 Super Derby will again serve as the centerpiece of the Louisiana Downs season that opens Friday with a handful of new stables, rolling daily doubles, six recently constructed suites, and a push to raise awareness of a rewards program horseplayers can tap into alongside visitors to the track’s 1,100-machine slots casino. The 84-date meet will run through Sept. 22.

The Super Derby, a 1 1/8-mile race won last year by Bourbon Courage, is to be renewed Sept.  7. It will again anchor a card of six stakes worth $950,000, making the program the richest of the meet. The card includes a pair of $100,000 turf races for 2-year-olds at a mile, one of them the Sunday Silence that last year was won by eventual Blue Grass hero Java’s War. The Super Derby in 2011 was moved up two weeks, and the earlier date is now a fixture for the track, said Trent McIntosh, director of operations for Louisiana Downs.

“It’s a better place as far as being able to recruit horses nationally,” he said. “And it resulted last year in our largest Super Derby handle since 2008.”

Preps for some of the Super Derby Day races will be run Aug. 3, when Louisiana Downs packages four stakes led by the $100,000 Prelude, a 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-olds that offers its winner a fees-paid berth into the Super Derby. The other major program this meet falls Aug. 17, with the running of the Louisiana Cup program of eight statebred stakes worth $570,000. In all, there will be 24 stakes worth $2.3 million this season at Louisiana Downs.

Purses are projected to average $150,000 a card, McIntosh said. He said new stables in town for the meet include trainers Ron Faucheux, who won last year’s Grade 2 Smile Sprint at Calder Race Course with Gantry; Jonas Gibson, who had been based at Delaware Park; and Ronnie Cravens, who has brought a large stable up from the recent Delta Downs meet in Vinton, La. Tony Richey is the defending training champ, while Richard Eramia has won the riding title the last two years and is back to lead a competitive colony.

The wagering format this meet is to include rolling doubles, McIntosh said, while the Super Pick Five Jackpot introduced last season will return. In changes to the facilities, McIntosh said there are six new “sports suites” on the third level of the grandstand. Patrons ontrack also will be flooded with information on the “Total Rewards” program that serves horseplayers in addition to patrons of the Caesars family of casino properties that includes Harrah’s Louisiana Downs.

“It’s kind of our mission here on property to educate the racing guests what we offer from a rewards standpoint,” McIntosh said of the existing program that awards points for wagers.

Louisiana Downs also is planning four handicapping tournaments this meet, with the finale to be on Super Derby Day, McIntosh said.

Travis Stone returns as the announcer for Louisiana Downs and also has the new assignment of mutuel manager, McIntosh said. Larry Robideaux Jr., a longtime trainer, is the new stall superintendent for the track, McIntosh said. The retired Hall of Fame jockey Braulio Baeza continues to serve as the clerk of scales at Louisiana Downs.

Friday’s opening program is made up of nine races, including a $17,500 optional claimer for fillies and mares at six furlongs in which Fast City will be seeking her sixth straight win. John Jacinto has the mount for trainer Eddie Johnston. Also on the card, Shun leads a first-level allowance at 7 1/2 furlongs on the turf, with Jamie Theriot to ride for trainer Al Stall Jr.

“I think everybody’s ready for the summer racing,” McIntosh said.

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