09/24/2002 11:00PM

At Louisiana, 'good racing sells'


BOSSIER CITY, La. - Everything went according to plan at Louisiana Downs during its summer meet that ended Sunday, even though a new group unexpectedly signed on to buy the track in August.

A pre-meet decision to overpay purses before slots are installed next year improved the quality of racing and increased business figures, as officials had hoped. An added perk came when Harrah's Entertainment, one of the nation's leading gambling entities, agreed to buy controlling interest in Louisiana Downs.

The new ownership will put the slots project on the fast track, and when the machines are installed, officials expect to quickly make up the approximately $2.5 million in purses that they chose to overpay in order to signal that a new era has begun at the track.

Daily purses at the 52-day summer meet averaged $187,639, up from the $142,264 a day distributed during the same dates a year ago. The increase made for better racing, which in turn led to an 11 percent increase in handle from $2,180,330 a day last summer, to $2,431,299 this year. Daily attendance was up 7 percent over the same dates a year ago to 4,180.

"In all key areas we did better," said Ray Tromba, vice president and general manager of Louisiana Downs. "Good racing sells."

The purse structure for the remainder of the 80-day season at Louisiana Downs will be $100,000 a day. The meet runs to Nov. 10.

Guillory better; surgery Monday

Veteran jockey David Guillory, who sustained career-ending injuries in a spill Aug. 2, was released from the hospital Sept. 12, and made his first public appearance last Friday night to receive a jockey of the year award from Louisiana Downs during a banquet put on by the chaplaincy. A day later, Guillory, who is currently wheelchair-bound because of spinal injuries, attended the Super Derby.

"I've been getting around a little better every day," said Guillory, 42. "I've got feeling in my legs and arms and all, but I can't walk on my own. I'm too weak, and still have some numbness."

Some of the numbness should be alleviated Monday when Guillory has surgery to remove pieces of vertebrae that are pressuring his nerves. It will be another step in the healing process for the rider, who last week started a one-year outpatient rehabilitation program that is promising big results.

"They give him a 95 percent chance that he'll walk again on his own," said Guillory's wife, Kristina, who operates a tack shop at Louisiana Downs.

Guillory is healing quicker than the average person because of his fitness level. "Almost every day I see a little improvement somewhere," Kristina said.

So does Guillory. He said from the time of the spill, when he had no feeling from the neck down, to now, he sees vast improvement in his health. "My left arm is good, and while my right arm doesn't move like I want it to, I think surgery will help it catch up," he said.

Next summer, Guillory plans to work in Kristina's tack shop. "I always want to be around the racetrack," he said.

See How She Runs freshened

See How She Runs, second by a head in the $75,000 Prairie Meadows Oaks on Sept. 2, is getting a break from racing, and is scheduled to return to competition at Oaklawn, where last year she won the first four starts of her career, including the Grade 2 Fantasy. From there, she traveled to Woodbine near Toronto and won the Grade 1 Selene.

Donnie Von Hemel trains See How She Runs for owner Pin Oak Stable.

* Another popular Von Hemel trainee, millionaire Mr Ross, will miss the $150,000 Edward J. DeBartolo Memorial Breeders' Cup at Remington Park on Sunday because of some filling in a leg. The trainer also said it is doubtful the gelding will be back in time to defend his title in the Oklahoma Classics Day Classic at Remington on Oct. 27.

Mr Ross has won the race the past three years, and was named Oklahoma-bred horse of the year in July.