10/13/2014 2:28PM

Minor changes for 88-day Delta Downs meet

Coady Photography
Heitai will start in Friday's 10th race at Delta Downs, a $36,000 allowance.

Delta Downs in Vinton, La., opens its 88-date meet Wednesday night, and track officials are looking for a fast start to the meet that has drawn full fields for its first week of racing and is on the countdown to its $2.3 million Jackpot program on Nov. 22.

“We hope to get on a roll like the Cowboys are,” Chris Warren, director of racing operations, said of the NFL’s 5-1 Dallas Cowboys.
Delta, a Boyd Gaming-owned property situated just over the border from Texas, will race through March 14. For the upcoming season, the track that boasts an upscale hotel and slots casino has made a number of changes. Purses for three of the eight stakes making up the Grade 3, $1 million Delta Downs Jackpot program Nov. 22 have been restructured. A new wager, the Super Hi 5, has been added to the betting menu. And first post has changed slightly to 5:50 p.m. Central, said Warren, in order to avoid conflict with sister track Evangeline Downs, now operating a Quarter Horse meet in Opelousas, La.

The Jackpot, a 1 1/16-mile race for 2-year-olds worth 10 preference points toward the Kentucky Derby under a system administered by Churchill Downs, anchors the lone afternoon program of the meet. It will be supported by the Grade 3, $400,000 Delta Downs Princess for 2-year-old fillies, a one-mile race trimmed by $100,000 this meet in a move that made additional funds available for a significant boost to the Delta Mile. The latter race, for 3-year-olds and up, is now worth $250,000 after years at $150,000. In addition, the undercard’s Treasure Chest for fillies and mares is now worth $200,000, up $50,000 from 2013.

“We’re just trying to make the card stronger,” Warren said of the changes. “The idea is to change it up, give it a new flavor. We’ll see what happens.”

Warren said he is hopeful that purse increases to the Delta Mile and Treasure Chest will entice horsemen sending in Jackpot and/or Princess runners to also consider participating in those races, stakes that have drawn increasingly stronger fields over the past several years.

Delta’s preps for the Jackpot and Princess, which is worth 10 preference points toward the Kentucky Oaks, will be held later this month. The $100,000 My Trusty Cat for 2-year-old fillies Oct. 24 has drawn 81 nominations. The $200,000 Jean Lafitte for 2-year-olds on Oct. 25 has 110 nominations. The latter race offers its winner first preference into the Jackpot.

The Super Hi 5 wager will be available on the fifth race, said Warren. It requires bettors to pick the first five finishers in exact order, and if there are no correct tickets, the whole pool carries over. The bet has a 50-cent minimum.

In other changes, Delta and Evangeline both have brought on new track superintendents, said Warren. Bob Beaubien is based at Delta, and Ramiro Flores is at Evangeline.

Purses for the Delta meet are projected to average $240,000 a program, said Warren. The track’s stakes schedule is made up of 32 races worth a cumulative $4.6 million. Horsemen have responded at the entry box, with horses like multiple stakes winner Heitai going in a $36,000 allowance on Friday night. Diego Saenz, injured during Evangeline, is back in action and being reunited with the horse for trainer Karl Broberg.

“The numbers so far have been pretty good,” Warren said of entries. “We’re the only [Thoroughbred] track in the state running right now.”
Fair Grounds in New Orleans begins its meet in late November.