10/29/2003 12:00AM

A new and improved Jackpot


Last year, the slots-rich Delta Downs wanted to attract attention and get the racing industry to think of it as a major track, so it introduced the $500,000 Delta Jackpot. That having been accomplished, officials are taking the race a step further this year, and increasing the purse to $1 million, increasing the distance to 1 1/16 miles, and moving the date up to Dec. 5.

"It's no different than running a casino business, you have to do things to build excitement," said Jack Bernsmeier, senior vice president of Louisiana properties for Boyd Gaming, which owns Delta.

Officials hope the changes will help them attract horses who ran in the $1.5 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile last Saturday. The Delta Jackpot is the second richest race for 2-year-olds in North America this year behind the Juvenile.

Aside from the larger purse, the distance of the Delta Jackpot, previously contested at one mile, could appeal to more trainers this year.

"We did that purely out of demand from horses we attempted to solicit last year," said Bernsmeier.

Delta has placed the $250,000 Delta Princess for 2-year-old fillies on the same card as the Delta Jackpot, which figures to make the race more attractive to out-of-state trainers and jockeys. Having both races on one card should also make it easier for Delta to sell its simulcast signal for that night.

In other changes designed to speed the sale of the track's signal, Delta has adjusted its racing schedule. It will run Wednesday through Saturday instead of Thursday through Sunday.

"We did that based on simulcast opportunities," said Bernsmeier. "We were able to get into some markets we weren't able to before."

New York and Atlantic City are among the new simulcast outlets that will be taking races from Delta.

New purse supplement for statebreds

Delta introduced a purse supplement for statebreds racing in open company races during its Quarter Horse meet, and that program will be carried over to the Thoroughbred season, said Bernsmeier.

The Accredited Louisiana Bred Slot Supplement, or ALBSS, is for accredited statebreds that run first through fifth in any open company race other than stakes and handicaps. Based on their finish, horses will receive a percentage of the supplement amount that is listed beside the purse of each race.

Deep colony awaits Bourque

Jockey Steve Bourque is out to defend his title against a deep group of riders that includes newcomers Marlon St. Julien; Kirk LeBlanc, the current leader at Louisiana Downs; Tim Doocy, who has won more than 4,200 races; Carlos Gonzalez; and Ted Gondron.

Riders returning for the meet include C.J. Woodley, who won the title at Evangeline Downs, Guy Smith, Brian Hernandez, and James Avant.

Bourgeois back after winning Evangeline title

Keith Bourgeois, who shared the training title last year with Doris Hebert, is hoping for another strong showing at Delta. He comes into the meet hot, having won the title at Evangeline Downs.

"I've got some good 2-year-olds this year," he said. "I've got a lot of young horses, horses with conditions, and they run those kind of races quite a bit at Delta."

Among the new trainers at the meet are Cole Norman, Ray Tracy, Joe Petalino, Jim Gaston, Amos Laborde, Barry Germany, and Jim Hudson.

* Delta is considering running a $1 million night of stakes for Quarter Horses next year, said Bernsmeier.

* Don Stevens will not begin his new duties as announcer for Delta until Nov. 12, and until he arrives, the races will be called by Eric Alwan. Alwan has been a past guest announcer at Delta. Stevens has worked as the full-time announcer at Remington Park since 1999.