07/06/2005 12:00AM

New track at Evangeline gets positive review

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It has been two weeks since racing resumed at Evangeline Downs following extensive work on the track surface, and the reviews are starting to come in. The cushion, which jockeys claimed was inconsistent, was evened out, and that seems to have corrected the problem.

"It was really uneven in places before," said jockey Michael Wright. "Some spots were really deep, and others were as hard as cement.

"They made some real progress. The former surface seemed to be especially bad from the three path to the five lane, but they have fixed that. It also seems to be rather honest."

That last observation has been debated, and many believe the cushion is deeper and therefore favoring horses who have a late kick. That was not the case over the weekend, however, when front-runners more than held their own. Five of the 10 winners on Monday night's holiday program went gate to wire. Horses who used deep rallies won four races, with only Keep This Cat's victory in the featured Tellike Handicap coming from a stalking position. Wright's comment that the strip doesn't favor a particular running style seems accurate.

Perhaps the biggest testament to a successful renovation of the racing surface is the response of horsemen through the entry box. It was no surprise that interest would run high for the return of racing last week after six weeks of inactivity, and after a taxing six-day schedule, from June 29 to last Monday, a total of 109 horses were entered for Wednesday's card. The numbers are likely to decrease with the ambitious five-day-a-week schedule through the end of September, but for now, most agree it is good to be back racing.