01/06/2011 2:31PM

Quarter Horse meet opens; 50-cent pick fours, trifectas added to wagering menu


Louisiana Downs will open its Quarter Horse meet Saturday with some new wagering options. The track will offer 50-cent trifectas and pick fours for the first time during the 46-date season.

“We’ve been trying some new initiatives here, and that’s one of them,” said Trent McIntosh, director of racing operations for Louisiana Downs. “Similar to a penny slot machine on the casino floor, the 50-cent bets provide the customer with greater value. It gives them more combinations, more chances to win.”

Louisiana Downs, which operates a slots casino, will race Saturday through Tuesday through March 23. The meet opens with a stakes double for older horses. Both the $20,000 Harrah’s Dash at 250 yards and the $20,000 Harrah’s Distaff for fillies and mares at 350 yards drew full fields of 10. They are part of a 12-race stakes schedule that includes the Mardi Gras Futurity at 300 yards on March 8.

Last year’s Mardi Gras Futurity, which is restricted to 2-year-olds bred in Louisiana, was worth $249,277. Nominations for this meet’s running are up, McIntosh said, from 182 last year to 209. McIntosh said there also is an uptick in nominations for the Harrah’s Juvenile, a 300-yard race on March 19 that last year was worth $267,700.

Purses at the meet are projected to average $87,000 a day, the same as the corresponding meet a year ago.

Alfonso Lujan, who was the nation’s leading Quarter Horse rider by wins in 2010, tops a strong colony that includes All American-winning jockey Dennis Means. Lujan comes into the meet on the heels of winning his fourth consecutive riding title at Evangeline Downs in Opelousas, La. He is a 32-year-old native of Odessa, Texas, and a nine-time title winner in Louisiana.

Van Haywood, who won the training title at the recent Evangeline meet, is part of a Louisiana Downs stable area of horsemen that includes Janet VanBebber and Kenneth Roberts. David Heitzmann is in his first season as the Quarter Horse racing secretary at Louisiana Downs, after joining the track last year during its meet for Thoroughbreds.

McIntosh said Louisiana Downs has added an additional race to its lineup for Mondays, which has been one of its strongest handle days during the Quarter Horse season. The track will run 10 races on Mondays, with nine scheduled for the other cards. First post daily is 1 p.m. Central.