09/25/2005 11:00PM

Storm damages Delta backstretch


Hurricane Rita's impact on Delta Downs, a racetrack, casino, and hotel property in Vinton, La., was still being determined on Monday, but there is wind and water damage to the track's main buildings, and the roofs of most of the wooden barns on the backstretch were blown off in the storm, according to an official with the town of Vinton and several others with knowledge of the local situation. A reopening date for the property has not been determined, but it will be a race to repair the damage before Oct. 21, when Delta is scheduled to begin its Thoroughbred meet.

Vinton is located between Beaumont, Texas, and Lake Charles, La., very close to where Hurricane Rita came ashore, and Delta was the hardest hit of the four Texas and Louisiana tracks in the region. Vinton was without power and water as of Monday afternoon, according to a town official. Vinton is not flooded, he said, but it could be up to two weeks before power is restored, and residents have been asked to wait at least one week before returning home.

"I've got some conflicting reports on the stable area, but the common in every report was that there wasn't a barn in the stable area that had a roof on it anymore," said Charles Ashy Jr., general manager of the Evangeline Downs Training Center in Carencro, La.

Delta's backstretch was scheduled to have opened last Saturday, the day the hurricane hit, and was to house many horses from the Evangeline Downs meet in Opelousas that ended late last week. But that flow has hit a snag, and since the storm, the Louisiana Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association has been working to help move stables, with the Evangeline training center taking on 450 displaced racehorses.

Evangeline is expected to begin its Quarter Horse meet as scheduled on Saturday, said David Yount, executive director of racing operations at the track.

Evangeline will also be the site of an emergency meeting of the Louisiana horsemen's association at 11 a.m. Wednesday, said Mona Romero, executive director of the group.

Evangeline reopened for simulcasting Sunday after missing the final two days of its live meet Friday and Saturday. Louisiana Downs near Shreveport did not race Saturday or Sunday but remained open for simulcasting, while Sam Houston in Houston reopened Monday after closing down its operations last Thursday.