08/19/2003 12:00AM

Turf may be next stop for Pie N Burger

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Pie N Burger, who is based at Louisiana Downs, has risen to the top of the region's handicap division in a short time. Since arriving from Southern California in April, he has won three consecutive stakes, with his latest score coming Saturday night in the $75,000 Evangeline Mile at Evangeline Downs.

That race drew one of its deepest fields ever, yet Pie N Burger won by 6 1/2 lengths under Jamie Theriot. It was the horse's fourth straight win since he moved to this region and the barn of trainer Cole Norman.

"He was awesome," said Norman, who trains the 5-year-old Pie N Burger for Kagele Brothers. "When Jamie called on him down the lane, he was reaching. And it was the strongest he's galloped out for any of the four races we've had him. The outrider pulled him up at the half-mile pole."

Norman has limited dirt options coming up in this region for Pie N Burger, so he might look at turf for the horse, with one possibility being the $100,000 Louisiana Downs Handicap on Sept. 21. A dirt option is the Grade 3, $100,000 Turfway Park Fall Championship at a mile on Sept. 27.

Pie N Burger has made just one start on turf, finishing fourth in a sprint, the $70,000 Harry Henson at Hollywood Park, in 2001. That race was in Southern California, where Pie N Burger had done most of his racing until last August, when he was claimed for $100,000. He was flown to Lone Star in April.

Norman entered Pie N Burger in an allowance May 9. The horse won and returned to capture the Grade 3, $300,000 Lone Star Park Handicap.

From there, Pie N Burger won the $60,000 Bob Johnson Memorial by 5 1/2 lengths at Lone Star on July 13. Overall, the horse has won 10 of 31 starts and $592,933.

* One of Norman's other top older horses, Beau's Town, flew in from Southern California on Tuesday morning. He has been vacationing since winning the Grade 2 Bing Crosby last month at Del Mar. Norman said Beau's Town could return to the track Friday, with his next major objective being the Breeders' Cup Sprint.

A dual opening in 2004

Louisiana Downs officials expect the track's May 14 opening next year to coincide with the opening of a permanent slots casino that is now under construction. When complete, the facility will hold 1,500 slot machines and three restaurants. There are now 900 machines at Louisiana Downs.

The track will run Thoroughbreds for 102 days next year, from May 14 to Oct. 31. There will also be an inaugural 20-date meet for Quarter Horses at Louisiana Downs from Nov. 10 to Dec. 12.

Next year will be the first season since 1996 that Louisiana Downs will offer more than 100 race dates for Thoroughbreds. The track had moved its traditional spring opening to the summer in 1997 when Lone Star Park opened for its inaugural season in Dallas.

More dates at Evangeline

Another track that received approval from the Louisiana Racing Commission for an expanded calendar next year is Evangeline Downs. The track will race 87 days for Thoroughbreds from April 1 to Sept. 6, and will also put on a 28-date Quarter Horse meet from Sept. 16 to Oct. 31.

Evangeline will also host a program of Quarter Horse trials Aug. 22.

Evangeline is scheduled to be operating slot machines at its new site in Opelousas, La., in March 2004. Racing operations will move to that site in 2005.

* Two new claiming rules approved by the commission go into effect Thursday. Claimed horses must now be raised 25 percent in price for 30 days after being claimed, and the owneship change of a claimed horse will take place when the horse starts in its race rather than when it steps on the track.

* Indian Dreamer ran on turf for the first time two races ago, and after winning both of her starts on the surface will attempt to make it three in a row Thursday in the 10th race, a two-other-than allowance for fillies and mares at a mile on turf.