01/18/2007 1:00AM

Two dark days now live at La. Downs


Louisiana Downs will roll out a new weekly racing schedule when it opens for a 40-day Quarter Horse meet on Saturday. Live racing at the meet, which runs through March 27, will be held from Saturday through Tuesday, rather than Thursday through Sunday.

"The biggest change we're going to make is we're going to try racing on Monday and Tuesday," said Mark Midland, vice president of racing operations at Louisiana Downs. "There's not many winter signals out there, and with less competition on Monday and Tuesday we're hoping to gain greater distribution for the signal. We're excited to see what we can do on Mondays and Tuesdays."

This is the track's second Quarter Horse meet. The first was held in the fall of 2004. There was supposed to be a meet in 2005, but it was moved to Evangeline Downs to accommodate the Fair Grounds meet at Louisiana Downs in a statewide shift of dates following Hurricane Katrina.

Louisiana Downs has put together a strong stakes schedule and purse structure for the new meet, and among the horsemen expected are Heath Taylor, Kenneth Roberts, and Janet VanBebber.

"We've got a tremendous response from the trainers," said Midland. "We're giving away about $130,000 a day, which is just about tops in the country, and the trainers have definitely responded."

The richest stakes of the meet is the $200,000 Harrah's Futurity on March 24. Another lucrative race is the $150,000 Harrah's Derby on Feb. 3. The trials for that race will be held on the opening-day program Saturday. First post is 12:30 p.m. Central.

Sam Houston: Patriot Act to Maxxam?

Trainer Neil Howard said Wednesday that Patriot Act, who has placed in stakes in his last two starts, is under consideration for the $100,000 Maxxam Gold Cup on Jan. 27 at Sam Houston Race Park. He said a decision on the race will be made next week.

"We've got two horses nominated, Patriot Act and Student Council," said Howard, who trains both horses for Will Farish.

Farish and Howard won the Maxxam in 2005 with Alumni Hall. Patriot Act has made two stakes starts in his career, finishing second in the $75,000 Tenacious and third in the $75,000 Louisiana Breeders' Cup, both this winter at Fair Grounds. Student Council won an optional claiming race last out at Fair Grounds.

Nominations for the Maxxam closed Wednesday, and among those made eligible were defending champ Middleweight and multiple stakes winners Sandburr, Mr. Pursuit, More Than Regal, and Charming Socialite.

Delta: Hebert in command

Jockey Tracy Hebert had a 37-win lead in the Delta Downs standings as the meet moved into its second half this week. Through the first 44 nights of racing, Hebert has won 66 races, placing him well clear of second-leading rider Curt Bourque, who had 29 wins. Hebert's mounts have earned $1,086,355.

Hebert will be active on the card Saturday, and has mounts in the night's two allowances: in the sixth, he will ride Kimua Man, and in the eighth, Who's Zary Now.

The richest night of racing during the second half of the meet is the $1omillion Louisiana Premier Night of stakes on Feb. 3.

Cort's P.B., who won last weekend's $50,000 Cypress at Delta, could start next on Premier Night, said his owner, Maggi Moss. Trained by Patrick Mouton, Cort's P.B. won the Thanksgiving Handicap at the current Fair Grounds meet.

Texas: Awards dinner Saturday

Jack Knowlton, who manages the Sackatoga Stable, which won the 2003 Kentucky Derby and Preakness with Funny Cide, is the keynote speaker during the Texas Thoroughbred Association's annual awards banquet Saturday night in Austin, Texas.

During the dinner, Grade 2 winner Dixie Meister will be honored as the Texas-bred horse of the year for 2006.

The TTA will also recognize Ed Dodwell with a lifetime achievement award. A past president of the TTA, Dodwell has operated Diamond D Ranch for 25 years. Dr. Katie Hayes, an owner and breeder who has worked to help Texas in its political pitch for video lottery terminals, is the member of the year. There are more than 2,200 members in the TTA.

Louisiana: Filly tops Stemmans sale

Lord and Lady, a 3-year-old filly by Lord Carson, brought a bid of $17,000 from Denise Delahoussaye to top the Stemmans Inc. winter mixed auction held last weekend in Scott, La. The filly was sold by Mr. and Mrs. Aubrey LaPlace.

Overall, 115 horses sold at the sale for total receipts of $234,650. The average was $2,400.

* Lone Star Park and Retama Park have both announced plans to conduct training races beginning in February.