05/06/2009 12:00AM

Young riders relish their big moment


OPELOUSAS, La. - Two young riders scored important victories this past week at Evangeline Downs.

Apprentice jockey Anna Roberts picked up her first career riding victory last Wednesday night, cruising home on 3-2 favorite King of Mardi Gras in the evening's ninth race. King of Mardi Gras, trained by Jorge Lara, won for the 16th time from 60 starts.

"I'm obviously thrilled," said Roberts following the race. "It is like a dream come true."

Roberts, 20, graduated from the Chris McCarron North American Racing Academy in Lexington, Ky., last May. She rode a handful of horses at the Fair Grounds meeting that concluded in late March. Wednesday's winning mount was her first local start and her fifth race overall.

She is the daughter of Fair Grounds assistant track photographer Lynn Roberts, who was the winner of the 2005 media Eclipse Award for photography.

Fellow apprentice Dustin Dugas also posted a significant milestone. The 16-year-old cousin of riding phenom Joe Talamo picked up his first stakes win last Friday night on Call Me Collect in the $50,000 Need for Speed Stakes.

Dugas began riding last summer at Louisiana Downs, and after paying some dues over the winter in a competitive jockey colony at Fair Grounds, he seems poised for a breakout year.

"Things have really been clicking for me at the meet thus far," Dugas said. "To win my first stakes event is just icing on the cake."

In addition to sharing the same neighborhood growing up, both Dugas and Talamo had Tony Martin as a first agent. Martin guided Talamo through his Eclipse Award-winning year as the top apprentice in 2007 and has been lining up one live mount after another for Dugas.

Martin's son Jon Anthony has begun carrying on the family tradition. The younger Martin, age 20, left Sunday to be Louisiana native Robby Albarado's interim agent at Churchill Downs. Jon Anthony Martin had been serving as the assistant racing secretary here the first month of the meeting. Corey Veazey will be assuming that role this week.

* Although he is a native of Canada, Jeff Burningham has become somewhat of an adopted member of the Louisiana fraternity of riders. Burningham last week recorded his first victory since a serious spinal cord injury sustained in the fall of 2007.