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1Local Affiliate News for Louisiana HBPA

LA: Fair Grounds Meet Leaders
4/1/2014 9:54:49 AM  -  Times-Picayune 

Posted: 3/31/14

Familiar names again topped the standings at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, as Rosie Napravnik, Steve Asmussen, and Maggi Moss repeated their respective titles as leading jockey, trainer, and owner at the 142nd thoroughbred race meet.

Napravnik notched her fourth consecutive riding title, besting runner-up James Graham for the third consecutive season, concluding the season with 114 wins, a nine-win advantage over Graham. On March 13 aboard Pistolpackinsenora, she ensured herself another 100-win season after bagging 125 wins in the 2012-2013 season, 111 with her 2011-2012 title, and 110 in 2010-2011. Napravnik joins Ronald Ardoin (1992-1993 through 1995-1996) and Shane Romero (1987-1988 through 1991-1992) as the only riders with at least four consecutive Fair Grounds riding titles since 1960.

Napravnik rode multiple stakes winners over the course of the meet and ruled in the biggest races for 3-year-olds at the stand, guiding Vicar’s in Trouble to wins in the Grade II Louisiana Derby and the Grade III Lecomte as well as piloting Untapable to wins in the Grade II Fair Grounds Oaks and the Grade III Rachel Alexandra

Asmussen, who tied for leading trainer honors last season with Tom Amoss, ended the season atop the Fair Grounds trainer standings for the 13th time in his career with 60 wins. Asmussen has led the trainer race throughout nearly the entire meet and remained well clear of Amoss who finished the season as the runner-up.

Asmussen’s meet was highlighted by the commanding performances of sophomore filly Untapable in the Grade II Fair Grounds Oaks and Grade III Rachel Alexandra Stakes.

Moss tallied her fourth straight title as leading owner after tying with Asmussen at 18 wins last season, landing 21 wins at the meet, including the Battle of New Orleans Stakes with Kiss to Remember. Moss also campaigned the meet’s only five-time winner, Phat Day.

Louisiana HBPA 2014 Election Results
3/27/2014 10:00:55 AM  -  Louisiana HBPA 

Posted: 3/27/14 There will be a runoff between Sam Breaux and Bernard K. Chatters on 4/28/14 for President.

Owners
Tom Abbott
Bobby Dupre
Christine D. Early
Keith Hernandez
Arthur Morrell

Trainers
Judy Behler
Bret Calhoun
Sturges Ducoing
Edward J. Johnston
Don Stemmans

Horsemen still hopeful for New Orleans Fair Grounds future
3/24/2014 11:06:40 AM  -  Times-Picayune 

Posted: 3/22/14

The reports of horse racing's death have been greatly exaggerated.

Two weeks ago, a crowd of more than 30,000 showed up at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark., in the rain to watch Hoppertunity win the Rebel Stakes, a Kentucky Derby prep race.

Purses at Oaklawn have been bumped up twice this year because of the track's success, while South Florida's Gulfstream Park has broken records for total handle (amount wagered) and on-track handle for three straight seasons.

In closer proximity, Evangeline Downs in Opelousas announced the creation of the $300,000 Turf Sprint, and Vinton's Delta Downs reported a 12.5 percent spike in 2012-13 in all-sources handle (live and off-track betting) from the previous year. In November during the $1 million Delta Downs Jackpot Stakes, wagering was up 16 percent from the same event in 2012.

And in spite of poor attendance by patrons in December because of bad weather nationwide, which caused U.S. handle to drop 10.5 percent from 2012, total wagering on horse racing was up .06 percent for 2013, according to The Blood-Horse, a prominent racing magazine.

In many areas, the Sport of Kings is alive and well.

At the New Orleans Fair Grounds, however, the picture isn't so rosy.

Four years ago, when reigning Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra made her 4-year-old debut in New Orleans, more than 12,000 people packed the Fair Grounds to capacity.

But overall handle and attendance has since sharply declined.

Wagering for the 2012-13 Fair Grounds season was down 8.25 percent from the previous year. Fair Grounds president Tim Bryant said at the Feb. 17 meeting of the Louisiana State Racing Commission that overall handle this meet was down about 13 percent, and live wagering fell about 15 percent.

"I stood alone in the paddock and no one was there," Fair Grounds leading owner Maggi Moss said of her visit to the track earlier this month. "I looked around and said, 'Where did all the great people go?'"

As more horsemen have voiced their discontent with the current state of affairs at the Churchill Downs Inc.-owned Fair Grounds, Moss and others have started to wonder about the fate of the 142-year-old institution.

"If people at Fair Grounds think it matters, they better take a really hard look at Calder and Hollywood Park, because that's what Fair Grounds is going to turn into," she said.

Calder Racetrack, a Churchill Downs Inc. property in Miami Gardens, Fla., is struggling to survive in the wake of head-to-head competition with neighboring Gulfstream Park, which expanded its racing dates this season. Gulfstream, which has invested money into its facilities, also has boosted its purses and routinely attracts top competition.

Revenue at Calder was down 44 percent in 2013 because of increased competition and simulcast issues. From Dec. 6-8, the first time the two tracks went head-to-head, Gulfstream's wagering was six times higher than that of Calder.

Like the Fair Grounds, voters approved slot machines and video poker at Calder. Gaming initially was intended to subsidize purses and help keep struggling racetracks afloat. Now horsemen wonder if it has risen above the racing product in the eyes of CDI, whose earnings for 2013 showed that gaming revenue had surpassed its racing revenue for the first time.

"I look at Calder Race Track, which is going through the exact same business model that we're going through, except they're a few years ahead of us," said 10-time leading Fair Grounds trainer Tom Amoss, whose colt Rise Up won the $1 million Delta Downs Jackpot. "And that's our future. We're going to be the next Calder. That's a disaster. ...

"Calder was once a significant meet. Now it's, for lack of a better word, a dump. That's the future of the Fair Grounds if we stay on the same track."

Hollywood Park in Inglewood, Calif., was home to the stars -- on the track and in the grandstand. It was where acclaimed horses such as Zenyatta, Seabiscuit, Citation, Seattle Slew and Affirmed thrilled spectators that included Academy Award winners Elizabeth Taylor and Jimmy Stewart, along with the NBA's Wilt Chamberlain among other notables.

But the 75-year-old track was shut down in December, eight years after Churchill Downs Inc. sold it to real estate developer Bay Meadows Land Co. for $257.5 million, almost twice its purchase price of $140 million in 1999. Hollywood Park will be demolished and turned into a residential and retail development, while its casino will be maintained and renovated.

"The closure of Hollywood Park should be a lesson once and for all that Thoroughbred racetracks should not be owned by publicly traded companies, whose prime directive is to maximize shareholder profit," Daily Racing Form columnist Jay Hovdey told Los Angeles' LA Weekly in 2013. "Churchill Downs Inc. certainly fulfilled its mission in that regard when it sold the property to a land-development company. ... Now the ultimate cost of that transaction is being paid by the California Thoroughbred community."

In addition to the Fair Grounds, Churchill Downs Inc. owns Arlington Park in Arlington Heights, Ill., and its crown jewel, Churchill Downs Racetrack in Louisville, Ky., which hosts the Kentucky Derby.

A HIGHER PRIORITY?

When slot machines first were installed at the Fair Grounds in 2007, trainer Bret Calhoun saw them as a necessary evil to help keep the industry afloat. Now he has doubts.

"I never thought it was the cure-all or the fix, I thought it was a temporary band-aid," he said. "I thought what we should have been doing was using the slot revenue to build our product back up to get it back to where it was when fans would come out, better horses, fuller fields (horses in races), it would increase the live handle and the simulcast.

"A lot of places have just kind of rested on their laurels and taken that money and gone through it and really not used it to improve our product."

Calhoun said nationwide he's seen slots take a higher priority over the more expensive task of hosting a proper race meet.

"I think it's pretty obvious that the slots generate a lot more income with a lot less expense than the horse racing does," he said. "From a business standpoint, these corporations, the slots are much more profitable, let's face it. They've kind of cared less and less about racing, and that's been pretty much across the country.

"I've raced in several places that have slots and several places that don't, and it's not just Churchill Downs per se. A lot of corporations that have slots, they care less and less about horse racing."

Churchill Downs Inc., in a statement to NOLA.com

The Times-Picayune, said that isn't so.

"We are not sure who you are hearing that from, but from our perspective that certainly isn't the case," the company said. "The Fair Grounds facility is widely recognized as a premier facility in the country. ... We often hear what a great place we have from guests and groups that use our facilities for special events."

When the Fair Grounds announced its second purse decrease in February, it pointed to declining handle as the problem. At the same time, gaming revenue was up from its 600 slot machines.

According to research by the Louisiana Horsemen's Benevolent & Protective Association, Inc., CDI has realized annual pre-tax profits of more than $25 million from its operations in Louisiana.

By Louisiana law, the Fair Grounds must hold an 80-day race meet in order to have its slot machine license.

Added Stanley Seeling, president of the LHBPA: "I question sometimes that they're not trying to lessen the quality of racing here on purpose so that at some point they can say racing is dying, we want to run less days.

"They're the ones killing it because they're the operator."

FAIR GROUNDS AFFINITY

Despite their frustrations, local trainers would like to be able to stay at the Fair Grounds.

How could they not want to, trainer Neil Howard asked, as he counted some of the track's benefits on his fingers.

"The roster is as good as anywhere in the country," he said. "If people really stopped and looked at the pedigrees of some of the horses that run here, you'd see that. That's why you hope things would get better business-wise."

But for trainers, whose decisions are often dictated by the owners they are able to attract and retain, the answer is not always as simple as a love for the track.

Trainer Steve Asmussen doesn't have a list of demands. He wants one simple thing: "I want people's (CDI's) effort. That's it."

And despite Amoss and Calhoun's success and perennial reign near the top of the trainer's standings, the future of the Fair Grounds appears muddled.

"I love coming back to New Orleans every winter to my hometown to where my family is, where my mom and dad are," said Amoss, a New Orleans native who has been working at the Fair Grounds since he was in high school. "After this year, putting an emphasis on the Fair Grounds as we've done for the past 25-plus years is going to be a very difficult decision to me and a very hard decision to sell to my clients."

At one point during the 2013-14 Fair Grounds season, Calhoun thought about packing up and leaving for another track. He's stabled more horses at Oaklawn Park this meet than ever. Despite his apprehension, Calhoun is willing to give the Fair Grounds another shot.

"Obviously I'm very concerned," he said. "I've owned a house here for several years. I've been coming here forever. I've been very committed to this being my winter destination.

"Earlier in this meet, I had serious, serious reservations about coming back. ... But this is where I want my winter base to be and hope I can continue for it to be. My owners dictate a lot of what I do, but right now I'm pretty much committed to coming back next winter and hope that there are some positive changes made."

THE FUTURE

Local trainer Keith Desormeaux said it's gotten easy to point the finger at CDI. But nobody seems to have an answer for the Fair Grounds' woes, he said.

"I think it's consensus there's definitely some animosity (between horsemen and Churchill officials)," he said. "But nobody would say it's consensus we know what to do about it. With that being said, I can see as well as anybody dwindling crowds and an emphasis on slots and not racing."

Rep. Patrick Connick, R-Marrero, has two potential solutions.

He has drafted bills in the current Legislative session with the intention of forcing CDI's hand. House Bills Nos. 808 and 848 would require the company to dedicate a portion of the Fair Grounds' slot machine revenue for capital improvements at the track and give the Louisiana Racing Commission the power to hold Churchill Downs Inc. accountable if conditions don't improve.

"We can't let this racetrack die," Connick said. "Don't take the money from the slots and run with it. Give a little back into the infrastructure."

Eight years ago, Churchill Downs Inc. CEO Bob Evans said slot machines were not the long-term answer for horse racing. In an interview with The Times-Picayune published Nov. 22, 2006, Evans said the industry couldn't survive if its sole focus was on gaming.

"Do I think slots are the end-all for the horse racing business? Absolutely not," Evans said. "In the end, if horse racing can't attract a growing fan base and do so profitably, then its problems will continue until some point in time when, you know, 100 years from now, there is no horse racing I suppose."

Asmussen said CDI has since shifted its stance.

"Everything they had was because of horse racing," Asmussen said. "Maybe they should just change their name to Churchill Downs Gaming Company. Because that's what they are. ...

"Until they prove otherwise, I believe CDI's intentions are to suppress racing until they bleed it out to a point that they can eliminate it."

As for the future of the Fair Grounds? That's up for debate as well.

"We cannot predict the future, but we are optimistic," Churchill Downs Inc. said. "As a publicly traded company on NASDAQ, we cannot make forward-looking statements. As we have always done, we will continue to make prudent decisions ..."

"We are encouraged that some horsemen understand the need for change and appreciate their willingness to move the industry forward."

Fair Grounds Horsemen: Churchill Partnership a Dream Turned Nightmare
3/20/2014 10:34:30 AM  -  Times-Picayune 

Posted: 3/19/2014

As Orb romped down the stretch in the slop to win the 2013 Kentucky Derby, he was leading a pack of the arguably best 3-year-olds to come out of Louisiana in years.

Golden Soul, Revolutionary, Normandy Invasion, Mylute and Oxbow followed in order. Palace Malice, after setting the early pace, finished 12th.

All ran in at least one prep race at the New Orleans Fair Grounds in 2013. Mylute and Golden Soul both listed New Orleans as their home base.

Oxbow would go on to win the Preakness. Palace Malice would win the Grade I Belmont.

Nobody knew how good the crop would turn out to be when Oxbow was shipped to the Fair Grounds that January and won the Lecomte by 11 1/2 lengths.

Nor did anyone know the Fair Grounds would be the talk of the Triple Crown trail a few months later.

TAKING A BACKSEAT

The Kentucky Derby is one of the races horsemen dream of winning.

But it's also a symbol of the growing disconnect between Churchill Downs Inc. and its New Orleans property, the Fair Grounds.

The 140-year-old Kentucky Derby, arguably the sport's most recognized race, has grown by leaps and bounds. It is, by a sizable margin, the most heavily bet horse race in the country.

A record $133.1 million was wagered on the Kentucky Derby in 2012. Churchill Downs Inc., which also owns Arlington (Ill.) Park and Calder Race Course in Miami, just extended a deal with NBC to televise the Derby through 2025.

And the company has put a sizable investment into its most famous track. In 2013, it spent $9 million in renovations at Churchill Downs, including a new seating area called "The Mansion," where ticket prices on Derby weekend ranged from $7,500 to $12,000 last year.

This year Churchill Downs will finish installing a $12 million high-definition video screen, approximately the size of three basketball courts, in time for Derby weekend in May.

"Since 2005 we have invested over $160 million in improving our fans' experience," Churchill Downs Racetrack President Kevin Flanery said in a statement.

But while Churchill Downs Inc. posted net record revenues of $779.3 million in 2013, there is growing concern among Fair Grounds loyalists that the money hasn't been invested in the New Orleans track.

"Every press release and everything (Churchill Downs Inc.) writes, millions and millions of dollars seem to go into ... Derby weekend, the boutique seating and the video board," said Fair Grounds leading owner Maggi Moss, who has won three straight owners titles at the track and finished third in the national standings in 2013.

The Fair Grounds has cut purses twice this season and cancelled four stakes races in response to a decline in money wagered (handle), while its competitor, Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark., has raised purses.

Horsemen have pointed out the problems go beyond the purse cuts, which are ultimately tied to handle. They cited small fields, poor customer service and persistent problems with the Stall-Wilson Turf course, which has been able to run only about half of its scheduled races this season.

All of these problems were pointed out to Fair Grounds management in a tense meeting.

"We are seeing a deterioration in racing at the Fair Grounds like I have never seen before," Dr. Thomas Grimstad, a Louisiana State Racing commissioner, said in Racing Commission meeting Feb. 17. "We are seeing these short fields, the problems with the turf course necessitating multiple scratches. ... The percentage of favorites winning at the Fair Grounds, I don't know what it is, but it has got to be dramatically above what the national average is. ...

"A week doesn't go by that I don't have people coming to me and telling me how the racing is deteriorating. I don't see any marketing per se. Now, maybe I just don't see it. I don't see any innovation at all. All I see are reductions in service."

The discourse has traveled beyond talk in the barns, all the way to the Louisiana House of Representatives Appropriations Committee, which sharply questioned the Racing Commission on March 11.

"The condition of the Fair Grounds in New Orleans ... is in need of some repairs and capital improvements," Rep. Patrick Connick, R-Marrero, said to Charles Gardiner III., the executive director of the Louisiana Racing Commission. "Turf races are not being run as it should because the track is in such poor condition."

Rep. John Schroder, R-Covington, said in the meeting that he'd heard numerous complaints from constituents.

"I'm getting phone calls and emails. And you've got some issues," Schroder said. "I represent the horsemen in my district. ... It seems (since Churchill Downs Inc.) has been around, things have gotten steadily worse instead of better."

It's a far cry from the rave reviews Churchill Downs Inc. received when it bought the track out of bankruptcy in 2004. Ten-time leading Fair Grounds trainer Tom Amoss, who races at Churchill-owned tracks throughout the year, was no different.

"Like a lot of people, when Churchill Downs bought this place, I thought wow, this track has become part of the Churchill Downs family, we've got good things to look forward to," Amoss said. "I couldn't have been more wrong."

THE BEGINNING

Churchill Downs Inc. officially closed on the Fair Grounds and its 10 off-track betting parlors in a $47 million transaction on Oct. 15, 2004.

It was a particularly attractive venue for the company, which sought the property for several years. Churchill Downs Inc., which had seven properties at the time, pursued the Fair Grounds in part because of the potential for installing slot machines.

A temporary slots facility was built at the New Orleans track in 2007, and a permanent gaming area was completed Nov. 14, 2008.

The Fair Grounds and Calder are the only Churchill-owned tracks allowed to have alternative gaming, but the company recently purchased a casino-hotel-event center in Vicksburg, Miss., for $145.6 million and a casino in Oxford, Maine, for $168.6 million. The company is currently pursuing the addition of a downtown casino in Louisville if expanded gambling were legalized in Kentucky.

Figures recently reported by Churchill Downs Inc. in 2013 showed its revenue from slot machines surpassed its racing revenue for the first time.

In an interview with The Times-Picayune on Oct. 17, 2004, Tom Meeker, then-CEO of the company, said the Fair Grounds would not have been an appealing purchase without the possibility of additional revenue from slot machines.

"But the fact is, there are no acquisitions where slot machines are not part of the key, as you well know," Meeker said. "I mean, given the dynamics of what's going on in our business, it has become very important that alternative gaming, in some form ... you just need it for the purse structure."

Initially after the purchase Churchill Downs Inc. quickly went to work on improvements at the Fair Grounds, which included $4 million in renovations to living quarters for workers on the back side and revamping the structure of the stakes schedule.

"A few spectators criticized the upkeep, not for being shoddy, but rather for being too meticulous, reminding longtime track-goers that this once-local entity is now, essentially, a franchise," The Times-Picayune wrote on Thanksgiving 2004, opening day.

By all accounts, locals felt the future was bright for the track that was struggling in the pre-Churchill years.

"In the long run, it’s going to be better off," Fair Grounds patron Hilary Nunez told The Times-Picayune on opening day in 2004. "It’s not going to lose its charm; it’s going to gain charm. Hopefully, we’ll bring in big-time trainers and horses like back in the ‘80s when this place used to really kick."

Almost a decade later, longtime patron Sammy Toups remembers that afternoon well.

"I felt like a kid in a candy store," he recalled. "The legendary Churchill Downs is buying my track. I thought someday the Breeders' Cup might be here."

He paused.

"Boy was I wrong."

By Louisiana law, slot machines are only allowed at the Fair Grounds if the track holds an 80-day race meet. Slots were intended to subsidize purses, and by all accounts have helped many financially struggling tracks through hard times.

But have they become the main focus?

"What I'm being told is slots are doing well; we're slowly turning away from slots and getting away from racing," Schroder said in the Legislative meeting. "I'm not hearing from fans, I'm hearing from people who eat and pay their bills based on that industry."

"We hear that," Gardiner said. "The commission is very concerned with all the quality of horse racing in the state."

He's not the only one concerned.

"If their business model is to alienate their customers, the horsemen, and the community, I give them a gold star because it's working perfectly," said Amoss, a New Orleans native who has been working at the track since he was 14.

"This is about increasing shareholder equity in the short term at the expense of long-term company growth. You can take a first-year finance course to know that it may help for a little while, but in the end, it's a disaster for your company."

PUTTING UP WITH IT

Despite the problems cited by horsemen, the Fair Grounds remains attractive as a winter venue to many top trainers for one reason: the quality of its dirt track.

Long regarded as one of the safest and most forgiving dirt surfaces in racing, it's one area that has continued to thrive under the Churchill banner.

And that's reason enough for some trainers to allow some of the top Thoroughbreds in America to spend at least part of their winters in New Orleans.

"I've developed some of the best horses I ever had here," said Neil Howard, who conditioned 2003 Horse of the Year Mineshaft. "Our dirt track is second to none."

While many trainers expressed their frustration with Churchill Downs Inc., those same trainers have been making the Churchill Downs and Fair Grounds circuit for decades.

"I'm at Churchill year-round," said trainer Steve Margolis, who was 10th in the Fair Grounds standings as of Tuesday. "I love living in both these cities, and if I had my way I'd keep coming here and going to Churchill. I like it. ... But they do need to support their back side and make other adjustments to try to help this place. ...

"This place does need a makeover. It needs some help. They just need to allocate the money to do it."

When it comes down to it, high on the list of issues for trainers is the safety of the main track. That's the surface on which all horses, both turf and dirt runners, spend at least a portion of almost every day training.

And while deficiencies have been pointed out in other areas, the main track is something the Fair Grounds has continued to maintain, trainers say.

Give them a safe track and trainers likely will keep coming back.

"At least your horses aren't getting hurt here," said trainer Dallas Stewart, whose filly Unbridled Forever won the Silverbulletday Stakes in January. "The track is good and my good horses are running phenomenal."

Everything else, he said, is just nitpicking.

Ask most trainers around the back side, and they won't hesitate to sing the praises of the Fair Grounds' main surface. In several local trainers' opinions, it is one of the best tracks in the country to train a young horse.

"We'll put up with a lot of crap for a safe track," said trainer Keith Desormeaux, who won the 2013 Risen Star Stakes with 135-1 longshot Ive Struck a Nerve. Perhaps ironically, Ive Struck a Nerve suffered an accident at the Fair Grounds while training shortly after the race that sidelined him for the rest of the year.

Steve Asmussen, who is a finalist on the National Museum of Racing 2014 Hall of Fame ballot, has brought some of his highest quality stock to train on the Fair Grounds' oval in the winter.

Asmussen conditioned two-time Horse of the Year Curlin and 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra. Both were stabled at Fair Grounds at one point in their careers.

Had they been available at auction at their peak or post-retirement, both would have likely commanded record prices. That's an extreme rarity as only two Horse of the Year winners, Lady's Secret in 1987 and Havre de Grace in 2012, have been sold at public auction.

Havre de Grace, the 2011 Horse of the Year who also trained at Fair Grounds, commanded $10 million at auction, a record for a broodmare prospect.

But to Asmussen, who could potentially have the next Kentucky Oaks winner in Untapable, horses like those are essentially priceless. All things considered, the surface is the key.

"I'm here because the surface is good and I have irreplaceable horses. They come out of here the best they're going to be," Asmussen said. "I do this for the next Curlin, for the next Rachel. We're doing this for them."

A "DYING SPORT"?

The sport's problems aren't limited to Fair Grounds.

A 2011 study commissioned by the Jockey Club and conducted by independent management consulting firm McKinsey & Company titled "Driving sustainable growth for Thoroughbred racing and breeding" highlighted a few of those concerns.

Without new growth strategies, Thoroughbred racing handle will decline 25 percent in the next decade, according to the report. And only 22 percent of the general public has a favorable impression of the sport.

The report also cited declining handle, attendance, number of starters, number of race days at tracks, along with an almost stagnant number of new fans.

The big events, such as the Kentucky Derby, have grown their attendance, handle and TV ratings. Day-to-day operations overall, however, have declined.

"There is no secret that there is too much racing in the United States and in the State of Louisiana," Churchill Downs Inc. wrote in a statement. "Industry-wide handle is down 26 precent from 2007. The handle generated at the State of Louisiana tracks is down 32 precent from 2007. In short, the demand for horse racing has fallen dramatically while the supply remains high. ...

"Here in (Louisiana) and in other states there are different factions of our industry pulling in different directions, and that is certainly not helping to reinvigorate the sport. While some horsemen have embraced change and understand the need for a paradigm shift, others are having a difficult time.

"As an industry we have a lot of work to do."

Saenz, Broberg Take Delta Downs Titles
3/19/2014 12:30:04 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 3/18/2014 3:20:04 PM Last Updated: 3/19/2014 8:31:49 AM

Delta Downs Racetrack & Casino's 2013-14 Thoroughbred season wrapped up March 15 with jockey Diego Saenz the only rider to reach triple digits in wins during the 88-day meet.

Saenz earned the riding title, his second at the Vinton, La., track, by winning 116 races from 487 mounts. He also was the top jockey by earnings with $2,537,385. Saenz's first title came in 2009-10 when he rode 108 winners.

Many of Saenz's victories came for Karl Broberg, who won his third consecutive training title by sending out 75 winners from 254 starters. Broberg's win total marked a personal high at Delta Downs as he tallied 56 wins during the 2012-13 season and 44 in 2011-12.

Capturing their second consecutive leading owner title this year was End Zone Athletics, of which Broberg is a co-owner along with Matt Johanson. End Zone Athletics was represented by 28 winners from 96 starters and $461,775 in purse earnings.

LA: Fairgrounds Racetrack Expose
3/18/2014 4:00:46 PM  -  Times-Picayune 

Posted: March 18, 2014 at 11:00 AM, updated March 18, 2014 at 1:23 PM

When the Kentucky Derby is run this spring, a new addition to the racetrack will make spectators' binoculars merely ornamental.

Churchill Downs Inc. installed a $12 million high-definition video board the size of three basketball courts -- the world's largest, according to manufacturer Panasonic -- for watching thoroughbreds round the stretch at its premier track.

Nearly 700 miles away, at Churchill Downs corporation's New Orleans Fair Grounds, a much smaller, less high-tech on-field TV screen has been broken for several years, leaving fans at the rail without a zoomed-in view of the action.

Louisiana horse racing industry observers point to the comparison to argue that the 142-year-old Mid-City institution is deteriorating while its Louisville-based corporate owner directs its slot machine gambling profits to maintain its hallowed Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks franchises.

Seen as the Fair Grounds' savior a decade ago, Churchill Downs is now painted as an absentee landlord.

The concerns from owners and trainers who have a stake in the New Orleans' horse racing future come at a time when track owners nationwide are fighting for gamblers' attention. In the world of 24-hour casinos, multimillion-dollar lottery drawings, off-track betting outlets and legalized Internet gaming, the Sport of Kings has fallen on hard times.

Wagering on thoroughbred races nationwide has declined by nearly a third over the past decade, according to the industry tracking group Equibase. That has left a lot of racetracks struggling.

"We don't know if there is a solution, but there is a problem," Churchill Downs Inc. wrote in a statement. "Horse racing in America and in Louisiana has become diluted. In Louisiana tracks are required by legislation to run a minimum number of days and because of the economics of the sport, fewer and fewer foals are being produced each year. The result is average field sizes are going down and handle is following that downward trend."

But even as they acknowledge the economics of 21st century horse racing, some locals are adamant that more could be done to invest in the Fair Grounds.

"Churchill Downs is similar to a slumlord," said Stanley Seelig, president of the Louisiana Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, which represents owners and trainers. "They want to suck out all of the cash they can and send it back to Kentucky."

That is one of a growing list of complaints -- including poor customer service, shabby facilities and slimmer purses -- that has caught the attention of state lawmakers and the Louisiana Racing Commission, which regulates racetrack licenses.

Chief among the concerns is the condition of the aging turf course. Owners and trainers say the grass takes days to dry out after a rain because of a failing drainage system, leaving it unusable on many racing days, while other courses across the country recover from wet weather more quickly.

Rep. Patrick Connick, R-Marrero, has introduced legislation that would require 10 percent of slot machine revenues at the Fair Grounds to be invested back into improving the facility. Another bill would add failure to maintain a turf course among a list of reasons the Racing Commission could suspend or revoke a track license.

"The turf races are always being scratched, and it's having an impact on the quality of the races," Connick said. "The top-notch trainers aren't coming here like they did at one time. Something had to be done to get their (Churchill Downs') attention. It appears their main financial interest is the slots. That's what is making the revenue, and the horse racing is becoming the bridesmaid. We just need to get the quality of horse racing up to speed with the rest of the country."

In response, Churchill Downs pointed out its renovation of the turf course last summer, which followed a plan recommended by surface expert Mick Peterson. That included putting in a French drain to siphon the moisture into the infield lake and changing the turf to a tougher mix of Bermuda and rye grass with a stronger root system.

It was an investment estimated to be in the "low six figures," according to a Daily Racing Form article.

"While we had an unprecedented winter in New Orleans and much of the United States, it is clear the turf track has made improvements during the 2013-2014 Thoroughbred Meet," Churchill Downs Inc. said in a statement. "Earlier in the meet the cold and freezing temperatures made it difficult for the track to dry out. Most recently, in late February and March, the track is recovering from rain much quicker than last year and earlier in this meet."

The company did not agree with the approach taken in the pending legislation.

"Legislation dictating how and where private business invests capital should be alarming to anyone that runs a business in Louisiana," the company said.

Churchill Downs bought the Fair Grounds out of bankruptcy for $47 million in 2004 following a tumultuous period in the track's history. A lawsuit filed by the horsemen over video poker revenues led to a $90 million judgment against the track, which was later reduced to $25 million. The hefty price ultimately contributed to the owners, the Krantz family of New Orleans, seeking bankruptcy protection.

At the time, some locals hoped the sale to Churchill Downs represented a new start. The company committed to several million of dollars in improvements on the track's backside. One year earlier, New Orleans voters approved allowing a slot machine facility to operate at the track, which Churchill Downs said was essential to boosting purses in a time of increased competition. The Fair Grounds opened its 600-machine gaming room in 2008.

Churchill Downs also owns Calder Race Course in Miami Gardens, Fla., and Arlington Park in Arlington Heights, Ill.

In recent years, the company has looked to expand beyond horses in multimillion-dollar deals. Churchill Downs acquired a casino-hotel-event center in Vicksburg, Miss., for $145.6 million and a casino in Oxford, Maine, for $168.6 million. It became an investment partner in a live harness racing and casino facility -- or "racino" -- in Ohio last year.

Charles Gardiner, the executive director of the Louisiana Racing Commission, told a legislative committee last week that the Commission is looking into how the problems at the New Orleans track can be addressed with Churchill Downs Inc. He said the key financial source for the Fair Grounds' business is the slot machine facility, but that's not unique to New Orleans.

"Certainly, the driver is the casino," Gardiner said. "The slot machines are the big driver in racing today. They subsidize racing. That is also aided by video poker funds and off-track wagering and simulcast. It's been a band-aid approach in horse racing across the board."

Last month, Churchill Downs reported record-setting net revenues for 2013 at $779.3 million, up 7 percent from the previous year, and the company's common stock price increased 35 percent during the year. Over the past two years, Churchill Downs' stock prices have soared from around $57 per share in March 2012 to a closing price of $93.17 per share last Thursday (March 13).

A look at Churchill Downs' finances shows that wagering was much stronger in Louisville than its other racetracks last year. Total handle was up 11 percent last year at Churchill Downs. It was down by 40 percent at Calder Race Course, down 11 percent at the Fair Grounds and down 6 percent at Arlington Park.

Overall the company's total racing handle -- the total amount wagered -- of $2.54 billion last year marked an 8 percent decline from 2012. Net racing revenues came in at $330 million, a 9 percent decline from the previous year.

Meanwhile, net gaming revenues at its casinos and racetrack slot machine facilities were up by 32 percent, at nearly $286 million, because of the addition of its casino in Maine.

The Fair Grounds has pushed for a younger generation of fans using novelty attractions to bring in newcomers: tiny monkeys riding Border Collies; humans riding ostriches; wiener dogs dashing down the dirt track unbridled. The track advertises wine and beer tastings, college scholarship giveaways, and nighttime racing with DJs, live bands and booze.

"Our hope is that those people who are curious enough to come experience our exotic races or Starlight races will go home with a newfound interest in the sport," Churchill Downs Inc. wrote.

Former owner Bryan Krantz, whose family bought the Fair Grounds in 1990, said by the late 1980s, live racing was confronting an onslaught of competition -- lottery, Mississippi casinos, riverboats, video poker and land-based casinos. Other forms of gaming for the racetrack, including off-track betting facilities with video poker, were approved in Louisiana with the intention of supporting live racing.

"The competition that was out there for those dollars, for those leisure dollars, the pari-mutuel aspect of it could not compete in that market," Krantz said.

Publicly traded companies in the racetrack business, including but not limited to Churchill Downs, are driven by short-term value and must answer to shareholders, Krantz said.

"We're kind of at a point where it's very difficult for the agriculture industry that can no longer be supported by the pari-mutuel aspect to continue to make its case," he said.

He said building an audience for live racing today can be done, but it takes real work and a grassroots, local approach.

"It's not as simple as putting an ad on television to get someone to come to the racetrack," Krantz said. "It's the grassroots strategy that really has to be cultivated. It's a roll-up your sleeves and get out amongst the people type of strategy. You have to encourage people that coming to the races is a good place to be. It's a social place. It's a place to interact with their friends and family, and the warm-and-fuzzy of it is the horses."

Staff reporter Jeff Duncan contributed to this report.

Evangeline Downs Adds $300,000 Turf Sprint
2/21/2014 10:53:29 AM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 2/19/2014 12:21:26 PM Last Updated: 2/20/2014 8:34:42 AM

Evangeline Downs Racetrack, Casino & Hotel and Boyd Gaming Feb. 19 announced the creation of one of the richest turf sprint stakes in the United States: the $300,000 Evangeline Downs Turf Sprint, which will be run June 21.

The Evangeline Downs Turf Sprint for 3-year-olds and up will be contested on the grass course at five furlongs. The Turf Sprint will anchor a special Saturday afternoon program of races that will be highlighted by five stakes and a $100,000 guaranteed Pick 4 wager.

In addition to the Evangeline Downs Turf Sprint, the card will include the $100,000 Opelousas Stakes on turf for fillies and mares and the $100,000 Evangeline Mile at one mile on the main track for 3-year-olds and up. Two Louisiana-bred sprints stakes on the main track—the $70,000 Lafayette for 3-year-olds and the $70,000 Acadiana for 3-year-old fillies—complete the $640,000 stakes day.

"We are very excited to inaugurate the Evangeline Downs Turf Sprint for our horsemen and fans here in Louisiana and around the country," said Chris Warren, director of racing operations at Evangeline Downs and sister track Delta Downs Racetrack & Casino. "Turf sprints have become extremely popular in recent years on a national scale, and we are extremely proud to bring one to the southern region of the U.S.

"We look forward to drawing horses from Louisiana and across the U.S. to run in the Turf Sprint and our strong supporting card of stakes."

The Evangeline Downs Turf Sprint is the second major stakes purse venture by Boyd Gaming, which purchased Evangeline Downs from Peninsula Gaming in 2012. Delta Downs, in Vinton, La., is home to the $1 million Delta Downs Jackpot (gr. III) for 2-year-olds in late November.

"The Evangeline Downs Turf Sprint is another example of Boyd Gaming's continued commitment to high- quality Thoroughbred racing for horsemen and fans," said Steve Kuypers, vice president and general manager of Delta Downs. "We hope to capitalize on the success we've created with the Delta Downs Jackpot and bring it to Evangeline for an outstanding day of racing on June 21 and throughout the 2014 meeting."

Fair Grounds Cuts Overnight Purses 10%
2/21/2014 10:07:06 AM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 2/20/2014 2:55:31 PM Last Updated: 2/21/2014 9:02:06 AM

Overnight purses at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots have been reduced 10% for the rest of the current race meet, track officials said Feb. 20.

The cut results from "overall softness in the pari-mutuel industry" through the first 57 days of the 2013-14 meet, officials said. The meet ends March 30.

Officials noted Fair Grounds was able to maintain its market or increase its share from slot machine and video poker operations in and around New Orleans. A percentage of purses is generated from gaming machines.

Fair Grounds, owned by Churchill Downs Inc., has slot machines at the racetrack and video poker machines at 10 of its 11 off-track betting parlors.

"We feel good that we were able to keep the overnight purses even with last year during the first 57 days, but purse amounts are largely dependent upon handle and must be adjusted as we enter the final stretch of the meet," Fair Grounds general manager of racing Howard Withers said. "This extreme weather prevented people across the country from getting to their favorite parlor or OTB, and it shows."

According to The Jockey Club Information Systems, Fair Grounds purses—overnight races and stakes—have averaged $283,207 per day during the 2013-14 meet. The figure for the same number of days during the 2012-13 meet was $291,845, according to TJCIS statistics.

About $15.57 million in purses has been paid so far at the current meet versus $16.05 million for the same period in 2012-13.

Bret Calhoun Among Inductees to Fair Grounds Hall of Fame
2/13/2014 2:34:33 PM  -  Paulick Report 

Posted: 2/12/14

Brereton Jones’s Proud Spell, one of five fillies of recent vintage to have parlayed a win in the Fair Grounds Oaks to one in the Kentucky Oaks later in the spring, will be joined by Crescent City-based trainers Bret Calhoun and Larry Robideaux, Jr. when all three are inducted into the Fair Grounds Hall of Fame during ceremonies to be held March 12 at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.

Proud Spell, a Kentucky homebred daughter of Proud Citizen, accomplished her “Oaks Double” in 2008, the year before Dolphus Morrison’s Rachel Alexandra did the same thing on her way to eventual Horse of the Year honors.

“We and I were absolutely ecstatic when they told us,” said Proud Spell’s trainer Larry Jones when asked about his and his wife Cindy’s reaction. “When we called ‘Brere’ and told him and Libby (Brereton Jones’s wife), they were just tickled pink. They are really excited and are making plans to be here for the ceremony.”

Calhoun, 49, born in Dallas, Texas, but now a resident of New Orleans, has been training horses for two decades. The highlight of his career to date was winning two Breeders’ Cup races in 2010 – the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint with Martin Racing Stable and Dan Morgan’s Dubai Majesty as well as the Grade II Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint with Carl Moore’s Chamberlain Bridge.

“To tell the truth, I never even thought about this until they told me,” said Calhoun. “I was really surprised and shocked. Obviously, it’s a great honor. When I look at the list of trainers already in there, all I can say is that I’ll be joining some really great people and some really great horsemen.”

Robideaux, 80, born in Iowa, Louisiana, saddled his first horse at Fair Grounds in 1961 and his last one in 2012. The highlight of his career came when he saddled Ben Castleman’s My Charmer to win the 1972 Fair Grounds Oaks. My Charmer went on to be famous as the dam of 1977 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew.

“I appreciate this very much,” said Robideaux, speaking over the phone from Louisiana Downs where he is currently serving as stall man. “I’ll be joining guys like Hal Bishop and Marion Van Berg. I was self-taught as a trainer, but those were the guys I looked up to when I first came around. I appreciate this very much. This really means a lot to me.”

Fair Grounds Hall of Fame induction ceremonies will be held in the Black Gold Room in the Derby Building above the Racing Office shortly after the racing program on March 12.

Also, three longtime veterans of the New Orleans press corps, previously announced, will be inducted into Fair Grounds Press Box Hall of Fame during the ceremonies. They are Glenn Gremillion, who ran the Fair Grounds television department for many years, A. J. Paretti, who called the charts at Fair Grounds for Daily Racing Form and later for Equibase, and longtime track photographer Lou Hodges Jr., who will be joining his late track photographer father Lou Hodges Sr. in the Press Box Hall of Fame.

Delta Downs: Rise Up wins Jackpot in stakes-record time
11/25/2013 11:02:35 AM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Updated on 11/25/2013 10:07 AM

VINTON, La. – Temperatures were unseasonably cold at Delta Downs on Saturday, but trainer Tom Amoss and jockey Gerard Melancon were on fire, winning four races together, including the Grade 3, $1 million Delta Downs Jackpot with Rise Up.

Earlier on the meet’s richest program, Amoss and Melancon teamed to win the $150,000 Delta Mile in track-record time with Grand Contender and an overnight race with Done Gone. They also won the last of the 11 races on the card, a starter allowance, with Jump Jump.

Rise Up ($6.20) won by six lengths over Casiguapo, while it was another 1 3/4 lengths back to Rankhasprivileges in third. The favored Coastline fell to his knees at the start of the race and finished eighth.

The win gave Rise Up a $600,000 prize and 10 points toward Kentucky Derby preference in a system introduced in 2012. Casiguapo earned four points for second, Rankhasprivileges got two for third, and Roman Unbridled one for fourth.

Rise Up broke well and gradually advanced to the lead, then found himself up by a length through an opening half-mile in 46.30 seconds. He proceeded to control his rivals through six furlongs in 1:11.94 before opening up through the stretch to cover the 1 1/16 miles in a stakes-record time of 1:44.71. The old mark of 1:44.72 had been set by Big Drama in 2008.

Melancon said in the week leading up to the race that he expected Rum Point, Coastline, or Casiguapo to set the pace in the Jackpot.

“Somehow, I wound up being on the lead,” Melancon said. “I said, ‘Okay, they’re just going to have to catch me,’ from there. He relaxed really good for me.”

Rise Up had won the local prep for the Jackpot, the $200,000 Jean Lafitte, by 6 1/2 lengths in his most recent start Oct. 26. The Jackpot was his third career stakes win, behind the $100,000 Mountaineer Juvenile and the Jean Lafitte.

Paul and Andrena Van Doren purchased Rise Up privately after the Mountaineer Juvenile in August. In his first start for his new connections, he was sixth in the Grade 3 Iroquois at Churchill Downs, a race in which he did not relax, Amoss said. The goal since then has been getting the horse to relax.

Rise Up is a son of Rockport Harbor and was bred in Kentucky by Cottonwood Stables.

The remaining order of finish was Whyruawesome in fifth, followed by Mighty Brown, Big Bazinga, Coastline, Flat Gone, and Rum Point.

The Jackpot win was the second for Melancon, who had won with Sabercat in 2011.

A $200,000-guaranteed pick four on races 4-7 paid $3,882. The winning numbers were 7-4-1-10. The pool was $254,495.

• Class Included ($5) dominated the $150,000 Treasure Chest by six lengths over Livi Makenzie while making her first start since May. She stalked the pace in fifth in the one-mile race for fillies and mares, then drew clear under jockey Rosie Napravnik. Ron Faucheux trains Class Included for Brittlyn Stable. Class Included came into the Treasure Chest off a fourth-place finish in the Grade 2 La Troienne at Churchill Downs. She covered the mile in 1:38.60.

• All Woman ($3.80) drove to a 2 1/2-length win over Glamoride in the $150,000 Louisiana Jewel, a one-mile race for 2-year-old fillies bred in Louisiana. Napravnik was aboard for Roy Investments and trainer Mike Henry.

• Boss Barney’s Babe ($9.20) used a nice closing kick to win the $75,000 Orleans, a seven-furlong race for 3-year-old fillies that closed out the eight stakes run Saturday at Delta. Miguel Mena rode for Barnett Stables and trainer Bret Calhoun.

* Delta Downs handled $5,044,286 from all sources on its 11-race card, which was a record for the small track that has been in operation for more than 30 years. The previous record of $4.4 million was set on Jackpot Day in 2011. The majority of the $5 million bet Saturday was wagered offtrack, with $138,823 bet by the large ontrack card at Delta. There are no attendance figures because there are no admission fees at Delta, which operates a slots casino.

Louisiana Downs: Trainer Allen Milligan has bypass surgery
9/23/2013 9:51:11 AM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted: 09/20/2013 4:57 PM

Allen Milligan, the 47-year-old trainer who won the recent title at Lone Star Park, had heart bypass surgery Monday and is doing well, according to his wife, Jeanette Hughes-Milligan.

Hughes-Milligan said her husband was found to have blockages in some of his arteries after going in for a routine doctor’s appointment. He had a double bypass procedure and was expected to be released from Baylor Medical Center in Irving, Texas, as early as Sunday.

“He came through it well,” Hughes-Milligan said. “He’s doing good. He’s watching races, watching the horses run.”

Milligan has divisions of his stable at Louisiana Downs and Remington and also will have a division this fall at Retama Park. In addition to Lone Star, he’s a title winner at Oaklawn Park.

Fair Grounds: Halstrom leaving as general manager
9/9/2013 2:37:58 PM  -  Daily Racing Form 

09/06/2013 3:56 PM

Eric Halstrom will leave his position as vice president and general manager for racing at Fair Grounds Racecourse and Slots on Oct. 1, Halstrom confirmed Friday morning.

Halstrom has worked at Fair Grounds in a similar capacity since 2008. He said he was leaving the job in New Orleans “for personal and family reasons.”

Fair Grounds president Tim Bryant said the track was in the early stages of finding a replacement for Halstrom, with the track’s 2013-14 meet scheduled to start Nov. 21.

“The timing is interesting, but we’re already in the process of working to find a replacement,” Bryant said.

Halstrom came to Fair Grounds from Canterbury Park in Minnesota and is rumored to be returning to the Twin Cities-area racetrack. Halstrom would not confirm that he’d taken a job with Canterbury, and Canterbury president Randy Sampson did not return a phone call Friday.

Bryant came to Fair Grounds, a Churchill Downs Inc. property that houses a slot-machine parlor, with a background in the casino industry, and Halstrom was the racing-oriented part of the track’s upper-management hierarchy. Bryant said it wasn’t entirely certain Halstrom’s replacement would serve in an identical capacity.

“That’s what my assumption is, but there are some factors involved there,” Bryant said.

Whited in induced coma prospects for recovery good
8/23/2013 10:07:59 AM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted: 08/22/2013 3:59 PM

Trainer David Whited was in an induced coma at a Shreveport, La., hospital on Thursday, but prospects for his recovery from brain trauma suffered earlier in the week were good, a family member said.

The bleeding on Whited’s brain has almost stopped, said his brother, trainer Danny Whited, while the percentage of swelling in his brain is lower than what is typical of patients with similar injuries. He is hospitalized at LSU Medical Center in Shreveport.

“There was a little bleeding on the brain, and it’s about stopped,” said Danny Whited, who is based at nearby Louisiana Downs. “Overall, he’s doing real good. If there are no setbacks, it looks like he’s going to be okay. If nothing else happens, I think in a week he’ll be in really good shape.”

David Whited, 71, is stabled at a training center in Arkansas. He shipped a horse into Louisiana Downs by himself on Tuesday night and may have been injured unloading the animal.

“We don’t know what happened,” he said. “No one was there except him, and he probably won’t remember anything, either.”

Danny Whited said his brother’s vital signs were strong Thursday. He said, at this point, doctors have not said that he would need surgery. Danny Whited said his brother has a small fracture in his face.

David Whited is a retired jockey who won 3,795 races in his riding career. As a trainer, his top runners include All About Allie, a six-time stakes winner of more than $300,000. Whited also put Hall of Fame jockey Calvin Borel on the 5,000th winner of his career back in March, when Hezunusal took a maiden claiming race at Oaklawn Park.

A fund has been established to help Whited’s family with expenses. Donations can be made to the David Whited Special Fund, in care of the Arkansas Racetrack Chaplaincy, P.O. Box 20564, Hot Springs, AR, 71903.

Storm Threat Forces Fair Grounds Evacuation
8/15/2013 2:28:25 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 8/15/2013 9:48:36 AM Last Updated: 8/15/2013 10:51:37 AM

Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots has declared a mandatory evacuation of its barn area because of tropical weather that might affect the New Orleans area by the weekend.

The evacuation applies to about 1,000 horses currently stabled at the Fair Grounds for its summer Quarter Horse meet. The meet's opening day was set for Friday, Aug. 16, but has been postponed until Aug. 21. Its exotic ostrich racing event, previously set for Saturday, will be rescheduled.

Two days of live racing scheduled for this week also have been canceled.

The National Weather Service projects a storm path that could head toward the central Gulf Coast.

Eric Halstrom, Fair Grounds vice president and general manager for racing, said the order was issued Aug. 14 because of the time and effort required to transport the horses.

"By cancelling racing now, everyone will have time to depart in an orderly and safe manner, as well as to return before we resume racing next week, weather-permitting," Halstrom said. "Logistically it would be difficult to run this weekend, even if the track did not receive the brunt of the forecast weather, due to the high levels of anticipated rainfall."

The Evangeline Training Center in Carencro has several hundred open stalls, the Fair Grounds said. Horsemen in need of a place to stable can inquire about availability by calling 337-896-7223.

Louisiana Barn Fire Victims Holding Fundraiser
8/7/2013 10:23:26 AM  -  Louisiana TB Breeders 

Posted: 8/7/2013

The fire victims in Louisiana are having a dinner in the Red River Room at Louisiana Downs on August 23 at 5:30 p.m.

We are in need of auction items for our silent and live auction.

If you could help we would appreciate it.

All monetary donations needs to be sent to our chaplain:

Winner Circle Church
5538 Brandon Rd
Shreveport, LA 71107

Auction items can be sent to:

Louisiana Thoroughbred Breeders
8000 East Texas Street
Bossier City, La. 71111

LA: 19 thoroughbreds die in barn fire
8/2/2013 10:08:53 AM  -  Shreveport Times 

Posted: Aug. 1, 2013 11:16 PM

HAUGHTON — Nineteen horses were killed when a barn at River Point Stables in Haughton caught fire Thursday afternoon.

Alan Fox, the owner of the facility for 15 years, was driving from the east side when he saw smoke rolling from the barn where the majority of the horses were kept. By then, it was too late for him to save the animals.

“It was already too far advanced,” Fox said. “You would have died if you had gone in.”

Geno Dezinat, a retired jockey, was able to save one horse. Witnesses said he had to swat the horse all the way out of the barn.

Ronnie Elliott, a horse groomer, said when he and other employees saw the smoke, they called the fire department and tried to move horses, but the fire grew too fast.

“In minutes, the whole barn was burning,” he said.

Fox did not own any of the horses that died in the fire but had spoken with the owners, and all were “devastated.”

“It’s not the tragedy of losing a building,” he said. “It’s the way the horses died. You can rebuild a building.”

The barn was constructed about 30 years ago with a wooden infrastructure and metal walls and roof, Fox said. There was no sprinkler system. There was a small tack room at the front of the barn where a farm hand was living.

About 40 firefighters from South Bossier District 2, Bossier District 1, Haughton and Bossier City departments responded, as well as Bossier Parish sheriff’s deputies, Bossier EMS and LifeAir. The state fire marshal’s office was also on scene.

Emergency responders were on scene within eight minutes. The call went out at 5:45 p.m.

With parish fire departments responding, water had to be shuttled to the blaze. Bossier Fire District 1 Deputy Chief Robert Roe said when firefighters arrived, the barn was engulfed in flames, and they used water quickly.

“Once we got the shuttle sustained, it wasn’t a problem,” Roe said.

Firefighters were able to prevent the fire from spreading to the adjacent barn.

Stalls were leased to individuals who were responsible for their own insurance, Fox said. The barn was not insured.

The facility is adjacent to Louisiana Downs, and some of the horses that died were well known at the track. Fox would not release any of the horses’ names.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation. Bossier sheriff’s Sgt. Dave Faulk said foul play is not suspected at this point, “but everything is a suspect until it’s not.”

Twelve to 15 other horses were stalled in four other barns.

Gayle and Donna Dixon, of Shreveport, have a small farm in Prescott, Ark., and have been boarding three horses at River Point for about three years. Their horses, two of which are insured, were stalled at a different barn not close to the fire. The couple said the facility is always well kept and clean.

“This could happen anywhere,” Gayle Dixon said. “Alan runs a pretty tight place.”

Fair Grounds tells of turf course measures
6/26/2013 2:14:23 PM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted: 06/25/2013 5:19 PM

Fair Grounds on Tuesday began seeding its turf course with a tougher strain of Bermuda grass in an effort to rebuild the surface that had difficulty drying out during a particularly wet New Orleans meet that ended March 31.

The process is part of a restoration plan recommended by surface expert Mick Peterson, who has been assessing the local course, said Eric Halstrom, vice president and general manager of Fair Grounds.

Fair Grounds officials updated the Louisiana Racing Commission on the status of the course at its meeting Monday.

“This was a tough year on the turf course, and everyone knows it,” Halstrom said Tuesday. “The good news is the turf course is not beyond repair by any means. There were things that were out of our control last year, namely the weather. We did some study of rainfall in New Orleans the last 25 years, and last year was historically significant in a bad way.”

Halstrom said Fair Grounds received almost the identical amount of rain as 1997, the years being the worst for precipitation in the last quarter-century. The inclement weather contributed to sediment buildup over the inner five feet of the turf course.

“Over time, a lot of material washed down there, and it became very soft and mucky,” Halstrom said. “It wasn’t conducive to drying out.”

Halstrom said that under Peterson’s recommendation about a 1 1/2-inch layer of the sediment was scraped from the area and removed. Beach sand was then laid in on the inside five feet for its absorbent nature. Peterson then recommended seeding Celebration Bermuda as opposed to regular Bermuda because it’s a “more robust Bermuda seed, with a strong, tough root system,” Halstrom said.

“We’re in planting mode right now,” he said. “We scraped off the inside five feet, and the course looks like a field that’s ready to be planted. The good news is it’s easy to grow grass in New Orleans with the heat and humidity, and we’re ahead of schedule.”

Halstrom said Fair Grounds will place some limitations on turf racing for the next Thoroughbred meet that opens Nov. 22, a few days earlier than the traditional Thanksgiving opening due to the way the calendar falls in 2013.

“It’s within our control to use the turf course judiciously, and at this point Fair Grounds will reserve the course for the best horses,” Halstrom said. “That doesn’t mean only stakes horses. It means instead of writing four turf races a day we’ll use two, and the ones that go will be the higher-class races. We’ll see how it goes. We still have to fill races, too, but we plan to cut the turf racing in some manner.”

Halstrom said the turf restoration project cost was in the “low six figures.”

Evangeline Downs dermorphin rulings upheld by court
6/26/2013 2:06:15 PM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted: 06/25/2013 5:49 PM

A circuit court in Louisiana has upheld the fines and suspensions the state’s racing commission issued in two separate cases involving the painkiller dermorphin that had dated back to last year’s Thoroughbred meet at Evangeline Downs.

Trainers Anthony Agilar and Kyi Lormand were each suspended three years and fined $2,500 when horses in their care tested positive for the illegal painkiller in May 2012. Their suspensions were to have started Monday.

The judge’s decision was issued by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, said Larry Munster, assistant executive director of the Louisiana Racing Commission. He said the suspensions were to run through June 23, 2016.

Lormand was cited after He’s a Slewvescent ran second in a May 16 race. He also was the owner of record of the horse. Aguilar was cited for two horses he trained, Bad John and Lapile Creek. Both won, with Bad John edging He’s a Slewvescent on May 16 and Lapile Creek winning May 31.

In other cases, the Louisiana Racing Commission on Monday suspended trainer Javier Contreras a total of a year and four months after he picked up his third, fourth, and fifth offenses in a 12-month period, Munster said. Contreras was cited for three separate horses, all of whom tested positive for the Class 4 medications phenylbutazone and flunixin after winning Quarter Horses races in March at Louisiana Downs. The commission suspended Contreras 60 days in each of the first two cases and a year for the third offense. The purses from the races were ordered redistributed, and he was fined a total of $6,000.

Trainers David Carroll and Carl Deville also had Class 4 medication violations that came before the commission Monday, with the panel upholding the $1,000 fines that stewards assessed in each of the cases and tacking on the provision that the purses in the races be redistributed, Munster said. Carroll was cited for a methocarbamol positive stemming from Silver Strike’s win in a Feb. 17 race at Fair Grounds. Deville was cited for a phenylbutazone and flunixin positive on I’m in to Happy, a maiden winner May 9 at Evangeline.

Munster said the commission’s rules committee announced plans they are moving to raise the penalties for Class 4 and 5 drug violations in Louisiana.

La Downs: Trainer Stanley Roberts hurt in paddock accident
5/17/2013 10:45:39 AM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted: 05/16/2013 5:16PM

Trainer Stanley Roberts was taken to a Bossier City, La., hospital Thursday afternoon following an accident in the Louisiana Downs paddock. Roberts was saddling Ollie Baby for the day’s fourth race with the horse flipped in his stall, injuring Roberts.

Jockey agent Ronald Ardoin, who accompanied Roberts to the hospital, said Roberts was had considerable pain in the neck area but had responded to sedation. Roberts was undergoing X-rays shortly before 4 p.m. local time.

LA: Amoss, Asmussen Tie for Fair Grounds Title
4/1/2013 10:41:38 AM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 3/31/2013 8:36:09 PM Last Updated: 3/31/2013 8:45:08 PM

Trainers Tom Amoss and Steve Asmussen ended the 141st Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots meeting in a dead-heat for most victories with 42 apiece when they combined to win half of the races on the closing-day card March 31.

For the third straight season, jockey Rosie Napravnik and owner Maggi Moss led their respective categories at the New Orleans oval as well.

Asmussen extended his record number of leading trainer titles to 12, while Amoss tied Jack Van Berg for second in Fair Grounds trainer titles with 10. Asmussen, won his sixth consecutive leading trainer crown at Fair Grounds.

Last week, Asmussen became the second-leading trainer all-time nationally in victories, passing Van Berg. He now has 6,423 lifetime wins.

Amoss won four races on the closing-day program to notch a share of his first local training title since 2006-2007. He and Asmussen also shared a meet title in 2000-2001.

"It's been a while," Amoss said. "It's good to know the stable had one left in them! But truly, every once in a while the horse gods give you a magical day and today was truly a magical day. Four wins is almost gluttonous, but we'll take it, for sure. I'm proud of the stable and I'm proud of everyone that works for the barn."

The last time a trainer other than Amoss or Asmussen led the standings at Fair Grounds was the 1998-1999 meet, when Al Stall Jr. tied with Amoss.

Amoss now has 922 career Fair Grounds victories, second behind Van Berg's 1,210 (estimated), while Asmussen is third with 863.

Napravnik cruised to her third consecutive leading jockey title with 125 wins, her highest total at Fair Grounds. She finished 43 wins ahead of James Graham, who was runner-up for the fifth time.

"My husband and I have made this our home and we love this city and the racing here at Fair Grounds, so it was great to be back this year," Napravnik said. "It's great to have all of the supporters, the owners and trainers, helping rack up the wins. We'll be back next year and we're looking forward to it already. I hate to leave."

In another race that came down to the final day, Maggi Moss earned her third straight leading owner title with 19 wins, one more than Asmussen.

Moss, a Des Moines, Iowa attorney, finished third in the national owner standings the past three calendar years.

LA: Racing Commission imposes harsh penalties upon demorphin trainers
10/2/2012 10:43:44 AM  -  New Orleans Times-Picayune 

Posted: September 28, 2012 at 7:20 PM, updated September 28, 2012 at 8:56 PM

On what Louisiana State Racing Commission chairman Jerry Meaux called "one of the darkest days in Louisiana horse racing," the commission took a hard stance against eight trainers whose horses tested positive for dermorphin at Louisiana racetracks this summer.

The commission handed out suspensions ranging from three years to 10 years, and imposed fines of $2,500 to $20,000 on the trainers following two days of testimony on Thursday and Friday.

Dermorphin is a powerful painkiller that is found naturally in frog secretions, giving it the nickname "frog juice." A synthetic version 40 times more powerful than morphine has been developed as a performance enhancing drug for racehorses.

Dermorphin is categorized as a Class 1 drug by Racing Commissioners International. Class 1 drugs are performance enhancing drugs with no therapeutic value, and considered to be the most harmful drugs given to horses.

The commission handed trainer Alvin Smith, who had two prior Class 1 drug violations, the most severe punishment out of the eight trainers. He received a 10- year suspension and $20,000 fine.

Although Louisiana racing rules recommend a $5,000 fine and a suspension of no more than five years for Class 1 violations, the commission said they considered Smith's to be an "aggravated" case.

Smith was questioned harshly by the commission after he said he had no knowledge of dermorphin or how it got into his horse, and admitted he had made little effort to find out more about the drug after receiving his positive violation.

Heath Taylor, one of the country's leading quarter horse trainers, was suspended five years and fined $10,000.

Taylor testified at length to the commission, stating that there would be no reason to drug First Klas Fred, the horse who tested positive following the Grade III Develop a Plan Stakes in May.

"I don't think I would be taking that kind of risk for such a small race," he said.

Taylor, who has won several $1 million stakes races, said he never gave or asked a vet to give dermorphin to any of his horses. He said he felt dermorphin testing was unreliable, noting that one of his horses had tested positive in Texas, but was cleared after samples sent to a laboratory in Pennsylvania came back negative for the drug.

"Just because they say the horse had dermorphin in it, doesn't mean it did," he said. "I would give any amount of money to answer (how it tested positive) and answer it honestly. I know I did not give it."

John Darrel Soileau, who had two horses test positive this summer, was suspended five years for each violation, and fined $10,000 for each. His sentences will run consecutively.

Alonzo Loya was suspended five years and fined $10,000.

Taylor, Soileau, Smith and Loya were all represented by attorney Donald Kelly, who said they intend to appeal the ruling in court.

Kyi Lormand, Lamont Keith Charles and Gonzalo Gonzales, who testified before the commission without representation, all received three-year suspensions and $2,500 fines.

Anthony Agilar, who had two horses test positive, received a three-year suspension and $2,500 fine for both violations, but will serve them concurrently.

Charles gave state police a syringe believed to have dermorphin in it after his vet asked him to administer a shot himself.

'"I said I don't know how to give shots, so I just kept it," he said. "I gave it to the state police when they came asking questions after the test came out."

Lormand testified that his veterinarian, Dr. Kyle Hebert, had been giving his horses drugs that Hebert called "human herbs that would boost metabolism and help them breathe a bit."

Lormand confronted Hebert following the positive test, and said Hebert swore it was a natural herb untraceable by drug testing.

"If we can't trust our vet, who can we trust?" he asked.

Agilar, who also used Hebert as his vet, said he was told the same thing about the drugs given to his horses. Hebert identified the drugs as additional bleeder medication on the vet bill and either backdated or postdated the date administered, so that it wouldn't fall on race day.

Lormand said following the decision that he felt "dead."

"I've got three kids at home," he said. "This is my livelihood."

Lormand said he plans to appeal, pending his financial situation.

Gonzales identified himself as a "program trainer," who did not actually train the horse who tested positive and wasn't at the track the day of the violation. The commission ruled he deserved the same suspension as the other trainers.

LRC Executive Director Charlie Gardiner said it was "disheartening" to learn that such a drug had been in use in Louisiana.

"You never want to believe a drug this dangerous and potent is being used in your jurisdiction," he said. "It can affect the safety of animal and rider, the fairness of the race, and affects racing through simulcast and gives people a potential negative impression of racing in Louisiana."

Gardiner said an investigation of vets has been ongoing, and could possibly lead to reduced years on Lormand, Agilar, Charles' and Gonzales' suspensions, pending the outcome.

LA Racing Commission to Meet Late Sept. on Dermorphin Cases
9/13/2012 11:18:46 AM  -  The Times-Picayune  

Published: Tuesday, September 11, 2012, 12:25 PM Updated: Tuesday, September 11, 2012, 1:15 PM

The Louisiana State Racing Commission will meet Sept. 27-28 to hear cases against nine trainers cited by stewards for alleged rules violations stemming from 11 positives for dermorphin at Louisiana tracks, Executive Director Charlie Gardiner said Tuesday.

Dermorphin is a powerful, pain-killing drug that Racing Commissioners International categorizes in Class I, among the most harmful drugs that might be given to horses.

The commission was planning to consider the cases against quarter-horse trainers Heath Taylor, Steve Garrison, Darrel Soileau, Alvin Smith Jr., Alonzo Loya and Gonzalo Gonzales and thoroughbred trainers Keith Charles, Kyi Lormand and Anthony Agilar at a two-day meeting in late August, but the meeting was canceled because of Hurricane Isaac.

Under Louisiana racing rules, the recommended penalty for a Class I violation is a suspension of at least a year and no more than five years, and a $5,000 fine. Racing regulators say that dermorphin is much more powerful than morphine and has no legitimate use in horses.

Of the 11 horses that tested positive for the drug, seven raced at Delta Downs, three raced at Evangeline Downs and one raced at Louisiana Downs. The races were in May and June.

In each case, stewards at the track where an alleged violation occurred suspended the trainer in question for six months – the maximum suspension that stewards can give a trainer under Louisiana racing rules. In each case, the stewards deemed the penalty insufficient and referred the case to the commission for further action. In racing, the trainer is responsible for the condition of the horse.

Agilar and Soileau face two rulings apiece. Each of the other seven trainers faces one ruling. Nine of the 11 horses that tested positive won. The other two horses finished second to horses that tested positive. In every case, stewards ordered that the horse in question be disqualified and the purse re-distributed.

LA: Commission pushes back hearings on dermorphin cases to August
7/24/2012 12:36:32 PM  -  The Times-Picayune  

Published: Monday, July 23, 2012, 1:51 PM Updated: Monday, July 23, 2012, 1:55 PM

The Louisiana State Racing Commission will meet Aug. 29-30 to hear cases against nine trainers cited by stewards for alleged rules violations stemming from 11 positives for dermorphin at Louisiana tracks, Executive Director Charlie Gardiner said Monday.

Dermorphin is a powerful, pain-killing drug that Racing Commissioners International categorizes in Class I, among the most harmful drugs that might be given to horses.

The commission was planning to consider the cases against quarter-horse trainers Heath Taylor, Steve Garrison, Darrel Soileau, Alvin Smith Jr., Alonzo Loya and Gonzalo Gonzales and thoroughbred trainers Keith Charles, Kyi Lormand and Anthony Agilar at its meeting July 31. For legal and procedural reasons, the cases were pushed back to the two-day meeting in August, Gardiner said.

Under Louisiana racing rules, the recommended penalty for a Class I violation is a suspension of at least a year and no more than five years, and a $5,000 fine. Racing regulators say that dermorphin is much more powerful than morphine and has no legitimate use in horses. Of the 11 horses that tested positive for the drug, seven raced at Delta Downs, three raced at Evangeline Downs and one raced at Louisiana Downs. The races were in May and June.

In each case, stewards at the track where an alleged violation occurred suspended the trainer in question for six months – the maximum suspension that stewards can give a trainer under Louisiana racing rules. In each case, the stewards deemed the penalty insufficient and referred the case to the commission for further action. In racing, the trainer is responsible for the condition of the horse.

Agilar and Soileau face two rulings apiece. Each of the other seven trainers faces one ruling. Every trainer except Lormand has appealed. While under an appeal, a trainer can continue to run horses until the commission hears the case.

Nine of the 11 horses that tested positive won. The other two horses finished second to horses that tested positive.

In every case, stewards ordered that the horse in question be disqualified and the purse re-distributed.

LA: Trainers get six-month bans for dermorphin positives
7/6/2012 10:56:21 AM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted: 07/05/2012 4:43PM

The Evangeline Downs board of stewards Wednesday issued two more rulings for dermorphin positives in Thoroughbreds who raced at the Opelousas, La., track in May. Trainers Anthony Agilar and Kyi Lormand were both suspended six months and had their cases referred to the Louisiana Racing Commission for further action, said Larry Munster, assistant executive director for the commission.

Wednesday’s dermorphin ruling was the second against Agilar this meet at Evangeline. Agilar has appealed both of his rulings, while Lormand still has a window of time to file an appeal, according to Munster.

The cases are Louisiana’s sixth and seventh rulings issued for dermorphin, an illegal painkiller that is said to be as much as 40 times more powerful than morphine. In all, 11 positives have been called in the state. Of the seven cases adjudicated between Evangeline, Delta Downs, and Louisiana Downs, four have been for Thoroughbred races and three for Quarter Horses.

Lormand’s positive stems from a May 16 race in which a horse he owns and trains, He’s a Slewvescent, finished second by a neck. Agilar was suspended Wednesday for a positive that stems from a May 31 race he won with Lapile Creek.

Agilar had already been suspended six months after Bad John tested positive for dermorphin after winning the same $4,000 claiming race May 16 that He’s a Slewvescent finished second in. Both horses were disqualified from purse money.

All of the Louisiana trainers issued dermorphin rulings have received six-month suspensions, the maximum stewards can issue in such instances. All of their cases have been referred to the Louisiana Racing Commission for further action.

Former jockey Perrodin dies from cancer at 55
6/11/2012 10:37:12 AM  -  Daily Racing Form 

06/10/2012 1:01PM

E.J. Perrodin, a jockey for 39 years who was diagnosed with lung cancer shortly after retiring in February, died on Sunday morning, confirmed his brother-in-law, trainer Patrick Mouton. Perrodin was 55.

Mouton said services will be held Wednesday at Hill Crest Memorial Funeral Home in Haughton, La. He said there would be a visitation from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., with a funeral service to immediately follow. Perrodin died at his home in Haughton.

Perrodin retired during the Fair Grounds meet, and a short period of time later learned he had a significant tumor in his lung. The cancer was advanced, and it also spread to his brain. He battled courageously, and in May even made an appearance at Louisiana Downs, located minutes from his home in Haughton, La., to receive a lifetime achievement award.

Perrodin was a native of Rayne, La. He began race-riding at the age of 17, in Lafayette, La., and would go on to win 3,083 races during his career, for more than $41 million in mount earnings. Perrodin won more than 200 stakes races, some of them with such horses as Candid Glen, Sarah Lane’s Oates, Waupaca, Clever Song, Police Inspector, and Composure. Perrodin also won six races on a Fair Grounds card on Nov. 18, 1979.

Perrodin, known in particular as a talented turf rider, made a significant career comeback in August 2008, at the age of 51. Just nine months earlier he had suffered a severely fractured pelvis, six broken ribs, a punctured lung, and a lacerated spleen when a horse flipped and fell on him in the post parade of a race at Fair Grounds in November 2007. Perrodin spent a month in the intensive care unit at Tulane Medical Center in New Orleans, and would come back to reach the 3,000 win milestone in December 2008 at Fair Grounds.

Perrodin is survived by his wife, Lisa, and his young son, Devin.

LA State Senate Commerce Committee Hands LA Horsemen Victory in Striking Down Emergency Rule
2/21/2012 1:15:41 AM  -  The Horsemen''''s Journal - Spring 2012 

On Friday, January 20, the Louisiana State Senate Commerce Committee voted to strike down an emergency rule passed by the Louisiana Racing Commission (LRC) in November of 2011 that would have lowered the state’s threshold level for phenylbutazone from 5.0 micrograms to 2.0 micrograms. The vote was a victory for Louisiana horsemen, who opposed the LRC’s use of the emergency rule process in a non-emergency situation because the process does not allow input from affected parties.

In 2010, the American Graded Stakes Committee (AGSC) of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association (TOBA) passed an eligibility requirement that said the provisions of the Association of Racing Commissioners International (RCI) model rule on NSAIDs had to be adopted for graded stakes races. The rule was amended by the RCI in October of 2010, and when the AGSC met in November of 2010, it decided to give states conducting graded stakes races until 2012 to adopt the amended rule. A letter was sent to racing commissions in December of 2010 notifying them of the change and the deadline.

One of the provision of the model rule and eligibility requirements stated that racing jurisdictions must lower their threshold level for phenylbutazone to no more than 2.0 micrograms by January 1, 2012 in order for any race run in that jurisdiction as of that date to qualify for graded status. In Louisiana, rules adopted on a non-emergency basis typically take at least six months to be formally adopted, which means there was ample time between commission notification and the implementation deadline of January 1, 2012 to pass a rule lowering the phenylbutazone threshold using the normal rule process.

“We’ve got no problem with the rule, and the last thing we want to do is interfere with any of the tracks in Louisiana,” commented Louisiana HBPA President Stanley Selig. “We just want the commission to do this the right way. Conduct a hearing, let people state their views. There’s no reason this was an emergency.”

Seelig went on to say, “When it comes to very important issues – and medication issues are very important to the horsemen of Louisiana and other racing jurisdictions – it is important to do things the proper way. That means holding a hearing where all sides can come together and have their say on the subject before a decision is made.”

According to National HBPA CEO Phil Hanrahan, “We are pleased with the outcome of this situation. The Louisiana State Senate Commerce Committee’s decision will allow all parties, especially the horsewomen and horseman of the state, to be heard on this matter. The Louisiana HBPA is to be commended on standing up for its members on this issue.”

Louisiana Horse Racing: Bute Threshold Level Change Slowed
1/30/2012 9:40:06 AM  -  The Blood-Horse 

Posted: January 28 2012 • Article # 19509

A Louisiana Senate committee rejected an emergency rule approved by the Louisiana State Racing Commission (LSRC) to lower the testing threshold level for phenylbutazone (Bute) from 5 micrograms per milliliter to 2 micrograms.

The Louisiana State Senate Commerce Committee took the action Jan. 20 after horsemen protested the manner in which the LSRC approved the rule. The Louisiana Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association (HBPA) claimed the change isn't an emergency, and therefore interested parties should have had time to comment.

"We've got no problem with the rule, and the last thing we want to do is interfere with any of the tracks in Louisiana," Louisiana HBPA president Stanley Seelig said in a statement provided by the National HBPA. "We just want the commission to do this the right way. Conduct a hearing, let people state their views. There's no reason this was an emergency."

The lower testing threshold for the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug phenylbutazone, commonly called Bute, is among the model rules adopted by the Association of Racing Commissioners International in recent years. It is in the process of being adopted in various jurisdictions that haven't already done so.

The American Graded Stakes Committee made the lower Bute threshold part of its approval process for graded stakes effective January 2012. The LSRC reportedly acted on the emergency rule to protect grades of stakes at racetracks in the state.

Seelig said he expects a hearing will be held so "all sides can come together and have their say on the subject before a decision is made."

A Bute testing threshold rule is making its way through the approval process in Kentucky. The rule and related penalty provisions were approved by the Equine Drug Research Council, but the two regulations still need to go before the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission for approval.

Worker’s Compensation Update
11/21/2011 6:19:45 PM  -  The Horsemen''''s Journal - Winter 2011 

The Horsemen’s Worker’s Compensation Insurance Trust (HWCIT) has engaged Artex Risk Solutions Inc., a subsidiary of the Arthur J. Gallagher Company, as consultants for the Louisiana worker’s compensation program. Artex brings over 50 years of experience in risk management, loss control, safety training, underwriting, and claims advocacy.

The Artex team’s goal will be to build the expertise of the Louisiana horsemen’s staff and help insure the future success of the program. The objective of the program is to provide the full range of worker’s compensation insurance benefits required by law while managing the program in a cost effective manner.

Louisiana Racing Commission Lowers Two Drug Thresholds
11/16/2011 2:50:06 PM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted: 11/15/2011 4:44 PM

The Louisiana Racing Commission has lowered the permitted threshold levels for the anti-inflammatory drugs Flunixin and Phenylbutazone in graded stakes in a policy that will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2012. The action was taken at a Monday commission meeting brings Louisiana into compliance with the graded-stakes accreditation requirements set by TOBA.

Flunixin’s threshold in graded races has been reduced from 50 nanograms per milliliter to 20, according to commission officials. The thresholds for Phenylbutazone have dropped from 5 micrograms per milliliter to 2.

The commission on Monday also approved a new pick-five wager that will be introduced at the Fair Grounds meet that opens on Thanksgiving, Nov. 24. The New Orleans track requested approval for the bet that it plans to call the “Black Gold 5.” It requires bettors to pick the winners of five consecutive races. If there is one winning ticket, the entire pool will be distributed. If not, 50 percent of the pool will carry over to the next racing program and the remaining 50 percent willbe distributed as a consolation payoff.

Fair Grounds will have a 50-cent minimum on the bet that will begin each day on Race 5. The track will guarantee a $5,000 pool on opening day, as well as each day after the bet is hit, according to a release issued by Fair Grounds.

The commission on Monday also lifted its limit of two daily doubles per race card in Louisiana, clearing the way for Fair Grounds to introduce rolling daily doubles at its upcoming meet. The track plans to offer a daily double starting on every race but the last. The bet will have a $1 minimum.

In other business, the commission tweaked the requirements concerning negative-test paperwork for Equine Piroplasmosis, the tick-borne disease that has two strains. In the past, negative tests for both strains were required, but effective immediately horses will only have to show proof of a negative test for the Theileria-equi strain.

Former president of Louisiana horsemen''s group to plead guilty
9/1/2011 10:32:51 AM  -  The Times-Picayune  

Published: Wednesday, August 31, 2011, 4:32 PM Updated: Wednesday, August 31, 2011, 9:43 PM

Sean Alfortish, the former president of the Louisiana Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, is expected to plead guilty this afternoon in federal court to charges that he plotted to rig the agency's elections and then helped himself to funds controlled by the agency.

The horsemen's association, a nonprofit organization, takes a 6 percent cut of the purses at Louisiana's four racetracks, a percentage that tops $5 million a year. With that money, the association acts as the bookkeeper at tracks, pays out purses after races and provides services to horse owners and trainers, including medical insurance and worker's compensation insurance.

U.S. Attorney Jim Letten sent out an advisory at 4:30 p.m. announcing a plea deal, saying he will make remarks as soon as the plea is entered before U.S. District Judge Eldon Fallon.

Alfortish was set to stand trial next week in the case. He was the last defendant remaining, after the recent plea of Mona Hebert Romero, 53, the group's former executive director. Romero admitted to conspiring to commit mail fraud, wire fraud and fraud in connection with identification documents, court papers show.

Federal prosecutors initially charged Romero and Alfortish with plotting to mail falsified election ballots in March 2008 to ensure that Alfortish would be re-elected to a second term as president, and that his supporters would be named to the nonprofit agency's board.

Romero is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 27. She could face up to five years in prison and $250,000 in fines.

A 29-count indictment handed up in November 2010 charged that Romero and Alfortish lived it up on the association's money.

Alfortish received no salary as president, but collected $116,000 as director of the association's worker's compensation and simulcasting operations, on top of his regular jobs as a lawyer and, formerly, a Kenner magistrate, the indictment said. In addition, his family health insurance premiums of $1,200 a month were fully paid and he got a credit card for personal use, trips to Aruba and Grand Cayman Island, a home speaker system worth almost $3,000 and reimbursement for $25,000 he had to pay to settle with an association employee who threatened to sue him for sexual harassment, according to prosecutors.

The indictment also alleged that Romero enriched herself on the association's dime. She too got $25,000 to make a sexual harassment complaint against her disappear, prosecutors allege. The indictment also claims Romero took $228,275 out of the medical benefits trust, got a sport-utility vehicle, credit cards, trips to Aruba and the Grand Caymans with her husband, a horse trainer, and a pricey Louis Vuitton handbag from the association. Romero allegedly also received a $2,500 payment from a hurricane relief fund the association set up, even though she suffered no eligible storm losses.

The first guilty plea in the sprawling case came from the association's former farm and field director, Cindy "Cricket" Romero, Mona Romero's sister-in-law.

She pleaded guilty in December 2010 to helping Mona Romero and Alfortish rig the 2008 election by identifying which members were likely not to vote, traveling to their cities, which included Cincinnati, Louisville and Lexington, Ky., Houston, Dallas and Tampa, Fla., and mailing falsified ballots from those locations, according to court documents.

Cricket Romero is set to be sentenced Sept. 22.

Letter to Membership Regarding Workers Compensation
8/22/2011 12:28:01 PM  -  The Horsemen''''s Journal - Fall 2011 

DATE: August 9, 2011

TO: Louisiana Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protection Association Membership

FROM: John O’Brien, Jr., Arthur J. Gallagher Risk Management Services

RE: Horsemen’s Workers Compensation Trust
Louisiana HBPA Workers Compensation Program

On July 16, 2011, the workers compensation insurance program for members of the Louisiana HBPA changed to an insurance trust. The Louisiana HBPA insurance program changed its structure in order to realize millions of dollars of costs savings for the Louisiana HBPA membership. Below you will find a brief description of the events that led to the change and some benefits of the new structure.

The previous Louisiana HBPA workers compensation program was designed around using a captive insurance company named Horsemen’s Insurance Alliance. The Horsemen’s Insurance Alliance captive was located and operated in the Cayman Islands. Chartis Insurance (formerly AIG) was the insurance company that provided the resources and insurance for the Horsemen’s Insurance Alliance captive to function in the United States.

In June of 2011, Chartis Insurance provided its annual renewal costs to the Louisiana HBPA Board. Chartis Insurance presented renewal costs that would have increased the total annual expenses of Louisiana HBPA workers compensation insurance program by over $1 million. Had the Louisiana HBPA accepted Chartis Insurance $1 million renewal cost increase, the increase would have placed the workers compensation program in financial jeopardy.

Immediate action was taken by President Stanley Seelig, officers, and consultants of the Louisiana HBPA to quickly find and evaluate every possible workers compensation alternative. After numerous meetings with the Louisiana Department of Insurance, insurance companies, attorneys and consultants, an alternative worker’s compensation program solution was found in the form of an insurance trust.

The officers and consultants of the Louisiana HBPA, working with the Louisiana Department of Insurance, decided an insurance trust would offer the Louisiana HBPA membership the best insurance alternative. The Louisiana HBPA Board approved the creation of the Horsemen’s Workers Compensation Insurance Trust the week of July 11, 2011.

An insurance trust is a unique and valued form of insurance structure. Properly managed, the insurance trust will provide Louisiana HBPA members one of the most inexpensive and flexible means to operate their workers compensation program. The insurance trust will immediately save the Louisiana HBPA membership hundreds of thousands in taxes. Because the trust structure is more attractive to the excess insurance industry, the Horsemen’s Workers’ Compensation Insurance Trust was able to secure favorable excess insurance and collateral terms. The excess insurance and collateral terms secured by the trust also saved the membership hundreds of thousands compared to the renewal terms.

The Horsemen’s Workers Compensation Insurance Trust will not place “joint and in solido liability” on the Louisiana HBPA membership. This means the Louisiana HBPA participating members cannot be assessed for any liabilities of the trust. The Horsemen’s Workers’ Compensation Insurance Trust will also provide all Louisiana HBPA participating members employer’s liability protection.

Adversity is the mother of invention and worked very well in this case. Numerous individuals and firms worked extremely hard to help the Louisiana HBPA membership find a solution. Many timing and business factors helped the Louisiana HBPA to secure a promising insurance vehicle to operate its workers compensation program for the long term. The Louisiana HBPA under the trust structure, has the opportunity to provide long-term quality workers compensation to its membership at very competitive rates. We will do everything in our power to make this program successful for the Louisiana HBPA membership.

Fair Grounds to Host Claiming Crown on December 3
8/22/2011 12:24:53 PM  -  The Horsemen''''s Journal - Fall 2011 

Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots will be hosting this year’s renewal of the $500,000 Claiming Crown on Saturday, December 3. The Louisiana HBPA invites all horsemen to come and enjoy this exciting event in New Orleans or to wager on it at your local track.

Purses Boosted for 19 Races on Fair Grounds ’ 2011-2012 Stakes Schedule
8/22/2011 12:24:04 PM  -  The Horsemen''''s Journal - Fall 2011 

Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots has boosted the purses of 19 open-company races on its 2011-2012 stakes schedule. The 84-day 140th Thoroughbred racing season – running November 24, 2011 to April 1, 2012 – will feature 60 stakes cumulatively worth $7.54 million, including six Claiming Crown stakes worth $500,000 to be hosted in New Orleans for the first time on December 3.

The 99th renewal of the $1 million Louisiana Derby (Grade II) will be run April 1, 2012, the season’s final day. For the first time since 2004, Fair Grounds’ signature race is set for a Sunday, which will be the day between Saturday night’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Semifinals and Monday night’s Finals at the nearby Louisiana Superdome.

The Louisiana Derby, contested at 1 1/8 miles over Fair Grounds’ storied main track, is among the nation’s premier events for three-year-olds preparing to make their next start in the world’s most famous horse race, the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky.

Louisiana Derby Week will also feature Starlight Racing under the lights on Friday, March 30, and another major racing day on Saturday, March 31 with four stakes for fillies and mares, anchored by the $500,000 Fair Grounds Oaks (GII), the richest prep for Churchill’s famed Kentucky Oaks (GI).

“The 2012 Final Four presents a unique opportunity for Fair Grounds to show off world-class racing to tens of thousands of out-of-state visitors in New Orleans that weekend,” said Fair Grounds Vice President and General Manager Eric Halstrom. “If ever there were a time for a sports fan to make their first visit to our storied racetrack, this would be it.”

The changes to Louisiana Derby weekend were just the beginning of several enhancements to the stakes calendar. Every open-company stakes event will now be worth at least $75,000, and four six-figure stakes also received sizable bumps. In addition, seven stakes conditions that have been run with unacceptable field sizes in recent years have been eliminated.

“The adjustments to this stakes schedule have been made to reward the best horses in our strongest divisions,” said Racing Secretary Jason Boulet. “We’re out to attract the highest quality horses we can, and the most straightforward way to do that is to offer them more money.”

The races to receive the largest purse hikes from last season are the Lecomte Stakes (GIII), the first in a three-race series of two-turn graded stakes for three-year-olds ($100,000 to $175,000); the Silverbulletday, the first of three major two-turn stakes for three-year-old fillies ($100,000 to $125,000); the Rachel Alexandra Stakes (GIII), the second local stop for three-year-old fillies on the road to the Kentucky Oaks ($150,000 to $200,000); and the Louisiana Handicap for older horses ($60,000 to $100,000).

The 15 open-company stakes that went from $60,000 last season to $75,000 this season are the Thanksgiving Handicap, the Woodchopper Stakes, the Pago Hop Stakes, the Blushing K.D. Handicap, the Tenacious Handicap, the Buddy Diliberto Memorial Handicap, the Marie G. Krantz Memorial Handicap, the Pan Zareta Stakes, the F.W. Gaudin Memorial Stakes, the Tiffany Lass Stakes, the Mardi Gras Handicap, the Colonel Power Stakes, the Allen Lacombe Memorial Handicap, the Black Gold Stakes and the Happy Ticket Stakes.

Seven stakes that appeared on last season’s schedule have been discontinued because recent editions produced small fields, although a few of the most prominent race names were assigned new conditions. The discontinued stakes names are the Bienville Stakes, the Grindstone Stakes, the John E. Jackson Memorial Stakes, the Dr. A.B. Leggio Memorial Stakes, the Letellier Memorial Stakes, the Pelleteri Stakes and the Sugar Bowl Stakes.

Stakes named that have been assigned more appropriate conditions are the Black Gold Stakes (now for three-year-olds at 7 ½ furlongs on turf), the Happy Ticket Stakes (older females at 5 ½ furlongs on turf), the Allen Lacombe Memorial Handicap (three-year-old fillies at 7 ½ furlongs), the Mardi Gras Stakes (older females at 1 1/16 miles on turf), the Pan Zareta Stakes (older females at 5 ½ furlongs on turf) and the Tiffany Lass Stakes (older females at 1 1/16 miles).

The Fair Grounds stakes schedule is highlighted by 10 stakes that were graded last season – five Grade II and five Grade III. The Grade II events are the Risen Star Stakes and Louisiana Derby for three-year-olds, the Fair Grounds Oaks for three-year-old fillies, the New Orleans Handicap for older horses, and the Mervin H. Muniz Memorial Handicap for older turf horses.

The Grade III events are the Lecomte Stakes for three-year-olds, the Rachel Alexandra Stakes for three-year-old fillies, the Mineshaft Handicap for older horses, and both the Fair Grounds Handicap and the Colonel E.R. Bradley Handicap for older turf horses.

The North American Graded Stakes committee will meet in late 2011 to determine gradings for 2012.

“We are hopeful that Fair Grounds could be on the cusp of its first Grade I race,” said Halstrom. “The Fair Grounds Oaks, which last season was the richest Kentucky Oaks prep, has produced four Kentucky Oaks winners in its past seven runnings.”

$1,000,000 Delta Downs Jackpot Anchors Exciting 2011-2012 Stakes Schedule
8/22/2011 12:20:00 PM  -  The Horsemen''''s Journal - Fall 2011 

Delta Downs has released its 2011-2012 Thoroughbred stakes schedule, which includes 30 races and over $4 million in total purse money. The highlight of the 88-day season, which runs from October 19, 2011 through March 17, 2012, will come on Saturday, November 19. On that day, the track will host eight stakes races and offer over $2 million in total purse money, with the season’s richest race, the $1,000,000 Delta Downs Jackpot (gr. III), serving as the main attraction.

Last year’s $1,000,000 Delta Downs Jackpot program was historic, as it produced the highest single-day handle in track history of $3,817,849. The 11-race card also marked the first time the season’s richest race day was conducted during daylight hours, as the track’s regular programs are run at night. That tradition will continue this year as the first post time on the Delta Downs Jackpot Day card is set for 1:15 p.m.

Other highlights of the new stakes schedule include a pair of prep races on opening weekend, Saturday, October 22. The $200,000 Jean Lafitte will serve as a stepping stone to the $1,000,000 Delta Downs Jackpot, and the $150,000 My Trusty Cat for two-year-old fillies is a prelude to the $500,000 Delta Downs Princess (gr. III), which is the only other graded stakes race of the season. The Delta Downs Princess is also scheduled for November 19.

The richest night-time program of the season will take place on Saturday, February 4 with another edition of Louisiana Premier Night (LAPN). The LAPN card features 10 stakes races for Louisiana-bred horses and over $1 million in total purse money. The highlight of LAPN is the $200,000 Louisiana Premier Night Championship for older horses competing at 1-1/16 miles.

Delta Downs’ 2011-2012 Thoroughbred meeting will feature live racing each Wednesday through Saturday. Post times each evening will be at 5:45 p.m.

LAHBPA: Former official from horsemens group pleads guilty in election fraud
7/27/2011 12:41:26 PM  -  The Times-Picayune  

Published: Tuesday, July 26, 2011, 8:20 PM

The former executive director of the organization that represents Louisiana horsemen pleaded guilty Tuesday to her role in an election fraud scheme that prosecutors said was designed to keep her and the association's president in positions of power so they could help themselves to the group's assets.

Mona Hebert Romero, 53, who until November 2010 led the Louisiana Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, admitted to conspiring to commit mail fraud, wire fraud and fraud in connection with identification documents, court papers show.

Romero's plea leaves Sean Alfortish, the LHBPA's former president, as the last defendant still facing charges in the case, which is set to go to trial Sept. 6.

Federal prosecutors initially charged Romero and Alfortish with plotting to mail falsified election ballots in March 2008 to ensure that Alfortish would be re-elected to a second term as president, and that his supporters would be named to the nonprofit agency's board.

Romero, who almost certainly will be required to testify against Alfortish as part of her plea deal, is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 27. She could face up to five years in prison and $250,000 in fines.

The horsemen's association, a nonprofit organization, takes a 6 percent cut of the purses at Louisiana's four racetracks, a percentage that tops $5 million a year. With that money, the association acts as the bookkeeper at tracks, pays out purses after races and provides services to horse owners and trainers, including medical insurance and worker's compensation insurance.

A 29-count indictment handed up in November 2010 charged that Romero and Alfortish lived it up on the association's money.

Alfortish received no salary as president, but collected $116,000 as director of the association's worker's compensation and simulcasting operations, on top of his regular jobs as a lawyer and, formerly, a Kenner magistrate, the indictment said. In addition, his family health insurance premiums of $1,200 a month were fully paid and he got a credit card for personal use, trips to Aruba and Grand Cayman Island, a home speaker system worth almost $3,000 and reimbursement for $25,000 he had to pay to settle with an association employee who threatened to sue him for sexual harassment, according to prosecutors.

Alfortish declined to comment Tuesday.

The indictment also alleged that Romero enriched herself on the association's dime. She too got $25,000 to make a sexual harassment complaint against her disappear, prosecutors allege. The indictment also claims Romero took $228,275 out of the medical benefits trust, got a sport-utility vehicle, credit cards, trips to Aruba and the Grand Caymans with her husband, a horse trainer, and a pricey Louis Vuitton handbag from the association. Romero allegedly also received a $2,500 payment from a hurricane relief fund the association set up, even though she suffered no eligible storm losses.

Before Tuesday, the only person to enter a guilty plea in the sprawling case had been the association's former farm and field director, Cindy "Cricket" Romero, Mona Romero's sister-in-law.

Cricket Romero pleaded guilty in December 2010 to helping Mona Romero and Alfortish rig the 2008 election by identifying which members were likely not to vote, traveling to their cities, which included Cincinnati, Louisville and Lexington, Ky., Houston, Dallas and Tampa, Fla., and mailing falsified ballots from those locations, according to court documents.

Cricket Romero will be sentenced Sept. 22, according to court documents.

Louisiana HBPA Election Results
5/21/2011 10:11:18 PM  -  The Horsemen''''s Journal - Summer 2011 

The Louisiana HBPA recently concluded its Board of Directors election, and the winners have been announced. Stanley Seelig has been elected as president of the Louisiana HBPA, and owner Arthur Morrell has been tabbed as the organization’s first vice president.

Owners directors elected include Tom Abbott, Bobby Dupre, Christine Early, Marcia Lamarche, and Arthur Morell.

Trainer directors elected include Sam Breaux, Patrick Mouton, Kenny Roberts, Sr., Don Stemmans, and Terry Vance.

The new board was seated on Friday, April 15, 2011.

Evangeline Downs Meet Opens with Big Fields
4/5/2011 11:13:25 AM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted: 4/4/2011

OPELOUSAS. La. – Evangeline Downs calls itself “home of the biggest fields,” and while it officially lost that distinction in 2010 when surpassed by Remington Park in the average number of starters per race, it looks poised to make a run at regaining the top position.

Evangeline Downs, which averaged 9.7 starters per race last year compared to Remington’s 10.1, opens its 2011 meet Wednesday with a total of 110 horses entered for its 10-race program. Another 115 are slated for Thursday night’s card, and Friday’s 11-race slate drew a whopping 129 runners.

“We have almost 4,000 sets of foal papers on file,” Evangeline racing secretary Coleman Lloyd said about his wealth of horses to draw from. “We have four training centers within easy driving distance that are all full, and of course we had more stall applications than we have space here at the track.”

In addition to sheer numbers at the 89-day stand that runs through Labor Day, bettors can expect additional turf racing as well as a new 50-cent trifecta on all races with six or more betting interests. Daily purse distribution will approach $180,000 a day, with maiden special weights carrying a $22,000 purse. First post time for the Wednesday through Saturday schedule will be 5:40 Central.

“The turf course is in great shape now that it is in its third year of use,” Lloyd said. “Our first grass race will be the John Henry Stakes on April 16, and from then on we plan on using the course quite a bit.”

Other major events include Louisiana Showcase Night, a program of all Louisiana-bred stakes on July 2; the $125,000 Evangeline Mile on Aug. 23; and the closing-day $100,000 Lafayette Stakes for 2-year-olds, which has been moved to the grass this year.

The season’s stakes schedule kicks off Wednesday with the $50,000 Inaugural Stakes. The six-furlong affair for 3-year-olds drew a filed of 10, with the Steve Asmussen-trained Chipshot the 3-1 morning-line favorite. A son of Peace Rules, Chipshot has been idle since a fifth-place performance in the Springboard Mile at Remington in December. Gerard Melancon will handle the riding chores.

Louisiana HBPA Election Day is March 31, 2011!
2/18/2011 1:20:55 PM  -  The Horsemen''''s Journal - Spring 2011 

The Louisiana HBPA is conducting its election for president and Board of Directors. Election packets were mailed by TrueBallot, Inc. in early March, and they include the ballot, candidate’s biographies, and a prepaid postage return envelope.

The ballot must be properly completed and received at the post office in New Orleans by March 31, 2011 to be counted in the election. We urge all members of the Louisiana HBPA to participate.

Alfortish ousted by Louisiana HBPA board
11/23/2010 2:32:59 PM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted: 11/23/2010 11:27AM

The board of directors of the Louisiana Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association has asked president Sean Alfortish to resign from his seat following the Nov. 18 release of a 29-count indictment against him and the organization’s executive director, Mona Romero, that alleges mail fraud. The case stems from an HBPA election in 2008.

Alfortish, who also was employed by the Louisiana HBPA as its director of simulcasting and director of workers’ compensation, was “relieved of his duties” after a Monday vote of the board, according to a Louisiana HBPA representative who spoke on the condition of anonymity as the organization is not officially commenting on the matter. Romero was also removed from her paid position as the executive director, the source said, as were Cricket Romero and Ruth Winfrey, who are employees of the Louisiana HBPA.

A call to Alfortish and his attorney, Patrick Fanning, was not immediately returned on Tuesday. Alfortish and Romero are scheduled to be arraigned on Dec. 2.

Alfortish, 43, has been president of the Louisiana HBPA since 2005, while Romero, 52, became executive director the same year. A federal grand jury returned an indictment against them on Nov. 18 that included a charge of conspiracy to commit mail fraud.

The case dates back to the 2008 Louisiana HBPA election in which Alfortish and Romero allegedly conspired with others to “rig the outcome,” according to a release issued by U.S. Attorney Jim Letten. To be valid, ballots had to bear both a U.S. Postal Service postmark and the Social Security number of an HBPA member eligible to vote. Alfortish and Romero were charged with using the Social Security numbers of some members without their “knowledge or consent.” The indictment also alleges that Romero and others flew to various out-of-state cities to mail the falsified ballots.

Alfortish and Romero were also charged with health care fraud concerning payments out of the Louisiana Horsemen’s Medical Benefit trust account that has allegedly caused payments of some claims to be delayed and led to some coverage being reduced. The indictment also alleges a wire fraud scheme tied to distribution of relief funds after Hurricane Katrina.

If convicted of the 29 counts, Alfortish and Romero face maximum penalties of 280 years in prison and $7.25 million in fines, according the release.

Bourque calls an end to riding career
8/13/2010 4:14:07 PM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted:

OPELOUSAS, La. – A significant chapter in Louisiana racing quietly came to a conclusion this summer at Evangeline Downs, close to where it started 36 years ago.

Veteran jockey Curt Bourque has decided to hang his tack up after spending parts of four decades in the saddle. Bourque, 42, had his first mount at the old Evangeline Downs in 1984 and rode his first winner at the old Jefferson Downs in suburban New Orleans later that year. His final victory came last month when he guided reigning Louisiana-bred horse of the year Star Guitar to victory in the $100,000 Louisiana Showcase Classic. Over the years, Bourque won 3,536 races, had more than $46 million in purse earnings, and won riding titles at Fair Grounds, Hawthorne, and Sportsman’s Park.

“I did some soul searching” reflected Bourque about his pending retirement. “It seems I was still winning races, but that thrill, that desire, was just not as strong as it once was.”

“I have been very lucky over the years,” he continued. “Since I started riding in ’84, the only serious injury I ever had was a broken collarbone. That’s it. I thought while I still had my health and was still young enough, it was time to move on with the next phase of my life.”

While Bourque seldom missed any time in the saddle due to injury, he did serve several suspensions for substance abuse. It is a subject he talks about freely now that it is in the past.

“There’s no doubt I was my own worst enemy. The drugs, the alcohol, it seems every time I would come back, I would fall into that same trap all over again.”

Bourque credits Al Stall Sr., longtime chairman of the Louisiana Racing Commission and father of trainer Al Stall Jr., with getting his career back on track after it had been derailed.

“Mr. Stall always had faith in me, he believed in me, and that helped a lot. That is how I got to know Little Al [Stall Jr.]. We became friends and have had a lot of success over the years.

Those sentiments were echoed by Al Stall Jr. last week from Saratoga.

“Yes, I consider Curt a friend, a good friend,” he said. “But I stood by him and rode him for more selfish reasons than for any kind of charity. He always had a ton of talent, you always like to ride the best rider you can.”

Like many ex riders, Bourque plans to stay in the racing business.

“My wife and I have a 44-acre farm outside of Opelousas, near the new Evangeline,” he said. “We have a couple of broodmares we plan to breed and maybe break some babies. Racing is all I have ever known.”

While one chapter of the Bourque riding legacy has come to a close, another is just beginning. Bourque’s son David is currently riding at Evangeline and is sixth in the standings, with 47 wins.

“He’s having a good summer, and things are going well with him,” Bourque said with pride. “Hopefully, he can keep it going.”

Fair Grounds: Silver City looks as fast as ever
3/8/2010 11:33:42 AM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted 3/4/2010, 4:10 pm

There are eight 3-year-old fillies entered in the $60,000 Sarah Lane's Oates, and 14 3-year-old colts and geldings in the $60,000 Gentilly, both turf-route races for Louisiana-breds. That's all well and good, but Silver City is entered in race 8 on Saturday at Fair Grounds, and talent-wise, he's the star on a 10-race program.

Silver City hasn't started since last April 25, when he turned in his second straight disappointing performance of the spring, a fifth-place finish in the Derby Trial at Churchill. Before the Derby Trial came an attempt to harness Silver City's brilliant speed and make him into a route horse. After it came a lengthy layoff as Silver City recuperated from two injuries, a bone chip in his ankle that needed surgery to be repaired, and an injured suspensory ligament that required time to heal.

Both injuries, trainer Bret Calhoun said Thursday, haven't troubled Silver City during preparations for his comeback in a third-level allowance race. And what preparations they have been. Breezing at Sam Houston, Silver City turned in works of 57.80 seconds for five furlongs, and 1:11.20 for six furlongs, both in early February. At Fair Grounds, he worked five-eighths in 58.80 seconds Feb. 10, a drill more than a second faster than Rachel Alexandra's the same morning, and on Feb. 25, Silver City went a half-mile from the gate in 46.20 seconds.

"He doesn't look like he's just all out, but he's got a high cruising speed, and he won't slow down too much," said Calhoun. "It's been scary on my part to sit there and watch him go that fast every week coming back from some significant injuries. He's done so good, been so sound, I don't think about it much any more."

Silver City, a 4-year-old Unbridled's Song colt owned by Clarence Scharbauer Jr., makes his comeback at six furlongs, and has won 3 of 4 starts over sprint distances. He held on for second after setting the pace in the one-mile Southwest Stakes last winter at Oaklawn, but Calhoun said Silver City will be kept to sprints.

"We won't be trying to rate him much," Calhoun said. "You just try and get him relaxed the best you can."

As for the Louisiana-bred 3-year-old turfers, Candy Delicious might rate a narrow edge over New Elite in the filly race, the Sarah Lane's Oates. Candy Delicious only has one win to her credit, but has run two good races over the local turf course.

The 14 horses in the Gentilly have combined to notch a grand total of two turf victories. Heavenville is the race's most accomplished horse, with almost $170,000 in earnings, but has never raced beyond seven furlongs, and never has started on grass.

Fair Grounds: Tizaqueena does it again
3/1/2010 3:27:56 PM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted 2/27/2010, 7:34 pm

Tizaqueena made her graded stakes mark racing on turf during 2009, but this mare also gets over dirt - Fair Grounds dirt, at least - just fine. No turf Saturday in New Orleans, and no problem for Tizaqueena, who won the $59,400 Allen Lacombe Memorial Handicap by three-quarters of a length in her 2010 debut.

"Her first three races were on dirt," winning trainer Mike Stidham said. "We weren't too worried."

Stidham had a strong late Saturday afternoon. Shortly after the Lacombe, Comedero won the Mountain Valley Stakes at Oaklawn Park, and in the following race at Fair Grounds, the Stidham-trained Tybalt was impressive winning an off-the-turf allowance race.

Tizaqueena, a 5-year-old by Tiznow owned by the Darley Stable, won three times in 2009, when she captured a Grade 2 and placed in a Grade 1 while racing exclusively on grass. Making her first start Saturday since Nov. 6, when she finished 10th in the Las Palmas Stakes at Santa Anita, her worst performance of the season, Tizaqueena broke decently but was gently taken back off the pace by Shaun Bridgmohan, who rode her for the first time. More of the Best set the tempo, cutting out moderate splits of 24.25 seconds for the first quarter-mile, and 48.57 to the half. Pace-pressing No Use Denying took over the lead on the far turn, but Bridgmohan and Tizaqueena had moved into contention by the three-eighths pole, and attacked at the top of the stretch. No Use Denying fought on gamely, and it took Tizaqueena most of the stretch to push past, but she was clearly going best at the finish, while stopping the timer in 1:45.99 for 1 1/16 miles on a good track after the Lacombe was taken off the turf.

Tizaqueena, the heavy favorite, paid $3.20 to win. No Use Denying was clearly second-best, with another Stidham charge, A She's Adorable, rallying mildly for third.

Rachel has first work back
2/2/2010 4:19:43 PM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted 2/1/2010, 5:43 pm

NEW ORLEANS - Rachel Alexandra worked Sunday morning for the first time since her Sept. 5 victory in the Woodward, going a half-mile in 52 seconds at Fair Grounds.

The 2009 Horse of the Year emerged from her barn at 6:25 a.m., with regular exercise rider Dominic Terry aboard and accompanied on pony by Scott Blasi, assistant to trainer Steve Asmussen.

Accompanied by the pony, she walked the wrong way until past the finish line, where Blasi turned her around and accompanied her before turning her loose on the backstretch.

Terry kept her in the middle of the track at a slow gallop for the better part of the backstretch, as Rachel Alexandra seemed eager to get into gear, turning her head toward the inner part of the track. Terry allowed her to run in earnest between the half-mile pole and the three-eighths pole, and she worked to the wire.

The work was the first of what will be a series of weekly breezes for Rachel Alexandra, and pleased Blasi.

"Dominic does a great job, a perfect work," said Blasi. "You have to trick her into going that slow. I asked for a touch slower, but it's physically impossible for her."

For Terry the work was Rachel's usual professional effort. "Perfect as always," said Terry. "She was relaxed and steady. Covered the ground great and galloped out very nicely."

Her 2010 campaign remains undetermined.

"We'll progress from here, and she'll breeze weekly from here on," said Blasi. "I am happy with how manageable she is, and how happy she is to be out there. You can tell by her body language."

Though she had not had a timed work since her victory in the Woodward, she has jogged for the past two months at the Fair Grounds, as Asmussen has brought her slowly back into training.

Rachel Alexandra won all eight of her races in 2009, including three victories over males, in the Preakness, the Haskell and the Woodward. She won the 2009 Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year over Zenyatta, who has also returned to training. Whether they will meet has not been determined.

Fair Grounds Track Report: Margolis loses promising colt
1/28/2010 2:13:28 PM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted 1/27/2010, 5:19 pm

Last week mixed satisfaction and disappointing in the Fair Grounds barn of trainer Steve Margolis. Cash Refund won the Gaudin Stakes on Saturday's card, and that morning, Risen Star hopeful Stay Put turned in a solid five-furlong workout. But Visavis had to be scratched from Saturday's Tiffany Lass Stakes after getting cast in her stall, and, even worse, promising debut winner What's New had to be put down after sustaining a leg injury in a half-mile work Jan. 14.

What's New suffered a condylar fracture, and was euthanized after a surgeon determined his injury was irreparable, according to Richard Klein, one of the colt's owners.

Cash Refund, meanwhile, emerged in good order from his front-running victory in the Gaudin, Margolis said, and will be pointed to the $100,000 Duncan Kenner Stakes on March 27.

Stay Put, an impressive last-to-first allowance winner on Jan. 3, breezed five furlongs in 1:03.20 on Saturday morning.

Friesan Fire's next start uncertain

Plans for Friesan Fire's next start haven't been determined, trainer Steve Asmussen said earlier this week, but Friesan Fire looked ready to tackle a taller task after a sharp victory in last Saturday's Louisiana Handicap.

Winning for the first time since the 2009 Louisiana Derby, Friesan Fire led all the way, setting a slow pace and turning back a challenge from General Quarters, a nice rebound from a third-place finish in his Dec. 3 allowance-race comeback from a long layoff.

"I think he came out of it great," Asmussen said. "We're where we were hoping to be out of the allowance race."

Asmussen said that the next start for 4-year-old filly War Echo is uncertain. War Echo, one of the leading 3-year-old fillies last winter in New Orleans, won the Daily Racing Form Distaff by more than three lengths Dec. 19 at Fair Grounds. She worked five furlongs in 1:01 on Tuesday in New Orleans.

Evangeline Downs: Herpes reported at training center
1/8/2010 2:56:32 PM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted 1/1/2010, 3:26 pm

A horse at the Evangeline Downs Training Center has reportedly tested positive for equine herpes, leading to a quarantine of the affected barn and shipping restrictions on all horses leaving the training center.

The infected horse is trained by Steve Asmussen, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, which quoted Louisiana State Racing Commission executive director Charles Gardiner. The commission offices were closed late this week for the New Year's holiday, and no one there could be reached for comment. Asmussen's barn is under quarantine, Gardiner said, and horses stabled there are being tested for the virus and must conduct their daily training after regular hours.

While horses in the Asmussen barn can't be shipped into other tracks now, the other horses at the training center, located in Carencro, can enter other Louisiana tracks as long as proof of a recent veterinary exam and a herpes vaccination are provided.

The training center provides a major source of entries for the ongoing meets at Fair Grounds and Delta Downs.

Fair Grounds had a herpes positive during it's 2008-2009 meeting, and two barns there were quarantined for several weeks.

Fairgrounds: Antrim County looks to bounce back
1/8/2010 2:44:40 PM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted 1/3/2010, 9:23 pm

NEW ORLEANS - Antrim County brings 56 races worth of experience and a bankroll of more than $400,000 into the eighth race at Fair Grounds on Monday, a one-mile allowance on the turf with a $32,000 claiming option.

It took Antrim County, 7, some time to become the horse he is now. Antrim County's first win didn't come until his eighth race, and he labored 10 more before finding the winner's circle again. But that is all ancient history, as in his last two years he has been in the money in 21 of 27 races.

He has struggled in his last two races, however, and it is unclear which Antrim County will show up Monday.

Two races ago, on Oct. 24, he finished seventh in an allowance over the turf at Keeneland. In his last race, an optional claming race on Nov. 20 at Churchill, he finished fifth, more than nine lengths back.

Those two races were the exception for 2009, however, as the year saw Antrim County take down the $138,000 Claiming Crown Jewel at Canterbury Park and finish second in the Carey Memorial Handicap at Hawthorne as recently as Oct. 3.

"He's coming into it very good, and he should be salty here," said Peaches Geier, assistant to trainer Brett Calhoun. "We waited on this spot to run him in, and he looks like he should be tough."

Eight horses were entered against Antrim County, including two by Steve Asmussen - North Country and Beta Capo.

The classier of the two, which will run uncoupled, is Beta Capo, who is entered for the $32,000 claiming price. Though not the same Beta Capo who won stakes races at three different tracks in 2007-2008, the 6-year-old has been competitive at the optional claiming level. Two races ago, Beta Capo won a $50,000 optional claiming race over the turf at Remington Park, closing from six lengths back to prevail by three-quarters of a length. In his last start, which also came in a Remington optional claimer, Beta Capo ran an even fifth last month.

Unpaid Crusade enters this race off a four-month layoff, with a series of slow works over the Fair Grounds main track. Unpaid Crusade last ran in September at Arlington, finishing second in a pair of $35,000 claiming races on the turf there.

Louisiana Downs handle drops
10/9/2009 2:24:27 PM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted 10/8/2009, 4:34 pm

A year after reporting marginal gains, Louisiana Downs experienced an 18 percent drop in average daily handle on its live races during its 83-day meet that closed last Sunday. Attendance figures are not available because the track, which operates a casino, does not charge admission.

Louisiana Downs handled $1,661,827 a day on its races from all-sources this meet, according to figures provided by the Louisiana Racing Commission. Last year, during an 85-date meet, the track's handle on its races from all sources averaged $2,035,607 a day, according to the commission. Louisiana Downs reported last year that its average daily handle was up 2.5 percent from 2007.

Trent McIntosh, the director of racing operations for Louisiana Downs, did not return calls seeking comment on the meet's business levels.

By category, Louisiana Downs handled an average $1,460,487 a day on its races at out-of-state sites, down 18 percent from $1,776,818 in 2008. The track handled an additional $61,382 a day at offtrack betting sites in Louisiana, a dip of 30 percent from the $87,535 bet during the corresponding meet a year ago. Handle ontrack on Louisiana Downs's races averaged $139,958 a day this meet, down 18 percent from $171,254 in 2008.

Jockey Don Simington won his second consecutive Louisiana Downs riding title with 112 wins from 615 starts for meet-best mount earnings of $1,818,252. Jerry Cart was the leading trainer, with 35 wins from 163 starts. Southern Equine Stable was the leading owner, with 15 wins from 58 starts.

Regal Ransom won the richest race of the meet, the Grade 2, $750,000 Super Derby.

Louisiana Downs: Cart closing in on first training title
10/1/2009 3:43:55 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Posted 9/30/2009, 4:57 pm

BOSSIER CITY, La. - Sunday is closing day at Louisiana Downs, and it will officially mark the end of an era. For the first time since the 1997 season, neither Cole Norman nor former Norman assistant Jorge Lara will be crowned training champ.

Norman saw his nine-year domination atop the standings that began in 1998 come to an end following his conviction in 2007 of negligent homicide in a traffic accident in February of that year. Lara inherited many of Norman's owners and won the trainer's title in 2007 and 2008 before running out of momentum this season.

The race for this year's crown had been a spirited one, coming down to Jerry Cart, Pat Mouton, and Morris Nicks during the dog days of summer. Cart continued a steady string of wins and holds the upper hand heading into the final week of the season, with 34 victories to Nicks's 29 and Mouton's 28. Cart also has attempted to pad his position by entering four horses on Friday's program, compared to two each for Nicks and Mouton. Should Cart hang on to his lead, it would be the first Louisiana Downs title for the veteran trainer.

One of Cart's entrants, Zava Jack, will likely vie for favoritism in the afternoon's fourth race, a third-level optional claimer. The six-furlong affair on the main track drew a solid field of eight.

Zava Jack will be making his first start since an unplaced effort in the $100,000 Prelude stakes on Aug. 14. The 3-year-old son of Zavata has won two of his nine starts and finished second four times. Jeff Burningham will handle the riding chores.

Also in Friday's headliner is Foreign Production. The Louisiana-bred sophomore trained by James Hodges defeated open company last November in the Old Hickory Stakes at Fair Grounds and also won the Louisiana Stallion Stakes here last October. The Run Production colt has been out twice this meeting at Louisiana Downs, winning an open allowance in late July and most recently finishing second in the Louisiana Cup Sprint in his first start against older company. Carlos Gonzalez, aboard for Foreign Production's last two starts, has the return call.

Ranger Danger, a lightly raced 3-year-old gelding, will be making his local debut and first start since wining a second allowance at Lone Star in late April. He earned a 92 Beyer Speed Figure for that effort in winning for the third time in just four starts. Richard Eramia has the call.

Delta Downs Adds Two Big Races to Stakes Schedule
8/31/2009 12:11:08 PM  -  The Horsemen''''s Journal - Fall 2009 

Delta Downs Racetrack Casino & Hotel has added a pair of rich Louisiana-bred races to its 2009-2010 stakes schedule. The Vinton, Louisiana oval will add the $250,000 Louisiana Jewel Stakes for fillies and the $250,000 Louisiana Legacy Stakes to Delta Jackpot Preview Night program on Friday, November 6, 2009. Both events are for two-year-olds traveling seven furlongs.

Delta Jackpot Preview Night will also feature the $175,000 Jean Lafitte Stakes and the $125,000 My Trusty Cat Stakes, as well as the $60,000 B-Connected and the $60,000 Lookout Stakes on the same program. The Jean Lafitte is an open-bred prep for the season’s richest offering, Boyd Gaming’s $750,000 Delta Jackpot Stakes (Grade III), and the My Trusty Cat is launching pad for this year’s Boyd Gaming’s $500,000 Delta Princess Stakes Powered by Youbet.com (Grade III), which will both take place on Friday, December 4.

For more information about the upcoming season at Delta Downs, which will run from October 14, 2009 through March 20, 2010 visit the track’s website at www.deltadowns.com.

Grade II Louisiana Derby Jumps to $750,000 and Will Be Run at 1 1/8 Miles on March 27
8/31/2009 12:09:43 PM  -  The Horsemen''''s Journal - Fall 2009 

Big Event Schedule Changes & Two New Races for Fillies & Mares Highlight Fair Grounds’ Record $7.24 Million, 66-Race Stakes Menu

Fair Grounds Race Course and Slots has raised the purse of the Grade II Louisiana Derby to $750,000, increased the distance to 1 1/8 miles, and moved the three-year-old fixture to Saturday, March 27 – five weeks prior to the Kentucky Derby.

The significant changes to its signature race and accompanying races, as well as the addition of two new dirt races for fillies and mares, highlight a record $7.24 million, 66-race stakes schedule for the 2009-2010 Fair Grounds meet.

The 85-day Fair Grounds meet will have its earliest start date ever when the historic New Orleans racetrack opens on Friday, November 6, a week earlier than last year and well ahead of the old Thanksgiving Day opener of years past. Closing day for the action-packed 21-week season will be Sunday, March 28, 2010.

In recent years, the Louisiana Derby, which produced Kentucky Derby winners Black Gold (1924) and Grindstone (1996), had been a $600,000 race over 1 1/16 miles and was carded seven weeks prior to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands. The momentous switch of the 97th Louisiana Derby to closing weekend, along with moving the Grade II, $400,000 Fair Grounds Oaks to headline a stakes quartet for fillies and mares on Friday, March 26, has altered both series of races. Three-year-old races such as the Grade III, $100,000 Lecomte Stakes, now one mile and 40 yards, and Grade III Risen Star Stakes at 1 1/16 miles will move to January 23 and February 20, respectively.

The Louisiana Derby – one of 10 graded stakes run at the meet – is the centerpiece of six stakes events on the March 27 program. Other showcased affairs include the Grade II, $500,000 Mervin H. Muniz Jr. Memorial Handicap for older horses at 1 1/8 miles on the Stall-Wilson Turf Course and the Grade II, $500,000 New Orleans Handicap for four-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles on dirt.

“We’re excited about being the premier racing venue for our nation’s best three-year olds when preparing for the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks.” said Fair Grounds Vice President and General Manager Eric Halstrom. “Under the leadership of Fair Grounds President Austin Miller, and with the support of the Louisiana HBPA, our racing staff is embarking on a new historic direction for the entire stakes schedule. Most predominantly, we have a broadened race schedule and event-packed week of activities surrounding the Louisiana Derby and Fair Grounds Oaks. These changes are sure to focus the racing world’s attention on New Orleans throughout our upcoming season.”

Fair Grounds has also added a pair of dirt races for fillies and mares, including a new 1 1/8-mile stakes race positioned on Saturday, December 19 to potentially entice a year-end showdown between Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta, the duo who is widely considered North America’s top two horses in training. The unnamed December 19 race over conventional dirt in a central location currently features a $100,000 purse, but track officials acknowledge that total prize money could increase if a showdown between Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta does materialize.

“Horse racing fans desire to see Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta race against one another, and we’re no different,” Halstrom said. “By positioning this new race six weeks after the Breeders’ Cup World Championships and three weeks after Churchill Downs’ Clark and Falls City handicaps, it gives all parties involved something to consider and opens the door for further discussions. Anything further at this point would be premature, and circumstances could be different in four months, but this new race gives us an option to dream.”

Zenyatta, Jerry and Ann Moss’ five-year-old mare who is North America’s reigning Champion Older Female, is now unbeaten in 12 career starts following her victory in the Grade I, $300,000 Clement L. Hirsch at Del Mar. Trainer John Shirreffs has Zenyatta targeted for another appearance at this year’s Breeders’ Cup, which will be held at Oak Tree at Santa Anita on November 6-7.

Rachel Alexandra, the flashy three-year-old filly who used the Fair Grounds Oaks as a springboard to stardom, appears unlikely for this year’s Breeders’ Cup due to co-owner Jess Jackson’s dislike of synthetic racing surfaces. The Steve Asmussen-trainee defeated males for the second time this year on August 2 with a six-length romp in the Grade I, $1.25 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park. She has won her last eight races by a combined 69 ¾ lengths – a streak that also includes victories in the Kentucky Oaks, Preakness Stakes and Mother Goose.

Fair Grounds’ other new event for fillies and mares is also unnamed, and the 1 1/16-mile race is scheduled to feature a $200,000 purse on Saturday, March 13, which is three weeks prior to Oaklawn Park’s Grade I Apple Blossom Handicap.

Fair Grounds is expected to distribute an average of $350,000 in daily purses. Stall applications for horsemen are due Tuesday, September. 15, and the first day of training over the nation’s third-oldest Thoroughbred racing oval will be Monday, October 5.

Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots has been in operation since 1872. Located in New Orleans, Fair Grounds is owned by Churchill Downs Incorporated; it also operates a slot-machine gaming facility and nine off-track betting parlors throughout southeast Louisiana. Fair Grounds’ 138th Thoroughbred season will run from November 6, 2009, through March 28, 2010, and its second annual Quarter Horse meet will be conducted from September 8 - 19, 2009. Information about Fair Grounds can be found on the Internet at www.fairgroundsracecourse.com.

Louisiana Downs Purse Agreement Reached
8/24/2009 2:55:34 PM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted 8/22/2009, 6:16 pm

Louisiana Downs and its horsemen have reached an agreement on a longstanding purse overpayment issue that has led to an 8 percent increase in overnight purses at the track. The across-the-board boost was to go into effect with the program of Sunday, Aug. 23.

The increase puts overnight purses at $150,000 a day, said Trent McIntosh, director of racing and racing secretary for Louisiana Downs.

"We reached an agreement with the horsemen concerning an overpayment from previous years, and were able to release some funds for this meet," said McIntosh.

The overpayment issue is one that dates back to the late 1990s when purses were increased in advance of slots being put in place at the track, said Sean Alfortish, president of the Louisiana Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association. There were debates at different points in time over how much of an increase had been approved by horsemen, he said, which had led to litigation.

But earlier this month, Alfortish said he met one-on-one with Geno Iafrate, senior vice president and general manager of Harrah's Louisiana Downs, in an effort to put the issue to rest. Alfortish said the meeting yielded a new agreement on what horsemen owe the track and gives them more flexible terms in the repayment of those funds.

"Our board was in unanimous agreement to accept the terms that I have negotiated with Harrah's," said Alfortish.

Alfortish would not reveal specific overpayment amounts, citing a confidentiality agreement.

Louisiana Downs races through Oct. 4.

Four Riders Hospitalized Following Spill
8/24/2009 2:54:05 PM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted 8/23/2009, 8:30 pm

BOSSIER CITY, La. -- Five horses and their jockeys were involved in a frightening spill in Sunday's ninth and final race at Louisiana Downs.

The incident was triggered when Haran, ridden by Patrick Valenzuela, broke down entering the far turn while pressing the pace in the 1 1/16-mile turf race for maiden claimers. The forward-running Get the Prize, with Francisco Torres aboard, immediately fell over his stricken rival. Heat Pump, ridden by Rico Flores, Invisible Force with E.J. Perrodin up, and Brazos Cat with Lonnie Meche in the saddle, all attempted to jump the fallen horses and each lost their riders.

Perrodin apparently escaped serious injury as he walked back to the jockeys' quarters. Two of the remaining riders were transported to Christus Schumpert Medical Center in Shreveport and two were taken to Willis Knighton Medical Center in Bossier City.

Haran was euthanized soon after the incident with the other four horses believed to have escaped serious injury.

Delta adds six-figure stakes incentives
8/18/2009 2:15:38 PM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted: Friday, August 14, 2009

Delta Downs in Vinton, La., has added a new twist to the purse structure for its two biggest races, the Grade 3, $750,000 Delta Jackpot and the Grade 3, $500,000 Delta Princess. If a Grade 1 or Grade 2 winner is entered in either race, that horse will be running for an additional $250,000 in purse money.

The incentive was announced Friday night, along with the track's entire 34-race, $4.4 million stakes schedule. Delta will open its 90-date meet on Oct. 14. The season will run through March 20.

The highlight is Jackpot Night on Dec. 4, when the Delta Jackpot, a 1 1/16-mile race for 2-year-olds, leads a six-stakes card worth more than $1.6 million Also on that program is the Princess, a one-mile race for 2-year-old fillies. Officials hope the new purse incentives help lure strong fields.

"We want to get our Grade 3 to a Grade 2, to the next level," said Chris Warren, director of racing for Delta.

Other top programs include Jackpot Preview Night on Nov. 6. There will be six stakes led by the $175,000 Jean Lafitte and the $125,000 My Trusty Cat, preps, respectively, for the Jackpot and Princess. Also on the card, Delta will introduce two new seven-furlong stakes for 2-year-olds bred in Louisiana. One is open and the other is for fillies, with each race worth $250,000.

The annual Louisiana Premier Night is on Feb. 6. It will feature 10 stakes for statebreds worth a cumulative $1 million. The program is led by the $200,000 Premier Night Championship.

Purses at the meet are projected to average $235,000 a day, said Warren.

La. Derby and Florida Derby to Compete?
8/13/2009 3:26:23 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 8/12/2009 4:09:46 PM

A new date for the Louisiana Derby (gr. II), announced Aug. 11 by Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, puts the race on the same day as the Florida Derby (gr. I)--and Gulfstream Park has no plans to alter course.

Fair Grounds plans a number of significant changes for its upcoming 2009-10 meet, including an increased purse, new distance, and new date for its signature event, the Louisiana Derby, a major prep for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).

The purse will spike from $600,000 to $750,000, the distance will increase from 1 1/16 miles to 1 1/8 miles, and perhaps most significantly, the race will be moved to March 27—five weeks before the Run for the Roses. In recent years, the Louisiana Derby was held seven weeks prior to the Kentucky Derby.

The Louisiana Derby’s sister race, the $400,000 Fair Grounds Oaks (gr. II) for 3-year-old fillies, was also moved to March 26, just five weeks prior to the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I).

“We really believe we have the best place in the country to prep 3-year-olds," Fair Grounds vice president and general manager Eric Halstrom said. "We have the best weather, best conventional dirt surface, and we have the ability to bump the race purse a little bit. After talking to horsemen, we realized having the (Louisiana Derby) seven weeks (before the Kentucky Derby) was kind of hard for a final Derby prep. The stars aligned for us to be able to make these changes.”

The changes also prompted Fair Grounds to make adjustments to its other Louisiana Series races for 3-year-olds. The Lecomte Stakes (gr. III), now at one mile and 40 yards, and Risen Star Stakes (gr. III) at 1 1/16 miles, will move to Jan. 23 and Feb. 20, respectively.

Halstrom said he is hopeful the Louisiana Derby and Fair Grounds Oaks would be upgraded to grade I status in the near future, because of the changes and the high-profile horses that have won the races in the recent past. Proud Spell and Rachel Alexandra won the Fair Grounds Oaks and Kentucky Oaks the past two seasons.

“I would think at some point that change would be called for,” Halstrom said, “and quite honestly, without these changes, I’m not we would have gotten there.”

With the move of the Louisiana Derby to March 27, the race will likely now compete with Gulfstream’s Florida Derby, also run five weeks prior to the Kentucky Derby. Though Gulfstream has not yet announced the stakes schedule for its upcoming meet, Mike Mullaney, the racetrack’s media director, said he expects the Florida Derby to be held March 27.

Mullaney acknowledged some surprise with Fair Grounds’ decision to hold the Louisiana Derby on the same day as the Florida Derby.

“I’m not aware of any discussion (between Fair Grounds and Gulfstream) leading up to (the change),” Mullaney said. “It’s just another example of how we can communicate better in this industry. I’m surprised. A couple of years ago, the Dubai World Cup and the Florida Derby were moved to the same weekend and we had to deal with the dispersing of the jockeys, trainers, and even the media. It makes things harder, especially for TV.

“We respect their racetrack, but I’m not sure I see the value (in the date change). But we’ll just keep doing what we’ve been doing.”

The Florida Derby found success with a move to five weeks prior to the Kentucky Derby several years ago.

When asked about potentially competing with Gulfstream, Halstrom said: "The Florida Derby is one of the most storied Derby preps we have. We have a lot of respect for it. But we feel that we deserve final Derby prep status, and this was the best way to go about business for us."

Fair Grounds also announced the addition of two new dirt races for fillies and mares, including a 1 1/8-mile stakes positioned on Dec. 19 to potentially entice a year-end showdown between Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta, who are considered by many North America’s top two horses in training.

The 85-day Fair Grounds meet will have its earliest start date ever when the New Orleans racetrack opens Nov. 6, a week earlier than last year and well ahead of the old Thanksgiving Day opener of years' past. Closing day for the 21-week season will be March 28.

A record $7.24-million, 66-race stakes schedule was announced for the upcoming meet.

Fair Grounds main-track surface gets renovations
8/13/2009 3:23:20 PM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted 8/12/2009, 5:03 pm

A new date and purse for the Louisiana Derby announced on Tuesday afternoon are only part of significant changes to the Fair Grounds and its stakes schedule. Following through on a commitment it made last racing season, Fair Grounds has been engaged in dirt-track renovations since July.

Eric Halstrom, Fair Grounds vice president and general manager, said on Wednesday that Fair Grounds has added 3,000 yards of local river sand to its main track over the summer. The sand component of the racing surface had degraded over time, and the dirt track probably was out of balance during the 2008-2009 meet. Fair Grounds experienced a brief breakdown spike in late January, but the pace of serious equine injuries abated as rapidly as it erupted.

"We've been conditioning [the surface] here the last month," Halstrom said. "It's changed quite a bit. We've had it tested since, and it's much more in line with what we had hoped."

Brian Jabelman, hired as the trackman last year, no longer is with Fair Grounds, Halstrom said. Jabelman was forced to return to his native Canada because of visa issues. Michael Depew, a track-surface specialist, has been consulting for Fair Grounds since Jabelman's departure. Ian Gamble, a Canterbury Park track maintenance man, was hired in July to replace Jabelman and will come to Fair Grounds in October. Fair Grounds hosts a brief Quarter Horse meet later this month and opens for Thoroughbred training on Oct. 5 in advance of its Nov. 6 opening.

Work on the racing surface combined with a ramped up 2009-2010 stakes schedule signal that Fair Grounds and parent company CDI intend to make the most of capital being generated by an ontrack slot-machine parlor that opened last year. The stakes schedule released Tuesday is worth $7.24 million, up about $600,000 from last year, according to Halstrom. Only two minor races were dropped from the schedule, and Fair Grounds added two six-figure races for older female route horses, filling what has long been a void in that division. Besides boosting the Louisiana Derby purse from $600,000 to $750,000, and shifting it to five weeks before the Kentucky Derby, Fair Grounds also bumped the purse for the Louisiana Derby prep, the Feb. 20 Risen Star Stakes, back to $300,000 after lowering it to $200,000 in 2009.

In another change, the Fair Grounds Oaks will be anchor a multi-stakes Friday card (March 26) the day before the Louisiana Derby program.

"Part of it was looking at the Oaks-Derby experience at Churchill, and Pimlico does that too with the Preakness," Halstrom said. "We're turning the Louisiana Derby almost into a week like that."

Louisiana Mixed Sale Set for Oct. 17
8/5/2009 1:12:57 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 8/4/2009 4:43:04 PM Last Updated: 8/5/2009 8:32:03 AM

Breeders Sales Company of Louisiana will conduct a mixed auction on Oct. 17 at Serenity Farm in Folsom, La. The deadline to enter horses is Aug. 14. Consignment forms can be downloaded from the Louisiana Thoroughbred Breeders Association Web site: www.louisianabred.com.

A sale of 2-year-olds in training at Louisiana Downs in the spring of 2010 is in the early planning stages.

Evangeline Downs-Veteran jockey Faul retires
6/26/2009 11:22:26 AM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted 6/24/2009, 7:18 pm

Jockey Ricky Faul, a longtime regular on the Louisiana circuit and a crowd favorite, announced this week that he is hanging up his tack after a career that has seen him win 3,352 races. Faul will be honored in a ceremony Saturday night at Evangeline Downs that not only will mark his final race as a rider but also his 28th wedding anniversary with his wife, Donna.

"I'm in good health and thank the Lord I've never been seriously injured," Faul said. "I've had a long and productive career, and even though I still love race riding and enjoy the game, there comes a time in every professional athlete's life when you have to step aside and now is the right time for me. I give all the credit to my wife, Donna, my family, and my many friends and supporters."

Faul rode his first winner in 1978 at Delta Downs. In addition to winning a riding title at that oval, the 48-year-old native of Sunset, La., has been leading rider at the old Evangeline Downs, Birmingham Race Course, Hoosier Park, and the now-defunct Jefferson Downs in suburban New Orleans, where he accounted for no less than 10 titles.

Faul is one of three brothers to ride races. Jeff has been leading rider in Michigan and Louisiana, and Dee Dee became a jockey agent after a brief career in the saddle. Their mother, Betty, is a longtime mutuel employee at Evangeline.

"I'm still going to be involved in racing," Faul said. "Starting next week I'll become a jockey's agent for Joe Stokes. My long-term goal is to help teach the new guys not only how to succeed in this demanding game but in life as well.

Evangeline Downs: Track manages to live up to its motto
5/22/2009 1:55:29 PM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted 5/20/2009, 6:25 pm

Evangeline Downs continues to buck the national trend of small fields and reduced racing calendars as it lives up to its self-proclaimed billing of "Home of the Biggest Fields."

Since its current meeting began on April 8, Evangeline has averaged more than 11 runners per race, a remarkable number by today's industry standards.

Despite competition for the state's horses from Louisiana Downs, which opened last week, interest at the entry box remained strong for this week's action. A total of 327 horses were entered for the Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday night cards for an average of 10.5 runners per race.

* Dab of Magic, Ashley's Broker, and Hut Hut, all maiden winners in their last starts, will vie for favoritism in Friday night's $31,000 allowance feature. The entry-level allowance is for Louisiana-bred filly and mares and will be contested at five furlongs on the turf.

Also in Friday's headliner is Bananafafana, who had her turf debut spoiled in her final start at Fair Grounds in March. She clipped heels in tight quarters when prominent in midstretch that day and unseated her rider.

Another NARA Graduate Finds Victory
5/7/2009 10:28:46 AM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 5/6/2009 3:42:44 PM

Anna Roberts of Franklinton, La. became the fifth graduate of the North American Racing Academy to win a race when she rode King of Mardi Gras to victory at Evangeline Downs April 29.

Roberts rallied from seventh place on the backstretch and drew off to win the five-furlong race by 4 1/2 lengths.

“Winning was so awesome,” said Roberts. “I was the favorite the whole week, which adds to the pressure, but I knew my horse well and knew he could deliver.”

Roberts, 20, came to Kentucky in 2006 to study at NARA under the tutelage of Hall of Fame jockey Chris McCarron.

The April 29 race was Roberts’ fourth career mount, the first three coming two weeks prior. Roberts follows fellow NARA graduates Mikey James, Matt and Mike Straight, and Jackie Davis into the winner’s circle.

Roberts will race again in mid May in Louisiana.

Losing Mount Fees Increase in Louisiana
4/28/2009 2:30:26 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 4/28/2009 9:25:37 AM

Louisiana jockeys will receive an increase in losing mount fees statewide when a new scale, approved by the Louisiana Racing Commission, takes effect beginning May 13.

Losing mount fees will now range from $50 for races with purses under $5,000 to $115 at the top of the scale. The previous range of mount fees was $35 to $100.

“We appreciate the action the Louisiana Racing Commission took in approving this increase in mount fees,” said Terry Meyocks, national manager of the Jockeys’ Guild. “Our thanks go to the commission and the Guild’s regional manager, John Beech. Their help was instrumental in obtaining the first increase in mount fees in Louisiana since 1985.”

This new scale follows increases in mount fees through legislation at California tracks and negotiated increases at Aqueduct, Belmont Park, Saratoga, Finger Lakes, Monmouth, Meadowlands, Atlantic City, Hawthorne, Arlington, Fairmount Park, Gulfstream Park, Calder, Tampa Bay Downs, Turf Paradise, Yavapai Downs, Indiana Downs, Hoosier Park, Delaware Park, Charles Town and Prairie Meadows. Jockeys at Philadelphia Park and Penn National have also received raises in their losing mount fees. Negotiations are ongoing in other racing jurisdictions.

Fair Grounds to Open Even Earlier in 2009
4/28/2009 2:19:29 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 4/27/2009 1:40:57 PM Last Updated: 4/27/2009 1:52:31 PM

The meet at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots got a little bit longer calendar-wise in 2008-09, and it will get even longer in 2009-10.

The Louisiana racetrack said April 27 it received Louisiana State Racing Commission approval to begin its Thoroughbred meet Nov. 6, the earliest starting date in track history. Last year, Fair Grounds opened Nov. 14; traditionally, the meet began Thanksgiving Day.

The start of the Fair Grounds meet will now overlap almost entirely with the Churchill Downs fall meet. Both tracks are owned by Churchill Downs Inc.

Though the 2009-10 meet will cover more of the calendar, total requested racing days will drop from 87 in 2008-09 to 85. The meet will end March 28, 2010.

“The additional week of racing allows us to open our season on the same weekend as the Breeders’ Cup World Championships,” Fair Grounds vice president and general manager of racing Eric Halstrom said in a statement. “By spreading out our schedule, we will also reduce the number of five-day racing weeks, which should enable us to enhance our day-to-day product.”

The 21-week schedule will feature racing every Friday through Sunday except for Christmas Day. The track will race on Thursdays from Thanksgiving and in December, except Christmas Eve, and on Mondays from Dec. 7 through the end of the season.

Thus, racing will be held five days a week in December, but for the most part four days a week the other months. The Mardi Gras Day card will be held Feb. 16, a Tuesday, and a special live program will be offered March 17, St. Patrick’s Day, which falls on a Wednesday.

The Fair Grounds meet follows the Harrah’s Louisiana Downs meet, which ends Oct. 4.

Louisiana - Slots help keep purses stable
3/13/2009 1:50:00 PM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted 3/11/2009, 6:35 pm

NEW ORLEANS - A herpes quarantine in December, a spike of morning breakdowns in January, and a global economic crisis - through it all, Fair Grounds has been able to maintain its lofty 2008-2009 purse structure, and on the eve of Louisiana Derby Day, the meet highlight, track officials are satisfied with the ongoing season.

"Everyone is pleased where we're at, based on what we projected at the beginning of the meet," said Eric Halstrom, who has had an eventful first season as Fair Grounds vice president and general manager of racing. "We added six more days of racing this year, and purses are still going to be around $355,000 a day, up from $335,000 a day last year."

Fair Grounds's new slots parlor, which houses 606 machines and opened in November, has helped maintain the purse structure. Last week, Fair Grounds increased the earnings from slot machines dedicated to purses from $3,500 per race to $5,500 per race. The slots money offset downward handle trends during February. Fair Grounds went into the month with moderate declines in total and average daily handle compared with the 2007-2008 season, but saw total handle fall by 17 percent in February compared with the same month last year, according to handle figures supplied by the Louisiana State Racing Commission. (Churchill Downs Inc., Fair Grounds' parent company, does not release handle statistics.)

Slot machines, meanwhile, have exceeded projected revenues, according to Halstrom.

"The bright spot of the meet is these purses levels, and that's driving how we're able to sustain these purses," he said.

The December herpes quarantine cost the track momentum, but wound up being short-lived and minor. In mid-January, seven horses suffered fatal breakdowns during morning training in a 10-day period, but as quickly as the breakdowns spiked, they disappeared, and since Jan. 27, Halstrom said he knew of only one morning fatality, that from a heart attack.

"We're all still scratching our heads over that rough patch of time," said Halstrom.

Nevertheless, Halstrom said Fair Grounds was committed to making off-season improvements to both the main track and the turf course. The main track has seen its composition change over time, and tons of sand will be added to the mixture after the meet ends. Michael Depew, an agronomist, is working with trackman Brian Jabelmann on the project.

Halstrom said Fair Grounds also will work to improve the grass course.

"Coming into the meet, we had irrigation troubles, and the turf wasn't where we wanted it to be at the beginning of the meet," Halstrom said. "Through the summer, Brian has a list of things he wants to do; sod, new seed. We're also going to overhaul the drainage system. I think the turf course will be in much better shape for the next meet than it was coming into this one."

Louisiana HBPA & AFLAC a Winning Combination
3/4/2009 1:30:22 PM  -  The Horsemen''''s Journal - Spring 2009 

I am extremely excited to announce that the Louisiana HBPA was the first state to kick off the AFLAC program since AFLAC became an official sponsor of the National HBPA! This is very exciting for many reasons! AFLAC offers supplemental policies which are extremely affordable to all licensed horsemen, whether you work as a groom, hot walker, exercise rider, trainer, or jockey. That’s right, I said “jockey.”

Can you believe AFLAC is covering jockeys while riding in an actual race beginning April 1, 2009? If the policy is purchased before April 1st, jockeys are covered anytime other than in the actual race. This is unprecedented coverage for jockeys in any state! We are proud in Louisiana to have been the first to offer this valuable accidental coverage for a small monthly fee of $28.20 per individual and $50.80 per family.

The AFLAC team came to New Orleans in January, where they made their first stop before visiting Evangeline Downs, Delta Downs, Louisiana Downs, and several training centers in between. The response was fantastic!

After looking at our medical benefits and the logistics of how the two programs would work together, I personally think AFLAC is of great value to ALL HORSEMEN AND THEIR FAMILIES.

As horsemen, we have always wondered what if an accident were to happen that would keep us from our work for an extended amount of time – especially exercise riders, assistant trainers, farriers – and then my thoughts begin to take on a life of their own, and the question really was, “As horsemen, how can we afford not to have this policy?” We all need good health and good working limbs daily to perform the duties required to make a living for our families in the racing industry.

With AFLAC you can purchase a family plan very inexpensively, which would be of great benefit to not only a horseman’s family, but anyone’s family. Here are some of the immediate values I found in reviewing the policy within the first few minutes:

• AFLAC, under the family plan, can help with children tremendously. As you know, presently minimal coverage, if any, is offered on the children of licensed employees or trainers and other independent contractors. Children are always having accidents at school or home, which is extremely costly just for a walk-in clinic, not to mention an emergency room visit. With the AFLAC family plan, they are covered!

• Should you not meet the requirements to use your HBPA medical benefit plan yet and have an accident around the barn or home, AFLAC is there for you!

• If you are out of work on a worker’s compensation claim, you can also file with AFLAC. They will be there for you, helping you to meet other needs until you return to work!

• There is no waiting period of any kind.

• Rate stability: AFLAC has had no rate increase in 50 years.

• Policy portability – any horsemen can go to any physician anywhere in the United States and while traveling in foreign countries.

• No penalty for the amount of times the policy is used.

• Guaranteed renewable for lifetime, you cannot be turned down.

• Personal ownership and management.

• There is no network of any kind.

• Spouse and dependent unmarried children to age 19 (23 if full-time students) can be covered, as well as newborn children from the moment of birth.

• Provides cash benefits payable to the covered person for an injury that occurs on or off the job.

• Anytime a covered person receives treatment at an emergency room, doctor, or even an EMT on the track, AFLAC will pay cash benefits directly to the insured, usually in 3-5 days.

• AFLAC includes up to $25,000 in accidental death benefits, as well as offers a wellness benefit.

Let’s face it, many horsemen who do have major medical insurance have large deductibles to even be able to afford medical insurance. Your AFLAC policy will pay “you” the cash to use however you see fit, whether you use it on your deductible, for doctor bills, food, household expenses, etc. It is all up to you!

AFLAC Accident is individually-owned, portable, and guaranteed renewable for life. Also, keep in mind that AFLAC offers affordable policy coverage for pregnancy, cancer, critical care, hospital care, and dental, to name a few.

AFLAC is very excited about building new relationships with other states just as they have in Louisiana! Fellow horsemen … with a phone call, “The Duck will come to a racetrack, backside, barn, training center, or farm near you.”

AFLAC has been Louisiana tested and recommended to all states looking to offer your horsemen great benefits that will go a long way! Our members are worth it, and we know yours are too!

Mona Romero
Executive Director

Fair Grounds Looking at the Big Picture
1/29/2009 6:18:14 AM  -  New Orleans Times-Picayune 

Posted: Wednesday, January 28, 2009

National and local betting statistics provide a simple indication that the recession is making an impact on horse racing.

Betting on U.S. races last year totaled $13.67 billion, down 7.16 percent from 2007, according to Equibase News Service statistics. In December 2008, U.S. betting totaled $820.36 million, down 20.3 percent from the total in December 2007.

Betting at the Fair Grounds this season through December showed declines on-track and from all sources from figures for the same stage of the 2007-2008 season. This season, on-track handle averaged $215,729 per day for the 27 racing days in November and December, down 6 percent from the daily average through December last season. Total handle through December averaged $4,026,824 per day, down 7.2 percent from last season.

The betting statistics were obtained from the Louisiana State Racing Commission.

Eric Halstrom, the Fair Grounds' vice present/general manager of racing, is aware of the numbers.

"We're just like any other business," Halstrom said. "If you're going to rely on what you used to do, it's not going to work. We're going to market our (simulcast) signal harder in the export world around the country."

For example, track handicapper Jessica Pacheco has been sent to New York and is scheduled to visit Las Vegas and California to promote off-track wagering on Fair Grounds races, he said.

Despite the poor economy, "the basic indicators" of the health of the Fair Grounds are good, Halstrom said. The purses, expected to average about $375,000 per day this season and helped by the new slots facility, are higher than they were last season.

"We've got a lot of things going our way," he said. "Getting a bigger share of out-of-state wagering, whether it's OTB out of state or through the Internet, that's a high priority right now."

TwinSpires.com, the account-wagering venue for Churchill Downs Inc., which owns the Fair Grounds, is being marketed heavily online, Halstrom said.

"We're fighting for dollars that weren't coming our way years before," he said.

A conservative approach to raising purses will help keep Fair Grounds purses high even during these tough economic times, Halstrom said.

"I see us staying very stable to where we're at," he said. "Many racetracks go from point A to point C, forget they have to go to B first.” This season, the Fair Grounds has focused on opening the slots facility and increasing wagering from out of state and through the Internet, Halstrom said. But that doesn't mean that on-track racing fans will be ignored.

Halstrom said he is considering several ideas to enhance the experience of fans.

"I think the on-track experience is how you keep people in the game," he said. "We're not done promoting and trying to improve the attendance on-track."

Fair Grounds - Fatality spike puzzles track officials
1/29/2009 6:11:06 AM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted 1/27/2009, 6:03 pm

In a 10-day period, seven horses have suffered fatal injuries while training at Fair Grounds, a yet to be explained spike in the mortality rate.

The recent breakdowns began when two Tom Amoss-trained horses suffered fatal injuries on Jan. 17. Another Amoss-trained horse broke down the next morning, and since then, four more horses have sustained fatal injuries while training. The most recent injury came Monday, when a Mark Casse-trained filly broke a hind pastern galloping out after a work.

Other trainers who have lost horses are Steve Margolis, Bernie Flint, and Michael Thompson. The Flint- and Thompson-trained horses broke shoulders while galloping, but the other breakdowns occurred during works. The injuries included a broken tibia, a fractured hind cannon bone, and two front cannon-bone fractures.

Over the same period, no horses have broken down in races, but there have been eight racing breakdowns this meet, according to state veterinarian Dr. Tom David, who provided details on the training fatalities. Fair Grounds averages 10 to 14 racing breakdowns per season, according to David. While many tracks compile reports of all training fatalities, such records aren't formally kept at Fair Grounds. At the ongoing meet, which began Nov. 14 and is just more than half over, David said there have been 10 training fatalities.

"I can't figure it out," David said. "They're not the kind of breakdowns you usually see with sore horses, like an old suspensory [ligament] that leads to breaking down at the ankle. These are horses that look sound."

David said horsemen had not complained about the Fair Grounds surface, which has long carried a reputation for safety. Eric Halstrom, Fair Grounds' assistant general manager, said he'd spoken with many horsemen and also had not heard complaints.

"You ask anyone who's out there all the time, and they all say the track's in great shape," Halstrom said.

Brian Jabelmann was hired as Fair Grounds' track maintenance supervisor on Dec. 31 and has been deeply troubled by the injuries. Jabelmann said shortly after being hired that both the dirt and turf courses at Fair Grounds needed long-term renovation that he hoped to undertake in the off-season. Jabelmann said Monday that routine tests checking the banking and the base of the surface had revealed no problems.

"I don't believe there's a problem, but there's something going on there," said Jabelmann, who has worked for Louisiana Downs, Fort Erie, and Woodbine, among other tracks. "We're running more tests, but on the surface, there's nothing really showing."

Jabelmann said samples of the track surface had been sent to a Michigan laboratory for analysis. The results could help show whether the composition of the material has changed over time. Fair Grounds has not had a full-time track superintendent since 2006-07, when Roy Favret worked the track for one season. Javier Barajas, Arlington's full-time trackman, flew in and out of New Orleans during the 2007-08 meet and early this season to oversee maintenance. Halstrom confirmed that no new material had been added to the surface during the last off-season.

No one seems to be blaming Jabelmann, and many horsemen have lauded his work.

"Here's a guy just got here Dec. 31, and he's worked tirelessly on this track," said longtime Fair Grounds trainer Al Stall. "From where I stand up against the fence at the 4 1/2-furlong pole, the track looks smooth and very level."

Leading trainer Steve Asmussen, who worked many of his better horses Monday, said he'd had no problems with the track.

"We run more than anybody, we've worked more than anybody, and the horses have been coming back great," Asmussen said.

But Stall said that he has noticed changes in the Fair Grounds surface this season.

"The track is dull, it's got no bounce to it," Stall said. "This year, the horses hit with more of a thud than a bounce."

That perspective was shared by trainer Mike Stidham, who said he has experienced increased hoof problems often associated with a hard track.

"I'm not a trackman, but I know the type of injuries we've seen are concussion injuries," said Stidham, a 10-year Fair Grounds veteran. "We've not seen as many of that type of injuries before."

There were no breakdowns Tuesday, and the hope remains that the rash of injuries will prove no more than a tragic flare-up.

"If this were to happen till March 28, that'd be different," said Stall, "but I think it's just a spike."

Fair Grounds quarantine is over
1/18/2009 9:15:54 AM  -  New Orleans Times-Picayune 

Posted: January 15, 2009 15:23PM

After three weeks, the quarantine of the Fair Grounds barns of trainers Dallas Stewart and Neil Howard is over.

The Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, lifted the quarantine Thursday after learning that 68 horses, including stable ponies, based in the connected barns of Stewart and Howard had tested negative for equine herpes for the second time, said Louisiana State Racing Commission Executive Director Charles Gardiner.

In late December, those horses initially tested clean. Five other horses, all trained by Stewart, tested positive then and were isolated off-track. Those five horses will be retested Monday and won't be allowed back at the track until testing clean, Gardiner said.

"This kind of gets you on your knees,'' Stewart said. "You appreciate everything you've got, everybody behind you. You appreciate everybody who worked hard to bring it to a close.''

The quarantine began Dec. 26 after a filly trained by Stewart tested positive for equine herpes. She was sent to a Kentucky equine hospital Dec. 23 after losing equilibrium after a workout the day before.

Equine herpes, a viral disease that can change into a neurological condition, is contracted from the air or by direct contact.

During the quarantine, training hours were altered so that horses trained by Stewart and Howard would have the track to themselves for an hour after the other horses were finished training. Also, Stewart and Howard weren't allowed to enter horses in races.

On Thursday, Stewart entered two horses and Howard entered one horse for races Sunday at the Fair Grounds.

Howard said the quarantine was necessary to safeguard all horses at the track. "It's easier now to say, it's better to have two barns shut down than to have racing shut down all together,'' he said.

Howard also said he's relieved that the horses in question tested negative. "I felt everything should be OK,'' he said. "It's always best not to assume. I'm glad for Dallas.''

Louisiana State Racing Commission Chairman Jerry Meaux said he's pleased with the response to the situation.

"This thing hits you all of a sudden,'' Meaux said. "You have no experience with it. You'll make some mistakes, but you'll learn from them. ... All in all, it went great. All the cooperation between the state, the racetracks and the horsemen ... everybody worked together.''

When the quarantine began, restrictions on horses shipping to and from the Fair Grounds were tight, and there were many scratches from Fair Grounds races. Because of scratches, a race Dec. 29 wound up with only two horses.

"I'm happy that it's over,'' said Eric Halstrom, the Fair Grounds' vice president/general manager of racing. "It was an impediment to our business, no doubt. I believe we have enough of the meet to recover and have a real successful end of the meet.''

Fair Grounds allows horses to ship in Wednesday
12/31/2008 10:43:46 AM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Posted: Tuesday, December 30, 2008 12:07 PM

Despite an ongoing quarantine at two of its backstretch barns, the Fair Grounds will allow horses to ship in and race at the New Orleans track beginning Wednesday.

The Louisiana State Racing Commission, which will continue its quarantine of Barns 4A and 4B, will allow horses to ship in and race. Commission members, track officials, and members of the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry hammered out a plan during a Monday meeting in Baton Rouge. Trainers Dallas Stewart and Neil Howard stable horses in Barns 4A and 4B.

“As we continue to monitor the situation, we are pleased that all parties were able to come to this agreement,” said Fair Grounds General Manager of Racing Eric Halstrom, “We look forward to welcoming back ship-ins beginning Wednesday.”

Ship-in horses raced at Fair Grounds December 26-27, but as an added precaution, horses could not ship to the track for races on Sunday and Monday.

To accommodate the quarantined horses, the track changed its training hours training hours effective December 27. Regular training hours are 30 minutes earlier, from 5:30 a.m. CST to 9:30 a.m., with a renovation break from 7:30-8 a.m. Horses from Stewart’s and Howard’s stables can train from 9:30-10:30 a.m.

All parties agreed to follow Department of Agriculture and Forestry protocol for any horses that ship in to race. The requirements include a normal temperature reading upon arrival and records of a certified veterinary inspection within the last 48 hours and a herpes vaccination from not less than 14 and not more than 90 days ago. Shipped horses must arrive and depart from the track’s receiving barn.

The quarantine and biosecurity measures have been in place for Barns 4A and 4B at Fair Grounds since December 26 after test results confirmed that a Thoroughbred trained by Stewart was infected with equine herpesvirus (EHV-1). The next day, five horses tested positive for EHV-1. All five of the horses had stabled in either Barn 4A or 4B within the past two weeks.

Experts said up to 5% of horses will carry the virus in their system. No other horses in either Stewart’s or Howard’s barn have shown any symptoms of EHV-1, which most commonly include fever and an upper respiratory infection. Symptoms also include lethargy, loss of appetite, a nasal discharge, and a cough. In severe cases, horses can suffer a loss of coordination and an inability to stand, and the illness can be fatal.

The recommended quarantine period for EHV-1 is up to 21 days after potential exposure to the virus. The five horses who tested positive will be re-tested on January 5.

The infected horse displayed symptoms of equine herpes on December 23. That horse remains under observation at Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, which confirmed the diagnosis.

Because the disease is a virus, it can spread through the air when a horse coughs, although studies on the virus indicate that it is very short-lived and is susceptible to disinfectants. The maximum extent of the airborne transmission of the virus is thought to be 35 feet. Horses may also contract the disease if they are exposed to the clothing of a person who has worked with an infected horse, the tack and equipment worn by an infected horse, or a shared food and water source. The disease poses no danger to humans.

The incubation period for equine herpesvirus ranges from two to ten days. Under the quarantine order, horses may not move in or out of those barns until the Department of Agriculture and Forestry clears them.

Equine herpes surfaces at Fair Grounds
12/28/2008 12:33:34 PM  -  Times-Picayune 

Posted: Saturday, December 27, 2008

A filly who had been based at the Fair Grounds tested positive this week for equine herpes, and the barns housing horses trained by Dallas Stewart and Neil Howard are quarantined.

Diamond Song, a 3-year-old filly trained by Stewart, worked five furlongs Monday morning at the Fair Grounds.

"She didn't look right on Monday afternoon -- her equilibrium, the functions of her back legs," Stewart said.

He said he shipped her by van Tuesday to Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, Ky., and was informed Wednesday of the positive test.

Eric Halstrom, the Fair Grounds' vice president/general manager of racing, said that Dr. Tom David, Louisiana State Racing commission equine medical director, issued the quarantine Friday for Stewart's and Howard's barns, which are connected.

"Right now, they're testing all the other horses in those barns," Halstrom said.

Until those horses are cleared, they won't be allowed to participate in races.

Equine herpes "is a viral disease that usually is respiratory, but the virus can mutate and become a neurological condition," David said. The disease can be contracted from the air or by direct contact, he said.

The Fair Grounds has changed its training schedule so that those horses will be the only ones on the track. The track will be open from 5:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. for all horses except those trained by Stewart and Howard. From 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., their horses will be allowed to train.

David said it might take 10 days for the horses in question to be cleared. They will be tested twice. Results of the first test will come back within 48 hours, he said, and results of the second test will take about seven days.

"Once we clear the tests, we should be OK," Stewart said. "It's that simple."

He said he has about 40 horses at the track.

"We've got to hope that the horses remain healthy," Stewart said. "They're saying that the filly (Diamond Song) should be able to recover and be able to race again."

Said David: "The horse was diagnosed early, and fortunately, there's nothing else sick in that barn, no temps, no nothing."

Howard said he has 26 horses at the Fair Grounds.

"Everybody's fine," he said. "We wouldn't know that there was a problem."

A quarantine wasn't needed Thursday because the track was closed for training on Christmas, and horses remained in their barns.

Howard said Stewart called him Thursday night.

"He felt bad," Howard said. "I felt bad for him."

The positive herpes test also has led to restrictions on horses shipping in and out of the Fair Grounds.

Horses stabled on the backstretch won't be allowed to leave the grounds until the horses in question are cleared -- with one exception. Horses will be allowed to ship to Delta Downs to race, as long as they are sent directly to the stakes barn there and leave from that barn.

Horses shipping to the Fair Grounds for races will be allowed to go to the receiving barn, run in their races and leave from the receiving barn. If a horse comes to the Fair Grounds for a race and goes to a barn on the backstretch, the horse will have to stay on the grounds until the horses in question are cleared.

Diamond Song has raced twice, winning in her debut Oct. 25 at Keeneland and finishing eighth in an allowance turf race Nov. 13 at Churchill Downs. Monday's workout was her fourth at the Fair Grounds this month.

Randy Romero deserves spot in Hall of Fame
12/28/2008 12:03:10 PM  -  The Times-Picayune  

Posted: Friday December 26, 2008, 10:51 AM

There was no need to propose that the Hall of Fame nominating committee consider Randy Romero for 2009.

A recent letter seeking suggestions for Hall of Fame candidates said that 2008 finalists who weren't elected, including Romero in the contemporary jockeys' category, automatically would be considered for next year's ballot.

To this voter, the letter was a reminder of a Hall of Fame shortcoming. Another year shouldn't go by without Romero joining the Hall.

"I think Randy Romero is the epitome of what the Hall of Fame should be,'' said trainer Shug McGaughey, for whom Romero rode the undefeated champion Personal Ensign to 12 of her 13 victories, including her amazing come-from-behind win in the mud against Winning Colors in the Breeders' Cup Distaff in 1988.

"There's a guy who started out at the bottom, riding horses when he was 8, 9, 10 years old. ... He was a guy who was good rider, always tried his best. He was a huge ambassador for the sport. I've thought if Randy Romero isn't in the Hall of Fame, the Hall of Fame isn't what it's supposed to be.''

Trainer Bill Badgett, for whom Romero rode the champion filly Go For Wand, agreed. "Obviously, he's a great rider,'' Badgett said. "If you look at the horses he rode, it kind of speaks for itself. Look at the champions he rode, one after another.''

Contemporary jockeys are those who rode for at least 20 years and were active within the last 25 years. Jockeys elected in that category since 1998 - Jacinto Vasquez, Russell Baze, Julie Krone, Earlie Fires, Jack Westrope, Mike Smith, Kent Desormeaux, Jose Santos and Edgar Prado - are deserving. (In 2005 and 2006, 75 percent of the vote was required for election, and no contemporary jockey was elected.)

Nothing has come easily for Romero, who for almost seven years has been fighting kidney and liver problems. He last rode in 1999 and has been a Hall of Fame finalist five times since 2003.

Voters who rely only on statistics in choosing of Hall of Famers are missing the essence of Romero, who overcame injuries that would have forced many athletes to quit. McGaughey made a comparison to baseball, where numbers might not tell the whole story about a player.

For the record, Romero, who combined fearlessness with a remarkable sense of timing, won 4,294 races, including three Breeders' Cup races. He won riding titles at 10 tracks, including the Fair Grounds, Belmont Park, Gulfstream Park, Keeneland, Arlington Park and Hialeah. He won six races on a card at the Fair Grounds, Keeneland and Churchill Downs. He still holds records for victories at a Fair Grounds meet and at a Keeneland spring meet. At Gulfstream Park in 1988, he became the first jockey to win four stakes races on a card, capping it with a victory on 32-1 shot Brian's Time in the Florida Derby. Also that year, he won 12 Grade I races. His accomplishments taken at face value are impressive enough for a Hall of Fame candidate.

But who knows what his numbers would have been if he hadn't been injured so many times?

"I've had in my lifetime, 25 or 26 operations,'' said Romero, who turned 51 on Monday. "I've quit counting.''

In 1983 at Oaklawn Park, he almost burned to death when a light bulb in the hot box exploded and Romero caught on fire. He rode less than four months later.

"He loved riding,'' McGaughey said. "The only reason he's not riding today is because of the injuries he had. He fought weight all the time. He came back to riding after he got burned way too early.''

After Go for Wand broke down in the stretch battle with Bayakoa in the Breeders' Cup Distaff in 1990 at Belmont Park, Romero insisted in the jockeys' room that he wasn't hurt. He rode Izvestia hours later in the Classic. X-rays taken after the races didn't reveal hairline fractures in Romero's ribs and shoulder. He rode for a few more days before an MRI showed the injuries, which sidelined him for three months.

"I used bad judgment,'' he said. "I should have never rode.''

Shortly after coming back, Romero took a spill on the turf at Gulfstream Park and broke his elbow. Screws were inserted to repair the injury, but it never healed properly.

"I was never the same,'' he said. "I was off and on for so long, I never could regroup my business. I never had any strength in my arm. I was riding, but I was riding hurt.''

Still, he had enough guile to win major races. He won the Louisiana Derby on Dixieland Heat in 1993, the Blue Grass Stakes in 1995 on long shot Wild Syn (Romero's second Blue Grass win), and the Illinois Derby in 1996 on Natural Selection. But Romero's career was winding down.

In 2003, the first year in which Romero made the Hall of Fame ballot, Smith, who rode against him often, was inducted. At the ceremony, he called Romero "an inspiration.''

'What I was saying was about the riders that were nominated that year - Eddie Maple and Randy - coming up, I idolized those guys,'' Smith said from California, where he is still riding. "It felt funny to go in before them. Any time you got into those things, they're all so deserving. They're going to get in. It's just a matter of when.''

Like Louisiana-born Hall-Famers Eddie Delahoussaye and Eric Guerin, Romero helped pave the way for other Louisiana jockeys, such as Desormeaux, Calvin Borel and Robby Albarado, to make their marks on the national stage. There's no statistic to measure Romero's influence on racing. There's no way to quantify his determination or heart.

But there is a way to reward him, by putting him in the Hall of Fame, where he belongs.

"It means a lot to me,'' he said. "I always wanted it since I was a kid. I rode real hard. I rode times I shouldn't have been riding.''

68-1 Upset Tops Louisiana Champions Day
12/15/2008 12:46:27 PM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Date Posted: 12/13/2008 9:09:28 PM Last Updated: 12/13/2008 9:13:57 PM

One major upset and the matching of two career records for victories in the series headlined the 18th edition of Louisiana Champions Day Dec. 13 at Fair Grounds.

Ten of the 11 winners in the $1.1 million, all-stakes program dedicated to Louisiana-bred Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses were priced at less than 6-1, but the one exception was a big one: Break Up, who lit up the tote board by paying $138.40 to win in the $100,000 Champions Day Juvenile.

In the day’s richest race, the $150,000 Champions Day Classic, Valene Farms’ Autobeacat held off favored Star Production in a stretch duel to win by three-quarters of a lengths. With Donnie Meche up, Autobeacat covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1:53.72.

Trainer Eric Heitzmann had cross-entered Autobeacat in two other Champions Day races on the program, but picked the Classic over the Turf and Starter. Autobeacat ($13.80) was the longest shot in the field of five.

Southern Invasion finished third in the Classic, three lengths behind the favorite.

“This horse likes to be covered up a little bit,” said Heitzmann. “Donnie did a very good job with him.”

Jockey Robby Albarado and trainer Tom Amoss, who have combined for 15 career Fair Grounds titles, each added another line to their list of local achievements.

Albarado won two races, the Lassie on Master Link and the Sprint on Star Guitar, for his 11th and 12th career Champions Day wins. That tied Calvin Borel for the most in the event’s history.

Amoss’ win in the Turf with Wildrally gave him seven career triumphs on Champions Day, matching Bobby Barnett and Donald Cormier for the top spot among trainers.

Break Up, who entered with only a maiden win in five lifetime starts, rallied in the late stages for a one-length win. Corey Lanerie rode the winner for trainer Brett Brinkman. Break Up covered the six furlongs in 1:12.02.

“I wanted to stay patient. I thought the pace would be fast,” said Lanerie. “At the 5/16ths pole, I was picking off a few horses. At the eighth pole, I thought I could win it.”

Cocktail Clarence got up for the second in the Juvenile, finishing a half-length to the good of odds-on favorite Foreign Production, who weakened in the final furlong.

In the Lassie, Albarado went gate-to-wire with Master Link ($12.40) to win by 2 1/2 lengths over favored Warrior Maid with a winning six-furlong winning time of 1:11.70. Lightlightlight finished third, a neck farther back.

Star Guitar – the Al Stall Jr. trainee who won last year’s Champions Day Juvenile – wore down Mr. Barracuda for a three-quarter length score in the Sprint. Meteor Impact finished another half-length back for third in the field of 14.

Star Guitar, who won for the fourth time in five lifetime starts, paid $5.40 while covering the six furlongs in 1:11.07.

Amoss’ win with Wildrally overshadowed a matchup of the last two winners in the Turf, Desert Wheat and Willist.

Wildrally ($15.20) covered the about 1 1/16-mile distance over a Stall-Wilson turf course rated soft in 1:48.76. Desert Wheat was a neck back for the place, while Diggy Fresh was third.

Wildrally, second to Willist in last year’s Turf, was ridden by Brian Hernandez Jr. The 23-year-old Louisiana native rode his fourth stakes winner of the meet.

Jockey John Jacinto joined Albarado in winning a pair of races – the Ladies with Superior Storm and the Ladies Sprint with Coach Mike.

In the Ladies, Superior Storm ($4.60) was best by two lengths. She won for the sixth time in nine starts this year and completed the 1 1/16 miles in 1:45.87.

Richard Jackson trains Superior Storm, who won the Lassie on this day a year ago, for Jack Dickerson’s Jac Mac Stable.

Sammie Sam was second, 9 1/2 lengths in front of Collectzcat.

Coach Mike ($5), owned by Ryder River Ridge Farm and trained by Tony Richey, wore down Sax Appeal in the late stages of the Ladies Sprint, getting the six furlongs in 1:10.66. Tortuga Flats was third.

Louisiana trainers receive restraining order
12/10/2008 8:51:45 AM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Posted: Tuesday, December 09, 2008 6:16 PM

A pair of Louisiana trainers who received suspensions from the Louisiana Racing Commission will be allowed to continue working pending further court proceedings.

St. Landry Parish Judge James Doherty issued a temporary restraining order to hold off the six-month suspensions issued to trainers Keith Bourgeois and Melton Wilson on December 1. The commission said the two trainers had horses test positive for the tranquilizer Fluphenazine, a Class 2 drug.

Sean Alfortish, president of the Louisiana Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, said the judge issued the restraining order after the trainers presented evidence that the veterinarians who administered the drug were not aware that it was illegal.

The next hearing in the case will be December 18.

Louisiana Latest to Adopt Steroids Rule
12/4/2008 10:57:01 AM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 12/4/2008 8:17:27 AM Last Updated: 12/4/2008 8:59:04 AM

Using emergency regulations, the Louisiana Racing Commission has banned the use of anabolic steroids in racehorses effective Jan. 1, 2009.

Racing commission executive director Charlie Gardiner said the regulations were adopted Dec. 2 via emergency procedure to have them on the books in time for the first of the year. “The end of January was the earliest we could have adopted this regulation via the normal rule-making process,” he said.

The Louisiana rule applies to all forms of steroids that do not occur naturally in a horse, including stanozolol, which is sold under the brand name Winstrol. Naturally occurring steroids, such as boldenone, nandrolone, and testosterone, would be permitted at “normal” levels but cannot be given within 45 days of a race.

The normal level of the steroids in horses, geldings, and mares is still being determined by the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium and the Association of Racing Commissioners International, which together fashioned the model rule on anabolic steroids.

According to the RMTC Web site, 20 states have adopted the model rule on use of steroids in racehorses; another 13 are in the process of adopting the language. The process hasn’t been started in only three racing states: Idaho, Montana, and Nevada.

Under the Louisiana rules, a steroid positive would be a Class 3 medication violation, which means a trainer with a positive test result would face a suspension between 60 days and six months, a fine of no more than $1,500, and redistribution of purse earnings.

The racing commission also filed a notice of intent to adopt voluntary regulations concerning the use of the anti-bleeder medication Salix, formerly known as Lasix. The rule would make administration of Salix voluntary, rather than requiring evidence of pulmonary bleeding.

Under the regulations, a trainer and veterinarian would request a horse be permitted to receive Salix if they “determine that it would be in the horse’s best interest.”

Once on the Salix list maintained by the state’s official veterinarian, the horse could not race without it unless the trainer and veterinarian make a written request. The horse then could not return to the list for 60 days, “unless it is determined to be detrimental to the welfare of the horse, in consultation with the official veterinarian.”

Gardiner said the voluntary regulation could take effect in April.

Louisiana Worker''s Compensation Rates Drop Again!
11/23/2008 6:37:17 PM  -  The Horsemen''''s Journal - Winter 2008 

The Horsemen’s Insurance Alliance (HIA), Segregated Portfolio Company’s Board of Directors met for its annual meeting in early November to discuss the financial stability of the Worker’s Compensation program and the future progress of the program. The HIA Board members also met the following day to discuss the possibility of lowering the “per-start fee” for Louisiana starts and to weigh out the different scenarios in lowering the rates looking ahead to the future. The feeling was unanimous among the Board Members that horsemen are inundated with the high cost of feed, bedding, shipping, and other costs related to the rising fuel costs our nation has suffered through the past several months, and for those owners who are paying the worker’s compensation fees for their trainers.

The HIA, SPC Board decided unanimously that the program could sustain another drop in the per-start fee and, at the same time, keep building the healthy reserves necessary to assure the long-term success of the program. The HBPA Worker’s Compensation Program is well funded and built to withstand any catastrophic occurrences, while it most importantly leaves no liability on any member or policyholder in the event an accident or catastrophe were to occur.

The HPBA Worker’s Compensation Program recently went through a five month Louisiana Department of Insurance (DOI) audit of the Cayman account, the HBPA Workers Compensation Program, and all revenue streams, as well as our claims history to date. The results were astounding! Mr. Frank McGee, auditor for the Louisiana DOI, met with HBPA General Council Jim Gelpi, HBPA President and HIA Board member Sean Alfortish, HBPA Auditor and Secretary Treasurer Bill Hof, and Mona Romero, HBPA Executive Director and President of the HIA, SPC Board for an exit review. Mr. Frank MaGee with the Louisiana Department of Insurance congratulated everyone on a job well done and stated that in his 35 years of auditing insurance companies, the HBPA has done a phenomenal job of creating a very savvy and commonsensical program for the sport of horse racing. Magee also stated that the best part of it all is that the program is working just as the HBPA designed it to work.

Mr. Magee felt that everyone in the HBPA membership should feel proud that your administration found a way to reduce your worker’s compensation rates at a time when nothing and no one in the insurance world are reducing rates. I would be remiss in not sharing Mr. Magee’s last sentiment after an extremely detailed auditing process of the HBPA Worker’s Compensation Program and HBPA 1993 Inc.; he was very complimentary of our staff and our work ethic, and he was extremely disappointed to hear that anyone would make any negative accusations toward either of these two entities.

Mr. Magee certainly spent almost six months working everyday in our main office and has become very knowledgeable in the way the HBPA handles its business, and he found nothing to support the accusations made against HBPA staff or its leaders.

Also on the agenda for the HIA, SPC group was to structure a plan in which we could reasonably begin to repay the owners for the 2% lent to the HBPA to start this program. The one thing we should all remember at this point is that the HBPA Worker’s Compensation Program is still a very young company, only in its third year of operation. The HIA, SPC Board members, together with our insurance partners, discussed at length and believe the most important thing for the program to do is maintain strong reserves before we begin the payback to the owners until the company is completely solvent and reserves are strong enough to work on its own. Our goal is to continue the good work at our current rate of success, as we have from inception. In doing so, it may be possible to begin the repayment process in about five years.

We are all enormously grateful for the trust and opportunity our horsemen and legislators granted this administration, which was to solve the worker’s compensation problem in our industry that has plagued our horsemen for many years.

Beginning January 1, 2009, starts in Louisiana will be $40 per start instead of the current $45. The out-of-state starts must remain at $60 per start due to the cost of $1,000 per certificate written for each state you race in outside of Louisiana. The HBPA Workers Compensation Program is also at greater risk outside the state of Louisiana due to the fact we do not have field offices or representatives in other states to follow up with accidents and protocol, which is part of our success.

Since the inception of this program in July of 2005, worker’s comp rates have decreased by 30% just within our program. Changing from LWCC at an average of 28%, the HBPA Program was able to offer Louisiana horsemen 8.9% on track and 10% to farms on day one.

Everyone should be proud to have taken part in a program that belongs to each one of you!

HIA, SPC Board of Directors are: Mona Romero, President; William S. Hornsby, Vice President; Samuel B. David, Treasurer; Carrol Casstille, Board Member; and Sean Alfortish, Board Member.

Louisiana HBPA Raises Pension Benefits by 75%
11/23/2008 6:34:50 PM  -  The Horsemen''''s Journal - Winter 2008 

The Louisiana HBPA began a pension program in the late 1970s which has proven through time that it would not have the financial means to keep the pension program healthy for the long term of the HBPA. Unfortunately, with many of our veteran trainers passing away and no real influx of new trainers vesting, the program has faced some very difficult years prior to the current administration. Per year in the pension trust program, it was inevitable action needed to be taken to restructure the pension trust by finding a new revenue stream to assure the longevity of the pension program. We owe this to the many hard working horsemen who spent a lifetime to preserve the sport and the programs they started for the members of the HBPA. We also do not want to find ourselves in a position to take away a benefit that so many of our members depend on each month to make ends meet.

Once again with the help of you, our Louisiana horsemen and our legislative friends in Baton Rouge, the HBPA was successful in passing a bill which would redirect 1% of the current 2% going to the worker’s compensation program and deposit it into the pension program. This new legislation was important for two reasons: we now have a permanent revenue stream of 1% going to the pension trust program yearly and 1% going to the worker’s compensation yearly, which obviously strengthens both programs and assures their success. The passing of this bill assures that both of these important horsemen’s programs will never fail and will continue to service the hard working, deserving men and woman of our industry.

Trainer Sam David, chairman of the pension trust, wasted no time getting the Pension Trust Board together to begin the restructuring of the pension program and to plan for the future of the Trust. The Pension Board Trustees are: Chairman Sam David, Billy Foremen, Keith Bourgeois, Charlotte Clavier, and Sam Breaux.

With the new revenue stream, in a vote of three in favor and one against and one absent, beginning on January 1, 2009, all pension benefits will be raised by 75%, with the possibility of another 25% raise in July of 2009. The Pension Trustees are researching different avenues by which to complete the structure of the Trust. Once the entire structure has been approved and decided, we will be producing new Pension Benefit Book, as well as having it online for your immediate information.

Should you have any questions about pension benefits, call Gale Diaz in the main office at (504) 945-1555.

Fair Grounds ADW Deal: Good or Bad?
11/19/2008 12:34:30 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 11/18/2008 3:53:55 PM Last Updated: 11/19/2008 8:34:57 AM

A recent deal that allowed expanded distribution of the Fair Grounds racing signal was hailed by some as a step forward in the months-long nationwide dispute between horsemen, racetracks, and advance deposit wagering entities. But some horsemen's groups are categorizing the development as a step backwards in an overall plan to secure higher revenue shares for purses from a growing wagering segment.

The Louisiana Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association recently granted consent for the Fair Grounds signal to go to several national ADW outlets, including Twinspires.com, XpressBet.com, and Youbet.com, and are believed to still be in negotiations with TVG on an agreement. Deals of some sort were also cut over the course of the last several months for in-state tracks Delta Downs Racetrack & Casino, Evangeline Downs Racetrack & Casino, and Harrah's Louisiana Downs, agreements that have been called progressive by Sean Alfortish, president of the Louisiana HBPA.

But some member associations of the Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Group, which is serving as a national negotiating agent for about 20 state organizations, believe the actions in Louisiana work against the greater goal of securing what they see as a fairer share of revenue from wagers placed through the Internet, telephone, and mobile devices.

“To say I am deeply disappointed is an understatement,” said Kent Stirling, executive director of the Florida HBPA, whose 5,000-plus members have withheld ADW signal consent for Calder Race Course since the meet opened April 21. “This is monumental greed. I’m really upset with Louisiana; they’ve thrown the rest of the country under the bus.”

Stirling claims the Louisiana HBPA, which is a member group of the THG, “rode in on the coattails” of progress made by the agent group, and signed off on a deal for lesser revenue in a show of “me-mentality” thinking.

“They want the THG to go away,” Stirling said of certain racetracks and ADWs. “They think the way to make them go away is to make individual deals. They want to break us up.”

According to some horsemen’s groups, the significance of the Fair Grounds deal is that it involves the track’s parent company, Churchill Downs Inc. CDI, which also owns Twinspires.com, has since April been stalemated in negotiations with horsemen’s groups covering the company’s signature track, Churchill Downs, as well as Calder. CDI also is the lead plaintiff in an antitrust lawsuit against several horsemen’s groups and officials, including the THG.

“For a member of (the THG) to step out and do this, particularly when it involves Churchill Downs, and with what is happening in Kentucky and Florida, it weakens the link,” said Bessie Gruwell, executive director of the Delaware Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association. “What it suggests is that horsemen are going to cave. Florida and Kentucky (horsemen) have had it tough, and they have stood firm. With the Louisiana HBPA making this move, it is showing that there is a sign of weakness.”

Dave Basler, executive director of the Ohio HBPA, said while he recognizes the right of the Louisiana horsemen to make an independent decision apart from the THG proposal, his group is also disappointed by what has taken place.

“While I don’t know the specifics of the deal cut between the Louisiana HBPA and the various ADW companies in regards to the Fair Grounds, I’m confident the terms were greatly enhanced by the efforts of other horsemen’s organizations around the country,” said Basler, whose organization has withheld signal consent from several Ohio tracks this year.

Other leaders of horsemen's groups declined to talk specifically about the Louisiana deal, but said they had unyielding support for the THG, which was formed in December 2007.

“We in Pennsylvania will always support equitable distribution,” said Todd Mostoller, executive director of the Pennsylvania HBPA, which in May withheld consent for the Presque Isle Downs signal. “As THG is our agent, we will always support the THG.”

Breaking a logjam

Alfortish defended the actions of the Louisiana HBPA, claiming the undisclosed terms of the agreement were close to the one-third proposal touted by the THG, and that something needed to be done to break the logjams present in many negotiations.

“I agree wholeheartedly with the goals of THG,” he said. “We are all in harmony that we would like to get the purses up and want broad-based distribution of content. I have however, from day one, informed the members of THG that I disagree in the means of how we try to carry this out.”

Alfortish claims the THG’s steadfast one-third proposal, which in theory seeks 7% of all ADW wagers based on a blended 21% pari-mutuel takeout rate, was a “quantum leap” in expectations.

“There is no way that you can jump up and say we are going from this to this overnight,” he said of ADW revenue sharing, which historically has contributed less than 3% to racing purses. “What happened is not a compromise of anything. It’s another huge step in the process of trying to resolve the issue.

“Everyday that a wager isn’t allowed to be taken on an ADW is one more day that we start to lose a bettor, and start to alienate our product. Everybody has gotten to a level of frustration where they know they have to do something.”

THG president Bob Reeves declined to discuss the Louisiana deal, citing issues resulting from the antitrust litigation, which includes as defendants the Kentucky HBPA, the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association, and related officials.

Stuck in neutral?

ADW providers have long argued the economics of the one-third model won’t work for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the potential for losing money. States where laws mandate a 50-50 split of revenue would necessitate at least a 14% share for racetracks and horsemen, based on the one-third model applying to blended takeout, leaving 7% for ADWs. Whether that ADW slice is too much, too little, or just enough, is hotly-debated among the principals.

Other laws restrict the amount of revenue that can leave the state, Alfortish said, or aren’t uniform in defining source-market fee coverage, which is designed to compensate for lost wagers made on track. But he believes there is still some wiggle room for higher splits for both the racetrack and horsemen, but not at the blanket one-third rate backed by the THG.

“The problem is, there isn’t a whole heck of a lot to give,” said Alfortish, who has a background both as a lawyer and a judge. “If we can bring back the product to the bettors, and the bettors respond to that, and it continues to increase, there’s nothing to ask for an extra percentage when that company is making another $20 million to $30 million in handle.”

To a person, the horsemen interviewed are also concerned about the betting public. But they claim now is the time to fight, particularly against racetrack companies that also operate ADWs, such as CDI and MEC, which in theory end up with the balance of revenue from such wagers after paying into purses.

“You have bettors upset over this, and the last thing we want to do is alienate our bettors,” Gruwell said. “But at the same time, you have to make a stand at some point.”

Stirling said the Florida horsemen under his watch have been making a stand for 140-plus days, enduring multiple purse cuts implemented by CDI, which conversely has lost significant handle revenue.

“We couldn’t be more proud of our horsemen,” Stirling said. "They know the numbers. They understand what’s trying to be done. What we have been offered is not a fair deal.”

But Alfortish claims there are fair enough deals to be had, and whether his horsemen brethren agree with him or not, he said he has acted on the behalf of the racing industry and bettors, as well as his first priority, Louisiana horsemen.

“I’m just saying that we have a recipe for something that works,” he said, noting increases in handle at certain Louisiana tracks in the midst of a nationwide wagering downturn. “I hope the THG members understand we are trying to push forward. We all understand that the model is broken, but I feel we can’t fix it overnight. But that doesn’t mean we can’t cure the problem over the next two or three years and still keep everyone happy.”

Delta drawing new stables for 88-night meet
10/29/2008 4:22:10 PM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted 10/28/2008, 4:17 pm

Delta Downs in Vinton, La., has adjusted the purses for its two richest stakes races, lured some strong new stables to town, and named a new racing secretary last week in a handful of changes made for its 88-date meet that opens Wednesday night. The season will run through March 28.

Delta has reduced the purse of its Grade 3 Jackpot from $1 million to $750,000 this meet in part to boost the value of the Grade 3 Delta Princess from $300,000 to $500,000. Both races are for 2-year-olds and are part of an expanded, six-stakes card worth $1.5 million at the track Dec. 5.

"This is the first year for the Delta Princess to be a Grade 3, and with the purse being so big, we hope we get some really good fillies for the race," said Chris Warren, director of racing at Delta. "Now we've got two grade threes with Grade 1 purses. We've got two major races."

The Jackpot, at 1 1/16 miles, was introduced in 2002 with a purse of $500,000. It was boosted to $1 million a year later and remained at that level through 2007. The Delta Princess, to be run at a mile, is the second Thoroughbred stakes to be given graded status in the more than 30-year history of Delta.

The track, which operates 1,620 slot machines, has budgeted purses at $220,000 a day. The purse structure, as well as the cancellation of the Sam Houston Race Park meet due to damage from Hurricane Ike, has led to some new names on the backstretch. Warren said Delta expects to have divisions of horses from high-percentage trainers Tom Amoss, John Locke, and Bob Young. Locke and Young had been mainstays at Sam Houston, which sustained structural damage to its grandstand roof in the storm.

"We'll get a few more horses, and some more people betting on our signal out there," Warren said.

Delta is located just two hours from Sam Houston, but the track avoided serious damage from Hurricane Ike.

"We're in good shape here," Warren said.

John Simon, the assistant racing secretary at Delta since 2006, has been promoted to racing secretary in the wake of Trent McIntosh taking a similar position at Louisiana Downs. McIntosh had been the racing secretary at Delta since 1998.

"John's been the assistant and also our stakes coordinator, so a lot of people know him pretty well around here," Warren said.

Simon has a 38-race, $4 million stakes program for this meet. Among the highlights are Jackpot Night and the $1 million Louisiana Premier Night program of 10 statebred stakes Feb. 7.

Keith Bourgeois is back to defend his training title, while Gerard Melancon, who last meet set a single-season record for wins by a jockey at Delta, is back to lead this year's colony.

New faces include John Hirdes, who in the ninth race Wednesday night has his first mount since 1999. Don Simington, winner of the riding title at Louisiana Downs, also will be based at Delta this meet.

New Executives Named at Fair Grounds
10/29/2008 4:20:12 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 10/27/2008 5:24:09 PM Last Updated: 10/28/2008 11:08:49 AM

Austin Miller and Eric Halstrom have been appointed president and vice president of Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, parent company Churchill Downs Inc. announced Oct. 27. Halstrom additionally was named general manager of racing.

Miller previously served as vice president and general manager of slots and off-track betting operations at Fair Grounds. In September 2008, he absorbed responsibility for the facility’s racing operation after the departure of former president Randy Soth.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for me, and I am both honored and excited to continue my leadership of the outstanding employees of Fair Grounds Race Course and Slots,” said Miller in a news release. “With the start of our 2008-09 racing season and the opening of our permanent slots facility near, there’s a great deal to anticipate, and I’m looking forward to being a part of it and continuing my work with the leadership team at Churchill Downs Incorporated.”

Miller joined CDI in May 2007 from Harrah’s New Orleans, where he served as vice president of gaming operations. He has also held management and senior executive positions with Grand Casinos, Harrah’s and Caesars, and worked in entertainment and professional sports through affiliations with Mid-America Festivals, Champps Entertainment and the Minnesota Strikers of the Major Indoor Soccer League. Miller holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota.

Halstrom comes to his new position with 15-plus years of experience in the racing business, including the previous nine years with Canterbury Park in Shakopee, Minn., where he most recently served as vice president of racing and simulcasting operations.

“I look forward to working to take Fair Grounds racing to a new level,” said Halstrom in the release. “With the purse supplements this winter from gaming, I am confident we can achieve that objective. It is a tremendous opportunity for me professionally, and I am anxious to work with the Fair Grounds team in my new capacity.”

Prior to his most recent position, Halstrom worked at Canterbury as director of mutuels, and from 1995 to 1997 was employed by Churchill Downs Management Co. as director of Indiana OTB operations and as the general manager of CDI’s Fort Wayne OTB. He is a graduate of the University of Arizona Race Track Industry Program based in Tucson, Ariz., and holds a degree from Minnesota State University. Halstrom will report to Miller and will begin his new duties effective Nov. 7.

LHBPA Lawsuit Moved to Federal Court
10/24/2008 2:24:45 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 10/23/2008 2:54:21 PM Last Updated: 10/24/2008 1:06:27 PM

A styled class-action lawsuit leveling allegations of fraud and embezzlement against the president of the Louisiana Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association has been transferred to federal court, according to recently filed documents.

Attorneys for association president Sean Alfortish recently filed a notice of removal to the U.S. District Court Eastern District of Louisiana, which will hear the lawsuit originally launched at the state court level in February by three former members of the group’s board — Thomas Ball, William Boorhem, and Arthur Morrell. Another Louisiana horse owner, George Ackel Jr., intervened in the lawsuit with a class-action petition in August, bringing with it the fraud allegations against Alfortish.

The lawsuit also names the Louisiana HBPA as a defendant.

The controversy stems from alleged unsuccessful efforts of the original plaintiffs to fully review the business operations and finances of the Louisiana HBPA over nearly a two-year period, with the original lawsuit, filed in January, asking the court to force availability of the requested materials.

Ball, Boorhem, and Morrell, who were sitting members of the group’s board at the time of their lawsuit filing, also unsuccessfully tried to block the Louisiana HBPA election in March amid charges of alleged improprieties and further uncooperativeness by Alfortish and his staff. Ball and Morrell were candidates for re-election but were defeated. Ackel was also a candidate who failed to earn a board seat in the election, which is held every three years.

Letters filed with the court suggest Ball, Boorhem, and Morrell wanted a full accounting of Louisiana HBPA operations, including the distribution of about $780,000 in reported relief funds the group received following the destruction of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Among other requests, the trio also sought disclosures on salaries, workmen’s compensation operations, and repairs to the Louisiana HBPA building, which was damaged by Katrina.

Ackel’s petition went a step further. Without citing specifics, the complaint, which claims it is filed on behalf of all 5,500 estimated members of the Louisiana HBPA, claims Alfortish “personally profited from and/or embezzled funds earmarked” for the group.

“Sean Alfortish used Association funds for personal uses, including the purchasing of gifts, meals, and use of vehicles for his personal use,” the petition claims, also alleging Alfortish “inappropriately authorized certain expenditures” that were not expended in the best interests of the Louisiana HBPA.

Alfortish, who is an attorney, deferred comment on the lawsuit to his legal counsel, who did not immediately respond to interview requests. Efforts to contact the plaintiffs, either individually or through their attorneys, were also unsuccessful. Ball and Boorhem own Rancha Fresa and Foxwood Plantation farms in Louisiana, respectively, while Morrell, an attorney and former six-term member of the Louisiana House of Representatives, is clerk for the Orleans Parish (La.) Criminal Court and a former Louisiana HBPA vice president.

But Alfortish, in a January letter included in court documents, defended his office and actions in response to written queries previously made by Ball, Boorhem, Morrell, and a fourth sitting board member, Thomas Abbott.

Alfortish wrote it was "astounding" to him that despite all the Louisiana HBPA accomplished in the aftermath of Katrina, "we have four board members who can't help but find fault.

"Where were all of you when people were showing up at our field office with all their belongings needing gas money, lodging, or maybe a helmet, flack jacket, and boots so they could just earn a living to start their lives over?" the letter continued. "We are insulted by the comments that are finding their way back to our office all in the name of politics."

Citing unnamed sources, the New Orleans Times-Picayune this summer reported the launch of a federal criminal investigation into the Louisiana HBPA, claiming in August that a grand jury had been convened to consider evidence and testimony.

Alfortish, who for 10 years has also served as a magistrate judge for the Kenner (La.) Mayor’s Court, in July was granted a 60-day temporary leave of absence “until such time as this probe of the Horseman’s Benevolent & Protective Association can either be completed or resolved.” A city of Kenner public information officer told The Blood-Horse Oct. 22 Alfortish was still on leave from the post while attending to a “personal matter.” The Mayor’s Court has “jurisdiction over traffic, misdemeanor and code enforcement violations,” according to its Web site.

La Downs concludes live meet with handle increases
10/22/2008 9:32:56 AM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Posted: Monday, October 20, 2008 2:10 PM

Louisiana Downs overcame a shaky economy that has led to declines at many tracks by concluding its 85-day live meeting on October 18 with increases in mutuel handle and field size compared to last year’s meeting.

Daily average on-track mutuel handle at the Bossier City, Louisiana, track increased 6.3% to $172,348. During last year’s 91-day meet, the daily average on-track mutuel handle was $162,149.

Total daily average off-track mutuel handle was $1,879,963, a 2.1% increase from last year’s $1,841,186 figure. Total daily average mutuel handle increased 2.4% to $2,052,311. The 2007 meet concluded with a total daily average mutuel handle of $2,003,335.

Field sizes at Louisiana Downs have steadily increased since 2004. An average of 9.3 horses per race started at this year’s meet, an increase from last year’s average of 8.8 horses per race.

“Our racing signal is growing nationally because of consistently large fields and the value it offers to handicappers,” said Mark Midland, Louisiana Downs’s vice president of racing operations. “We appreciate the response of the horsemen to our racing program.”

Online wagering provider Youbet.com reported a 10% increase on wagering on Louisiana Downs racing compared to last year. Louisiana Downs also reached an agreement with TVG network in late July.

Other meet highlights included My Pal Charlie’s 4 1/4-length victory in the Super Derby (G2) on September 20. The Indian Charlie colt is expected to make his next start on Saturday in the $1-million TVG Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at the Oak Tree meeting at Santa Anita Park.

The track’s total mutuel handle on Super Derby day was $7,139,542, the second highest figure in the 35-year history of Louisiana Downs.

“Our fans were excited about Louisiana Downs racing and responded accordingly,” Midland said. “We saw increases in attendance and handle on our Super Saturday cards, the big national days of racing, and Super Derby Day.”

Jockey Patrick Valenzuela earned his 4,000th North American victory when he guided Burst of Light to a win on October 9.

Don Simington led the Louisiana Downs jockey standings with 102 wins. Jorge Lara was the track’s leading trainer with 41 victories.

McIntosh to take over as Downs'''' racing secretary
10/14/2008 1:36:32 PM  -  Shreveport Times 

Posted: October 12, 2008

Louisiana Downs will have a new racing secretary this spring. Trent McIntosh, who has been writing races at Delta Downs since 1998, will take over for Doug Bredar, who will be heading for Gulfstream Park in Miami at the end of this meeting.

McIntosh hails from a prominent south Louisiana horse racing family. His father, William, is a longtime quarterhorse trainer and owner. And his brother, Trey, is a veteran valet, married to jockey Kim Stover.

Mark Midland, vice president of racing operations at Louisiana Downs, said he was pleased to have McIntosh aboard, specifically citing the new secretary's familiarity with Louisiana racing as a main reason.

"We were very happy to get someone who was from Louisiana, who knows the in and outs of Louisiana racing, and who is familiar with most of our local trainers," Midland said Saturday afternoon.

McIntosh's report date to Louisiana Downs is not yet etched in stone, but presumably he will begin his new position sometime before the upcoming Quarter Horse meeting, which begins here on Jan. 10.

Following Sunday's card, there will only be three more race days remaining in the 2008 meeting, with the final day coming Saturday.

On tap for the closing day card will be three stakes races. Two of them will be the Louisiana Stallion stakes, for 2-year-old statebred fillies and colts, respectively. And a third, the Gate Dancer stakes, for 2-year-old open company. The two statebred races will carry a $100,000 purse each, while the Gate Dancer will offer a $50,000 purse.

The closing day card will be the eighth "stakes Saturday" of the meeting, which, all together, account for roughly $3.7 million in purses.

Midland said Saturday that Louisiana Downs plans to keep the backside open following the closure of the meet for 200-300 Thoroughbreds. This is good news for a number of horsemen, especially for those who live in the area and do not plan to ship their horses, en masse, to another track.

"We just thought it was a good opportunity for some of the local horsemen to stick around and train their horses close to home," Midland said. "Besides, Louisiana Downs is one of the safest tracks in the country to train horses."

Midland also said the track will be open to Quarter Horse training on Dec. 15, in preparation for the Jan. 10 opening day for the Quarter Horse meet.

Fair Grounds to switch tote provider to AmTote
9/26/2008 4:18:28 PM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Posted: Thursday, September 25, 2008 6:20 PM

Fair Grounds will change tote providers this week when it switches from Scientific Games to AmTote.

The changes will be made on-track at Fair Grounds as well as at its nine off-track locations. AmTote is owned and operated by Magna Entertainment Corp.

“Our customers and our employees will have brand new tote equipment from which to place wagers at all our facilities,” Fair Grounds Assistant General Manager Ed Fenasci said.

Now three of the four tracks owned by Churchill Downs Inc., Fair Grounds, Arlington Park, and Calder Race Course, use AmTote as their tote provider. Churchill Downs itself uses United Tote. Under the same provider, tracks like Arlington and Fair Grounds, which run at different times of the year, will be able to share equipment as needed.

At the 2007-’08 meeting, Fair Grounds and Churchill officials investigated past posting problems at the New Orleans track that occurred on November 25. A Fair Grounds official said that problem did not factor in the decision to change tote providers. Moving to AmTote was being discussed at Fair Grounds and Churchill Downs Inc. before the Fair Grounds meet started.

Because of the switch, all Fair Grounds facilities will close at 11 p.m. CDT on Monday and only off-track facilities at Metarie, Elmwood, Gretna, and Houma will be open on Tuesday. All the other outlets, including Fair Grounds, will open for simulcast wagering on Wednesday.

Fair Grounds also announced that Fair Grounds Phone Bet and FGNetBet.com customers would be switched to Churchill-owned TwinSpires.com this week.

“When we first offered account wagering at Fair Grounds in 2000, we thought it was very important to have a seamless, one-account, one-card process,” Fenasci said. “That remains unchanged, and now we add to the mix many innovative features offered by TwinSpires.com.”

Fair Grounds increases overnight purses by 20%
9/15/2008 4:49:55 PM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Posted: Thursday, September 11, 2008 3:01 PM

Fair Grounds Race Course will boost its average overnight purses by about 20% for its winter meet, which starts on November 14.

“We’re delighted to announce this revised purse structure for Fair Grounds Race Course, which provides increased opportunity for our horsemen and a solid foundation upon which to conduct our upcoming meet,” said Donald Richardson, senior vice president of racing for Churchill Downs Inc. “This agreement is an important step in our efforts to elevate Fair Grounds to the top of the nation’s winter racing options.”

Daily overnight purses will average about $300,000 per day, compared with $249,000 offered daily last year. The stakes schedule will be worth $6.6-million during the meet, which ends March 29.

Fair Grounds - Houma off-track parlor damaged
9/2/2008 2:57:34 PM  -  New Orleans Time-Picayune 

Posted: September 01, 2008 11:32AM

Police based at the Fair Grounds as Hurricane Gustav blew through reported that the track apparently came through the storm without significant damage, Fair Grounds Vice president/General Manager Austin Miller said.

"The only damage that I'm aware of, the OTB in Houma took some pretty bad damage,'' Miller said. It was reported the damage was to the roof.

The OTB in Thibodaux, from the outside, '"appeared intact,'' he said.

At the Fair Grounds, "everything appeared physically on the outside to be in pretty good shape,'' Miller said.

Fire department personnel and "a couple of police units" are using the Fair Grounds as a base during the storm, Miller said.

"All of the staff is off the property,'' Miller said. "I got everybody out.''

The track closed its slot-machine facility Saturday, and there are no horses on the grounds.

Horses, horse people at Evangeline Downs unharmed
9/2/2008 2:56:32 PM  -  New Orleans Times-Picayune 

Posted September 02, 2008 11:26AM

Horses and horse people based at Evangeline Downs in Opelousas and the Evangeline Training Center in Carencro apparently got through the storm unharmed, Sean Alfortish, president of the Louisiana Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, said today. The LHBPA represents horse owners and trainers.

"I haven't got a single report of any injured person on the backside,'' Alfortish said.

He said that about 2,000 horses were at the training center and track. "All of them got through,'' Alfortish said. "The majority of damage has been to the barns.''

A full assessment of damage hasn't been made, he said.

Fairgrounds - New head Miller vows ''''keen focus'''' on racing
8/26/2008 4:11:07 PM  -  New Orleans Times-Picayune 

Posted: Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Austin Miller, the Fair Grounds' vice president of slots and off-track betting operations, said Monday that he will be in charge of the track, with a new title to be determined by Churchill Downs Inc.

"It will change to reflect that I'm responsible for the entire operation," Miller said.

Earlier Monday, Miller had his first experience on the hot seat before the Louisiana State Racing Commission.

Commissioner Bob Wright wanted to know what the departure announced Aug. 14 of Fair Grounds President Randy Soth means for racing at the track. Soth is stepping down after almost four years on the job for reasons not explained by Churchill or himself. His last day is Saturday.

After praising Soth, Wright asked Miller, "Is the emphasis going to be on gaming or racing?"

Miller said: "We absolutely continue a very keen focus on the racing program, fully understanding that slots and video poker wouldn't exist without racing."

Wright's questions came before a vote on the Fair Grounds' application for a 10-year racing and OTB license. The commission usually approves such an application with little or no discussion.

Also at the meeting, as expected, the commission passed a rule banning the administration of steroids for racing.

Wright, who eventually voted with the other commissioners to approve the Fair Grounds' license application, said he considered proposing a three-year license for the Fair Grounds, to ensure that racing remains the focus.

"I hesitate to open the door to a 10-year license, because if there's any suspicion they're going to put more emphasis on the gaming side than the racing side, as a member of the racing commission, I want to make sure we're holding Churchill's feet to the fire," Wright said.

Miller said, "I understand your concerns."

Russ Herman, a former racing commissioner, gave a testimonial to Soth, who was at the meeting and appeared moved by Herman's remarks.

"Randy Soth is responsible for getting this track rebuilt and opened," Herman said. "That couldn't have been done without Randy Soth." When Herman finished speaking, nearly everyone in the room broke into applause.

Soth, who came to the Fair Grounds with experience in racing jobs at several tracks, oversaw the racing operation. Miller said his experience is in entertainment and gaming. "On the racing side, I don't have a lot of experience, but I'll be supported by people with a lot of experience," he said.

He also said that racing, slots and off-track betting "stand under one umbrella, and we'll operate them with one voice." All staff will be players on the same team, he said.

Miller said that at least for now, with the 2008-09 thoroughbred meet approaching, people already with the company will share duties in overseeing racing at the Fair Grounds. Assistant general manager Ed Fenasci, who has worked in mutuels, managed OTB facilities and been in charge of account wagering, will play a role in the business aspects of the sport and dealing with regulatory bodies, Miller said. Racing secretary Jason Boulet will run the racing office. Donnie Richardson, Churchill senior vice president of racing, will be available to work with Boulet.

The commission's action against steroids puts Louisiana in step with a national movement to ban them from racing.

The proposed Louisiana rule prohibits exogenous anabolic steroids (those that don't occur naturally in the body) to be in a horse's system on race day. The rule prohibits three endogenous anabolic steroids (naturally occurring substances) "at levels above the normal physiological state of the stallion, gelding or mare."

Also the rule says that "the administration of any of these endogenous steroids within 45 days of a race day shall be considered a violation."

Sanctions are in place against racing states that don't act against steroids.

If a horse running at this year's Breeders' Cup tests positive for anabolic steroids, the horse will be disqualified, and the trainer suspended from the Breeders' Cup for one year. Starting next year, the Breeders' Cup won't provide supplemental purse money to any stakes race run in a state without a rule similar to the anti-steroids model rule proposed by the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium, a national organization of many racing entities.

Also, the American Graded Stakes Committee is requiring that a state (track) adopt the model rule about steroids by Jan. 1, or else the graded status of the state's (track's) races will be taken away.

The Louisiana rule won't take effect immediately. A bureaucratic process must be completed before a rule passed by a state board becomes permanent. Racing commission chairman Jerry Meaux said that if the process stalls and the Jan. 1 deadline appears unobtainable, the commission would pass the rule on an emergency basis. "We'll do whatever it takes to get this implemented by Jan. 1," he said.

The commission also approved a rule banning toe grabs (cleats) longer than 2 millimeters on a horse's front shoes. That's a standard set by the Jockey Club Thoroughbred Safety Committee. At a recent Jockey Club conference, toe grabs were cited as a contributing factor to breakdowns.

LA - Measure banning steroids in offing
8/26/2008 11:29:53 AM  -  New Orleans Times-Picayune 

Posted: Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Louisiana State Racing Commission on Monday is expected to pass a rule banning the administration of steroids for racing, Commission Chairman Jerry Meaux said.

"I feel good about it," Meaux said. "I think the rule has got to be passed. It's something that needs to be done."

Louisiana would be joining a national movement to ban steroids from racing. California was the latest racing state to pass a rule prohibiting steroids, and Kentucky is on the verge of doing so.

The proposed Louisiana rule prohibits exogenous anabolic steroids (those that don't occur naturally in the body) to be in a horse's system on race day. The rule prohibits three endogenous anabolic steroids (naturally occurring substances) "at levels above the normal physiological state of the stallion, gelding or mare."

Also the rule says that "the administration of any of these endogenous steroids within 45 days of a race day shall be considered a violation."

Sanctions are in place against racing states that don't act against steroids.

If a horse running at this year's Breeders' Cup tests positive for anabolic steroids, the horse will be disqualified, and the trainer suspended from the Breeders' Cup for one year. Starting next year, the Breeders' Cup won't provide supplemental purse money to any stakes race run in a state without a rule similar to the anti-steroids model rule proposed by the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium, a national organization of many racing entities. The Fair Grounds would lose $150,000 for three races if the commission doesn't act.

Also, the American Graded Stakes Committee is instituting a policy that a state (track) must adopt the model rule about steroids by Jan. 1, or the graded status of the state's (track's) races will be taken away. If Louisiana doesn't act, several Fair Grounds races, including the Louisiana Derby, would become much less significant.

If the commission passes the steroids rule Monday, the rule wouldn't take effect immediately. A bureaucratic process must be completed before a rule passed by a state board becomes permanent. Meaux said he's hopeful the process would be completed before January.

The commission also is expected to approve a rule banning toe grabs (cleats) on a horse's front shoes.

Fairgrounds - Quarter Horses start first meet
8/19/2008 1:33:48 PM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted 8/18/2008, 5:34 pm

NEW ORLEANS - After 136 years of Thoroughbred racing, the Fair Grounds is getting into the Quarter Horse business and will hold a five-day meet this Wednesday through Sunday.

With purse payouts to the Quarter Horse industry mandated in the bill that brought slot machines to the Fair Grounds in September 2007, the track will run 10 races a day and pay out more than $810,000 in purses.

There are five scheduled stakes races, with the City Park Stakes on opening day, three on Saturday, and one scheduled for the last day of the meet. All of the stakes will be contested for $40,000, at distances ranging from 330 to 870 yards.

Randy Soth, the outgoing president of Fair Grounds, will preside as racing secretary, though most of the day-to-day operations of the meet will be handled by assistant general manager Ed Fenaci.

Racing will start at 3 p.m. Central and end at 7 p.m.

"With the late post, we will be a bridge product between daytime and evening racing." Soth said. "We are sending the signal out nationally to all the venues that can accept wagering on Quarter Horses."

The cards were drawn last week, and horsemen can send only horses entered into races to New Orleans. The stable area opened Friday, though many horsemen expect to send horses in the day before or the day of their scheduled races.

Most of the horses and connections will be arriving from Delta Downs, one of the three regular homes of Louisiana Quarter Horse racing, and include the some of the most successful Quarter Horse trainers in the state.

The largest strings belong to Kenneth Roberts Sr. and Ray Robbins, who have each entered 15 horses.

While the Fair Grounds has run occasional Quarter Horse races as part of its Louisiana Champions Day, there has never been a meet at Fair Grounds exclusively for the breed.

The Fair Grounds has conducted a direct mail and marketing campaign to its regular customer base and projects to have a longer Quarter Horse season in coming years.

"As we earn more purse money from the slot revenue, we'll have more days," Fenaci said. "We are projecting 10 days next year, but we won't know until the numbers from the slots have come in."

Fair Grounds President Soth Resigns
8/16/2008 9:19:24 AM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 8/14/2008 12:01:28 PM Last Updated: 8/14/2008 2:11:22 PM

Churchill Downs Inc. announced Aug. 14 that Randall Soth, who since September 2004 has served as president of Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots in New Orleans, is leaving CDI to pursue other career interests.

Soth, who was widley praised for his efforts to keep Fair Grounds afloat both during and after Hurricane Katrina, served as vice president and general manager of Calder Race Course, another CDI property, prior to joining Fair Grounds.

“It has been a great honor to work as a member of the CDI management team," Soth said in a statement released by CDI. “I’ve enjoyed my years with the company and am very grateful for the opportunities I’ve had. I want to thank the entire Fair Grounds team for their hard work and dedication, especially through the challenges of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. It has been a privilege to work with and learn from them.”

“Randy has truly been a great asset for our company,” CDI executive vice president Steve Sexton said. “He guided Fair Grounds through what was certainly the most trying and uncertain period in its history after the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina, and his unwavering leadership helped bring a strong and solid racing product back to New Orleans. He also oversaw the expansion of the Fair Grounds facility into a flourishing entertainment destination that includes alternative gaming. We are grateful for these contributions and wish Randy all the best in his future endeavors.”

The CDI release said search for a new head of racing operations will begin immediately, and that Austin Miller, who serves as vice president and general manager of slots and OTB operations for Fair Grounds, will absorb Soth’s responsibilities in the interim.

Report: Grand Jury Probes Louisiana HBPA
8/8/2008 4:51:30 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 8/8/2008 7:53:12 AM Last Updated: 8/8/2008 7:53:12 AM

An investigation into alleged fraud by the Louisiana Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association will continue Aug. 8 when a federal grand jury hears testimony from horseracing industry representatives, the New Orleans Times Picayune reported.

The newspaper, which first reported on the investigation in July, said subpoenas were issued to board members and employees of the Louisiana HBPA, which represents horsemen at Delta Downs Racetrack & Casino, Evangeline Downs Racetrack & Casino, Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, and Harrah’s Louisiana Downs. The horsemen’s association receives more than $5 million a year for operations and various programs.

The Times Picayune said the Louisiana HBPA hired criminal-defense attorney Eddie Castaing and the Ehrhardt Group, a public relations firm.

The grand jury will look into various allegations, including a fraudulent election and mismanagement or fraudulent use of board money, including funds to assist horsemen in the aftermath of two hurricanes that struck Louisiana, the newspaper said. Sources told the newspaper investigators have collected ballots cast in the last Louisiana HBPA election.

Trainer Larry Robideaux, a Louisiana HBPA board member who was re-elected in March, told the Times Picayune he believes the probe is being pushed by those who lost the election.

Louisiana owner/breeder Pat Boorhem dead
8/1/2008 3:29:23 PM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Posted: Thursday, July 31, 2008 6:58 PM

Pat Boorhem, who with her husband, Bill, built Foxwood Plantation into one of Louisiana’s most successful racing and breeding operations, died at her home in Belcher, Louisiana, on July 19. She was 73.

Pat Boorhem built and maintained a successful residential real estate business prior to her marriage to Bill Boorhem in 1982. Earlier this year, the Louisiana Thoroughbred Breeders Association named Foxwood Plantation breeder of the year for the sixth consecutive year.

Deeply committed to the welfare of backstretch employees, Pat Boorhem was president of a backside benevolence program affiliated with the Louisiana Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association.

Funeral services were held on July 24 in Dallas.

Quarter Horse Meet at Fair Grounds
6/21/2008 10:50:50 AM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 6/19/2008 6:06:54 PM Last Updated: 6/19/2008 6:06:54 PM

Fair Grounds in New Orleans will become the newest home of Quarter Horse racing this August.

Track president Randy Soth announced Thursday that Fair Grounds will hold its inaugural Quarter Horse meet from Aug. 20-24.

Quarter Horse racing at Fair Grounds comes as a direct result of slot-machine gaming, which debuted in a temporary facility at Fair Grounds last Sept. 19.

“By Louisiana law, one of the beneficiaries of slots at racetracks is Quarter Horse racing,” Soth said. “A portion of slot revenues goes not only to purses, but to the Louisiana Quarter Horse Breeders Association.”

With the temporary facility in place for the last nine months, the allotment of purses is only enough for the five-day meet, Soth said. In future years, the meet would likely be extended.

The time frame of the Quarter Horse meet at Fair Grounds is based on two factors. “With our Thoroughbred meet dates and (the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival), and the existing Quarter Horse meet schedules at the other three tracks in Louisiana,” said Soth, “the window is very small.”

Soth expects to run 10 races a day during the week-long meet. First post time will be 3 p.m. CDT, with the day’s last race expected to be run no later than 7 p.m.

“A mid-afternoon first post allows us to run into the early evening, which will give us the opportunity to market this meet differently than our Thoroughbred racing season,” Soth said.

Though this will be the first Quarter Horse meet contested at Fair Grounds, the track is no stranger to Quarter Horse racing. Three Quarter Horse stakes races have been run on Louisiana Champions Day each December since the event’s inception in 1991. From 1988-2004, the track ran the Mardi Gras Futurity and Mardi Gras Derby, which featured trials on the Monday and Tuesday morning of Mardi Gras and finals two weeks later; those races are now held at Louisiana Downs.

A stakes schedule and condition book will be released next month.

Louisiana HBPA Members Elect New Board of Directors for the 2008-2011 Term
6/14/2008 7:20:56 PM  -  The Horsemen''''''''s Journal - Summer 2008 

On March 31, in a vote count that did not end until the early morning hours of April 1st, a new slate of officers were elected to a term of three years on the Louisiana HBPA Board of Directors. The new officers were sworn in to their offices by Mr. Jim Gelpi. Mr. Sean Alfortish is honored to again be elected to serve another term as president for Louisiana’s horsemen.

The Louisiana HBPA Board of Directors wasted no time once sworn in on April 7, 2008 in getting down to business. One of the first items discussed was pension and the long-term viability of the program. A plan introduced by President Sean Alfortish would legislatively grant 1% of the current 2% going to the Worker’s Compensation program be deposited into the horsemen’s pension program so that members would immediately see an increase in pension benefits which are so vital to our retired horsemen. The program has not been perfectly designed as of yet. However, we expect an approximate increase of 50-65% in the beginning years.

The Louisiana HBPA Board of Directors consists of five owners and five trainers. There are five new faces on the Board for this term. According to Alfortish, “We are excited about the Directors that our members have elected. Collectively, these ten Board Members bring a wealth of business and racing knowledge to the board room.”

The new Board of Directors includes:

Owners - Mrs. Evelyn Benoit, Mr. Carrol Castille, Mrs. Christine Early, Mr. William Foreman, and Mr. Don Hargroder

Trainers - Mr. Keith Bourgeois, Mr. Sam Breaux, Mr. Sam David, Mr. Gerald Romero, and Mr. Larry Robideaux

Fair Grounds 2008/2009 Meet Extended
6/14/2008 7:16:14 PM  -  The Horsemen''''s Journal - Summer 2008 

Pending Louisiana Racing Commission approval, for the first time in almost 30 years, live racing at Fair Grounds in New Orleans will commence prior to Thanksgiving this year. Fair Grounds has extended its 2008/2009 live Thoroughbred meet an additional two weeks. The 87-day meet will now begin on November 14 and continue through March 29, 2009.

Racing will be conducted on a Friday through Sunday schedule. Thursday racing will be held from Thanksgiving through March 19, with Mondays added from December 22 to February 23. Live racing also will be held on Mardi Gras Day on February 24 and on New Year’s Eve. There will be no racing on Christmas Day or February 26.

The last time Fair Grounds held opening day prior to Thanksgiving was during a five-year stretch from 1975 though 1979.

2008/2009 Racing Dates in Louisiana
6/14/2008 7:13:05 PM  -  The Horsemen''''s Journal - Summer 2008 

Delta Downs: April 17 – July 13, 2008 (Quarter Horse), October 29, 2008 – March 28, 2009 (Thoroughbreds)

Fair Grounds: August 20 – 24, 2008 (Quarter Horses), November 14, 2008 – March 29, 2009 (Thoroughbreds)

Harrah’s Louisiana Downs: May 17 – October 18, 2008 (Thoroughbreds)

Evangeline Downs: April 9 – September 1, 2008 (Thoroughbreds), August 31 – November 22, 2008 (Quarter Horses)

Evangeline Hikes Purses Fields Large
6/14/2008 2:10:04 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 6/13/2008 7:57:01 AM Last Updated: 6/13/2008 8:40:44 AM

Evangeline Downs Racetrack & Casino has increased overnight purses by more than 5% to bring the nightly average to more than $190,000 effective June 21.

Purses for maiden special weight and allowance races will increase $2,000, while purses for claiming races will increase $500-$1,000, officials at the Louisiana track said June 12. The minimum purse will be $8,000 for $3,500 claimers with conditions.

“Our average field size continues to be one of the top in the nation,” Evangeline Downs racing secretary Jason Boulet said in a statement. “That, along with our exciting brand of racing, we’ve been able to buck the nationwide trend of reduced handle as we are on pace for another record-breaking season here in Cajun country.”

According to The Jockey Club Information Systems, Evangeline Downs averaged 10.35 horses per race for the first 38 days of its 2008 Thoroughbred meet--three or four more horses per race than many tracks that are struggling to fill races. The track cards 14-horse fields whenever possible.

Under the new purse structure, maiden special weight events will go for $24,000 ($32,000 for Louisiana-bred horses); allowance races with conditions will start at $25,000 ($33,000 for state-bred events); open allowance races will be worth $28,000 ($37,000 for state-breds).

A claiming event for $12,500-$10,000 claimers go for $13,000 ($20,000 for state-breds), and a $3,500 claiming race with conditions will be run for $8,000 ($14,500 for Louisiana-breds).

Overnight purse distribution includes the accredited Louisiana-bred slots supplement but not the $1,000 starter bonus offered on each race. Purses and breed development funds are bolstered by revenue from on-track slot machines at Evangeline Downs.

Deal Gives Youbet Louisiana Downs Signal
5/22/2008 5:05:49 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 5/19/2008 4:48:17 PM Last Updated: 5/20/2008 11:23:38 AM

Louisiana horsemen have approved a deal allowing Youbet.com the signal to Louisiana Downs, the first agreement reached with any advance deposit wagering company under the auspices of negotiating with the Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Group.

While saying the agreement was not signed to terms that align completely with the THG’s proposed “one-third” revenue sharing model, the head of the Louisiana Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association said it was close, particularly when host fees, source market fees, and other marketing agreements from Youbet are considered in combination.

“Youbet’s offer to us was very consistent with what we are trying to accomplish with THG,” said Sean Alfortish, president of the Louisiana HBPA. “We thought it would be in the best interest of the horsemen and the industry to have accepted that offer and hopefully begin the process of other ADWs such as TrackNet and TVG to come to the plate with that reasonable expectation that they are going to have to give up a substantial amount of the takeout back to the track and horsemen.”

Terms of the agreement are confidential, Alfortish said, and officials with Youbet declined to comment through a spokesman. A call to Louisiana Downs was not immediately returned.

THG president Bob Reeves said his group did not recommend Louisiana horsemen accept the deal offered by Youbet.

“But our members can do whatever they feel they need to do,” he said. “We are just a broker, and all we can do is present the offers. They can either reject them or accept them. They (Louisiana horsemen) decided to accept the deal.”

The Louisiana HBPA put Louisiana Downs on notice last week that it intended to shut down the track’s signal to certain ADWs the THG is targeting. The Louisiana Downs meet started May 17.

Stalled negotiations have stopped the distribution of signals to selected ADWs from tracks including Calder Race Course, Churchill Downs, Lone Star Park, Presque Isle Downs, River Downs, and Thistledown. Some tracks have responded with purse cuts, and Churchill Downs Inc. has filed an antitrust lawsuit that includes the THG, Kentucky horsemen, and Florida horsemen. Reeves said horsemen dealing with those various situations are still committed to the negotiation process and the THG model.

LA Downs - Plenty of changes set for new meet
5/16/2008 4:05:24 PM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted 5/15/2008, 1:42 pm

Louisiana Downs in Bossier City, La., moves into its 35th season of racing Saturday under new ownership, with a new hotel on the property, and a Win and You're In race on its Super Derby undercard. The track has also tweaked its post times, made some adjustments to its stakes schedule, and lured some sizeable new outfits from Texas.

The Grade 2, $500,000 Super Derby remains the richest race of the meet, which runs for 85 days through Oct. 18. It will be one of six stakes worth a cumulative $1.2 million on the Sept. 20 program, with the $150,000 Tiznow Handicap for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/16 miles added to the lineup for 2008.

"The Tiznow is a Win and You're In race for the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile," said Mark Midland, vice president of racing operations for Louisiana Downs.

The home of 1,350 slot machines, Louisiana Downs races under the brand of casino giant Harrah's Entertainment, which was acquired by private equity firms Apollo Management and Texas Pacific Group in a deal finalized in the first quarter of 2008. Despite the shift in ownership, things have hummed along during the offseason. A 151-suite hotel just east of the grandstand is scheduled to open June 3, Midland said. It is owned and will be operated by Marriott.

"Some of the rooms have an excellent view of the racetrack," Midland said.

This meet, Louisiana Downs will ease into its racing schedule. After opening on Kentucky Derby Day for the past three seasons, the meet begins two weeks later. Louisiana Downs is also racing Saturdays and Sundays only in May, then will shift to its traditional Thursday-through-Sunday schedule for the remainder of the meet. The schedule reduces some of the summer-long overlap with meets at Evangeline Downs near Lafayette, La., and Lone Star Park near Dallas.

"The calendar, it's a little different, and it's started out great so far," Midland said. "We have 108 horses on the program for 10 races Saturday, and entries are dynamite on Sunday as well."

In another schedule change, first post on Fridays has been moved to 3:10 p.m. Central. Other cards will start a little earlier than last year, at 1:15 p.m. Louisiana Downs's races will be simulcast to racetracks and offtrack betting sites throughout North America, but as of Thursday they were not scheduled to be available on account wagering platforms. The blackout is the result of a dispute over the amount of revenue horsemen receive from account wagering companies.

Purses this meet at Louisiana Downs are projected at $193,000 a day. The track's 1,500-plus stalls have been allotted, with 15 to 20 outfits on a waiting list and training centers in the area at or near capacity, said Doug Bredar, racing secretary at Louisiana Downs. Trainers John Locke, Michelle Lovell, and Bob Young are among the new stables in from Texas, while defending champ Jorge Lara is part of a strong group of regulars that includes Steve Asmussen, Bret Calhoun, Pat Mouton, and Al Stall Jr. The defending riding champ is John Jacinto.

"I think the quality is as strong as I've ever seen it," Bredar said of the horse population. "Obviously, it's only my second year here, but I've followed this meet from afar and I think we'll definitely be putting out a pretty good package here."

The 42-race, $3.8 million stakes schedule will be launched Saturday, with six Louisiana-bred stakes worth a cumulative $300,000. The multi-stakes card continues a theme put into play here in 2007.

"We feel that's a real successful formula for us," Midland said. "So, in addition to our three big days of Champions Day, Prelude Day, and Super Derby Day, we've got four other days where there's groupings of three, four, or even six stakes races.

"It's ideal to really mark a spot on the calendar for both horsemen and customers that these are can't-miss weekends with all the stakes action."

The stakes Saturday figure to produce starters for the Louisiana Downs Champions Day program Aug. 2. Chief among the starters are Tortuga Flats, the horse of the meet last season who takes on multiple stakes winner Raspberry Wine in the $50,000 Seven Stars.

Fair Grounds will start earlier, extend live meet
4/17/2008 2:41:30 PM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Posted: Wednesday, April 16, 2008 10:47 AM

Live racing at Fair Grounds will start before Thanksgiving for the first time in nearly 30 years when the New Orleans track opens its 87-day meeting on November 14.

Two additional weeks of live racing also will be added at Fair Grounds during the 2008-’09 meet, which concludes March 29.

The 20-week live schedule, which awaits approval by the Louisiana State Racing Commission, includes racing on a Friday-through-Sunday schedule. Thursday racing will be held from Thanksgiving through March 19, with Mondays added from December 22 to February 23.

Live racing also will be held on Mardi Gras Day on February 24 and on New Year’s Eve. There will be no racing on Christmas day or February 26.

“With the continued influx of purse money from other forms of gaming, we were looking to grow the number of dates on our schedule,” Fair Grounds President Randy Soth said. “In the end, we felt it was best to move up the start day as opposed to expanding the number of five-day racing weeks.”

Fair Grounds cannot extend its season into April because of preparations for the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.

“We see multiple opportunities in moving up our start date,” Soth said. “There are opportunities for our state-breds to get a prep race over the track before Louisiana Champions Day. Our employees, many of whom are new each year, will have the opportunity to work two weeks of racing before we experience one of our biggest on-track days of the year on Thanksgiving. And our customers can now enjoy 20 weeks of live racing.”

Fair Grounds opened a live meet the weekend prior to Thanksgiving during an abbreviated 2005-’06 season that was run at Louisiana Downs because of damage created by Hurricane Katrina. The last time Fair Grounds held opening day in New Orleans prior to Thanksgiving was during a five-year stretch from 1975-’79.

Fair Grounds’s stakes schedule will be announced this summer.

2008 Louisiana HBPA election results
4/1/2008 4:29:19 PM  -  Louisiana HBPA 

Posted: 4/1/2008

President - Sean Alfortish

Board of Directors:

Director/ Owner

1. Evelyn Benoit
2. Carrol Castille
3. Christine Early
4. William Foreman
5. Don Hargroder

Director/ Trainer:

1. Keith Bourgeois
2. Sam Breaux
3. Sam David
4. Larry Robideaux
5. Gerald Romero

Romero out of hospital
3/21/2008 3:31:24 PM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted: 3/16/2008

Randy Romero, the ailing retired jockey, has been released from a Louisville hospital and recently flew to New Orleans to rejoin his wife, Cricket, a workers' compensation representative for the Louisiana division of the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association.

Romero, 50, had a kidney removed in a Louisville hospital on Feb. 18. He has suffered for years from hepatitis C, and his remaining kidney barely functions, forcing him to undergo dialysis treatments several times a week.

Cricket Romero said her husband made rounds with her on a golf cart Thursday morning in the Fair Grounds stable area.

"He got here Monday," she said. "He's still really weak, but he's fighting. It's going to take him a while to get his strength back."

Cricket Romero said blood tests on Romero following his surgery "all came back good" and that she expects he will return to Kentucky, where the couple still has a home in Louisville, at some point during the upcoming Keeneland and Churchill Downs meets.

Romero is one of three jockeys named in Hall of Fame voting this year, marking the fifth time he has been nominated. He rode nearly 4,300 wins in a career that ended in 1999.

Delta Downs: Melancon having record meet
3/14/2008 12:01:54 PM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted 3/12/2008, 6:54 pm

Jockey Gerard Melancon's decision to ride full time at Delta Downs for the first time since 1989 has been a lucrative one. He set a single-season record for wins by a jockey at the track last Saturday night, when he picked up his 122nd victory of the meet. Melancon also has set the mark for mount earnings in a season, with $2,440,920.

The previous season record of 121 wins was shared by Tracy Hebert and Guy Smith. The previous earnings mark of $2,415,745 had been held by Hebert.

Melancon, 40, said that aside from setting the win record and finishing third by a neck in the Grade 3, $1 million Delta Jackpot, his personal meet highlight came in November, when he won the $150,000 Jean Lafitte aboard Golden Yank.

"Winning the Jean Lafitte was always my goal, because since I was like 13 years old that was always the big race everybody shot for," he said. "It used to be a half-a-mile race. Now, it's a mile race. But winning that race was special to me."

Melancon decided to spend the winter at Delta to be closer to his family, which lives 45 minutes from the track in Lafayette, La. In the past, the rider had been based at Fair Grounds in New Orleans. Melancon's supporters this meet include Keith Bourgeois and Sam Breaux, who are one-two in the standings at Delta, as well as Fair Grounds-based horsemen Tom Amoss and Steve Asmussen.

Melancon's other notable wins this meet include the $75,000 Green Oaks with Alina, who rolled to an 18 3/4-length victory to earn a Beyer Speed Figure of 100.

Election Time in Louisiana
3/5/2008 7:48:59 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Spring 2008 

An election for the office of Louisiana HBPA president and ten Board members (five trainers and five owners) will be held on March 31, 2008. Ballots will go out in the mail, as per bylaw requirements, on March 11, 20 days before the ballots are counted on March 31.

The 2008 election has the largest field of candidates in the Louisiana HBPA history. If you have started one horse in Louisiana after January 1, 2007, you are a member and are eligible to vote in the 2008 Louisiana HBPA election.

Please contact Mona Romero or Bill Hof if you did not receive your ballot in the mail after March 11, 2008 at (504) 945-1555.

Worker's Compensation News: Rates Fall from $55 to $45, Effective Wednesday, February 13, 2008
3/5/2008 7:48:04 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Spring 2008 

Effective Wednesday, February 13, worker’s compensation rates fell from $55 to $45. This third rate reduction is due to the astringent claims handling and analysis work of Tammy Broussard, who serves as the Assistant Director of Worker’s Compensation and Claims Analysis. Tammy has a great team, both in the field and in the main office, specializing in worker’s compensation. Great job and special thanks to everyone!

Another large part of our success is Y-O-U! To assure the Worker’s Compensation Program remains strong, you must always:

  • Keep work list current
  • Have all employees sign substance abuse and second injury forms
  • Report all injuries the instant they occur
  • Make sure all work areas are safe
  • Make sure all employees are licensed and on your work list
  • Keep your worker’s compensation accounts fully funded to avoid scratches

This is only the beginning! If we continue to work together on our program, rates will continue to drop. We continue to perfect and streamline our program, which will only result in future rate reductions.

New Orleans served as the host city for the National HBPA convention from January 24-28, and the Louisiana HBPA Insurance Team of experts gave a presentation on the Louisiana Worker’s Compensation Program. The session was presented to a “standing room only” crowd. The overall structure was presented first, then AIG, together with Andreini & Co., USA Risk Management (Cayman Island Co.), and the Louisiana HBPA team explained how other states can join in under Louisiana’s Worker’s Compensation umbrella by purchasing a “segregated portfolio cell company”, allowing each interested state to own its own worker’s compensation program under Louisiana’s model. This would allow each state to own and operate its “stand-alone company”, leaving no liability on any of the other states participating under the Louisiana Worker’s Compensation Program.

There are many advantages for another state to purchase a segregated portfolio cell under Louisiana; for instance, the reduced cost of starting your own program from the bottom up and the advantage of having Louisiana staff to provide start up procedures and guidelines to assure the success and viability of your program.

Louisiana has a solid program that is working and is working well!

Sean D. Alfortish
Louisiana HBPA President & Director of Worker’s Comp.

Louisiana HBPA Successfully Gets LSRC's Vet Rules Struck Down
3/5/2008 7:15:00 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Spring 2008 

On February 11, the Louisiana Senate Commerce Committee struck down the Louisiana State Racing Commission (LSRC)’s adoption of the RMTC Model Rules due to the LSRC’s failure to properly follow the procedures for adoption. Senate Commerce Committee Chairman, Sen. Ann Duplessis – N.O., abstained, while Sen. Nick Gautreaux, Sen. Mike Michot, and Sen. A.G. Crowe all voted unanimously to strike down the LSRC rule after hearing testimony from both sides.

Louisiana HBPA President Sean Alfortish, along with Louisiana HBPA General Counsel Jim Gelpi, argued before the Committee that the Louisiana State Racing Commission has abused the “emergency procedure” provision over the past five years. During testimony, the Louisiana HBPA pointed out that the LSRC had adopted 90% of all of its rules by using “emergency procedures.” Of those adopted rules, the LSRC did not state what the emergency was 100% of the time, a direct violation of Louisiana law.

According to Louisiana HBPA President Sean Alfortish, “It was not that we were categorically opposed to all the model rules. However, some of the rules which were adopted by the Commission had no basis in science or fact. These rules also posed an undue hardship on the horsemen by requiring them to be on track with ship-ins five (5) hours in advance and, where necessary, stall space was not available to accommodate the horses. In general, the rules were not ready to be implemented on an emergency basis because no emergency existed.”

Alfortish, an attorney and Magistrate Judge, also testified before the Senate Committee that the information the LSRC relied upon to even adopt these rules was false. He explained, “The LSRC stated that they were concerned with the safety and welfare of the horse. However, no one is more concerned about the welfare of the horse, integrity of the sport, and bettor, than the Louisiana HBPA. Furthermore, there has not been a case, in Louisiana, where a horse had broken down due to over-medication. As such, there was no justification for the implementation of this rule by emergency. The Senate Commerce Committee did the right thing by striking down the rule.”

The rule was adopted by the LSRC in December of 2007 and became effective on February 1, 2008. As a result of the unanimous finding by the Senate Commerce Committee, the adopted rules are immediately revoked. This is the first time in Louisiana HBPA history the Legislature overturned a racing commission ruling.

2008 Racing Schedule for Louisiana Tracks
3/5/2008 7:10:42 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Spring 2008 

Delta Downs (Thoroughbred Meet) – October 19, 2007 - March 29, 2008, total of 93 race days

Delta Downs (Quarter Horse Meet) – April 17 - July 13, 2008, total of 52 race days

Evangeline Downs (Thoroughbred Meet) – April 9 - September 1, 2008, total of 85 race days

Fair Grounds (Thoroughbred Meet) – November 22, 2007 - March 23, 2008, total of 81 race days

Harrah’s Louisiana Downs (Quarter Horse Meet) – January 12 - March 18, 2008, total of 40 race days

Harrah’s Louisiana Downs (Thoroughbred Meet) – May 17 - October 18, 2008, total of 85 race days

Evangeline Downs to Feature 25 Stakes
3/5/2008 11:25:50 AM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 3/3/2008 6:42:44 PM Last Updated: 3/4/2008 1:54:31 PM

Evangeline Downs has announced a schedule of 25 stakes worth a record $2.015 million, an increase of more than 12% over last year, for the upcoming 2008 Spring/Summer meeting that begins April 9.

The stakes schedule features 10 events worth $100,000 or more, including the Evangeline Mile on Aug 16. That race, for 3-year-olds and up, is the richest race on the track's calendar with a purse of $200,000. Last year's renewal was captured by Louisiana-bred Costa Rising under veteran jockey Kerwin Clark for trainer Glenn Delahoussaye and owner Charles Castille.

State-bred horses are in the spotlight on the fourth edition of "Louisiana Legends Night," scheduled for July 4, which features six races with a purse of at least $100,000, and a total of 11 black-type restricted events that combined are worth more than $900,000.

Three new races appear on the schedule, including the $75,000 Opelousas Stakes for 2-year-old fillies on Aug. 30, and a pair of $60,000 races that are restricted to state-bred 3-year-olds, the Salute Stakes for fillies on June 13, and the Acclaim Stakes for colts and geldings on June 14.

Live racing during the 85-night meet will be conducted Wednesday through Saturday, with first-race post times scheduled for 6:20 p.m., CDT. The meet concludes Sept. 1.

Pyro to take on eight in Louisiana Derby
3/5/2008 10:52:32 AM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted 3/4/2008, 9:38 am

Pyro won the Risen Star Stakes on Feb. 9 at Fair Grounds, in his 2008 debut, with a did-you-see-that, last-to-first stretch run – but he did not scare everyone away from Saturday’s $600,000 Louisiana Derby, the high point of the Fair Grounds meet.

The Louisiana Derby, one of six stakes on a 12-race card drawn Monday, got a field of nine, with top prospects Tale of Ekati and Majestic Warrior in from Florida to take on Pyro.

Florida-based Stevil, who has lost three entry-level allowance races since winning his debut last fall, was a surprise entrant from trainer Nick Zito.

Yankee Bravo is the lone California shipper, and four other locally based horses were entered: Blackberry Road, J Be K, My Pal Charlie, and Unbridled Vicar.

While horsemen with Kentucky Derby hopefuls are lining up for a chance at Grade 2 earnings in the Louisiana Derby, almost no one wanted to jump into the Fair Grounds Oaks fray.

The Oaks, a Grade 2 with a purse of $400,000, features a rematch between Indian Blessing and Proud Spell, who finished one-two in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, and one-two in the Silverbulletday last month at Fair Grounds. Only two others, Acacia and Wisconsin Lady, were entered in the Oaks. Highest Class, third in the Silverbulletday, is being pointed instead to the Bonnie Miss on March?29 at Gulfstream, according to her trainer, Neil Howard.

Indian Blessing worked six furlongs Monday at Santa Anita in 1:11.60. Proud Spell went five furlongs Monday at Fair Grounds in 1:03.

Grasshopper is the likely favorite among seven horses entered in the $500,000 New Orleans Handicap, a race that includes the venerable Brass Hat. Also entered are Silver Lord, second to Grasshopper in last month’s Mineshaft, and Circular Quay, whose last win came in the 2007 Louisiana Derby.

Grasshopper worked five furlongs Monday in 1:01.40, going his final furlong in less than 12 seconds, Howard said.

The $500,000 Mervin Muniz drew an excellent field of 10, headed by Fair Grounds Handicap winner Daytona, who will break from the far outside stall Saturday. Other top contenders include Brilliant, Proudinsky, and Twilight Meteor.

Saturday’s stakes sequence ends with the Bienville, for female turf sprinters, and begins with the day’s hidden gem, the Duncan Kenner at six furlongs on dirt. The Kenner’s seven-horse field includes King of the Roxy, Noonmark, Euroears, Les Grands Trois, and Semaphore Man.

Still, Saturday afternoon builds to a crescendo in race 9, the Louisiana Derby, in which Pyro can cement his status on the short list of top Kentucky Derby hopefuls. Pyro, who won for just the second time in his career in the Risen Star, breezed an easy half-mile in 50.80 seconds Monday after doing his major Louisiana Derby work last week.

“I loved how he came out of the [last] work, and trusted him to do right, and he did,” trainer Steve Asmussen said.

Pyro and jockey Shaun Bridgmohan drew post 3, directly inside the Asmussen-trained J Be K, who has won two sprint races by more than 12 lengths combined to begin his career. J Be K, the likely pacesetter, will be ridden for the first time by Kent Desormeaux.

“I think that’s an ideal draw for both of them,” Asmussen said.

Tale of Ekati, who makes his first start since finishing a distant fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, drew post position 6, and will be ridden for the first time by Edgar Prado. Tale of Ekati worked five furlongs in 1:00.20 on Monday at the Palm Meadows training center.

Majestic Warrior, who breezed a half-mile in 48.40 seconds on Sunday at Payson Park, fared poorly at the draw, landing post 9 for his two-turn debut. He makes his first start since finishing a distant sixth as the heavy favorite in the Champagne Stakes on Oct. 6, a race in which he was compromised by a foot ailment.

Robby Albarado picks up the mount on Blackberry Road, who had a terrible trip when he finished fifth in the Risen Star.

Romero Undergoes Surgery to Remove Kidney
2/27/2008 10:42:34 AM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted 2/26/2008, 1:08 pm

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Randy Romero, the retired jockey who is a 2008 Hall of Fame nominee, recently had a kidney removed and continues to battle chronic liver disease while hospitalized in Baptist East Hospital in Louisville.

Romero, 50, had a kidney removed Feb. 18, according to his wife, Cricket. The kidney had "a small cancerous spot," which was one reason it was removed, she said. "His other kidney does not work very well at all."

Romero has undergone dialysis treatments three times a week for the last several years.

"With just the one kidney, Randy will have to have dialysis the rest of his life," she said.

Romero, who has been a Hall nominee four previous times (2003-05 and 2007), retired from riding in 1999 with nearly 4,300 wins and earnings of more than $75 million. Since then, he has worked frequently as a jockey agent, and last fall he felt well enough to exercise horses at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans for trainer Dallas Stewart.

But Cricket Romero said her husband began to feel ill in January, and after doctors in New Orleans were unable to provide adequate treatment, he returned recently to Louisville, where the couple resides and his renal doctors are located. He was admitted to the hospital Feb. 15. Romero said doctors have said he could be released "soon, depending on his liver. There are still some tests to run."

Romero is not a candidate for a liver transplant because he is infected with the hepatitis C virus. Romero said her husband has undergone treatments to attempt to rid him of hepatitis but they have been unsuccessful. Randy Romero was diagnosed with hepatitis in 2002, although it is believed he may have gotten the virus through one of many blood transfusions he undertook after being seriously burned in a 1983 hotbox accident at Oaklawn Park.

Romero, whose introduction to horses as a boy in Louisiana was the basis for the movie "Casey's Shadow," long has been a poster boy of sorts for the serious problems that jockeys can incur in their fights to lose weight. Numerous media reports have documented his long and tortuous battles with health issues that stem from his reducing as a rider, including the 2004 HBO documentary "Jockey."

Romero is one of three jockey Hall of Fame nominees this year, along with Edgar Prado and Alex Solis. Hall of Fame voting takes place in early March, with results announced in late April and induction set for Aug. 4 in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

Among Romero's most memorable races were his victory aboard undefeated Personal Ensign in the 1988 Breeders' Cup Distaff and his fall in deep stretch aboard Go for Wand in the 1990 BC Distaff.

Louisiana Committee Strikes Down Medication Rules
2/25/2008 3:21:36 PM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Posted: Friday, February 22, 2008 3:47 PM

Louisiana is back to being a major racing state that does not have the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium’s Model Rules in place to some extent.

The Louisiana Racing Commission adopted the model rules in December 2007 under the state’s emergency procedure provision, and the rules took effect on February 1. Ten days later, however, the Louisiana Senate Commerce Committee reversed the commission’s adoption of the regulations for failure to follow procedural rules.

Commission Executive Director Charles Gardiner said the commission was considering its options.

Governor Bobby Jindal’s office can override the committee’s ruling and has asked the commission for the supporting documentation that went into the five months of deliberations that led to the commission’s emergency enactment of the rules.

The Louisiana Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association challenged the model rules, whose language already has been adopted in some form by 30 of 38 racing states.

Louisiana HBPA President Sean Alfortish said his group was not categorically opposed to all the regulations, but because they were implemented immediately under the emergency procedure provision some rules posed an undue hardship on horsemen.

Regulations struck down include the so-called five-hour rule, which requires every horse entered in a race to be on track grounds five hours before post time for a pre-race examination by a veterinarian, who would also administer any bleeder medication.

Alfortish complained that there is not adequate stall space to accommodate the horses that ship in for races from the state’s numerous training centers.

“Some horsemen were holding their horses on the van outside their truck. That’s unfair,” he said. “[The commission] needed to give tracks the necessary time to accommodate horsemen and mandate a minimum amount of stall space for ship-ins.”

Prior to the adoption of the model rules, Louisiana was among only a handful of states that did not mandate a pre-race exam, and horses could be administered bleeder medication prior to arriving at the track.

“It’s not so much the model rules as the way they were passed,” Alfortish said

Along with attorney Jim Gelpi, Alfortish argued before the committee that the commission adopted the rules when there was no emergency. They also said the commission had abused the emergency procedures provision during the past five years, implementing 90% of its rules using such procedures without stating the nature of the emergency, a violation of state law.

Gardiner said the nature of the emergency was the health and welfare of the horse and rider.

“The commission felt that our horses and riders were in danger. We had an unusually high number of breakdowns…catastrophic breakdowns and the commission felt it was an emergency issue,” he said.

The commission adopted the regulations at a meeting on December 14 under the emergency procedure provision, citing 60 catastrophic breakdowns at recent Thoroughbred meetings at all four of the state’s tracks prior to the commission meeting, Gardiner said.

Under other rules struck down, only one of three approved nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAID) were allowed to be administered between 24 and 48 hours from post time. Previously, three NSAIDs were allowed.

“The [commission] stated that they were concerned with the safely and welfare of the horse [in adopting the rule under emergency procedures], however, no one is more concerned about the welfare of the horse, integrity of the sport and bettor than the Louisiana HBPA,” Alfortish said. “Furthermore, there has not been a case in Louisiana where a horse had broken down due to an overmedication.

“Louisiana has always been ahead of the curve of the rest of the nation when it comes to medication and testing. Everything we were doing was working.”

Earlier this year, RMTC endorsed a December 31 deadline for a nationwide adoption of model rules regulating the use of anabolic steroids in racehorses.

Vet Rules Struck Down in Louisiana
2/14/2008 4:02:11 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 2/13/2008 12:30:41 PM Last Updated: 2/13/2008 12:53:43 PM

The Louisiana Senate Commerce Committee has struck down the state racing commission's adoption of the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium Model Rules, according to the Louisiana Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association.

According to a release from the horsemen's group, LHBPA president Sean Alfortish, along with HBPA general counsel Jim Gelpi, argued before the committee that the state racing commission had abused the "emergency procedure" provision, contending that the regulatory authority had done so previously over the past five years.

"It was not that we were categorically opposed to all the Model Rules," Alfortish said in the release. "Some of the rules which were adopted by the commission had no basis in science or fact. These rules also posed an undue hardship on the horsemen by requiring them to be on track with ship-ins five hours in advance and where necessary stall space was not available to accommodate the horses. In general, the rules were not ready to be implemented on an emergency basis because no emergency existed...The Senate commerce committee did the right thing by striking down the rule."

The rule was adopted by the LSRC in December 2007 and became effective Feb. 1. As a result of the unanimous finding by the Senate committee, the adopted rules are immediately revoked.

Better Talk Now tries winter racing
2/7/2008 4:15:24 PM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted 2/6/2008, 6:53 pm

NEW ORLEANS - It is February, and Better Talk Now is supposed to be on holiday. In fact, it would be entirely reasonable if Better Talk Now, at age 9, were on permanent holiday, retired to graze grass and gaze at nothing in particular in some peaceful pasture.

But at this point, there is no reason to believe Better Talk Now is itching for life after racing. And instead of his usual winter vacation, Better Talk Now took a business trip Tuesday from his home base at the Fair Hill training center in Maryland to New Orleans. He has a date Saturday with the Fair Grounds Handicap, a rare winter start for a gelding who has made an excellent living racing summer through autumn.

In fact, the last time Better Talk Now had a winter campaign, it began in New Orleans. That was way back in December 2002, when he shipped to Fair Grounds for the Woodchopper Handicap, but Better Talk Now didn't travel well, washed out before the race, and threw in a clunker, finishing eighth.

Since that winter, trainer Graham Motion has followed a predictable pattern with Better Talk Now, who got better and better through the middle of the first decade of the 21st century: Race through November or early December, rest, and come back in April or May.

But a minor injury last summer put a monkey wrench in Better Talk Now's schedule, and he went unraced between the July 7 United Nations Handicap and the Oct. 27 Breeders' Cup Turf. Thus, the time seemed ripe to follow through on an idea considered several seasons ago, a trip to Dubai for the 1 1/2-mile Sheema Classic, part of the Dubai World Cup card, which comes up on March 29 this year.

"It didn't make a lot of sense to have him 8 turning 9 and give him a month off," Motion said. "We've always wanted to do the Dubai trip, but it never made sense with the Breeders' Cup, with him not having a break."

Better Talk Now's flight Tuesday included a stop in Memphis, which was in the midst of a tornado outbreak late Tuesday afternoon, but Better Talk Now made it to Fair Grounds by Tuesday evening, and went out to train Wednesday morning. On Monday, he had his final breeze for the Fair Grounds Handicap, going five furlongs on Fair Hill's synthetic track in the company of his regular workmate, Jade's Revenge. Motion said Better Talk Now worked well, just as he had in two major breezes the two weeks before, and did not look like a horse that will be several years older than most of his competition Saturday.

"It's a little bit of unknown territory for us, but he gives me every indication that he's fine," said Motion. "From what I've seen, I'd be surprised if he's lost a step.

Investigations continue into Fair Grounds wagering
12/25/2007 6:02:24 PM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Posted: Tuesday, December 25, 2007 2:26 PM

Two regulatory bodies and two racetrack associations have initiated separate investigations into a past posting incident on the third race at Fair Grounds Race Course on November 25, but so far, only the person who admitted to making the bet has called it anything but an isolated incident.

Mike Maloney, a high volume horseplayer who bets $6-million to $12-million annually on horse races and sometimes as much as $10,000 on a single race, came forward on December 6 at the Symposium on Racing and Gaming to admit placing late wagers on the Fair Grounds race from Keeneland Race Course.

An official with the New Orleans track initially said that betting was stopped within 15 seconds of the start of the race, but Maloney had proof to the contrary.

Steve Sexton, executive vice president of Churchill Downs Inc., which owns Fair Grounds and three other tracks, said on December 14 that wagering went on longer than initially thought.

“Fair Grounds off time is 1:32 [CST] as designated by the chart, and the stop betting time is 1:33.24, so the gap was more than 15 seconds,” Sexton said. “We just don’t know if it was 25 seconds or longer.”

Maloney said he would stake his personal reputation on the fact that he was able to bet the race at least 45 seconds into it, but his concern is not with the particulars of the race but rather that betting after the bell happens at all.

Sexton said that Churchill’s investigation into the incident showed that this was an isolated incident, but Maloney said that he has witnessed pools failing to close at the bell before.

“This was a technical error followed by a human error,” Sexton said of the stewards’ stop wagering button not functioning followed by the tote room’s delay to close the pools manually once the race started. “The person in the tote room did not fulfill duties in terms of performing backup. That allowed wagering to occur after the race had begun.”

J. Curtis Linnell of the Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau said that his organization has looked into the Fair Grounds incident in particular as well as the general issue of past posting. In the long term, he would like to see better fail-safes in place should the pools not close at the bell.

“There needs to be a better way to ensure that occurs,” he said. “Isolated then becomes exceptional.”

Sexton added that he has not encountered this situation in his six years with Churchill but that he is aware of it happening at other tracks during the course of his career, including an incident in 1992 at Thistledown when he was general manager of the Cleveland-area track.

“When people question, ‘Does this really happen?’ I think a lot of top executives honestly think this doesn’t happen,” Maloney said. “Yes, this can happen, and this will happen. I’ve seen it on a regular basis—not 55 seconds, but I’ve seen five, eight, ten seconds. It’s not every race, but it is at an alarming rate.”

Fair Grounds stewards looked into the incident on behalf of the Louisiana Racing Commission, and, like Churchill, found this to be an isolated incident. Sexton did not have exact figures related to betting after the bell, but said that the mutuel department reported the figure as negligible.

“The last wager received was for $2,” Sexton said. Maloney made four wagers after the bell that mirrored the wagers he made before the race, and all were losers.

Because Maloney made his wager at Keeleland in Lexington, the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority also has gotten involved, approving on December 17 the formation of a committee to look at past-posting wagering issues.

Authority member Tom Ludt said the committee should be in place by January and will include himself, Authority member Frank Kling, Authority Executive Director Lisa Underwood, Maloney, racetrack representatives, and horsemen.

“I think what we have to do is step back and analyze. What is the current protocol? How did this happen? And, how often is this happening?,“ Ludt said.

Rogers Beasley, director of racing at Keeneland, said the Lexington track is looking into the problem and wrote a letter to the Authority outlining what happened. Still, Beasley pointed out that host track Fair Grounds is responsible for stopping wagers after the race starts.

Beasley said Maloney was only trying to make a point when he continued to make wagers after the race had started.

The teller who continued to take wagers after realizing that the race had started did not violate Keeneland policy because current rules only require tellers to stop taking wagers after the pools close.

“That’s why we wrote the letter, saying you know, we’re going to look at our policy. The law reads that it’s when the windows close, and the window wasn’t locked,” Beasley said.

Underwood noted that the incident further suggests the need for independent monitoring of pools, like the Wagering Transmission Protocol real-time software offered by Racing Commissioners International. Without such software, time-consuming review of the pools is required to determine problems in the pools.

She added that the Authority would begin interviewing applicants for the new position of pari-mutuel investigator, which will oversee such issues in the commonwealth.

“I think this is a major issue and may not be an isolated case,” Ludt said. “We will try to verify why this happened and how much of a problem it is. It could be a major, major issue.”

Fair Grounds - Familiar faces top trainer standings
12/3/2007 1:36:18 PM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted 11/27/2007, 6:30 pm

NEW ORLEANS - After only the first weekend, the trainer leader board at Fair Grounds is looking very familiar. The top five trainers from last year have all returned to the top of the list.

Al Stall, who finished fifth last year, is tied at the top with last year's second-place finisher, Cody Autrey, both with 5 wins from 12 starts.

Last year's top trainer, Tom Amoss, has 4 victories from 14 starts with an amazing 11 of his starters finishing third or better. Rounding out last year's top five are Steve Asmussen and Patrick Mouton, who have 4 wins and 3 wins, respectively. Jorge Lara and Michael Stidham have also won 3 races each.

"I can't ask for anything more," said Stall. "I've been training here the whole month. Putting them in the right spots sets them up for a nice start."

Stall is extremely pleased with the condition of the racing surface this meet. "The track looks and acts like it did in the glory years, 15, 20 years ago," he said. "We worked horses on Monday morning after Sunday's deluge. It handled the water great."

His last winner on opening weekend was Final Refrain in Sunday's seventh race, a first-level allowance that came off the turf.

"We were thrilled to death with how she ran," he said. "She'd always trained well on dirt so we were comfortable letting her stay when it came off the grass. It was still the great unknown. We'll be looking to run her back in an allowance race around Christmas-time."

Autrey, also came to Fair Grounds loaded and ready. "We always bring our horses ready to run," he said. "This is the only part of the year where our horses are in one spot. We'll run 40 to 60 horses here."

Autrey already has claimed three horses, while having two claimed from him.

Stidham has sent only six horses to the starting gate, but has won with half of them, including with his promising 2-year-old Sagaponack, a $525,000 purchase at the Keeneland April sale, who won at first asking.

"We were pleased," said Stidham. "He kind of got hooked between horses and still came away the winner. We'll try him next around two turns. He'll have to get used to it if he's going to be worth the money paid for him."

Injured Perrodin to have surgery

Fair Grounds jockey E.J. Perrodin remained in intensive care Tuesday after being injured in a freak accident in prerace warm-ups on Friday. He has a cracked pelvis, broken ribs, and a lacerated liver. He was originally taken to Tulane Medical Center after the accident but has since been moved to University Hospital.

"He's in a lot of pain," said Tony Martin, agent for Perrodin. "The liver bleeding is under control. They are preparing him for surgery later this week to repair the pelvis. It's a bad situation."

Perrodin was hurt while while warming up No No Bad Kitty before Friday's 10th and final race.

"She started to back up and she lost her balance and fell," said Martin. "They call it setting back. She just kind of sat down, and then rolled back on top of him, then hurt him again when she went to stand up."

Perrodin, 50, is a native of Rayne, La., and is nearing 3,000 career wins. He finished 13th in the standings last season at the Fair Grounds, winning 30 races from 165 mounts. He began riding in 1974, and in 1979 became only the second jockey at the Fair Grounds to ride six winners in a single day.

Hawley back at the track

Also on the mend is Fair Grounds trainer Wes Hawley, 44. He was injured in a motorcycle accident on the night of Nov. 19. Hawley crashed his motorcycle into a median, knocking himself unconscious, breaking two ribs, puncturing a lung, and injuring his lower back.

"I spent five nights in the hospital," said Hawley. "They wouldn't let me get up. They were afraid I'd broken my back. But laying there hurt worse than getting up."

He was released from the hospital on Saturday, and was back training horses on Sunday morning, moving a little more gingerly than usual.

"I 'm a little sore, but I'll be all right," he said.

Louisiana HBPA to Host National HBPA Winter Convention in January
11/15/2007 1:11:16 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Winter 2007 

The Louisiana HBPA is expecting you at the 2008 National HBPA Winter Convention, January 24-28, 2008 at the Intercontinental New Orleans Hotel.

The Intercontinental is centered at the core of the city, providing convenient access to the historic wonders of the French Quarter, jazz music, major attractions of the Mississippi River, remarkable art galleries, and designer boutiques and specialty shops, not to mention the renowned restaurants with unforgettable cuisine. The hotel is also the best place in town for Mardi Gras. It is situated directly on the parade route, making it an exceptionally unique experience.

You can rest assured that the downtown New Orleans area is a safe place to be. The crime is usually in isolated areas that are deserted or not yet rebuilt. Downtown was one of the first areas to revive and is a thriving environment.

We have prepared a full schedule of fun and festive events for the entire convention. The list includes:

  • Thursday evening, we will hold a welcome cocktail party/reception, filled with cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and great music;
  • On Friday, we have planned a wonderful dinner/dance at New Orleans’ famous Pat O’Brien’s, with food, fun and dancing;
  • Saturday, we have rented out the full Mardi Gras stands in front of the hotel for viewing of two Mardi Gras parades, along with food and drinks; and
  • Sunday, we will be attending a day at the races at the Fair Grounds Race Course, with a delicious buffet luncheon provided.

The atmosphere is always relaxed and casual throughout the convention. On Thursday, the cocktail party’s dress code will be dressy casual (no suit and ties). Friday, the dinner/dance will be dressy casual; therefore, you are dressed ready to go downtown or to Harrah’s Casino for more fun. Casual is the attire for the Mardi Gras parade party on Saturday – you definitely want to be comfortable. Lastly, the day at the races is, like always, dressy casual; no coats.

If you should have any questions or need more information, feel free to contact the Louisiana HBPA at (504) 945-1555 or (800) 845-4272.

The Louisiana HBPA hopes that you join them at the 2008 Winter Convention.

Evangeline Downs Looks to Build on a Successful 2007 Season
11/15/2007 1:08:49 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Winter 2007 

Bucking an industry wide trend, Evangeline Downs Racetrack & Casino’s recently concluded 2007 spring/summer Thoroughbred season showed across the board gains in nearly all major categories. The track’s third season at the new facility showed gains in total handle, on-track handle, purse distribution, and average field size for the 89-night meet.

The average nightly handle of $1.695 million was more than 9 percent higher than last year’s $1.55 million average, which represented a gain of more than 32 percent from 2005’s average. Despite reducing the season by three racing nights, all sources handle reached an all-time high as a total of $149,162,803 was wagered, an increase of more than $6.49 million from last year’s breakthrough season. On-track handle showed gains as well, with a total of $6,168,301 wagered at the Opelousas, Louisiana oval, compared to last year’s $5,829,096. The nightly average of $69,278 was an increase of more than 9-1/2 percent from last year’s average.

Increased business and casino proceeds also drove purses to an all-time level. The nightly overnight purse distribution of slightly more than $180,000, not including state-bred bonuses, was more than $10,000 higher than last year’s, and with the beefed up stakes program, a total of more than $19.4 million was paid out to horsemen.

A total of 19 stakes worth more than $1.8 million were contested during the meet, highlighted by the $200,000 Evangeline Mile, the richest Thoroughbred race in the 42-year history of Evangeline Downs. Costa Rising dominated his rivals in the “Mile”, with a track record performance in which he earned a 114 Beyer Speed figure, one of the highest dirt figures recorded thus far this year in North America. By comparison, Street Sense earned a figure of 110 in his Kentucky Derby victory. Owned by Charles Castille Jr. and trained by Glenn Delahoussaye, Costa Rising was ridden to victory by Kerwin “Boo Boo” Clark.

Horsemen responded in kind to the rich offerings and produced an average field size of more than 10 runners per race over 893 races, believed to be the highest in the nation for an extended racing season.

Evangeline Downs Director of Racing Operations Steve Darbonne stated, “Our entire team worked above and beyond the call of duty to make this season a success, and we are certainly proud of our results and are thankful for the support we’ve received from both horsemen and racing fans, who have really embraced our exciting brand of racing, with full and contentious fields.” Darbonne further added, “Construction of a seven furlong turf course with a 1 1/8th-mile chute has begun, and other improvements are also in the planning stages as we continue to strive to make Evangeline Downs Racetrack & Casino the best place to race and wager.”

In addition to improved business, racing also showed a dramatic increase in quality and recognition. Local fans were treated to the sight of many new outfits making their way to South-Central Louisiana to take advantage of the lucrative stakes offerings, as well as the solid overnight program. Numerous graded stakes performers from the Midwest, Northeast, and the mid-South made appearances this summer, as well as many notable horsemen and riders.

Known as the birthplace of “Legends”, Evangeline Downs paid homage to those past and present riders and horsemen with the creation of the Cajun Jockey Challenge. Held on July 13, Calvin Borel edged Robby Albarado after a stretch-long duel to win the four-race contest. It was a fairy tale ending to an exciting day and evening which also featured a brunch hosted by Hall of Fame jockey Pat Day on behalf of the Racetrack Chaplaincy, as well as a free autograph signing session attended by all participants and guests of the “Challenge”.

On June 30, an all-time record handle of $2,218,014 million was wagered on Louisiana Legends Night III , a program featuring 11 stakes races worth more than $900,000 restricted to state-bred horses. This eclipsed the previous record of $2,182,506 wagered on the 2006 edition of Louisiana Legends Night.

Curt Bourque and Keith Bourgeois captured the leading jockey and trainer titles, respectively. For Bourque, a past leading rider at the Fair Grounds, Hawthorne Racetrack, and Sportsman’s Park, as well as the old Evangeline Downs, it was his first title since returning from a more than 2 ½ year absence from the saddle.

Bourque recorded 93 wins, and his mounts earned more than $1.69 million during the season, easily outdistancing his nearest rival, Gerard Melancon, who finished second in both categories.

Bourgeois, who has won the leading trainer title in all three seasons at the new facility, chalked up an impressive 76 wins and earnings of more than $1.269 million from 302 starts, finishing well ahead of runner-up Sam Breaux, who recorded 54 wins from 280 starts.

Madison’s Music, who won all three of her starts at Evangeline Downs, including two stakes races, was named Horse of the Meet. After winning an allowance/optional claiming event, the six-year-old daughter of Prospector’s Music captured the J. Archie Sebastien Memorial on “Legends” Night before annexing the Matron stakes over defending champion Plaid in her final start of the meet. Leased by Marvin Boudreaux from William Boudreaux, Madison’s Music is conditioned by Keith Bourgeois and was ridden to victory in each start by Kirk LeBlanc.

In September, Evangeline Downs was recognized by Horse Player magazine as the number two track in the nation based on a total of 17 different categories, ranging from field size to wager-by-wager takeouts to average payouts per wager. In a comprehensive study encompassing a total of 48 racetracks and their results from January 2005 through August 2007, Evangeline Downs ranked only behind historic Keeneland Racetrack and finished in front of such industry heavyweights as Del Mar, Gulfstream Park, Remington Park, Saratoga Racetrack, and Santa Anita. In addition, Evangeline Downs lived up to its reputation as the “Home of the Biggest Fields and Biggest Payoffs” as the average of 9.79 starters over the three-year period including 251 racing dates was more the 0.51 higher than any other track in North America. Evangeline Downs also ranked in the top four in the following categories: largest average exacta returns, largest average trifecta returns, largest average superfecta returns, largest pick three returns, and highest average win odds.

While currently conducting the 40-night 2007 fall Quarter Horse season, Evangeline Downs is already preparing for 2008.

Next year’s calendar kicks off with the sixth edition of the John Franks Two-Year-Olds in Training Sale, to be held in mid-March. The 85-night spring/summer Thoroughbred season is set to begin on April 9.

The fall Quarter Horse season starting date has yet to be determined, but it will begin in the latter part of September. The fall Quarter Horse season will feature the Racing Challenge Championships, marking the debut of this event at a Louisiana racetrack.

The Racing Challenge Championship is Quarter Horse racing’s richest program, and the Championship Night is the culmination of a series of 60 races in 11 regions across the United States, Canada, Mexico, and South America throughout the year. The fields for the six championship events and the six undercard events which will make up the Championship Night will feature horses who have earned points in those series events during the year accorded preference for entry. The total purses on the Racing Challenge Championship Night are expected to exceed$1,000,000, highlighted by the Grade I $350,000 Challenge Championship.

According to Evangeline Downs’ Assistant General Manager David Yount, “The Challenge Championship Night is Quarter Horse Racing’s equivalent of the Breeders’ Cup. With the combined help of the Louisiana Quarter Horse Breeders Association and the American Quarter Horse Association, we are excited to provide a brand new avenue for the sport in which to showcase not only the exciting sport of Quarter Horse racing, but our modern facility and Cajun hospitality to a multi-nation audience.”

The date for the Challenge Championship Night has yet to be finalized but is tentatively scheduled for late October or early November.

2007-08 Racing Schedule fo Louisiana Tracks
11/15/2007 1:03:49 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Winter 2007 

Delta Downs: (Thoroughbred Meet) October 19, 2007 – March 29, 2008 - Total of 93 Race Days

Evangeline Downs: (Quarter Horse Meet) September 27, 2007 – December 02, 2008 - Total of 40 Race Days

Evangeline Downs: (Thoroughbred Meet) April 9, 2008 – September 1, 2008 - Total of 85 Race Days

Fair Grounds: (Thoroughbred Meet) November 22, 2007 – March 23, 2008 - Total of 81 Race Days

Harrah’s Louisiana Downs: (Quarter Horse Meet) January 12, 2008 – March 18, 2008 - Total of 40 Race Days

Harrah’s Louisiana Downs: (Thoroughbred Meet) May 17, 2008 – October 25, 2008 - Total of 87 Race Days

Delta Downs - Expanded meet to fill backstretch
10/19/2007 9:49:37 AM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted 10/17/2007, 5:46 pm

Delta Downs is not lacking for horses. The Vinton, La., track has expanded its winter-spring meet by about a week at the request of horsemen, who have overstuffed the entry box for Friday night's opening card. Each of the 10 races on the program drew a full field of 10, including the featured $50,000 Zydeco Stakes.

Delta is scheduled to race 93 dates. Its season follows an Evangeline Downs meet that closed Sept. 3. Delta will race through March 29.

"We're running five more days than last year," said Chris Warren, director of racing and simulcasting for Delta. "We started a little earlier, so the horsemen would not have as much downtime between Evangeline and the meet."

Delta can house 1,200 horses on its backstretch, a stable area expected to be full following the close of Louisiana Downs on Saturday. Delta will also draw starters from Evangeline Downs Training Center, located 90 miles away in Lafayette. There are 900 to 1,000 horses based at the training center, according to Trent McIntosh, racing secretary at Delta.

"What we've got going for us is we've got probably 3,500 sets of papers on file," he said.

Delta is racing Wednesday through Saturday night, with average daily purses budgeted at just more than $200,000 a day, Warren said. The track's 37-race stakes program is led by the Grade 3, $1 million Delta Jackpot for 2-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles on Dec. 7. The race had its first graded running last year, with Birdbirdistheword winning over Pirates Deputy and Xchanger.

"Xchanger helped us do good with the race last year," Warren said of the colt, who went on to win the Grade 3 Barbaro and has been pre-entered in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile.

Warren said the pre-entry fee for the Jackpot has been reduced from $2,500 to $1,000 this year. Pre-entries for the Jackpot are due Nov. 21. The race will share a card with the $300,000 Delta Princess for 2-year-old fillies at a mile and two other stakes worth $75,000 each. Valued at $1.4 million, the four stakes will make for the richest card of the meet at Delta.

The track is also home to Louisiana Premier Night, a program of 10 stakes for Louisiana-breds worth a cumulative $1 million. The card is set for Feb. 2. All told, the Delta stakes program this meet will be worth close to $4 million. It gets started with the Zydeco, a five-furlong sprint that drew stakes winners All Wired Up, High Strike Zone, and Chief What It Is.

Patrons returning to Delta will find a new restaurant on the apron. In other changes, Delta has upgraded its track drainage system, and put up a new outside rail. Delta will again offer free streaming video of its races on its website, www.deltadowns.com.

Jorge Lara, who will win the training title at Louisiana Downs, is scheduled to have a division of horses at Delta. Other new trainers include Greg Tracy, the brother of trainer Ray Tracy, and Don Roberson. The horsemen join an established roster that includes defending training champ Keith Bourgeois.

Curt Bourque, Kerwin Clark, Todd Dupuis, Shane Laviolette, and Gerard Melancon are among the riders expected to compete this meet at Delta.

LA Downs - Haynes's passion for the game paying off
10/19/2007 9:48:06 AM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted 10/17/2007, 6:12 pm

As a college student, Jan Haynes would make regular trips to Louisiana Downs to play the horses. Now, she owns some of the quickest ones at the track. Haynes has a 38-horse stable that long ago locked up this year's owner title at Louisiana Downs, which closes its meet Saturday.

The title will be the first for Haynes, a wife, mother, real estate investor, and former nurse who claimed her initial horse in 2000. She has built a formidable barn since then, and her 60 wins from 215 starters so far this year rank her 17th among all owners in wins in North America.

In addition to Louisiana Downs, Haynes had a good meet this year at Oaklawn Park, where she tied for second in the owner standings, and at Lone Star Park, where she tied for third. She will race next at Delta Downs, with her primary trainer, Jorge Lara, bringing a division of his stable to the Vinton, La., track that opens Friday.

Haynes, 43, has grown her stable by claiming horses. She constantly scans entries for possible acquisitions, and when she finds something worth dropping a claim for, she calls Lara.

"I have to have something going all the time and I always want to learn," she said.

"When I was in graduate school in Shreveport, I went over to the track and started betting the horses and I loved it. I'm still having a great time. When it gets to the point where it's not fun, I'll stop. But I can't imagine that being the case. It's just a great sport."

Haynes is a native of Ruston, La., but now lives in Dallas. She claimed her first horse for $25,000. He ran for a claiming price of $35,000 one start later, won, and was claimed. "I was hooked," she said.

Haynes's operation has grown so much that her husband, Andrew, suggested she take flying lessons so she could attend the races when she wanted. She did, and at times has been known to fly Lara and jockey Carlos Gonzalez to a track for a stakes.

This Sunday Haynes will have Wheaton Home running in the $75,000 Remington Park Sprint Championship.

Other top runners in her barn include Tiger Monarch, Who's Zary Now, Lucky Woman, and Illegal Ticket. And on Friday, Haynes has Finest Top, who has won her last three races by a combined 20 lengths, in the featured eighth race at Louisiana Downs.

Louisiana Ends Claim 'Jail'
10/14/2007 6:41:43 PM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted 10/13/2007, 7:10 pm

The Louisiana Racing Commission approved a significant change to Louisiana claiming rules at its meeting in New Orleans on Friday. The new rule allows a claimed horse to run back for the price he was claimed for, or higher, and eliminates the 30-day "jail period," which requires a horse be raised at least 25 percent in claiming price.

The change is scheduled to go into effect on Nov. 20, according to Charles Gardiner, executive director of the racing commission.

The claiming change comes on the heels of the recent elimination of a state sales tax on claims at Louisiana tracks, which was provided for by legislation passed in Louisiana.

In other business Friday, the commission approved the acquisition of Louisiana Downs by a partnership of Apollo Management and Texas Pacific Group, two private equity firms that are purchasing the casino giant Harrah's Entertainment. Harrah's is the parent company of Louisiana Downs. The closing is scheduled for December.

Harrah's announced in April that its stockholders had approved the acquisition by Apollo and Texas Pacific.

Also at the meeting, the commission amended its pick four rule to open it up to fit any multiple of consecutive races, such as a pick five. The change goes into effect immediately.

The issue was addressed at the request of Fair Grounds in New Orleans. The action Friday does not change the rules in place for picks threes in Louisiana.

LA Downs - Next for Grasshopper is anybody’s guess
9/25/2007 4:14:15 PM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted 9/24/2007, 5:41 pm

BOSSIER CITY, La. – The next-race plans for Going Ballistic, who won the Grade 2, $500,000 Super Derby on Saturday, have already been made, while the agenda for Grasshopper, who was second in the race at 1-5, was still being determined as of Monday.

The horses finished a length apart in the 1?1/8-mile race, with Going Ballistic closing from last to run down Grasshopper. Going Ballistic equaled his career-best Beyer Speed Figure, a 95.

“He made a three-eighths move,” said Donnie Von Hemel, who trains Going Ballistic. “He came around horses and just kept coming, and kept coming.”

Von Hemel said Going Ballistic vanned to Lone Star Park on Sunday, and next week will ship to Remington Park. It is there where he will race next, in the $300,000 Oklahoma Derby at 1 1/8 miles Oct. 21.

Grasshopper was back at Churchill Downs on Sunday morning. He came into the Super Derby off a runner-up finish to Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense in the Grade 1 Travers. That performance had sparked some talk of a rematch in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, but as of Monday, no next-race plans had been set for Grasshopper.

“Nothing’s been ruled in or ruled out,” said Neil Howard, who trains Grasshopper. “We didn’t make any plans yet.”

Howard said Grasshopper came out of the Super Derby in good order. He raced wide around both turns in the race, took the lead in the stretch, then was caught late. Grasshopper was given a Beyer of 93.

“He got beat, but he ran good,” said Howard. “The winner ran better, obviously.”

Grasshopper was making his second stakes start in the Super Derby.

Back to dirt with Costa Rising

Costa Rising, who finished sixth as the favorite in the $200,000 Unbridled Breeders’ Cup on the turf Saturday, will return to dirt for his next start, trainer Glenn Delahoussaye said Monday. Costa Rising came into the Unbridled with two of the year’s highest Beyer Figures, a 117 and a 114, both for wins on dirt at Evangeline Downs.

“My observation is, evidently, he’s not quite the horse on the weeds that he is on the dirt this year,” said Delahoussaye. “It looked like he was a little rank on the turf. He wasn’t as relaxed. He got to going a little too quick.”

Costa Rising led the field through six furlongs in 1:10.93. Go Between overtook him, and went on to win the 1 1/16-mile race in a stakes-record time of 1:40.64.

“He tried as best he could,” Delahoussaye said of Costa Rising. “He didn’t get over that grass to me like he should have to go against that kind of competition.”

Delahoussaye said Costa Rising will be freshened and point for three six-figure stakes for Louisiana-breds, two of them at Delta Downs and one at Fair Grounds.

“We’re going to back off a little racing-wise and keep him in training,” Delahoussaye said. “He’s got three races that he won last year in front of him, the Gold Cup, the Champions Day at the Fair Grounds, then the Premier Night Championship back at Delta in the beginning of February.”

The $100,000 Gold Cup at 1 1/16 miles will be run at Delta on Nov. 17. Both of the triple-digit Beyer Figures that Costa Rising earned this year were in two-turn races.

Career race for Go Between

Go Between earned a career-best Beyer of 102 for his victory in the Unbridled despite breaking in the air.

“It was quite impressive,” said trainer Bill Mott. “I guess he seems to have taken to that surface down there. He really liked it.”

Mott said plans have not yet been set in stone for Go Between, but that he might start at Keeneland in the Grade 3, $150,000 Fayette at 1 1/8 miles on Polytrack.

Mott also won the $200,000 Happy Ticket here Saturday with Zee Zee, who could be headed to Monmouth Park for her next start. Mott said she is a possibility for the $250,000 Epitome Breeders’ Cup Stakes for 2-year-old fillies at a mile on turf Oct. 26.

Zee Zee was making her third start in the Happy Ticket. She found room between horses and went on to a 2 1/2-length win.

“I was impressed,” said Mott. “I thought she did what we’d hoped she would do.”

Mott has gone 3 for 3 this meet. His other shipper, Desert Wheat, won the $100,000 Shiskabob on Louisiana Downs Champions Day on July 21.

Fair Grounds Meet Includes 64 Stakes
9/20/2007 4:55:28 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 9/20/2007 4:40:04 PM Last Updated: 9/20/2007 4:40:04 PM

The 136th Fair Grounds racing season, highlighted by the $600,000 Louisiana Derby (gr. II), will offer a total of 64 stakes worth $7.3 million, it was announced Sept. 20.

The structure of the Fair Grounds meet will offer more major events, more stakes on event days and even longer events than last year. Opening day is Thanksgiving, with the meet ending March 23.

The three major events are “Road to the Derby” Kickoff Day (Jan. 12), Louisiana Derby Preview Day (Feb. 9) and Louisiana Derby Day (March 8). Each has grown from five to six stakes events.

Louisiana Derby Day will offer $2.3 million in stakes purses, the most on a card in Louisiana history. Four of the six are grade II events, including the $400,000 Fair Grounds Oaks, $500,000 New Orleans Handicap, and $500,000 Mervin H. Muniz Jr. Memorial Handicap.

Louisiana Preview Day has four grade III races, highlighted by the $300,000 Risen Star Stakes for 3-year-olds. The $100,000 Lecomte Stakes (gr. III) is the “Road to the Derby” Kickoff Day feature.

The season-ending Louisiana Lagniappe Weekend has stretched to the final three days of the meet. It includes nine stakes races.

There is one new stakes race on the schedule: the $60,000 Allen Lacombe Memorial Handicap for older horses on the turf March 15 .

The New Orleans-based racetrack is the nation’s third-oldest Thoroughbred racing facility, in operation since 1872.

Leader of Horsemen's Group Impatient With ADW Situation
9/17/2007 12:06:43 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 9/14/2007 3:59:01 PM Last Updated: 9/14/2007 5:07:55 PM

The president of a Louisiana horsemen’s group has vowed legal and legislative action if a solution isn’t soon realized in the fractured advance deposit wagering industry.

Sean Alfortish, president of the Louisiana Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, said during a Sept. 13 conference call on the status of ADWs that certain business models must be altered to bring uniformity to signal distribution.

Alfortish made the bold statements during a call organized by bettors’ advocate Richard Young that also included TrackNet Media Group president Scott Daruty. TrackNet’s arch-rival, TVG, was invited to participate in the call but declined, while Ellis Park owner Ron Geary agreed to participate, but missed the discussion due to what his assistant said were sudden outside business matters.

“The only way diplomacy is going to work is to drop the exclusivity,” Alfortish said, referring to exclusive content contracts historically demanded by TVG. “We are working towards an amicable solution.

“But the time frame in which to respond to it is very short,” continued Alfortish, who has a background as a lawyer and a local magistrate in Kenner, La. “If something doesn’t get done, we are going to force an arrangement.”

Alfortish said he and members of the National HBPA have taken on the role of mediators in the standoff principally between TrackNet, the content partnership of Churchill Downs and Magna Entertainment, and TVG, the pioneer in televised account wagering.

“All ADWs should allow any wagering from any track at any time where the horsemen and the track give their consent to show the signal,” Alfortish said. “And if that can’t be accomplished by a bunch of men in a room who can work out the details and the numbers so that everyone is satisfied, then I guess we are on the path to get federal or state legislation, or we are going to get judicial interpretation.”

Alfortish did not cited TVG as the focus of a lawsuit, but in an interview after the conference call, he reaffirmed his commitment to forceful action. And he added that he wouldn’t wait forever for some sort of resolution.

“I am considering court action and legislative action, both on the state and federal level,” he said. “It’s not going to be indefinitely. You can quote me on this: 2007 will be either the voluntary or involuntary death of exclusivity in racing.”

TVG, communicating through a spokesman, later said that since the company wasn’t “privy” to the conversations on the conference call, it would decline to comment for now.

Alfortish made the statements in response to Young’s pleas for resolution in an ADW scene where bettors wanting to bet a wide variety of tracks are forced to use multiple accounts. Young, a Chicago-area bettor, in August launched a petition of protest on the PaceAdvantage.com forum, and part of the document was read into record Aug. 19 by The Jockey Club president Alan Marzelli at the group’s annual Round Table Conference in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

“What we are concerned with as fans is being able to bet with our ADW of choice,” Young told Daruty and Alfortish. “Who is responsible? Who is the bad guy? I don’t care. We just want it over.”

Young, who launched the protest Web site boycotttracknet.com, also said he had recently reserved the domain name of boycotttvg.com.

“Hopefully, you guys will come up with a deal in the next day or two, and I can get rid of all my domain names,” he said.

Daruty held the line on other statements he has made in public debates over the ADW situation: TrackNet is willing to help straighten things out.

“We very much believe that the customer has the right to decide which ADW to use,” he told Young. “And in making that decision, the customer should have access to all content, whatever he or she decides. We are absolutely prepared to provide our content to any responsible regulated account wagering company, including and especially TVG, as long as appropriate host fees are paid.”

Young asked why TrackNet wouldn’t extend signals to Youbet.com. Daruty replied that the ADW company already has sub-licensing agreements with TVG, and the addition of TrackNet signals would give Youbet a virtual monopoly (TrackNet’s parent companies each have their own ADW platforms -- Churchill Downs with Twinspires.com and Magna Entertainment with XpressBet – neither of which carry TVG-connected meets).

“We can’t have a one-way street where TrackNet makes all of its content available and gets nothing in return,” Daruty said. “That’s the fundamental problem we have right now."

Alfortish told Young he could sympathize with bettors, noting his longtime ADW account with Louisiana-based FGNetBet didn’t handle such TVG exclusive meets as those from New York Racing Association tracks and Keeneland. And Alfortish believes the splintering of ADW signals hurts racetrack handle totals.

“Rather than wager in a place where it would have washed through and split between the tracks and the horsemen by going through our (Louisiana) system, I just didn’t bet at all,” he said.

Alfortish told Young he appreciated what the advocate was trying to accomplish.

“I applaud you the bettor for doing what you are doing and trying to continue to get everyone to the table to make this happen,” he said. “We will … mediate, arbitrate, dictate, legislate or anything else we have to do. It is the number-one priority that horsemen have in Louisiana and the nation. And it will be done soon.”

2007-08 Racing Schedule for Louisiana Tracks
9/16/2007 11:59:28 AM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Fall 2007 

Delta Downs (Thoroughbred Meet): October 19, 2007 – March 29, 2008 (Total of 93 race days)

Evangeline Downs (Quarter Horse Meet): September 27, 2007 – December 2, 2007 (Total of 40 race days)

Fair Grounds (Thoroughbred Meet): November 22, 2007 – March 23, 2008 (Total of 81 race days)

Congratulations to Claimer of the Year, Cort's P. B.
9/16/2007 11:58:00 AM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Fall 2007 

The Louisiana HBPA would like to congratulate the National HBPA’s 2006 Claimer of the Year, Cort’s P. B. Owned by Maggi Moss and trained by Patrick Mouton, Cort’s P. B. earned the prestigious award by winning seven of ten starts (including two stakes races) and earning $187,900 while racing exclusively in Louisiana in 2006. His victories included the $75,000 Thanksgiving Day Handicap at Fair Grounds.

Breaking News in Louisiana
9/16/2007 11:57:13 AM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Fall 2007 

The total handle processed during the fiscal year ending on June 30, 2007 was over $1.1 billion. This is the highest handle recorded for Louisiana horse racing dating as far back as 1998.

In-state handle was $357.5 million, and out-of-state handle was $772.8 million. Also, remember that 2006 was affected by hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Thanks to everyone for supporting the horse industry in Louisiana.

Workers' Compensation Update
9/16/2007 11:56:23 AM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Fall 2007 

We are pleased to report that through successful claims management, we were able to negotiate a lower minimum policy for workers’ compensation in our first year! The new minimum non-refundable policy for 2007-2008 is now $1,000.00.

This not only represents a 150% decrease in what a likely policy would bring in an open market, but also signals that with continued cooperation of all trainers and farm owners, we will in the future be able to decrease the amount due per start.

The results of our first year are staggering when you consider that Louisiana, post-Katrina/Rita, has seen some insurance rates rise by more than 100%.

I want to personally thank each and every person in this organization who has worked so hard to achieve the overall goal of making our workers’ compensation rates some of the lowest in the country.

Notice: All trainers who are planning to race at the Fair Grounds or any of our other racetracks across Louisiana, please call Tammy Broussard, Assistant Director of Workers’ Comp., at (337) 886-6438 or (504) 224-1217; Rachelle Mischler at (337) 886-6438 or (504) 224-1214; or the main office for Cricket Romero at (504) 945-1555 or (504) 939-1407.

Thank You,
Sean Alfortish

Claiming Rule Change
9/16/2007 11:54:54 AM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Fall 2007 

The Louisiana HBPA lobbied the Louisiana State Racing Commission (LSRC) to amend the claiming rule so that horses claimed in the state of Louisiana would not have to run for a 25% raise in claiming price during the first 30 days after being claimed. This rule was passed by a unanimous decision at the LSRC meeting in January of 2007. It is expected that this rule will take effect on or about October 1, 2007.

You will not, however, be allowed to drop the horse below the price for which it was claimed for 30 days, nor will the claimed horse be allowed to race at another racetrack, without steward’s permission in stakes races, within 60 days from the date claimed.

Part of the delay in not having this rule implemented immediately came from a misunderstanding between the State of Louisiana and the LSRC. We will get the word out as to the exact date the State of Louisiana allows the LSRC adopted rule change.

Louisiana HBPA Does It
9/16/2007 11:53:51 AM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Fall 2007 

We are extremely pleased to announce that, effective immediately, owners who claim Thoroughbred and/or Quarter Horses in the State of Louisiana from any licensed racetrack within the state will no longer be required to pay state sales tax on that claimed horse.

Louisiana HBPA President Sean Alfortish said, “When taking office a little over two years ago, the administration and I made two promises. The first promise was to create a workers’ compensation program that would save the horse racing industry. Secondly, we promised to work on the elimination of state sales tax on the horses claimed in the State of Louisiana. Both of these promises, we believe, will further stimulate the strength of our industry by attracting new owners and by making owning and training horses more profitable. With the passage of this bill, Louisiana goes from being the highest taxing state on horses in the country to becoming one of the top ten best states in which to claim a horse.”

However, our work in the area of sales tax is not finished, and we will continue to work with our local municipalities (St. Landry Parish, Calcasieu Parish, Bossier Parish, and Orleans Parish) to make claiming of horses in Louisiana completely and totally tax free.

Louisiana Downs - Turf races draw flood of interest
9/13/2007 12:10:17 PM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted 9/12/2007, 5:45 pm

BOSSIER CITY, La. - Next Saturday's Super Derby is the highlight of the biggest day of the Louisiana Downs meet, but the four supporting turf races, all worth $200,000, have drawn a lot of interest themselves.

"It has been crazy," said Tommy Sibille, the track's stakes coordinator, during a brief lull in what seemed to be a constant stream of phone calls Wednesday morning. "This has got to be some kind of record for nominations. It seems everybody is interested in those turf races."

With two days to go before Friday's deadline, Sibille had received more than 200 nominations for the Marie DeBartolo Oaks for 3-year-old fillies, the Sunday Silence for 2-year-olds, the Happy Ticket for 2-year-old fillies, and the Unbridled for 3-year-olds and upward.

Trainer Donnie Von Hemel will be well-represented on Super Derby Saturday. Von Hemel sent out last year's Marie DeBartolo winner, Brownie Points, and will have Whisper to Me in this year's edition following a win in last month's Lyrique Stakes.

Von Hemel also said that Vengeful Shadow is definite for the Happy Ticket. She seems to have found a home on the grass, winning her maiden in special weight company at Lone Star before running a surprisingly good second in the Donnie Wilhite Memorial in her stakes debut. All of that success came after Vengeful Shadow failed to show much against maiden claiming company on the main track.

"We almost turned her out before her maiden win," Von Hemel said. "She looked like she was trying to do a little something late in those dirt races, so we decided to try the grass. She has really turned around."

Von Hemel confirmed that Going Ballistic, third in the Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes at Arlington, remains a definite for the Super Derby. He also said that Storm City, the third-place finisher in last month's Prelude Stakes, remains a possibility.

* Prelude winner Forty Acres had his last serious work before the Super Derby this past Sunday. With regular rider Carlos Gonzalez up, Forty Acres drilled five furlongs in 58.60 seconds, the fastest of 46 at the distance.

Fair Grounds to Open Temporary Casino
9/7/2007 3:33:09 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 9/7/2007 12:33:42 PM Last Updated: 9/7/2007 12:33:42 PM

Fair Grounds in New Orleans, La., will open a temporary slot-machine facility Sept. 21, track president Randall Soth announced Sept. 7.

The 10 a.m. CDO opening is subject to the approval of the Louisiana Gaming Control Board.

Fair Grounds will be the first racetrack owned by Churchill Downs Inc. to offer slot-machine gaming, but the last of four tracks in Louisiana.

A ceremonial ribbon cutting will precede the public opening, after which hours for the temporary facility will be 9 a.m.-midnight Monday through Saturday, and 10 a.m.-midnight Sunday. The casino is located on the first floor of the building adjacent to the grandstand that was previously used for year-round simulcasting. It will house up to 250 of reel and video products.

The slots mix includes penny, two-cent, nickel, quarter, and dollar games. Also on the floor are a number of stand-alone, in-house, and wide-area progressive machines, including the popular “Wheel of Fortune” game.

Patrons can enter and exit Fair Grounds through the main gates on Gentilly Boulevard. Because staging for construction of the permanent facility has begun, vehicular traffic will be directed along the southern side of the property to reach both the temporary facility and the simulcasting area, located on the west side of the grandstand. Bicycle and foot traffic will be directed to the apron between the grandstand and the racetrack.

The permanent facility, which will house up to 700 machines, will be located adjacent to the east end of the grandstand. It has a targeted opening of November 2008.

Some Louisiana race dates shift
8/29/2007 10:02:47 AM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted 8/27/2007, 7:35 pm

Louisiana Downs in Bossier City, La., and Evangeline Downs in Opelousas, La., will each start their meets a little later in 2008 after their date requests for next year were approved during a Louisiana Racing Commission meeting on Friday.

Louisiana Downs will begin its 87-date meet on May 17, about two weeks later than it opened this year. The season will run through Oct. 25. The track will race weekends only the first three weeks of the meet, then shift to the traditional four-day-a-week schedule on June 5. Louisiana Downs was also granted 40 dates of Quarter Horse racing for next year, between Jan. 12 and March 18.

Evangeline Downs will begin its 85-date meet on April 9, about a week later than it opened this year. The season will run through Sept. 1. In other date allotments, Delta Downs in Vinton, La., was granted a 52-date Quarter Horse meet from April 17 through Julyo13.

The Louisiana Racing Commission awards dates twice a year. The schedules for Fair Grounds in New Orleans and Delta's Thoroughbred meet were set in April.

In other business, jockey Jamie Theriot withdrew his appeal of a seven-day suspension for a riding infraction. He began serving his days Sunday. The suspension stemmed from the $100,000 Laurel Lane at Louisiana Downs July 21, in which his mount, Iknowyouthinkimsexy, was disqualified from second to fourth for interference in deep stretch.

Evangeline Downs - Super Frolic aims to top local rankings
8/9/2007 2:38:29 PM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted 8/8/2007, 6:48 pm

Saturday night's $200,000 Evangeline Mile at Evangeline Downs will bring together the region's best in the handicap division, led by 119-pound starting highweight Super Frolic. Trained by Steve Asmussen, Super Frolic will spot his nine foes from two to six pounds. The 7-year-old is coming off a second-place finish in the $125,000 Tiznow Breeders' Cup at Louisiana Downs last month. That effort earned Super Frolic a 100 Beyer Speed Figure, the first time he has produced a triple-digit number since last summer when he posted back-to-back third-place finishes in the Hollywood Gold Cup and the Pacific Classic at Del Mar. Asmussen has given the call on Super Frolic to Luis Quinonez, who will come in from his Remington Park base to ride.

Rated next in the weights at 117 pounds are last year's Louisiana-bred 3-year-old champion Costa Rising and local favorite High Strike Zone.

Costa Rising made his first start for trainer Glenn Delahoussaye here on June 30 in the Pola Benoit stakes on Louisiana Legends Night but could muster only a third-place performance as the 1-2 favorite. The defeat was the Costa Rising's first in nine races against Louisiana-breds. Kerwin Clark will be in the saddle Saturday.

High Strike Zone won the John Henry Stakes here in April and most recently won an optional claiming affair in mid-June. Trained by Amos Laborde, he has won four times locally and is a specialist of sorts going a mile, with six of his wins at the distance. Steve Bourque will once again handle the riding chores.

Management changes at Delta Downs' parent company
8/5/2007 1:49:19 PM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Posted: Saturday, July 28, 2007 7:10 PM

William S. Boyd, a founder of Boyd Gaming Corp., which owns Delta Downs in Vinton, Louisiana, and a number of casinos, will step down a chief executive officer of the Las Vegas-based company on January 1.

Boyd, 75, will be succeeded by Boyd Gaming President Keith E. Smith.

Boyd will take the newly created position of executive chairman and remain actively involved with the strategic direction of the company.

Boyd Gaming bought Delta Downs in May 2001 for approximately $125-million and began operating approximately 1,500 slot machines there in February 2002.

“Keith has been a key player in the growth and success of our company over the last 17 years,” Boyd said of Smith, who was named company president in 2005 and has been chief operating officer since 2001. “His talent as a senior executive, his vision and leadership skills, and his 25 years of experience in our business give me every confidence that he is the right person to take Boyd Gaming to the next level.”

State Sales Tax on Claims Dropped in Louisiana
7/18/2007 3:03:55 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 7/17/2007 11:48:05 AM Last Updated: 7/17/2007 2:09:55 PM

People who claim Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses at any licensed racetrack in Louisiana are no longer required to pay a state sales tax under a new law, the Louisiana Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association has announced.

“With the passage of this bill, Louisiana goes from being the highest-taxing state on horses in the country to becoming one of the top 10 best states in which to claim a horse,” Louisiana HBPA president Sean Alfortish said.

Alfortish said elimination of the sales tax was a goal of his administration along with creation of a workers’ compensation program for the horse industry. “Both of these promises we believe will further stimulate the strength of our industry by attracting new owners and by making ownership of horses more profitable,” he said.

Alfortish said the horsemen’s group continues to work to eliminate a tax on the claiming of horses charged by the parishes in which the state's four racetracks are located.

Louisiana Downs cancels card
7/8/2007 7:22:08 AM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted 7/6/2007, 12:36 pm

BOSSIER CITY, La. - Louisiana Downs cancelled its scheduled 10-race program on Friday because of torrential rains that have hit the region in recent days.

"With flash-flooding in the area, we decided that for the safety of our patrons and all parties involved, that the best thing to do would be to cancel," Mark Midland, the track's vice president of racing operations, said Friday. "We do plan to race tomorrow with moderating weather conditions."

Rainfall totals exceeded four inches in the area by mid-morning Friday with more forecast. Numerous flash flood warnings had also been issued for the region. Plans to make up the lost day were not immediately available.

Evangeline Downs: Big names sign up for jockey event
7/8/2007 7:19:02 AM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted 7/4/2007, 6:10 pm

The lineup has been set for the Cajun Jockey Challenge July 13 at Evangeline Downs. The riding competition will cap a daylong celebration of the region's rich heritage among the nation's jockeys, both past and present.

Fresh off a track-record mutuel handle of more than $2.2 million last Saturday night on Louisiana Legends Night - an event that brought together the best Louisiana-bred equine athletes - the focus now will shift to those riders with Louisiana bloodlines.

Among the participants will be Calvin Borel and Robby Albarado. The two south Louisiana natives attracted nationwide attention when they piloted Street Sense and Curlin to victories in the first two legs of the Triple Crown.

"We consider this to be the rubber match," joked simulcast director Tracey Coonce. "New York couldn't bring them together in the Belmont, so we are going to do it."

In addition to Borel and Albarado, the cast will include Corey Lanerie, Mark Guidry, Brian Hernandez Jr., Larry Melancon, and E. J. Perrodin.

A strong local contingent also will ride in the challenge, including Gerard Melancon, Tracy Hebert, Steve Bourque, Kerwin Clark, and current riding leader Curt Bourque.

"This thing is really starting to pick up a lot of momentum," said racing secretary Jason Boulet, the architect of the event. "Our Louisiana Legends program was great, but this has a chance to be even bigger."

In addition to ontrack competition, there will be plenty of time for fans to meet with the riders, as an autograph session will be held prior to the races, which begin at 6:20 p.m.

The night also will honor past riding legends who began their careers at the old Evangeline Downs. Shane Sellers, Eddie Delahoussaye, Randy Romero, Ray Sibille, and Ronald Ardoin will all make trophy presentations following the challenge races.

"I think it's great," Ardoin said recently while attending to his agenting duties at Louisiana Downs. "It really recognizes the Cajun influence. I'm excited to be involved."

The competition will consist of four races and will be based on a point system. It will conclude with the ninth race of the 10-race program.

Louisiana Legends Night to Offer $1 Million in Purses
6/29/2007 1:36:32 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 6/28/2007 6:44:42 PM Last Updated: 6/29/2007 9:12:53 AM

For the first time in its 42-year history, Evangeline Downs will offer purses totaling more than $1 million dollars on a single racing program Saturday night with Legends Night III, a 13-race card featuring 11 stake races restricted to Louisiana bred horses.

Despite the newness of Legends Night, the event has proved popular on all fronts. Horsemen have supported it with increasing numbers -- this year’s card has drawn 128 program starters -- and last year’s handle of $2.182 million was the highest of the record-breaking 2006 spring/summer season.

The D. S. “Shine” Young Memorial Futurity for 2-year-olds will once again headline the 2007 edition of “Legends” Night with a slight twist. The “Shine” has been run each and every year that Evangeline Downs has been open, but this year marks the first time that there will be a filly division in addition to the colts & geldings event. Run as the 10th race on the program, the colts & geldings will run for a total purse of $131,125, while the fillies will battle it out for a purse of $129,625 as the ninth race of the evening. In addition to the “Shine” divisions, there are four races worth $100,000, two races with a purse of $75,000, and three starter races with a purse of $45,000.

In the “Shine”, trainer Steve Asmussen appears to hold a strong hand. He will send out multiple entrants in each division. In the colts & geldings division, Must Acquit, a son of Successful Appeal who broke his maiden impressively at Churchill Downs and was the fastest qualifier of the four trials with a clocking of :58.39 for the five furlongs is part of a potent three-horse entry that is owned by Heligbrodt Racing Stable.

Cubera and Jumpin For Jason, who also won their respective trials, add considerable strength to the entry that is listed at odds of even-money in the morning-line.

In the filly division, Iknowuthinkimsexy and Hisse make up another Heligbrodt Racing Stable entry that is the morning-line favorite. Iknowuthinkimsexy, a daughter of Count the Time who was the $135,000 sales topper at the John Franks Memorial Two-year-old in Training Sale in March, made her debut a winning one as she recorded a front-running 6 1/2-length victory in her trial in the time of :59.61. Donnie Meche, who rode both Must Acquit and Iknowuthinkimsexy in their trials, will ride.

Countess Noel, another daughter of Count the Time, was the fastest qualifier in the filly trials with a clocking of 59.40, has drawn the outside post in the eleven-horse field and is the second-choice in the morning line at 3-1 for veteran trainer Dale Angelle and owner Lon Baronne. Brian Hernandez has the mount.

The $100,000 Pola Benoit Memorial Stakes for older horses is the final stakes event on the program but is certainly one that people will stay around for. Costa Rising, last year’s 3-year-old champion male in Louisiana makes his first start in almost five months. Last seen winning the Premier Night Championship at Delta Downs in early February, the son of Royal Strand has been training sensationally for new conditioner Glenn Delahoussaye and will be a short price to record his 10th consecutive win versus state breds. Owned by Charles Castille Jr., Costa Rising will be ridden for the first time by Kerwin Clark.

Raspberry Wine, who has won her last four starts, all stakes races, looms as the one to beat in the $100,000 J. Archie Sebastien Memorial Stakes for older fillies and mares at the distance of 1 mile, 70 yards. Trained by Al Stall Jr., Raspberry Wine is a 5-year-old daughter of Change Takes Time who is owned by the Sport of Kings LLC. Kerwin Clark, who rode Raspberry Wine in two of the those four stakes wins this year, will be back in the saddle. Madison’s Music and Queezee Deezee, winners of stakes events in their last start, and the hard-knocking Carl’s Frosty Girl, are all solid performers and must be respected.

Winner of more than $465,000, and 13 of 26 starts lifetime, R. Davis and Associates' Indigo Girl is the one to catch in the $100,000 Pierre LeBlanc Memorial Stakes for sprinting fillies and mares at 5 1/2 furlongs. Coming off a sensational victory in the Tellike Stakes at Evangeline Downs where she missed the six-furlong track record by 1/5th of a second, Indigo Girl squares off against 10 other sprint specialists including stakes winners Leesa Lee and Queezee Deezee (who is cross-entered in the J. Archie Sebastien) and the rock solid Ida Maria. While she is expected to be the favorite, Indigo Girl needs the lead to be effective and there are others who could make things difficult for her and regular rider Kerwin Clark.

One time $10,000 claimer Cort’s P. B., who found a new lease on life in 2006, looms as the one to beat in the $100,000 Junius Delahoussaye Memorial Stakes for sprinters at 5 1/2 furlongs. A winner of 10 of 15 starts since beginning 2006 in the claiming ranks, Cort’s P. B. has steadily moved up the class ladder. He has won four stakes races in his last seven starts, including the Thanksgiving Handicap against open company at the Fairgrounds. Trainer Partick Mouton claimed the 7-year-old gelded son of Huff for $40,000 on behalf of owner Maggi Moss last September. E. J. Perrodin, who rode Cort’s P. B. in three of those stakes wins, has the mount.

Fass Feat, a lightly raced gelded son of Placid Fund who is undefeated in races at six furlongs of less, and Majestic Commander, second to Cort’s P. B. is his first start off a 22-month layoff, make this an interesting heat.

$129,625 D. S. “Shine” Young Memorial Futurity (Filly) Division (Race 9, 9:40 p.m.), 5 Furlongs
1. Iknowuthinkimsexy, Donnie Meche, 8/5
1a. Hisse, Corey Lanerie, 8/5
2. Swifty Victress, Sylvester Carmouche Jr., 6/1
3. Ide Better Run, Ricky Faul, 20/1
4. Louisiana Jazz, Earl Bankston III, 10/1
5. Tibbytyme, Kerwin Clark, 10/1
6. Escrito’s Stage, Billy Patin, 15/1
7. Stackin Chips, Gerard Melancon, 15/1
8. Peachsfromthegitgo, Joe Patin Jr., 12/1
9. Biduadeau, Curt Bourque, 15/1 10. Countess Noel, Brian Hernandez,3/1

$131,125 D. S. “Shine” Young Memorial Futurity Division (Colts & Geldings) (Race 10, 10:05 p.m.), 5 Furlongs
1. Must Acquit, Donnie Meche, Even
1a. Cubera, Gerard Melancon, Even
1x. Jumpin For Jason, Corey Lanerie, Even
2. Buster Hut, Joe Patin Jr., 12/1
3. Ide Like A Double, Kerwin Clark, 4/1
4. Freefromthebox, Curt Bourque, 15/1
5. Honour Thy Lover, Steve Bourque, 7/2
6. Big Erl, Willie Lozano Jr., 20/1
7. West Coast Time, C. J. Woodley, 10/1
8. Delta Angel, Brian Hernandez, 20/1

Louisiana HBPA Negotiates Wider Distribution, Live Coverage of Evangeline on TVG
6/6/2007 11:27:44 AM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Summer 2007 

On April 21, the Louisiana Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (HBPA) announced that it had ended a two week holdout of its consent to simulcast races from Evangeline Downs to TVG, an advance deposit wagering company. As a result, the simulcasting of races from Evangeline Downs to TVG resumed at that time.

Sean Alfortish, president of the Louisiana HBPA, said, “Prior to last year’s meet, the horsemen were routinely asked for consent to send simulcast signals of races to TVG, only to learn much later that what we were asked to consent to was for TVG to have the exclusive right to decide to which television networks and account wagering providers the simulcasts were broadcast. This limited access to the general public who could actually watch and wager on the races at Evangeline Downs is not acceptable to horsemen for various reasons, because it hurts the bettors, horsemen, and the racetrack itself. The limited distribution of our signal then results in less revenue to the horsemen and the track, while frustrating the bettors who help finance the sport.”

Alfortish continued, “In the end, Youbet and TVG came together and agreed to provide a wider distribution of the Evangeline Downs product. As a further result, the Louisiana horsemen and Evangeline Downs were provided with a better deal in terms of a host fee arrangement for the sending of their signal, and TVG made guarantees from a production standpoint that Evangeline Downs races would be shown live. We intend to revisit this arrangement at the conclusion of the meet to insure that it is beneficial for all involved.”

When Evangeline Downs began its current race meet on April 4, the Louisiana HBPA refused to grant consent for the simulcasting of the Evangeline Down’s signal to TVG as long as the distribution network did not include other ADWs such as Youbet and a guarantee from TVG about the showing of Evangeline Downs races live, as opposed to taped or not at all. In what took over two weeks of negotiations, Youbet is now in the distribution network, and TVG put guarantees in place to insure that Evangeline Downs races will be shown on a live format. Thus, HBPA President Sean Alfortish, granted consent to Evangeline Downs to send their signal to TVG and Youbet late Friday night, April 20.

You can now watch and wager on Evangeline Downs on TVG and Youbet.com through the remainder of the Thoroughbred race meet ending on September 3, 2007.

Worker's Compensation Update
6/6/2007 11:24:57 AM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Summer 2007 

Dear Horsemen,

By this time, you may have received or will very soon a statement of your starts outside of Louisiana. I want to apologize for my inability to present you with this information sooner and in a timely manner. The database used to retrieve the “out-of-state” starts had some difficulty communicating with the Equibase system used to track starts. It was not until mid-May that we finally had a breakthrough.

These “out-of-state” starts have not been applied to your regular worker’s comp account. Therefore, your statement only reflects “out-of-state” starts and payments towards those starts. This activity will be added to your regular “in-state” starts worker’s comp accounts by the end of the May, or so we anticipate.

As some of you may have noticed, “out-of-state” starts accrued before December 31, 2006, were assessed a fee of $55.00. As of January 1, 2007, “out-of-state” start fees were increased by $5.00 to cover the "out-of-state” exposure and the additional expenses associated in the writing of an “out-of-state” insurance policy with that particular state’s department of insurance.

Several of you have accrued many “out-of-state” starts that have resulted in a large negative balance, for which I will apologize for again. If you are going to have a problem paying your account before the end of the policy period (June 15, 2007), please contact me at my office so that we can work out a payment plan for you. My phone number is (504) 945-1555, ext. 230, or you can e-mail me at rpolini@lahbpa.org.

In the first week of June, I will be sending a statement of your worker’s comp account that will contain all of your transactions, including “in- and out-of-state” starts and all deposits. I deeply regret presenting to you this statement at this point in our initial policy year. I believe this situation has been remedied and should not happen in the future.

I want to thank you for your understanding and cooperation as we continue to learn, improve, and maintain an affordable worker’s compensation program for horsemen.

Sincerely,
Robert E Polini
Louisiana HBPA Worker’s Comp

It's Renewal Time!
6/6/2007 11:23:01 AM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Summer 2007 

Attention – all trainers holding a Louisiana workman’s compensation policy must renew their policy beginning July 1, 2007 for the 2007- 2008 policy year.

As a trainer, you are required by Louisiana law to purchase your worker’s compensation insurance from the Louisiana HBPA. This insurance program belongs to the owners and trainers (members) of the HBPA.

You must fill out your application and deposit $1,200.00 (minimum premium – non-refundable) into your HBPA worker’s compensation insurance program account.

Each time you start a horse, $55.00 will be deducted for an “in-state start”, and a $60.00 fee will be deducted for an “out-of-state start” from your worker’s compensation account.

The HBPA is not set up to be a collection agency, nor do we want to find ourselves in an adversarial position with our members, so remember it is the trainer’s responsibility to keep your accounts fully funded for each start as you would a jockey mount. This will prevent your horses from being scratched. Each trainer must have his own certificate on file with the Louisiana State Racing Commission (LSRC) and the HBPA.

For those trainers who are currently racing outside the state of Louisiana and hold a Louisiana HBPA worker’s compensation policy, please contact one of our offices listed below to avoid interruption in your policy.

Remember, all changes in your work list must be reported to one of the field offices listed below. All claims must be reported within 24 hours of the accident to one of the field offices listed.

July 1, 2007, will mark the one year completion of our insurance program. We have had a good year, but most of all a good learning year. We have learned many ways in which we can improve our program and better service our members. We look forward to working through another year of servicing you … our members!

• Sean Alfortish – Director Workers Compensation
• Tammy Broussard – Assistant Director Workers Compensation
• Evangeline Training Center: (337) 886-6438
• Evangeline Downs Race Track & Casino: (337) 594-8049
• Harrah’s Louisiana Downs: (318) 746-1149
• Louisiana HBPA Main Office: (504) 945-1555

Evangeline Downs: Melancon celebrates 3,000th win
4/26/2007 4:48:09 PM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted 4/25/2007, 4:58 pm

The congratulatory photo following Gerard Melancon's 3,000th win last Thursday night drew an overflow cast of Melancon's fellow riders, who are at Evangeline to take advantage of the big fields at this meet. With 14 horse fields common, the rider fraternity is both large and deep.

Multiple wins on a card have been rare here this season, which made Melancon's double last Thursday just that much sweeter. Needing two wins to reach the milestone, the 39-year-old native of nearby Rayne, La., captured the second race of the evening, so the 3,000-win watch was on.

"After I won the second race, I called my wife and told her to hurry up and bring the boys because I thought tonight was going to be the night," Melancon said after reaching the milestone with Switch Grass Gas in the ninth race of the night.

In addition to his riding peers, Melancon was joined in the winner's circle by his wife, Annette, and sons Jansen and Jonas, the primary reason the four-time riding champ is remaining here this summer instead of moving his tack to Louisiana Downs where he has won multiple riding titles.

Norman Suspension Upheld in Louisiana
4/21/2007 6:30:08 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 4/21/2007 4:37:19 PM Last Updated: 4/21/2007 4:37:19 PM

The Louisiana Racing Commission on Friday upheld trainer Cole Norman's six-month suspension and $1,000 fine for two separate incidents late last year involving total carbon dioxide violations.

LRC executive director Charles Gardiner said Norman, 38, dropped his appeal March 28,so he received retroactive credit for time served. Noman's suspension will continue through Sept. 28, Gardiner said.

Under terms of the suspension, Norman is barred from normal activity at recognized pari-mutuel racetracks, off-track betting facilities and training centers throughout the country, Gardiner said.

Norman, a perennial leading trainer at Oaklawn Park and Louisiana Downs, was fined and suspended by stewards at Delta Downs after Go Poppa Fooze and Bayou de Storm were found to have excessive TCO2 levels following the $150,000 Jean Lafitte Stakes on Nov. 3.

Those levels can be raised through bicarbonate loading, or milk shaking, which is thought to enhance a horse's performance because the increased concentration of carbon dioxide in the bloodstream lessens lactic acid buildup in the muscles, and thus fends off fatigue.

The LRC was scheduled to hear Norman's appeal on Jan. 26, but he received a continuance.

On Feb. 5, Norman was involved in a head-on automobile accident just outside Hot Springs, Ark., that killed Virginia Heath of Hot Springs, a cousin of former President Bill Clinton.

Norman returned to his home in Bossier City, La., shortly after the accident, and his horses began running in the name of assistant Jorge Lara on Feb. 15 at Oaklawn.

Heath's nephew, Randall Parsley, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Norman earlier this month. No charges have been filed in the case, according to the Garland County prosecuting attorney's office.

Lousiana HBPA gives consent for TVG to carry Evangeline Downs' signal
4/21/2007 5:51:07 PM  -  Louisiana HBPA 

Posted: 4/21/2007

The Louisiana Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (HBPA) announced that it has ended a two-week holdout of its consent to simulcast races from Evangeline Downs to TVG, an Advance Deposit Wagering Company; as a result, the simulcasting of races from Evangeline Downs to TVG has now begun.

Sean Alfortish, President of the Louisiana HBPA, said, “Prior to last year’s meet, the horsemen were routinely asked for consent to send simulcast signals of races to TVG only to learn much later, that what we were asked to consent to was for TVG to have the exclusive right to decide which television networks and account wagering providers the simulcasts were broadcast to. This limited access to the general public who could actually watch and wager on the races at Evangeline Downs is not acceptable to horsemen for various reasons, because it hurts the bettors, horsemen, and the race track itself. The limited distribution of our signal then results in less revenue to the horsemen and the track, while frustrating the bettors who help finance the sport. In the end, Youbet and TVG came together and agreed to provide a wider distribution of the Evangeline Downs product. As a further result, the Louisiana horsemen and Evangeline Downs were provided with a better deal in terms of a host fee arrangement for the sending of their signal and TVG made guarantees from a production standpoint that Evangeline Downs races would be shown live. We intend to revisit this arrangement at the conclusion of the meet to insure that it is beneficial for all involved.”

When Evangeline Downs began their current race meet on April 4th, the LAHBPA refused to grant consent for the simulcasting of the Evangeline Down’s signal to TVG as long as the distribution network did not include other ADW’s such as Youbet and a guarantee from TVG about the showing of Evangeline Downs races live, as opposed to taped or not at all. In what took over two weeks of negotiations, Youbet is now in the distribution network, and TVG put guarantees in place to insure that Evangeline Downs races will be shown on a live format. Thus, HBPA President Sean Alfortish, granted consent to Evangeline Downs to send their signal to TVG and Youbet late Friday night. You can now watch and wager on Evangeline Downs on TVG and Youbet.com through the remainder of the Thoroughbred race meet ending on September 3, 2007.

For additional information contact: Mona Romero, Executive Director 318-393-7717.

Hard Spun ruled out of Blue Grass Stakes
4/11/2007 2:10:22 PM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Posted: Monday, April 09, 2007 3:41 PM

Lane’s End Stakes (G2) winner Hard Spun will not run in the $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G1) on Saturday because of changes in his training schedule brought about by the recent unseasonably cold weather in Kentucky, trainer Larry Jones said on Monday.

The three-year-old Danzig colt, winner of the Lane’s End Stakes on March 24 at Turfway Park, will work later this week at Churchill Downs. Jones will try to determine during the breeze if the colt likes the racing surface at Churchill enough to consider running Hard Spun in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) on May 5.

Hard Spun, owned by Rick Porter’s Fox Hill Farms, galloped 1 1/2 miles on the Polytrack surface at Keeneland Race Course on Monday. Jones said he planned to send Hard Spun to Churchill on Tuesday but instead decided to wait until later this week when the weather warms up a bit and the track gets back to normal.

“Our number-one objective is to try to get to the Kentucky Derby,” Jones said. “We really want to know if he’s going to handle the track [at Churchill Downs]. We want to give him a fair chance and we want to give the Churchill track a fair chance to see if that’s where we need to be.

“If we do take him over and he does act like he does not care for it, we’ll apparently run here in the Coolmore Lexington [Stakes (G2) on April 21 at Keeneland] and then go to the Preakness [Stakes (G1) at Pimlico Race Course on May 19] from there. That’s the only two options we’re down to now.”

Hard Spun has won five of his six career starts but finished a disappointing fourth in the Southwest Stakes on February 19 at Oaklawn Park on a surface Jones said the colt did not like. He bounced back with a 3 1/4-length victory in the Lane’s End on Turfway’s Polytrack surface.

“If we’re going to the Derby, we’re going straight there off the Lane’s End and this [week’s] work,” Jones said. “He’s where we want him to be going into the Derby. But if we feel like we have to miss the Derby, like Churchill’s [track is] not going to agree with him, we’ll run in the Coolmore Lexington and go to the Preakness. If we’re going to the Preakness, we definitely want a race into him before that.

“Hopefully, in a perfect world, we’re going to have the Derby as the race prepping him for the Preakness.”

Five horses currently are listed as probable for the Blue Grass Stakes, including champion two-year-old colt Street Sense, Grade 1 winner Great Hunter, Rushaway Stakes winner Dominican, Southwest Stakes winner Teuflesberg, and Grade 2-placed Zanjero.

Louisiana HBPA Rejects Exclusive TVG Deal
4/6/2007 10:05:47 AM  -  LA HBPA 

Posted: 4/5/2007

The Louisiana HBPA has decided not to consent to the sending of the Evangeline Downs simulcast signal to TVG under an arrangement where TVG receives the simulcast signal to the exclusion of all other similar account wagering companies. This decision was made on the belief that the exclusion of the other competing companies is not in the best interest of the Louisiana horsemen or the racing industry under the methods employed by TVG.

Sean Alfortish, President of the Louisiana HBPA said, “To help the horsemen understand the reasons for this decision, I would like to inform them of some of the circumstances. Under the terms of the TVG “exclusive” simulcasting contract, TVG makes more money on their host fee than the hosts, Louisiana horsemen and Evangeline Downs, combined. TVG also holds the exclusive right to sell the simulcasting signal to other TVG competitors such as Youbet.com and Americatab.com and offers the simulcasting signal for sale in exchange for a host fee that is almost triple what has been the fee in the past, with the overwhelmingly larger share of the fee being retained by TVG. The Louisiana HBPA believes that the effect of TVG’s resale method has been the pricing of TVG’s competitors “out of the market” meaning the growth of the market for our simulcast signals is stifled. It is a historic fact that Youbet.com has not taken the Evangeline Downs signal since the last meet and as a result, the horsemen and track are missing out on the millions of dollars wagered on Youbet’s share of the market. This TVG exclusive agreement seems to provide an unfair impediment to the open market place where horsemen and tracks have the greatest opportunity to maximize their revenue from their product.”

The Louisiana HBPA has other concerns about the TVG exclusive simulcast contract including these. TVG takes wagers from fewer states, TVG’s televised programming routinely shows Evangeline’s races after they are over when it is obviously too late to take wagers, and sometimes Evangeline’s races aren’t shown at all. TVG has reasserted that the Evangeline Downs simulcast signal will not be shown live if any other track with an exclusive TVG agreement is racing.

The Louisiana HBPA’s board of directors unanimously authorized its President to take all necessary action to withhold consent from any Louisiana track entering into exclusive agreements with TVG and to take all steps necessary to keep the Louisiana horsemen from being subject to the negative effects of the exclusive agreements. The Louisiana HBPA acknowledges its willingness to consent to sending TVG the Evangeline Downs simulcast signal under acceptable terms of a non-exclusive agreement.

For additional information contact: Mona Romero, Executive Director at: 504-945-1555

Evangeline Downs: Biggest fields in America race here
4/4/2007 12:46:38 PM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted 4/2/2007, 6:02 pm

OPELOUSAS, La. - Every racetrack strives to have big fields, and Evangeline Downs is succeeding.

Buoyed last year by a 30 percent increase in all-sources handle and the highest average number of starters per race (9.9) in the country, this southern Louisiana track begins its meeting Wednesday night.

The 89-day stand runs through the traditional Labor Day closing and offers $150,000 in daily purses, a figure the track's executive director of racing, David Yount, expects to build on as the meeting progresses.

"It's a starting point," said Yount. "Our slots continue to do strong business. Another one of our offtrack betting parlors will be going on-line with video poker in June, and our simlucasting continues to do well. We hope to move forward with our purses as the meeting progresses.

"We hope to build on our success of last season, and only hope to move forward."

The 18 stakes this meet are worth $1.78 million. The centerpiece once again is Louisiana Legends Night, a card of 11 races restricted to Louisiana-breds on June 30. Each race is named for prominent Louisiana horsemen.

The Evangeline Mile's purse has been increased from $150,000 to $200,000, and it's the meet's richest race. It will be run on Aug. 11.

Perennial top trainer Keith Bourgeois returns to defend his title but is expected to get serious competition this year from Gary Patrick, the leading trainer in Indiana last year. Patrick has approximately 50 horses split between the backstretch here and the old Evangeline Downs, which now serves as a training center. Other trainers expected to make an impact are Andy Leggio, Eddie Johnston, Howard Alonzo, and Shane Wilson.

The jockey colony appears strong with returning leading rider Kirk LeBlanc set to battle Tracy Hebert, the runaway winner at the recently concluded Delta Downs meeting, and four-time riding champ Gerard Melancon.

Wednesday's opening-day card drew 112 entries for the 10-race program. In the featured ninth race, Sienna Sunrise could be a slight favorite off a game win in optional allowance company at Delta Downs.

Bettors back return of Fair Grounds
3/28/2007 5:10:33 PM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Posted: Monday, March 26, 2007 12:12 PM

Bettors supported racing’s return to New Orleans as Fair Grounds registered increases in on-track and all-sources handle for its 81-day meeting that wrapped up on Sunday.

A daily average of $4,432,445 was wagered from all sources, up 5.9% compared to the 2004-’05 meeting. Racing was not conducted in New Orleans in 2005-’06 because of Hurricane Katrina. A total of $359,028,007 was wagered during the recently concluded meet.

While attendance was down 10.1 %, thanks in part to the decrease in New Orleans population that followed Katrina, on-track daily handle was up 2.2% to $226,377.

Fair Grounds distributed a record $31.3-million in purses, an average of $387,422 a day. The average, also a record, was up 44.7% compared to 2004-’05.

Because of stronger than anticipated business levels at its affiliated off-track betting and video poker operations, and the increase in all-sources wagering, Fair Grounds was able to increase overnight purses three times during the 2006-‘07 meet.

“This season was at the same time unique, memorable, and rewarding,” said Fair Grounds President Randall Soth. “Going into the season, it was hard to set expectations, particularly in terms of our on-track business. However, it quickly became clear that racing fans in the New Orleans area and simulcast patrons nationwide would once again embrace our product, and for that we are extremely grateful.

“Personally, I will take away two moments from this season that will be etched in my memory forever—our reopening on Thanksgiving Day and the local crowd that filled our facility to welcome racing back to New Orleans, and the Louisiana Derby (G2) day program, which was one of the finest days of racing I have ever witnessed.”

On track, local connections came up big. New Orleans native Tom Amoss won 52 races to capture his ninth Fair Grounds training title and first since 2001. Amoss moved within one of Jack Van Berg’s Fair Grounds record of ten seasons as leading trainer. Cody Autrey was second with 42 wins.

Joseph Talamo, a 17-year-old from suburban New Orleans, became the first apprentice jockey on record to win a Fair Grounds riding title. Talamo finished with 119 wins, 25 more than six-time Fair Grounds leading rider Robby Albarado. Talamo fell three wins short of the apprentice wins record at a Fair Grounds meet of 122 set 32 years ago by Angelo Trosclair.

Autrey’s primary clients, Sandy and Jerry Heflin of Rockwall, Texas, won 30 races to capture their first Fair Grounds owner title. The Heflins were leading owners last summer at Lone Star Park.

Gaff, Corrupt Headline Fair Grounds Stakes Saturday
3/23/2007 4:03:27 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 3/22/2007 10:37:55 PM Last Updated: 3/23/2007 8:13:31 AM

Gaff and Corrupt, both stakes winners during the Fair Grounds Race Course meet, headline the first of two five-stakes programs on Louisiana Lagniappe Weekend Saturday.

Heiligbrodt Racing Stable and Michael Smurfit’s Gaff, winner of the Taylor’s Special Handicap Feb. 10 and the Bonapaw Stakes before that, tops a field of nine in Saturday’s $150,000 Duncan F. Kenner Breeders’ Cup Stakes.

Team Block and William Farish’s Corrupt, who won the Mardi Gras Stakes Feb. 26, faces six rivals in the inaugural running of the $100,000 Grindstone Stakes earlier in the day.

The Kenner BC, at six furlongs for 3-year-olds and upward, and the Grindstone, restricted to sophomores and run at about 1 1/16 miles on the grass, are joined by three stakes restricted to Louisiana-breds, all with $100,000 purses, to complete Saturday’s stakes quintet.

Capable of providing strong competition for Gaff in the Kenner BC is Gary and Don Holcomb’s Venomous, winner of Fair Grounds’ Colonel Power Stakes Jan. 13. Venomous was beaten less than a half-length by Gaff when third in the Bonapaw.

Not to be discounted when facing Corrupt in the Grindstone is Amerman Racing Stables' Mayor Bozarth, fourth in the Mardi Gras but back at a preferred longer distance Saturday.

The Red Camelia Handicap for fillies and mares at about 1 1/16 miles on the grass, the Louisiana Lagniappe Classic for older horses and the Crescent City Oaks for 3-year-old fillies make up the state-bred portion of stakes on the 10-race program.

Sport of Kings Racing’s Raspberry Wine, who captured the Louisiana Premier Night Distaff at Delta Downs on Feb. 3 after winning the Camelia at Delta on Jan. 13, is asked to shoulder the top impost of 120 pounds when facing 10 rivals in the Red Camelia. Raspberry Wine is cross-entered in another stakes event Sunday on the main track.

Brittlyn Stable Inc.’s Mean Butterbean, a gutsy second by a head to Costa Rising in Fair Grounds’ Louisiana Champions Day Classic Dec. 9 and most recently runner-up to that same rival in the Louisiana Premier Night Championship last month at Delta, heads a field of eight, including an entry mate, in Saturday’s Lagniappe Classic.

Valene Farms’ Princess Delight, winner of Fair Grounds’ Happy Ticket Stakes March 3, tops nine sophomore members of the distaff set in the Crescent City Oaks.

$150,000 Duncan F. Kenner Breeders' Cup Stakes (Race 9, 4:39 p.m.), 3 & Up, 6 Furlongs

PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, ML Odds
1. Saint Anddan (KY), Joseph Talamo, 117, 8/1
2. Smoke Mountain (KY), Corey J. Lanerie, 117, 8/1
3. Smalltown Slew (MS), James Graham, 117, 7/2
4. Santana Strings (FL), Ramsey Zimmerman, 117, 12/1
5. Who Let the Cat In (KY), Kirk P. LeBlanc, 116, 15/1
6. Venomous (TX), Elvis J. Perrodin, 121, 6/1
7. Monkey Hill (CA, Gerard Melancon, 117, 9/2
8. Thunder Mission (KY), Robby Albarado, 117, 15/1
9. Gaff (KY), Donnie J. Meche, 121, 5/2

Youbet.com, Delta Downs Ink Promotional Deal
3/20/2007 4:13:15 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 3/20/2007 1:16:24 PM Last Updated: 3/20/2007 1:16:24 PM

Youbet.com has signed a co-promotion agreement with Boyd Gaming’s Delta Downs Racetrack & Casino in Louisiana to help build the track’s online pari-mutuel handle over the next three years.

The agreement calls for Youbet.com to feature Delta Downs racing content on its online advance deposit wagering site and use its e-direct marketing and customer incentive programs to develop national wagering handle for the track. The key target for the co-promotion is Youbet.com’s customer base of nearly 200,000 subscribers who wagered more than $463 million last year.

“Delta Downs’ racing product has experienced tremendous growth in recent years, and with the help of Youbet we expect that trend to continue well into the future,” said Jack Bernsmeier, general manager of Delta Downs.

Said Louisiana Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association president Sean Alfortish: “I truly believe the Delta Downs-Youbet partnership will produce increased contributions to the horsemen’s purse account. As both a horseman and an enthusiastic fan of the sport, I have been very impressed with the features and functionality of Youbet’s wagering service and I think customers will respond to it very favorably.”

In addition to race features on the Web site Youbet expects to deploy its Youbet Advantage player points program to provide Delta Downs customers with the opportunity to earn double rewards on selected race cards. Youbet also will be the presenting sponsor of the $300,000 Delta Downs Princess Stakes race on Delta Jackpot Night, the main event of the season.

Delta Downs has agreed to promote online wagering at Youbet.com with on-track signage, print advertising, simulcast television spots, and Delta Downs home page banner advertisements. It also will stage Youbet.com sign-up opportunities at the track and conduct online handicapping contests with Youbet.com on Delta Downs races.

“This long term co-promotion arrangement with Boyd’s Delta Downs is exciting,” Youbet.com chief executive officer Charles Champion said. “We are joining forces with one of the top brands in gaming to unleash the full power of our marketing and distribution platform and expose Delta’s product to our large audience of pari-mutuel wagering customers.”

Elements of the co-promotion agreement will be implemented during the final month of the current Delta Downs Thoroughbred meet.

Fair Grounds Hikes Purses 25% for Final Two Weeks
3/15/2007 3:36:11 PM  -  Fair Grounds 

Date Posted: 3/15/2007 9:46:32 AM Last Updated: 3/15/2007 9:46:32 AM

Fair Grounds has increased overnight purses 25%--$12,000 per race--effective March 15. It's the third purse hike during the current meet at the Louisiana racetrack.

The purse enhancements were implemented due to several factors, including continued better-than-expected business levels at Fair Grounds and its eight affiliated off-track betting facilities in southeast Louisiana, and record on-track and all-sources handle on Louisiana Derby (gr. II) day March 10.

Overnight purses were increased $3,000 per race in mid-January, and $3,500 per race in early February. The 25% increase means $5,000 claimers will run for more than $30,000, and maiden special weight events will go for about $60,000.

The Fair Grounds meet concludes March 25.

Fair Grounds: Appealing Zophie to undergo myectomy, Etc.
3/15/2007 3:23:22 PM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted 3/13/2007, 6:05 pm

Steve Asmussen prefers not to make excuses when he sends out a losing horse. He even declined to do so for Appealing Zophie, though she might have had a significant one for finishing last of eight Saturday in the Fair Grounds Oaks.

"It is what it is - a bad day," Asmussen said Tuesday of Appealing Zophie's disappointing effort. But Asmussen added that this week Appealing Zophie would undergo a myectomy, a routine surgical process that can keep a horse from losing her air during the stress of a race.

If Appealing Zophie flipped her soft palate and lost her air in the Fair Grounds Oaks, a sizzling early pace could have contributed to it. Appealing Zophie had the lead through a half-mile in about 50 seconds when she easily won the Feb. 11 Silverbulletday; this time, she tracked a half-mile fraction of 46.99 seconds before fading badly. Amazingly, the horse setting the pace, California-based Mistical Plan, was never threatened while winning by more than three lengths.

The Asmussen-trained Zanjero did better in Saturday's Louisiana Derby, finishing third, and Asmussen will have horses in upcoming 3-year-old stakes in Arkansas and New Mexico. And at Fair Grounds, Asmussen's most accomplished 3-year-old, Tiz Wonderful, has returned to training after an injured tendon had forced him to the sidelines. Tiz Wonderful won all three starts last year at 2, including a half-length victory over Sam F. Davis stakes winner Any Given Saturday in the Kentucky Jockey Club, but was hurt before he could make his 3-year-old debut.

Tiz Wonderful walked the shed row for several weeks while the tendon's healing was monitored. Now, he is taking one-mile jogs around the racetrack.

"Absolutely, it's good to have him back," said Asmussen, who added it was premature to consider when and where Tiz Wonderful might make his first start of the year.

King's Drama 'jogging sound'

King's Drama was pulled up on the backstretch of Saturday's Mervin Muniz Handicap, a rare blemish on what has been an excellent Fair Grounds meet for trainer Bobby Frankel.

King's Drama, the favorite in the Muniz, was taken out of the race by Edgar Prado about a half-mile from the finish, but didn't appear to have suffered any serious injury. Frankel said Tuesday that King's Drama might have injured a tendon sheath, but that the horse was "jogging sound," and would undergo further evaluation once he returned to California.

Frankel won two allowance races on Saturday's card, one with Piety, a horse he owns himself, the other with Dubai Gold, who looked like a horse to watch after easily beating second-level allowance horses in his first turf start. Frankel said Dubai Gold would come back in a Keeneland allowance race.

On Monday, the Frankel barn sent out its second debut winner of the meet, a 3-year-old named Mast Track - another horse Frankel himself owns - who impressively won a turf sprint by three lengths. Though the Frankel barn, overseen by Scott Hansen, has fewer starters than any other among the top 20 at the Fair Grounds meet, Frankel is 12th in the trainer standings with 12 victories - not bad for a winter satellite operation.

"It's been an excellent meet so far," Frankel said. "Scott's doing a good job down there."

Smitty's Sunshine finds her niche

Smitty's Sunshine is a Louisiana-bred 3-year-old filly by the little-known stallion Seeking a Home. She also has been unbeatable in turf sprints, running her record in such races to 4 for 4 with a dominant win Saturday in the $100,000 Bienville Stakes.

"The way I've always felt about pedigree is, a runner's a runner," said Morris Nicks, who trains Smitty's Sunshine for owner Roger Smith.

Smitty's Sunshine isn't terrible on dirt, and she actually carried her speed a mile on turf winning a Louisiana Downs allowance race last fall, but going short on the grass clearly is her forte, and Smitty's Sunshine might be a better horse now than when she won the Pent Up Kiss Stakes by a half-length last Nov. 12 at Churchill.

"I've been real pleased with her performances this meet," said Nicks, who plans to send Smitty's Sunshine to Kentucky for her next stakes race, at either Keeneland or Churchill.

Smitty's Sunshine, 4, whom Nicks held out of her 2-year-old season so the filly could physically mature, has brilliant gate speed and has been on the lead in all her turf victories.

"I really think she enjoys doing that," Nicks said. "Some of them will run three-eighths hard and then quit. She just gets into another gear."

Cajun Jockey Challenge, "Legends Night" Highlight 2007 Spring/Summer Meet at Evangeline
3/13/2007 3:20:16 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Spring 2007 

Intent on capitalizing and building on its most successful season ever, Evangeline Downs Racetrack and Casino has announced the creation of the Cajun Jockey Challenge. The Cajun Jockey Challenge will feature 11 nationally known current riders, as well as Evangeline Downs’ leading rider, at a designated time competing against each other in a series of four races. The riders, as well as other notables in the sport of horse racing, including Hall of Fame Jockey Pat Day (on behalf of the Racetrack Chaplaincy program), will participate in a photo and autograph signing session on that same evening.

Long known as the birthplace of riders, Evangeline Downs and the surrounding area have been home to and/or the starting off point for dozens of jockeys who competed and succeeded at the highest levels of our sport. They include Hall of Fame inductees such as Eddie Delahoussaye, Kent Desormeaux, and Eric Guerin, as well as Shane Sellers, Robbie Albarado, Randy Romero, Ray Sibille, Calvin Borel, and Ronald Ardoin, to name just a few.

Executive Director of Racing Operations David A. Yount stated, “Sports fans are drawn to heroes, and horse racing is no exception. We are naturally proud of the heritage that Evangeline Downs and South Central Louisiana has in our great sport and feel that by honoring and providing a showcase for them (past and present), it will be a rewarding experience for all those who participate, as well as their fans.”

Tentatively scheduled to be held in July, the list of those selected to compete and attend what promises to be a terrific night in Thoroughbred racing will be available in the near future.

The third edition of “Legends Night”, as well as the Evangeline Mile, headline the 2007 stakes calendar. The “Mile”, with a purse of $200,000 – an increase of $50,000 for 2007 – is once again expected to attract not only the top handicap horses in Louisiana, but from across the country as Evangeline Downs continues to assume a more prominent position nationwide. “Legends Night”, a stakes laden program restricted to horses bred in the Pelican state, honors those who have made an indelible impact and contribution to both Evangeline Downs and racing in the state of Louisiana. Last year’s edition featured ten stakes races worth a total of $720,000.

Delta Downs Thoroughbred Season Drawing to a Close
3/13/2007 3:18:26 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Spring 2007 

Delta Downs Racetrack Casino & Hotel is entering the final stages of is 2006-2007 Thoroughbred meeting. The season includes 88-day of racing from November 1, 2006 through March 31, 2007. The track is racing live each Wednesday through Saturday night, with first post time each evening scheduled for 6:20 p.m.

On December 1, Delta Downs hosted the fourth edition of Boyd Gaming’s $1 Million Delta Jackpot Stakes. It was an historic night as the race became the first ever graded stakes event for the Thoroughbred breed ever contested at the Vinton, Louisiana oval. Prior to the cancellation of the track’s 2005-2006 Thoroughbred season due to Hurricane Rita, the Jackpot was granted grade III status by the North American Graded Stakes Committee.

This year’s Delta Jackpot was won by the Floridabred Birdbirdistheword, owned by Raymond H. Cottrell of Kentucky. The dark bay son of Pure Prize was ridden to victory by Louisiana native Robby Albarado, who accepted the mount from trainer Kenneth McPeek. With his earnings in the Jackpot, Birdbirdistheword is now well positioned to take a run at this year’s Triple Crown events. His connections have said they plan to run him in the Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds in New Orleans to begin his trek toward the nation’s top 3-year-old races.

Delta Downs will wrap up its current Thoroughbred season with four stakes races worth a combined $350,000 on Saturday, March 31. The closing night fare will include the $100,000 Goddess Stakes, the $100,000 Gulf Coast Classic, the $75,000 Green Oaks Stakes, and the $75,000 Sportsman’s Paradise.

Delta Downs’ 2007 American Quarter Horse season will begin on April 19 and run through July 15. Live racing will take place each Thursday through Sunday night during the stand, with post times set for 6:20 p.m. Highlights during the American Quarter Horse season include MBNA America East Regional Challenge Night on Saturday, May 19, the Firecracker Futurity and Derby to be held on Sunday, July 1, and another edition of Louisiana Showcase Night, featuring state-bred stakes events on closing night, Sunday, July 15.

Super Derby, Worker's Comp, New Hotel and OTB Fuel Excitement at Harrah's Louisiana Downs
3/13/2007 3:16:51 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Spring 2007 

Louisiana Downs horsemen have plenty of reasons to look forward to a great 2007 race meeting following a successful season which saw average race handle grow by over 15%. The 2006 meet was highlighted by Super Derby XXVII and a memorable stretch duel in which Strong Contender bested Lawyer Ron at the wire. This year’s meet will go to post on May 4 and run 92-days through October 20.

Super Derby XXVIII will be held on September 22 , 2007, a day that will feature five stakes worth $1.3-million, including the $200,000 Sunday Silence for two-year-olds on the grass, the country’s richest prep race for the new $1-million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf race. Last year’s renewal was captured with a flashy move by Birdbirdistheword. The Sunday Silence will also have a counterpart in the $200,000 Happy Ticket for two-year-old fillies on the turf – named for the all-time leading Louisiana-bred that was undefeated in six starts at the Bossier City track.

Purses will once again be at $200,000 a day, and Racing Secretary Tony Patterson anticipates a strong backside in May. In addition to slot machines fueling purses in Louisiana, another significant advantage to training and racing in Louisiana is the new worker’s comp program that went into effect in the summer of 2006. This program offer worker’s comp rates of 8.9% of payroll, one of the lowest in the country, saving trainers thousands each month. Trainers who make 100 starts in Louisiana each year can also apply this program to their subsequent starts around the country. Interested trainers should contact the Louisiana HBPA for more information.

One more reason for optimism is the groundbreaking of a hotel on the Harrah’s Louisiana Downs property, which is scheduled to happen by the end of February 2007. The hotel is expected to enhance revenues and purses from both slots and racing and will open in 2008.

In addition, Harrah’s Louisiana Downs is looking to grow purses beyond the racino property. For the first time in the track’s 34-year history, Louisiana Downs received approval from the Louisiana State Racing Commission to operate a new OTB parlor in Mound, Louisiana. The measure was approved in January, and if everything goes well, the OTB will be up and running this summer.

Workers Compensation Update
3/13/2007 3:14:38 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Spring 2007 

Dear Horsemen,

We now have 814 participants enrolled in the Louisiana HBPA workers’ compensation program, of which 13 are farm-only policies. We have had positive feedback from a few of the horsemen about how the program is structured. We will conduct a survey of the program during the month of March, and your feedback about your concerns and what we could do as an organization to improve and streamline this program is important to us. We would like to hear your thoughts and interest on topics that we may need to emphasize or initiate.

As an update on our database solutions, we are aggressively stressing the importance of a streamlined database that will encompass the number of starts in the State of Louisiana and the number of starts outside the State of Louisiana for each participating member with all-states policies. We are very close to resolving the out-of-state starts issues and incorporating the number of out-of-state starts and the monies to which we are now currently sending invoices. We are also tracking employees as they change employers within the industry.

We have had some setbacks implementing the enrollment of our safety program, but we expect to be fully operational before the end of this quarter. All grooms, exercise riders, hot walkers, etc. will be required to participate in these safety courses and will be certified upon completion, before the end of the policy period. Class dates and times will be posted in each Louisiana HBPA Field Office and will also be displayed on the Louisiana HBPA website.

Payroll reporting is another issue that is a huge concern. Most members have been deficient in forwarding supporting documents with the payroll worksheet. We will have Louisiana HBPA representatives calling on individual members, inquiring about the status of their account. Items that are needed for payroll reporting are 1) quarterly payroll reports, or 2) cancelled checks or cash receipts, or 3) a payroll worksheet, signed and dated, indicating that you or your corporation did not have any payroll.

Concerns About Horsemen Shipping in from Out-Of-State

The Louisiana HBPA has ship-in packages for horses that are running in stakes races only. All others shippers are required to pay the minimum non-refundable $1,200.00 deposit, and they may run 21 horses for this amount. Thereafter, they will need to fund their account accordingly at a rate of $55.00 per start.

The ship-in package for stakes races only is structured two ways: 1) a horseman may start one or more starters in stakes races only on the same day for $500.00, payable to the Louisiana HBPA, or 2) a horseman may start up to three starters in stakes races only on any given day during the policy period for $750.00, payable to the Louisiana HBPA.

If a horseman has already met any of these two criteria and would like to start one or more horses after they have already paid accordingly to which package they had chosen and submitted their application, they could submit the difference between their initial deposit and the required minimum $1,200.00.

Ex: (One start, $500.00) + additional starts = ($700.00), totaling $1,200.00.

Ex: (Three starts, $750.00) + additional starts = ($450.00), totaling $1,200.00.

You cannot pay the difference between the $500.00 and the $750.00 for additional starts. You must meet the minimum required $1,200.00 deposit.

Sincerely,
Nick Leggio
Director of Workers Comp.

Louisiana Changes Claiming Rule
3/13/2007 3:11:13 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Spring 2007 

On January 26, 2007 the Louisiana State Racing Commission, at the request of the Louisiana HBPA, voted to change the existing claiming rule which provided for a 25% increase in the claiming price for a period of 30 days when claiming a horse.

The new rule will go into effect at the onset of the Evangeline Downs and Louisiana Downs spring and summer 2007 race meets. The amendment to §9905. Timing of Entering Next Claiming race, will read as follows:

“A. Except as otherwise provided herein, a claimed horse shall not enter in optional or claiming races for 30 days after being claimed in a race in which the determining eligibility price is less than the price at which the horse was claimed. The day claimed shall not count, but the following calendar day shall be the first day and the horse shall be entitled to enter whenever necessary so the horse may start on the 31st day following the claim for any claiming price. This provision shall not apply to starter handicaps in which the weight to be carried is assigned by the handicapper. A similar rule in other states will be recognized and enforced.”

It is our hope that the amendment to the claiming rule will introduce new owners to the industry, while making the turnaround investment for existing owners more affordable and attractive, thus enticing an owner to become a multiple horse owner or stable.

La. Downs racing secretary resigns
3/13/2007 9:31:28 AM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted 3/10/2007, 7:13 pm

Tony Patterson has resigned as racing secretary of Louisiana Downs in Bossier City, La., said Mark Midland, the track's vice president of racing operations, on Saturday. Patterson's final day will be March 24, which is the last day of entries for the current Quarter Horse meet, said Midland. The season ends on March 27.

"I have decided to pursue an opportunity outside the racing industry here in Bossier City," Patterson said in a release issued by Louisiana Downs. "I have worked in racing for many years, but felt like it was time to try something new."

Midland said a search for a new racing secretary will begin immediately. Louisiana Downs will open a Thoroughbred meet on May 4.

Patterson came on board as racing secretary at Louisiana Downs last April, following the resignation of Pat Pope. Patterson has served as racing secretary for two meets at the track, including the Thoroughbred season in 2006.

Fair Grounds plans to move forward with slot machine plans
2/19/2007 8:53:56 AM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Posted: 2/14/2007

Fair Grounds and its parent company, Churchill Downs Inc., on Wednesday confirmed their intent to move forward with plans to build a slot machine facility adjacent to the New Orleans track.

Construction of a 30,000-foot facility that would house a maximum of 700 slot machines was originally scheduled to begin in September 2005. Those plans were delayed when Hurricane Katrina caused significant damage to the track and its stable area.

“Following the hurricane, our priorities were to locate our employees and help them with their immediate needs, and then repair and reopen our pari-mutuel and video poker facilities,” said Steve Sexton, Churchill Downs Inc. executive vice president. “With our repairs completed and this season’s race meet well under way, we can now focus fully on plans to implement slot machine gaming at Fair Grounds.”

Fair Grounds is also seeking permission to renovate the first floor of its on-track simulcast wagering parlor and operate a temporary facility that will house 225 slot machines until the permanent facility is built. The request is subject to the approval of the New Orleans City Planning Commission and New Orleans City Council.

“We think it makes good sense to operate out of a temporary facility while the permanent building is under construction so we can start the flow of tax revenues to the city of New Orleans and the state of Louisiana—and generate additional money for horsemen’s purses—as soon as possible,” said Randy Soth, Fair Grounds’ president and general manager. “By starting in a smaller facility, we can also fine tune operational and customer service issues well before we open the permanent facility.”

Pending approval, renovations to the simulcast wagering facility would begin in late spring, with a target date of October for opening the temporary facility. Construction of the permanent facility, which has already been approved by New Orleans city officials, is scheduled to begin this summer, with a target completion date of late fall in 2008.

Fair Grounds: Strong tornado narrowly misses track
2/19/2007 8:38:58 AM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted 2/15/2007, 6:17 pm

NEW ORLEANS - Fair Grounds Race Course, which was shredded two years ago by hurricanes Katrina and Rita, narrowly escaped another disaster early Tuesday morning when a tornado passed right over the barn area without causing significant damage. At 2:55 a.m., a tornado smashed into Westwego, across the Mississippi River from Fair Grounds, then bounced over the river and landed in the Carrollton section of the city just west of the track, where it caused widespread damage and injured 25 people. The tornado continued on a track directly over the barn area, building to a storm with winds up to 135 mph before it touched down in Gentilly, a few blocks east of the track, where more houses were leveled and a woman was killed in another destructive swath.

"It came right across the barn area, but the only damage was a couple of old skylights popped out of the barns," said veteran Fair Grounds trainer Gary Palmisano, who works out of Barn 3 on the backstretch.

Other than suffering the same power outage that blanketed the city, Fair Grounds came out of this storm relatively unscathed.

Fair Grounds relaxes allowance conditions
2/7/2007 8:29:27 AM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted 1/31/2007, 7:02 pm

Horsemen who run allowance-class stock often bemoan the persistent difficulty of filling higher-class allowance races, and to try to alleviate that problem, Fair Grounds has, in its current condition book, loosened the allowance conditions at some levels. In such spots, wins in statebred-restricted races don't count against a horse's eligibility for an open allowance condition. For example, a horse might have won several Louisiana-bred stakes races, but could still retain his eligibility for, say, an open second-level allowance race.

That situation is not purely theoretical. It's happening to some degree in Friday's featured ninth race, a second-level allowance race also open to $35,000 claimers and carded for 5 1/2 furlongs. There, Ida Maria, a four-time winner who missed by a half-length in the Dec. 9 Louisiana Champions Day Ladies Sprint, appears to have an edge over six less-accomplished rivals. On Saturday, Dastardly Deeds gets to drop in class from a third-level allowance race to a second-level allowance after finishing second to the graded-stakes-class Devilment last out. And Mr. Sulu, who has won the Louisiana Champions Day turf three times and has 11 victories in his career, finds himself eligible for an open second-level allowance race.

"It means some of these statebred horses can get in there and compete a little," said Pat Mouton, Ida Maria's trainer. "If I were to take Maria and run her in a wide-open allowance, I don't think she's got a shot of winning. So, this gives me an option to run the horse. I could've run her [in a stakes] at Delta on Saturday night, but she's not a five-furlong horse, and she doesn't like running under the lights. I can't run her for a tag. A horse who's a two-other-than or a three-other-than ought to be able compete with her."

That remains to be seen, at least in Friday's race. Ida Maria looks like the favorite, but Gleaming Elegance, a fast Steve Asmussen-trained filly, makes her first start since August, and trainer Tom Amoss has a decent filly named Ocean Current entered. Ida Maria, meanwhile, turned in a nice closing run last out while just nosed by another Amoss horse, Ada's Dream, in an open third-level allowance race. Two starts ago, she got trapped down inside when narrowly beaten in the Champions Day Ladies Sprint, by Carl's Frosty Girl - who also resides in the Mouton shed row.

"I was in a win-win situation that day," Mouton said.

Louisiana Track News
1/21/2007 8:24:46 AM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted: 1/18/2007

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.

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.

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.

Fair Grounds raising purses
1/17/2007 4:40:01 PM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted: 1/12/2007

Fair Grounds Race Course will increase its overnight purses by 10 percent beginning Thursday.

Overnight purses will be increased by $3,000 per race because of better-than-expected revenue from video poker business at Fair Grounds and its eight offtrack betting operations in the New Orleans area.

The increase does not affect stakes races.

The changes will increase the average daily purse distribution at Fair Grounds to approximately $370,000, the highest ever at a New Orleans meet.

Sandburr takes paceless Louisiana BC
1/7/2007 5:33:40 PM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted: 1/6/2007

Sandburr stalked a walking pace set by Jonesboro and took over in the stretch Saturday to win the $75,000 Louisiana Breeders' Cup Handicap at Fair Grounds.

Jockey James Graham sent Sandburr, who normally runs from off the pace, right after Jonesboro and Donnie Meche at the start of the race.

The tandem loafed through a 25.31-second quarter-mile and a half-mile in 49.40 seconds while the 4-5 favorite, Patriot Act, lingered in last until jockey Robby Albarado asked him for run a half-mile from home.

"Going down the backside he was just floating along," said Graham. "The horse was running the way he was comfortable. When we were going around the turn, Donnie Meche's horse was flicking his ears and I knew my horse was comfortable. He finished up like a freight train."

Sandburr ($11) hit the front and held Jonesboro at bay through the stretch run to win by three-quarters of a length, getting the 1 1/16 miles in 1:45.10. Patriot Act closed to finish third, another half-length back.

Wining trainer Michael Stidham praised Graham's ride after the race.

"James came over to the barn this morning and watched his last three races," said Stidham. "Most of the time he's sitting back off of fast fractions. The way it turned out, you see him that close and you get worried, then when you look up and see 25 and change, you say that's where he's supposed to be."

Louisiana jockey LeBlanc dies in car accident
12/19/2006 9:21:40 AM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Posted: 12/14/2006

Jockey Jerri LeBlanc—who raced under her maiden name, Nichols—died Wednesday afternoon in a car accident in Louisiana's Jefferson Davis Parish. She was 35.

LeBlanc was the lone passenger in a 2005 Chevrolet Suburban driven by her husband, jockey Kirk LeBlanc.

According to a spokesman for the Louisiana State Police, the Suburban drifted off Interstate 10 and collided with an 18-wheel tractor trailer that was parked on the emergency shoulder. Jerri LeBlanc was pronounced dead at the scene.

Her husband was cited for careless operation and treated for minor injuries at Jennings American Legion Hospital in Jennings. He took off his seven scheduled mounts on Wednesday at Delta Downs.

Jerri LeBlanc had not appeared in a race since November 10 at Delta.

LeBlanc began her career in 1988 and compiled 1,463 wins from 13,029 mounts who earned $10,505,894. Among her six stakes victories was a win aboard Hello Sara Lou in the Pierre LeBlanc Memorial Ladies Sprint Stakes on July 1 at Evangeline Downs.—Jeff Lowe

Norman Gets Six-Month Suspension
12/9/2006 6:52:52 PM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted: 12/4/06

Trainer Cole Norman had two horses test in excess of the permitted levels of total carbon dioxide in the $150,000 Jean Lafitte Futurity at Delta Downs on Nov. 3, and for the second offense has been suspended six months in a ruling issued by track stewards. He has appealed the ruling to the Louisiana Racing Commission and the case is scheduled to come before the commission in January, according to stewards at Delta.

Norman won the race with Go Poppa Fooze, who was found to have exceeded the permitted level of bicarbonates in his system through a pre-race test sample. This was viewed as a first offense. The second offense concerns the pre-race test of Bayou de Storm, the fourth-place finisher in the Jean Lafitte who also had a bicarbonates overage, according to the ruling.

Both horses were disqualified. The purse has been ordered to be redistributed, but no action on that matter can take place while the case is under appeal.

Norman was fined $1,000 for the first overage, and for the second was suspended from Nov. 29 through May 29, 2007, a six-month period mandated by the rules of racing in Louisiana, said stewards. Norman can still race because the matter is under appeal. Go Poppa Fooze ran seventh in the Grade 3, $1 million Delta Jackpot at Delta on Friday, and his disqualification from the Jean Lafitte was announced at the track Friday.

An excess of bicarbonates in a horse's system can mean the presence of an alkalizing agent, which is believed to help a horse ward off fatigue.

Norman, 37, could not be reached for comment on Saturday. He operates one of the largest stables in Louisiana, and has won the past nine training titles at Louisiana Downs.

President's Report
11/29/2006 6:22:20 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Winter 2006 

It is with great pride and pleasure that I report to you that racing in Louisiana has never been better. As we prepare to close our books on the 2006 racing season, we have seen the handle and purses in Louisiana rise to some of the highest levels ever. In the next month, Delta Downs and Fair Grounds will give away the highest average daily purses in their history. The Louisiana HBPA has worked closely with the racetracks to insure that racing interests in Louisiana are given the utmost protection and have truly formed a “partnership” in our venture.

However, our work does not stop here. It is my intention to continue to move this organization forward. Over the next few months, the Louisiana HBPA will be pressing for the expansion of OTBs in the north and northwest regions of Louisiana. The addition of these parlors should not only help continue to increase the handle and exposure, but also help to increase the purse structure.

Additionally, we will also be making sure that the “quality” of OTBs, from minor things such as food and service to major things such as the treatment of bettors, is acceptable. It is critical that bettors enjoy their experience. It is also imperative that Louisiana tracks realize that the bettors should be treated no differently than their customers who play slot machines.

Last year, the Louisiana HBPA lobbied, along with Evangeline Downs, to implement table games at racetracks in Louisiana due to the increased competition from Indian casinos in the surrounding areas. We were successful in passing this bill from the Senate committee before time ran out on the legislative session. We are hopeful that we can continue to move this bill forward again next year, as it can only help fuel the $2.4 billion per year economic impact the horse racing industry has on the state of Louisiana.

We fully intend to be very active in the Louisiana legislature next year, and we again will attempt to have the sales tax for claims of racehorses in Louisiana either reduced or eliminated in its entirety. Other states, such as Texas and Illinois, do not charge a tax on claims, and if we are to continue to be the pinnacle of racing in the South, we will need to bring in new ownership and investors.

Recently, we made a decision to hire George McDermott as a racetrack consultant for the Louisiana HBPA. Mr. McDermott was the former track superintendent at Louisiana Downs and last year was hired to serve as a track superintendent for Lone Star Park. We believe that his hiring was necessary because most of us are not “track” experts; however, trainers do know when a track is “bad.”

Mr. McDermott will consult with me from time to time regarding the condition of the track and provide me with information so that we can negotiate with the track for a solution.

In connection with that, I, on behalf of the Louisiana HBPA members, had asked the Louisiana Racing Commission to implement a rule that would require all veterinarians to provide the racetrack(s) and the Louisiana HBPA with information regarding the number of bows, suspensory injuries, and breakdowns at all tracks on a weekly basis. We did not ask for the name of the horse, trainer, or the exact date that it occurred, as we did not want to intrude upon the privacy between the vets and their clients. We were merely asking them to report the age, sex, and timeframe in which the injury occurred, as well as whether it occurred during training or racing so that we can statistically keep track of any unusual activity which would trigger our having to call our expert to check the condition of the track.

Unfortunately, the Louisiana Racing Commission’s Rules Committee deferred ruling on the issue at this last meeting. While I was at the podium speaking, I was informed by a Racing Commissioner that he did not want the Louisiana HBPA’s input on the very rules which govern our sport. Undeterred by such a nonsensical statement, we will continue to educate this Commission and any others who feel the same way on why such rules and input from the Louisiana HBPA is necessary.

The Racing Commission’s next meeting is scheduled for January 26, 2007. The Louisiana HBPA would like to encourage each and every horseman to attend the meeting and support this rule and any others we deem relevant. All of us have a substantial investment in this industry, and we feel that is just one more way in which the Louisiana HBPA can help protect your investment on the track.

In other matters, I must say that our Workman’s Compensation Program has exceeded our expectations and appears to be an incredible success at this point. However, this excitement must be tempered by the fact that the program is only four months old. In order for our continued success, we must have all trainers follow the protocol in place for the accident reporting requirements and safety. In order to move towards reducing the “per start” rate for next year, the Louisiana HBPA and its insurer have been working with each and every track on safety concerns. I understand that some of these polices may cause some inconvenience to some of our members; however, we ask for your patience in understanding that we cannot compromise the safety and integrity of this program if we are going to continue to be successful.

Finally, I am determined to bring our members even better benefits from both our medical and pension plans. Look for improvements and increased benefits over the next year, once I have had a chance to discuss these matters with the respective trust committees.

Sincerely,
Sean D. Alfortish
President, Louisiana HBPA

Back Home in New Orleans
11/29/2006 6:19:06 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Winter 2006 

The HBPA would like to specially thank equine artist Fred Stone for the donation of his artistic rendering, “Louisiana Passage,” a portion of which’s sales proceeds benefited the horsemen who had suffered damages due to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. A lithograph of this beautiful print, shown here, is displayed in mural form in our Board room in New Orleans.

We are very pleased to report that we held our first full Board of Directors meeting since our return to New Orleans from our Hurricane displacement at our beautifully restored New Orleans offices on November 7. Our building has previously won several architectural awards for its concept and design, and every effort was made to maintain its integrity. The location of our building was the site of one of the many “neighborhood” movie houses, “The Bell,” that were found on almost every other corner in New Orleans 40 to 50 years ago. We are very proud of the “finished product” of our efforts and are so glad to be home again!

Alfortish and Romero Meet with Congressman Jindal
11/29/2006 6:17:53 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Winter 2006 

On behalf of the Louisiana HBPA, President Sean Alfortish and Executive Director Mona Romero met with Louisiana Congressman Bobby Jindal on October 31, 2006 to discuss the HBPA’s opposition to Senator Whitfield’s amendments to “tinker” with the Interstate Horseracing Act in Washington. They also provided the Congressman with an update on racing in Louisiana and the challenges the HBPA will face over the upcoming year. They found Congressman Jindal to be concerned and knowledgeable about the contribution the horse racing industry makes to the state of Louisiana, and he is interested in the continued growth of racing in Louisiana. Congressman Jindal has and continues to be a friend of the horsemen and has always supported the goals of the HBPA.

2006-07 Racing Schedule for Louisiana Tracks
11/29/2006 6:16:34 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Winter 2006 

Evangeline Downs: April 4-September 3, 2007 (Thoroughbred)

Louisiana Downs: January 20-March 27, 2007 (Quarter Horse), May 4-October 20, 2007 (Thoroughbred)

Fair Grounds: November 23-March 25, 2007 (Thoroughbred)

Delta Downs: November 1, 2006-March 31, 2007 (Thoroughbred), April 19-July 15, 2007 (Quarter Horse)

The Rebirth of the New Orleans Fair Grounds
11/29/2006 6:15:12 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Winter 2006 

A reservation for Thanksgiving dinner at the Fair Grounds was the hardest ticket to come by in New Orleans. After sitting out for an entire year due to the destruction Hurricane Katrina thrust upon the city of New Orleans, the Fair Grounds opened its doors with a renewed spirit and interest.

The Fair Grounds set a record, with over 3,200 horses applying for stall space for the race meet. The Fair Grounds offered the highest purse structure to date, with approximately $350,000 per day, including stakes.

The entire facility has undergone some pretty extensive improvements, with the majority of the work going towards backside improvements. Almost $9 million was spent on improvements on the backside. All stalls have been treated and are free of mold and residue. Living quarters for employees have been remodeled with new stairs, marble showers, new plumbing, heating and cooling units for each room, fire detectors and alarms, hot water heaters, and two laundry mats, just to name a few of the improvements.

Although the soil on the backside tested fine, all the soil in and around the backside has been replaced. New gas lines are in place throughout the barn area. Also replaced is the wood lining of stalls where needed, new tack room doors, and the rolling garage doors located at the end of each barn. Most of the track and turf railing has been replaced, as well as the distance markers.

The second phase of improvements will consist mainly of a new dormitory for employees, which will have its own laundry mat and will be maintained with the strictest of security, much like the dorm Churchill currently has at Churchill Downs. The dormitory is on a one-year delay due to zoning issues, which means the plans will have to meet specific requirements set forth by the City of New Orleans Zoning Committee and the New Orleans City Council. The earliest they could be placed on the docket is February of 2007.

The Fair Grounds is up and running, and we invite you to visit us for some great racing!

Horse Deaths in Louisiana Attributed to Illegal Clenbuterol
11/22/2006 5:09:30 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 11/22/2006 7:55:35 AM Last Updated: 11/22/2006 7:55:35 AM

Two sources have verified that there have been an undetermined number of deaths in Louisiana since last week from an illegal clenbuterol product. One report was that six horses are known dead, and approximately 10 more have been severely affected by the illegal product. Reportedly deaths have occurred with only one dose.

There have been unsubstantiated reports that the product might have been smuggled in from Belize.

Bob Stenbom, DVM, a field technical veterinarian with Boehringer-Ingelheim, makers of the legal clenbuterol product called Ventipulmin Syrup, stated: "Boehringer-Ingelheim's Ventipulmin is the only licensed clenbuterol product in the United States and world-wide. Anything else is counterfeit."

The deaths reportedly were caused from the illegal product being many times more potent than the licensed, legal product.

One Louisiana veterinarian said he is not sure if the illegal product will make its way into other parts of the United States, but horse owners should beware.

If you have a clenbuterol product that is not manufactured by Boehringer-Ingelheim, report it to your veterinarian, your state veterinarian, or your local law enforcement officials.

In 1998 the FDA approved a new animal drug application (NADA) for Boehringer-Ingelheim Vetmedica's Ventipulmin Syrup, which contains a small amount of clenbuterol, as a restricted use, prescription-only drug for treating horses affected with airway obstruction (allergies, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, etc.). When FDA approved the NADA for Ventipulmin, several controls were put in place to ensure that this drug would not be misused in food-producing animals.

The FDA has stated previously that: "In recent years, availability of illegal clenbuterol formulations, produced as 'compounded' drug product, has increased steadily. The Animal Medical Drug Use Clarification Act (AMDUCA) permits compounding under very limited circumstances. Compounding must be done only on the order of a licensed veterinarian, based upon a valid veterinarian/client/patient relationship from approved human or veterinary drugs. In addition, other criteria must be met including establishing the need for a compounded product, and prohibitions against use of some drug products in food-producing animals. AMDUCA does not permit compounding from bulk drugs. Bulk clenbuterol should only be available for use by Boehringer-Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc., in the production of the approved clenbuterol product.

"When an approved product is available, a compounded product is not permitted to be used unless it meets the criteria in AMDUCA. Since there is an approved clenbuterol product available, only limited compounding from approved Ventipulmin is permitted. Clenbuterol products that mimic the approved product are unapproved new animal drugs and are not legal for preparation, sale, and use.

"Veterinarians and animal owners should be aware that these unapproved clenbuterol products have not been shown to be safe and effective and may not be prepared under conditions that are controlled to produce a consistent, quality product. Prescribing, purchasing, or distributing 'compounded' clenbuterol is in violation of Federal law. Veterinarians ultimately assume responsibility for the efficacy, safety, and composition of drugs prescribed in this manner."

Fair Grounds Set to Open on Thanksgiving
11/9/2006 6:40:36 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 11/9/2006 12:35:24 PM Last Updated: 11/9/2006 5:14:07 PM

Fair Grounds Race Course is set to open Thanksgiving Day, marking the return of live racing to the New Orleans track following the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The meet is scheduled to run Nov.23-March 25, with 81 days of racing. The main reconstruction of the facility has been completed.

"This is something that will stay with me forever," Fair Grounds president Randall Soth said during a teleconference Nov. 9. "The stable area opened Nov.1, training resumed Nov. 2, and we've had thus far, knock on wood, solid reviews and positive things from all the horsemen that are stabled here."

Currently there are approximately 1,000 horses on the grounds, with more expected to arrive. The racetrack, which has a 1,800 stall capacity, has received around 3,400 stall applications, including from trainers Todd Pletcher and Bobby Frankel.

"This is somewhat of a transition stage right now," Soth said. "We have horsemen arriving from pretty much every racing venue throughout the United States. We are very excited about the upcoming race meet."

One thing that has been delayed because of the hurricane is the opening of an on-track casino, which was scheduled to open this year.

"Our primary objective throughout this year was to get the facility reconstructed, the OTBs reopened, and get the meet started," said Andrew Skehan, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Churchill Downs, Inc., which owns Fair Grounds. "We are very close to accomplishing that due to the Herculean effort by all the people down in Louisiana and the support we have received from the regulators and civic officials.

"We are very close to turning our attention to how we get a slots operation up and going. I hope that it is before the end of 2008, but I am not in a position to guarantee anything."

Fenasci named Fair Grounds assistant general manager
11/9/2006 5:51:32 PM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Posted: 11/6/2006 8:36:52 PM

Longtime Fair Grounds executive Ed Fenasci has been named assistant general manager of the New Orleans racetrack, which will begin its 81-day meeting on November 23.

Fenasci will oversee the mutuels, admissions, parking, programs, and simulcasting departments as well as account wagering and off-track betting operations.

"Ed has a vast knowledge of our operation that suits him perfectly for this new role and we look forward to his continued contributions to our management team," said Fair Grounds President Randall Soth.

Fenasci began working in the racing industry in 1983 as an admissions clerk at now-defunct Jefferson Downs in Kenner, Louisiana. He later became a mutuel clerk at Fair Grounds. Fenasci has handled a variety of duties since, including as director of off-track betting operations, director of business development, mutuels manager, and manager of Fair Grounds's off-track betting facility in Gretna, Louisiana.

Louisiana horseman Dorignac dies at 60
11/9/2006 5:27:43 PM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Posted: 11/7/2006 6:51:40 PM

Longtime Louisiana-based horseman Joseph Dorignac III, a member of a prominent New Orleans family, died Monday evening following a brief illness. He was 60.

Dorignac won leading trainer honors at Fair Grounds in 1972, '75, and '84, finished second six times between '71 and '80, and also won leading trainer honors at Arlington Park and Atlantic City Race Course.

He trained more than a dozen Fair Grounds stakes winners, including Truchas, who won the '75 Furl Sail and Bayou Handicaps; and Big Dare, winner of the '74 Pan Zareta Handicap. He was inducted into Fair Grounds's Racing Hall of Fame in 2002.

Dorignac's family served as part owner of Fair Grounds for many years, and his father, fellow Hall of Fame member Joseph Dorignac Jr., was the track's president from 1977-84. The elder Dorignac also was a successful supermarket operator and Thoroughbred breeder in the state of Louisiana.

Funeral arrangements are pending. In lieu of flowers, the family has requested donations in Dorignac's memory to the American Diabetes Association.

Thoroughbreds Back at Post-Hurricane Delta Downs
11/1/2006 5:09:56 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 11/1/2006 9:31:30 AM Last Updated: 11/1/2006 9:31:30 AM

Thoroughbred racing returns to Delta Downs Racetrack & Casino in Vinton, La., Nov. 1 after a 19- month hiatus brought on by Hurricane Rita. The 88-night season, which runs through March 31, 2007, offers a 39-race stakes schedule worth more than $4 million.

Delta Downs, which has slot machines, had hoped to offer Thoroughbred racing in January but it was unable to finish all of the necessary repairs. Since the hurricane struck Sept. 24, 2005, Boyd Gaming, the track's owner, has spent about $41 million in hurricane reconstruction costs and $8.9 million in post-closing expenses.

Rob Stillwell, a Boyd Gaming spokesman, said the racetrack is better than ever with many new features.

"We are very excited about starting the Thoroughbred season after months of delay," Stillwell said. "The repairs we made were significant, primarily to the older parts of the track."

Stillwell said Delta Downs, which has a three-quarter-mile dirt racing surface, rebuilt 20 of 22 barns damaged by the hurricane from the ground up. Each barn has 60 stalls. The track's main restaurant--the Lookout Steakhouse--reopens Nov. 1, and plans are under way to build a track-level restaurant. There also is a new tote board.

"The track looks great," Stillwell said. "It's very beautiful. This Thoroughbred season is going to be very special to us because of the Delta Jackpot on Dec. 1."

The Jackpot, for 2-year-olds, carries a $1-million purse and a grade III ranking. It's currently the richest race in Louisiana.

Delta Downs closed Sept. 22, 2005, two days before Hurricane Rita steamrolled through southwest Louisiana. The track's slots parlor and other amenities reopened 43 days later on Nov. 3; most of the track's 2005-06 Thoroughbred meet was moved to Evangeline Downs Racetrack & Casino.

The track's insurance policy has covered most of the damages and expenses caused by the hurricane, according to filings with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission. SEC reports show Delta Downs through this past June received insurance advances totaling $39 million for hurricane damages and another $10 million for business interruption.

The hurricane heavily damaged the barns and the grandstand. There was damage to the hotel and the slots parlor, but repairs to those buildings didn't take as long as others did. Since the slots parlor reopened nearly a year ago, business has picked up at Delta Downs.

Financial results for Boyd Gaming in the third quarter that ended Sept. 30 show Delta Downs' adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization was up 53% from the third quarter of 2005. Reports filed with the Louisiana Gaming Control Board show the track's 1,500 slot machines generated more than $152 million in revenue from November 2005 through September 2006.

The Nov. 3 program is called Delta Jackpot Preview Night, with four stakes worth $350,000, including the $150,000 Jean Lafitte Stakes for 2-year-olds. The Dec. 1 Delta Jackpot program will offer four other stakes, including the $300,000 Delta Princess Stakes for 2-year-old fillies. The $1-million Louisiana Premier Night for state-bred horses is set for Feb. 3, 2007.

Louisiana Downs meet ends with rise in total handle
10/26/2006 5:43:59 PM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Posted: 10/22/2006 6:16:58 PM

Louisiana Downs's 93-day meeting concluded on Saturday with a 6.5% gain in total handle, thanks to Super Derby (G2) day on September 23, which posted total handle of $7.3-million, breaking the track's all-time single-day handle record.

"We are very pleased with the results, including a record Super Derby day," said track General Manager Patrick Dennehy. Handle on last year's Super Derby day was $4.3-million.

Total handle on the track's live races was $192.4-million compared with $180.7-million for the 91-day meet in 2005. Average daily handle was $2,068,722, up 4.2% from $1,985,467 last year.

"We were excited about the way customers across the country responded to Louisiana Downs racing," said Mark Midland, vice president of racing operations.

Daily average for total on-track handle, including both live and on-track simulcast handle, was $408,330, down 3.1% from $421,606 in 2005.

Field size was 8.3 horses per race, a decline from 8.9 horses last year. Track officials said last year's field size number was abnormally high due to a temporary closure at Evangeline Downs for six weeks in May and June 2005.

Total purses remained steady at $18.5-million this year compared with $18.7-million paid in 2005.

Trainer Cole Norman captured the training title with 66 wins and $1,080,660 in purse earnings. The title is his ninth consecutive, tying Frank Brothers (1980-'88).

Lonnie Meche took the riding title with 99 victories, two more than Carlos Gonzalez.

Louisiana Downs: Gibson thriving in second year
10/12/2006 12:14:45 PM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted: 10/11/06

Trainer Jonas Gibson is having a breakout meet at Louisiana Downs. He won with three straight starters last weekend and will send out his best filly, Miss Parisian Mist, in the featured race here Friday. A six-furlong optional claimer, the race drew 10, including stakes winners Destiny Calls, Follow the Lite, and Hottamolly.

Gibson, 24, began training last year and won with 4 of 37 starters. This year, he has won with 16 of 97 starters through Tues-day, and he ranks 12th in the local standings, with 14 wins from 80 starts and stable earnings of $222,165. His barn has grown, thanks to the support of primary client George Ackel Jr.

"I met George Ackel in February, and then all of a sudden we started buying and claiming horses," said Gibson.

Gibson said he focused on getting his horses ready for the Louisiana Downs meet, which opened in May.

"I wanted to have all my guns ready to go," he said. "The first 18 horses I started, I think 15 ran one, two, three. They were running their butts off."

Gibson, a former free safety for Northwestern State University in his native Louisiana, trains Miss Parisian Mist for Jerry and Sandy Heflin, who were the leading owners at Lone Star Park. Miss Parisian Mist was a private purchase, and since the sale she has gone 3 for 7. Miss Parisian Mist has raced once at Louisiana Downs, winning her maiden here in May.

"She broke her maiden in the mud," said Gibson. "She showed a lot of guts. The filly Smitty's Sunshine passed her down the lane and she came right back. And Smitty's Sunshine, as a maiden, she came back and won an a-other-than, so I knew Miss Parisian Mist was a good filly."

Smitty's Sunshine won the first-level allowance by 10 lengths, and Miss Parisian Mist proceeded to win two allowances at Evangeline. Luis Quinonez has the mount Friday.

Gibson, who formerly worked for trainers Steve Asmussen and Steve Flint, won his first career race in June 2005 at Louisiana Downs.

Record handle for Louisiana Downs
9/28/2006 4:15:33 PM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted: 9/26/06

The $7,306,487 that Louisiana Downs handled on its 13-race card Saturday was a record for the track, said Mark Midland, vice president of racing operations. The old mark of $6.7 million was set on Super Derby Day in 2003.

Louisiana Downs sent the signal of its sixth through 11th races into California, and the move yielded $533,338 in handle. Handle was also strong ontrack, with the large crowd wagering $893,645 on the live races, the highest ontrack handle here since Super Derby Day in 2000.

"Obviously we're thrilled with the way everything turned out," said Midland. "To be able to have the all-time record handle is just outstanding. So, it kind of raises the bar for next year."

Louisiana Downs surrounded the Super Derby with four rich turf stakes this year, making the card worth more than $1 million. The concept will return next year, said Midland.

"We feel like the day built a tremendous amount of momentum for us, and by grouping the stakes it helped to bring horses and planes in from around the country," he said. "So, that's something that we'll look to duplicate, most definitely."

Attendance is free at the track, so there was no crowd figure released for Saturday. But the house was packed, with patrons standing at least 20 deep around the paddock area when the horses arrived for the Super Derby.

"When I went to college at Louisiana Tech, we used to come here in the glory days in the 80's, and this is the best I've seen it in over 20 years," said Sean Alfortish, president of the Louisiana Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association.

o Zarb's Dahar, a multiple stakes-winning sprinter, will make a rare start around two turns and on turf Thursday in the third race. The 7 1/2-furlong optional claimer also drew Cajole and Silver Haze.

Zarb's Dahar goes here because no other race was available, said his trainer, James Hodges. A winner at six furlongs last out, he should handle the added distance, said Hodges.

"I don't think it will be a problem for him," he said.

Louisiana Downs: Super Derby a Classic confrontation
9/22/2006 2:06:26 PM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted: 9/21/06

BOSSIER CITY, La. - Saturday's Grade 2, $500,000 Super Derby at Louisiana Downs will serve as a Breeders' Cup Classic tryout for Kentucky Derby alums Lawyer Ron and Point Determined, and Grade 2 Dwyer winner Strong Contender. Because the three favorites bring depth to the 1 1/8-mile race, the Super Derby is a good litmus test as to whether they should advance to Churchill Downs on Nov. 4.

"That's why we're coming," said Bob Baffert, trainer of Point Determined. "We're going to find out where we fit."

"If everything went well and he ran a big race, I would say that I would have to look at the Classic," said John Ward Jr., who trains Strong Contender.

"We won't make any kind of decision until after the Super Derby," trainer Bob Holthus said of a possible Classic start for Lawyer Ron. "Naturally, he'd have to come off a good race going into the Breeders' Cup. It's going to be an awful tough race this year."

Lawyer Ron has been awful tough himself this year. A winner of five stakes in six starts, he returned from a near four-month layoff last out to win the $250,000 St. Louis Derby at Fairmount Park. He is the one to beat in the field of eight, which also includes Costa Rising, a winner of his last six starts, who is cross-entered in the $75,000 Wilhite on the undercard, and Louisborg, the winner of the $100,000 Prelude, the local Super Derby prep.

The Super Derby is the richest race of the meet and one of five stakes on a card that is worth more than $1 million. The four supporting stakes are on turf. There is a $100,000 guaranteed all-stakes pick four on races 8-11, with the Super Derby going as race 10.

Lawyer Ron is 2 for 2 at Louisiana Downs, where he launched a six-race win streak in December that carried him through the Grade 2, $1 million Arkansas Derby in April. He went on to run 12th in the Kentucky Derby, after which he was found to have a bone chip in his right hind ankle. It was removed, and he made his comeback on Aug. 25, closing from farther back than ever before in the St. Louis Derby.

"I thought it was a very good race," said Holthus.

Lawyer Ron has turned in two big works since, and will break from post 2 under John McKee. He figures to track front-runners His Eyes, Costa Rising, and Point Determined.

"With the shorter field, we'll probably lay a little closer than we did last time," said Holthus.

Point Determined, who was ninth in the Kentucky Derby off a runner-up finish in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby, is moving back to dirt after making his first start on turf. He was ninth in the Grade 2 Del Mar Derby on Sept. 3 in a race Baffert labeled a toss-out. Point Determined's last two starts on dirt have yielded a win in the Grade 3 Affirmed and a runner-up finish in the Grade 2 Swaps, both at Hollywood Park. Victor Espinoza was aboard for those races, and is reuniting with Point Determined, who will break from post 6.

"He's up close, probably," said Baffert. "He's got to be very aggressively ridden, and Victor fits him well."

Strong Contender, like Lawyer Ron, figures to be coming for Point Determined in the later stages. He was third in the Grade 1 Haskell at Monmouth in his last start Aug. 6, and the race was a demanding one. With a number of horses looking for position on the same part of the racetrack, the field was "playing roller derby," said Ward.

"It was a pretty physical race on us because horses were leaning on us," he said.

Since the race, Strong Contender has worked six furlongs in a bullet 1:12.20 at Belmont Park. He will break from the rail under Robby Albarado.

"He's not a horse you have to cover up and take back," said Ward. "He's a pretty kind kind of horse."

There is a special first post of noon Central.

Brand New on Our Website
9/19/2006 6:43:50 PM  -  The Horsmen''s Journal - Fall 2006 

www.lahbpa.com is now available for your classified ads. The Louisiana HBPA will be allowing members to post data on items they wish to buy, sell, or trade, as well as employment opportunities.

For more information, please contact Nelson Menard Jr. in the main office at

504-945-1555 (phone)
504-945-1579 (fax)
Or by email at: nmenard@lahbpa.com

2006 & 2007 Louisiana Racing Calendar
9/19/2006 6:42:39 PM  -  The Horsmen''s Journal - Fall 2006 

Delta Downs: April 19 – July 15, 2007 (Quarter Horse meet)

Evangeline Downs: September 20 – October 28, 2006,Wednesdays through Saturdays (40 Quarter Horse days)

Harrah’s Louisiana Downs: May 5 – October 21, 2006 (93 Thoroughbred days)
January 20 – March 27, 2007 (40 Quarter Horse days)

Fair Grounds: November 23, 2006 – March 25, 2007, Thursdays through Sundays (81 Thoroughbred days)

Calling All Quarter Horsemen
9/19/2006 6:41:24 PM  -  The Horsmen''s Journal - Fall 2006 

Louisiana Quarter Horsemen invite Quarter Horsemen from across the United States to join them for great Louisiana Quarter Horse racing. The Louisiana State Racing Commission granted a minimum of 40 Quarter Horse race days to be run at each Louisiana racetrack.

Great purses and full circuit racing is offered in Louisiana. Dates are as folows: Evangeline Downs: September 20 – November 25, 2006
Harrah’s Louisiana Downs: January 20, 2006 – March 27, 2007
Delta Downs: April 19 – July 15, 2007
Fair Grounds: will get Quarter Horse dates approved upon reopening

Meet Tammy Broussard
9/19/2006 6:37:23 PM  -  The Horsmen''s Journal - Fall 2006 

The Louisiana HBPA is proud to have solicited the services of Breaux Bridge native Tammy Broussard. Ms. Broussard will assume the title as Louisiana HBPA Workman’s Compensation State Safety & Education Director.

The implementation of the safety certification program is extremely important to the success of the Workman’s Compensation Program in Louisiana. Each groom, hot walker, exercise rider and employee working on the backside of a racetrack or training center will have to be safety certified by Ms. Broussard and her team of field directors throughout the state. Upon completion of the two to three hour course, each worker will receive a safety certification certificate, which they must have to work at racetracks and training centers throughout the state of Louisiana. There will be plenty of time for everyone to become certified during any given race meeting.

Ms. Broussard comes to the HBPA with many years of experience in the racing industry. Tammy grew up in the racing industry and is the daughter of the late Nathan Broussard, who trained horses for as long as she can recall. After the passing of her father, Ms. Broussard became manager, trainer, owner and breeder for the family business in order to keep her father’s hard work alive. At this point in her life, Ms. Broussard has decided to cut back to maintaining a small breeding business.

Tammy has one son, Casey, who is expected to one day run the family business, and one young daughter, Makenzie, who has the personality to become what ever she wants to be.

Tammy is a very hard working and dedicated individual who is a great asset not only to the Workman’s Compensation Program, but to the HBPA in any area she may serve. Look for Tammy and her safety coordinators, Mr. Don Harrison (Harrah’s Louisiana Downs), Mr. Jeff Champayne (New Orleans), and Mr. Eric Low (Delta Downs), in your area very soon.

Horsemen's Education Developer Resigns
9/19/2006 6:35:53 PM  -  The Horsmen''s Journal - Fall 2006 

Lea Mack, developer and teacher of the Horsemen’s Education Program, has resigned to evaluate and rebuild her life and home in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina.

Lea Mack, a four-year employee with the Louisiana HBPA, resigned this past April. Lea and her 83-year-old mother were rescued from their Lakeview home attic three days after hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. As you can imagine, this was a life changing experience for both Lea and her mother.

Lea not only developed the Horsemen’s Education Program, but she taught some 14 school teachers the program, which has been implemented in five schools in the New Orleans area and one high school in New Iberia, Louisiana. Before leaving us in August, Lea developed the Workman’s Compensation Safety Program, which will be implemented and taught by Breaux Bridge native Tammy Broussard.

Lea will be missed by the HBPA as she had a great passion and love for the sport of horse racing. I have a feeling we will see more of Lea around the Fair Grounds racetrack. As the old saying goes, “Once racing gets in your blood, although you may leave it for a while, you always return to the sport someday.”

Louisiana HBPA Workman's Compensation Program
9/19/2006 6:34:19 PM  -  The Horsmen''s Journal - Fall 2006 

Dear Horsemen,

The Louisiana HBPA Workmen’s Comp program has had a successful start-up. Beginning June 15 – August 15, 2006, we have had over 580 members participate in the program and over $700,000 collected from the initial $1,200 deposit required to open a workman’s compensation account, of which $55 per start is withdrawn.

Every trainer is responsible for keeping his workman’s compensation account funded before the entering of horses. This can be handled through local field directors at each racetrack, the main office, or at your local bookkeeper’s office.

Thanks to our dedicated staff of employees and our insurance broker, Andreini & Company, we were able to provide coverage for more than 500 members in the first week of operation. During the month of July, there were a total of 3,639 starts.

By the time this article reaches you, each trainer or owner will be issued an insurance binder with a description of how to process claims (accidents). Each binder contains a “Protocol Sheet” and a form designated for the injured employee to fill out.

We have hired several HBPA field representatives at each racing facility to accommodate all of our members. We are also considering adding additional days and/or hours for the medical doctors that are currently employed at Louisiana Downs and Evangeline Downs to facilitate the needs of our members.

We are currently accepting applications for a physician that would be interested in part-time employment in Vinton, Louisiana during the Delta Downs race meet and possibly the New Orleans Fair Grounds race meet. Please send your resume to Mona Romero, Louisiana HBPA Executive Director, via fax to (504) 872-9738 or e-mail to mromero@lahbpa.com.

Below I have provided a list of employees at each of the racing facilities around Louisiana. Please call any one of them if you have any questions or concerns about workers compensation or medical benefits.

Evangeline Downs - 2235 Creswell Lane Extension, Opelousas, LA 70757, Phone: (337) 594-8045, Fax: (337) 594-8049 – Contacts:
Rachelle Mischler (504) 224-1214 (Cell), rmischler@lahbpa.com
Tammy Broussard (504) 224-1217 (Cell), tbroussard@lahbpa.com

Delta Downs - 2717 Delta Downs Road, Vinton, LA 70668, Phone: (337) 589-5594, Fax (337) 589-5871 – Contacts:
Wendy (Renee) Gray, (504) 224-1211 (Cell), rgray@lahbpa.com
Eric Lowe, (504) 224-1213 (Cell), elowe@lahbpa.com

Fair Grounds Race Course - 1751 Gentilly Blvd., New Orleans, LA 70119, Phone: (504) 945-1555, Fax: (504) 371-5037 – Contacts:
Jeff Champagne, (504) 615-2646 (Cell), Jchampagne@lahbpa.com
Diana Soileau, (504) 224-1208 (Cell), dsoileau@lahbpa.com

Harrah’s Louisiana Downs - 8000 East Texas Street, Bossier City, LA 71111, Phone: (318) 746-1149, Fax: (318) 549-1627 - Contacts:
Don Harrison, (504) 224-1207 (Cell), dharrison@lahbpa.com
Diana Soileau, (504) 224-1208 (Cell), dsoileau@lahbpa.com
Samantha Humphries, (504) 224-1209 (Cell)

The following requests are mandatory in order for this program to be successful. If these requests are not met and the cost of claims are 50% higher than expected, your program will be in jeopardy:

1. All claims must be reported within the first 24 hours of an accident.

2. All injuries are required and subject to mandatory drug testing.

3. All employees are required to be listed on your work list.

4. All employees are required to sign the Drug and Substance Abuse Policy.

We can not stress enough the importance of following each of these steps in the event of an accident.

Beginning sometime within the next 60 days, we will be calling on participants and inquiring about their quarterly payroll reports as required by law. We will also be implementing a safety program that is designed to focus on exercise riders, grooms, hot walkers, and any other employees working in or around stable areas at racetracks and training centers and farms requesting coverage. A safety certificate will be issued to each individual attending the mandatory safety class.

Members will also be asked to comply with any safety issues in or around their barns or stable areas.

Respectfully,
Nick Leggio, Director

Executive Director's Report
9/19/2006 6:29:35 PM  -  The Horsmen''s Journal - Fall 2006 

by Mona Romero

The Louisiana HBPA has survived the most eventful times ever in the history of the HBPA, and at the same time, we have achieved so much in a short period of time. Growing up in the Quarter Horse and Thoroughbred industry, married to a trainer of over 30 years, and becoming an owner and breeder was definitely the best education for my position as executive director. I am most appreciative for my chance to give back to an industry that has been so good to my family.

Our first project was to launch the first ever Louisiana HBPA website. Thanks to Nelson Menard Jr., who immediately accepted the challenge, the result is a great informational piece we can all depend on for the very latest in Louisiana racing news. You can sign on by going to www.lahbpa.com.

February marked the return of the HBPA’s office staff to the main office located on Gentilly Boulevard in New Orleans, just blocks from the New Orleans Fair Grounds. Because of the shortage or long waiting list for contractors, we are proud to say that we have completed the interior of the main office, which took some ten months to complete. Considering some of our own employees are still without floors or cabinets, we have been very fortunate. Now that we are able to spread out and enjoy our own offices, it is time to concentrate on painting the exterior of the building and getting the landscaping back in order and blooming again.

Our organization has grown so much with the onset of the Workman’s Compensation Program, which has been in the works since April of 2005, our first week in office. We are proud to say that on June 15, 2006 we issued the very first workman’s compensation policy to New Orleans-based trainer Corale “Bunkie” Richards.

The program is off to a successful start and has exceeded our expectations. The amount dispensed for claims at this time are far less than projected.

Nick Leggio, Director of the Louisiana HBPA’s Workman’s Compensation Program, has done a fantastic job getting his “team” together to insure the success of the program. Backside safety is also an important key to the success of the program. We are proud to announce that Ms. Tammy Broussard of Breaux Bridge, Louisiana has been named Louisiana HBPA State Safety Director for the Workman’s Compensation Program. All employees must be safety certified sometime within the race meet they are attending.

We have received calls from trainers racing in other states who have expressed interest in Louisiana racing due to the favorable workman’s compensation rates in our state. Some trainers report saving six figures if domiciled and racing in Louisiana. Moreover, stall applications for upcoming race meets, along with workman’s compensation applications, indicate new faces and stables will be competing in Louisiana this year.

Purchasing workman’s compensation insurance is mandatory in Louisiana by law. Even though you may not be domiciled in Louisiana for the entire year, you will save money for the time you do spend in Louisiana while racing for great purses.

The most important thing for owners and trainers to remember is that the Louisiana HBPA Workman’s Compensation Program belongs to you. A very solid program has been designed for Louisiana domiciled trainers, and the success of your program is dependant on you. With success, Louisiana will revolutionize workman’s compensation in our state.

I would like to extend a heartfelt thanks to the Louisiana HBPA employees for all of their hard work and enthusiasm. Without you, none of our accomplishments would be possible.

Last, but certainly not least, we are extremely excited to join the New Orleans Fair Grounds for its reopening on Thanksgiving Day this November. The city is truly on its way back. The Fair Grounds is set to offer in access of $350,000 per day in purse money. Phenomenal!

A brand new innovative and cost effective workman’s compensation program, coupled with a fantastic purse structure and stakes schedule, makes New Orleans the best place to spend your winter race meet. We look forward to seeing both new and familiar faces and stables in New Orleans for great racing and the celebration of the rebuilding of a great city that has housed the third oldest racetrack in the U.S. since the 1800s.

Two Spills at La. Downs
9/18/2006 2:18:06 PM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted: 9/16/06

Three riders were involved in two spills early on Saturday's card at Louisiana Downs. All three of the riders - the apprentice Cody Meche, Anthony Lovato, and Michael Wright - appeared to escape serious injury.

In the first race, the tiring Deputy O'Neal shied in the stretch and ducked into the rail, unseating Meche. Deputy O'Neal appeared uninjured while Meche, though slightly shaken up, kept his riding commitments for the remainder of the day.

In the second race, Bring'n the Thunda broke down midway on the turn and threw Lovato to the ground. Hevenly Sign fell over the stricken Bring'n the Thunda and unseated Wright. Wright and his mount were both uninjured. Lovato complained of sore ribs and was taken off the remainder of his mounts on the afternoon. Bring'n the Thunda was euthanized on the track.

Former Fair Grounds handicapper charged with second-degree murder
9/11/2006 6:13:07 PM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Posted: 9/8/2006 4:59:29 PM

Vince Marinello, a longtime New Orleans television and radio personality who co-hosted Fair Grounds's simulcast handicapping show for 15 years, was in the Jefferson Parish Correctional Center in Greta, Louisiana, on Friday morning under suicide watch after he was charged with second-degree murder in the death of his wife.

Mary Elizabeth Marinello, 45, was shot twice in the face in a parking lot in Old Metairie near New Orleans on August 31. Witnesses told police they saw a man with a bushy beard leaving that location on a bicycle, and investigators initially thought she was a robbery victim.

According to court documents, the couple was in the midst of a bitter divorce. Mary Elizabeth Marinello recently discovered that her husband might have been still married to his first wife when they married in October 2004.

Vince Marinello, 70, became a suspect in his wife's killing when police found out about the couple's divorce proceedings and that he allegedly purchased a mustache at a costume shop. Police also interviewed a gun dealer who can tie Marinello to rare ammunition used in the killing and said that Marinello's alibi is suspect.

Police say they found a checklist at Marinello's FEMA trailer that included entries for a beard, mustache, gun, and bicycle as well as a reminder to dispose of the gun—all things that could tie him to the crime.

Lenny Vangilder, Fair Grounds director of publicity, said Marinello last worked for the track during the 2004-'05 season. He co-hosted the track's simulcast show with Mike Diliberto. Marinello was most recently employed by WWL-AM as a talk show host.

Marinello's ties to New Orleans horse racing were not limited to the broadcast media. He was jockey Craig Perret's agent in the early 1970s at Fair Grounds, Arlington Park, and Monmouth Park. Perret, a New Orleans native, later won the 1990 Eclipse Award as outstanding jockey.

Marinello's bond is set at $250,000. If convicted, he faces a mandatory life sentence in prison.—Myra Lewyn

Stallion Service Auction to Benefit Equine Health Studies Program
8/30/2006 3:49:13 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 8/28/2006 3:28:35 PM Last Updated: 8/28/2006 4:02:28 PM

The Louisiana State University school of veterinary medicine will host its sixth annual stallion service auction Sept. 15–Dec. 15. The event is a multiple-breed, Internet-based benefit auction for the LSU school of veterinary medicine's equine health studies program, to expand and renovate the equine clinic, including the equine isolation unit.

The equine clinic provides advanced veterinary care and services for equine patients.

"Due to the expanding Louisiana horse industry, the equine clinic case load increases each year. To continue to provide efficient, quality care, it is necessary to expand the school's facilities," said Dr. Rustin Moore, director of the EHSP.

By visiting www.lsuequine.com, stallion owners may donate breeding sessions with their studs either by live cover or by artificial insemination. The sessions will be bid on by international mare owners for the upcoming 2007 breeding season. Auction bidding begins on the service at 50% or less of the standard stud fee. Donors of breeding services also benefit from marketing and advertising of their stallions and farms via the Internet and equestrian publications.

The first round of bidding will close Oct. 27, with the final round closing Dec. 15. All donations are welcomed and are tax deductible for fair market value, regardless of the winning bid price.

In its sixth year, the auction has raised funds for expanding the EHSP. This year's proceeds will go toward the construction of a new equine isolation unit, used to hospitalize critically ill horses with infectious and potentially contagious diseases. The new facility will replace the current two-stall isolation unit, and will enable the school to more effectively and safely treat horses with these conditions.

A portion of the funds will also help offset costs associated with the rescue, treatment, shelter, feeding, and rehabilitation of nearly 500 horses rescued from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. More information about the school of veterinary medicine's equine health studies program can be found at www.vetmed.lsu.edu or www.lsuequine.com.

Delta Jackpot will return Dec. 1
8/24/2006 4:19:11 PM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted: 8/24/06

The Grade 3, $1 million Delta Jackpot is back from a one-year hiatus brought on by Hurricane Rita. The jackpot, which will be run on Dec. 1, is the richest Thoroughbred race in Louisiana.

In all, 39 stakes worth a record $4,075,000 are scheduled for the 88-date season that opens Nov. 1. The meet will continue through March 31, 2007.

The Jackpot, for 2-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles, will be the first graded stakes for Thoroughbreds ever run at Delta. It was to be run as a graded stakes last year, but was canceled after Rita hit on Sept. 24, 2005, and damaged the track, which is located in Vinton, La.

The Jackpot will be supported by four other stakes, including the $300,000 Princess for 2-year-old fillies at one mile. The Princess has been boosted from the $250,000 purse it carried when last run in 2004. Together, the five stakes are worth $1.5 million, making the card the richest night of racing at Delta.

Preps for the Jackpot night stakes will be held Nov. 3, with the most notable being the $150,000 Jean Lafitte for 2-year-olds. Other big nights on the calendar include the $1 million Louisiana Premier Night, when 10 stakes for Louisiana-breds will be run, topped by the $200,000 Championship.

Delta will race Wednesday through Saturday nights, with a first post of 6:20 p.m. Central.

Evangeline track report
8/24/2006 4:18:21 PM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted: 8/23/06

Few in Louisiana need to be reminded that it was a year ago this week that Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. Rita followed a month later, and all of a sudden the state saw its functioning racetracks reduced from four to two with the damage suffered by Fair Grounds in New Orleans and Delta Downs in the southwestern part of the state.

As a result of these storms and a willingness to cooperate rarely seen in this business, Evangeline Downs has now conducted racing virtually non-stop for about 17 months. It was quite a change for a track that, in recent years, was accustomed to have live racing only from April to early September.

Evangeline's marathon season began in early April 2005. That meet, interrupted for six weeks while the new track's surface was reconfigured, was extended from early to late September.

A new Quarter Horse meeting, mandated by the arrival of slot machines at Evangeline in late 2004, came next with scarcely a day off. A second Quarter Horse season followed, inherited from Louisiana Downs so that the north Louisiana oval could host the transplanted Fair Grounds meeting.

Following the conclusion of the second Quarter Horse meeting in early December, Evangeline announced that it would take over the traditional winter dates lost to Delta Downs as that track rebuilt from the hurricanes. That meeting concluded a week before Evangeline's regular 2006 season got under way in late March. The current stand comes to an end on Labor Day.

The time off will be brief, however, as the fall Quarter Horse meeting gets under way on Sept. 20 and runs through Nov. 25. Following that meeting, David Yount, head of racing operations, has indicated that work should get under way on the long awaited turf course. Its opening was one of the casualties of the busy hurricane season of 2005.

Costa Rising takes Louisiana Breeders' Derby
8/21/2006 3:34:05 PM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted: 8/19/06

BOSSIER CITY, La. - Costa Rising's star keeps rising. He won his sixth straight race on Saturday, when he powered to a two-length win over Chromite Soldier in the $100,000 Louisiana Breeders' Derby at Louisiana Downs.

The race was one of 13 stakes on the card for Louisiana-breds. Purses for the Louisiana Downs Champions Day program totaled $1.3 million, making the card the richest of the meet.

Costa Rising ($3.60), the first of three winning favorites on the day, broke sharp and stalked the pace set by Sprightly Star. The eventual winner kicked into high gear after tracking six furlongs in 1:12.97, and went on to win the mile and a sixteenth for 3-year-olds in 1:44.45.

"This was the first time he'd run on this dirt, and we didn't know if he'd take to it," said Charles Castille Jr., who owns Costa Rising. "He took to it."

Costa Rising, who remained undefeated around two turns with the win, began his streak at Evangeline Downs in April. Along the way he won two turf stakes at Louisiana Downs prior to the Breeders' Derby. Joseph Boxie trains Costa Rising, whose regular rider is Mario Reyes.

Castille said Costa Rising will likely make his next start in a 3-year-old stakes at Louisiana Downs on Sept. 23. The colt will be pointed for either the $75,000 Donnie Wilhite Memorial on turf, or the Grade 2, $500,000 Super Derby. Costa Rising has now won 7 of 11 career starts and $242,748. He is a son of Royal Strand and was bred by Double Dam Farm.

Gonzalez wins No. 2,000
8/14/2006 3:13:11 PM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted: 8/12/06

Jockey Carlos Gonzalez picked up career win number 2,000 in dramatic fashion Friday afternoon at Louisiana Downs, narrowly prevailing in the ninth race of the day aboard 9-5 favorite Del Norte.

Gonzalez outfinished leading apprentice Cody Meche, who was aboard Brickadier General, following a spirited stretch battle. Del Norte is trained by leading trainer Cole Norman, who has been riding Gonzalez first call for most of the season.

Gonzalez, 41, is a native of Aricedo, Puerto Rico, and is a former riding champion here, having taken the title in 1999. He led the Louisiana Downs rider standings through Friday with 62 victories.

Fair Grounds Offers Record Stakes Purses in First Post-Katrina Meet
8/11/2006 2:26:45 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 8/11/2006 12:26:51 PM Last Updated: 8/11/2006 12:26:51 PM

Fair Grounds Race Course president Randall E. Soth announced Friday that the New Orleans track's first meet since Hurricane Katrina will offer a record stakes schedule worth more than $7.7 million, the highest totals in the track's 134-year history.

The highlight of the schedule will be Louisiana Derby Day on Saturday, March 10, 2007. Five stakes worth $2.1 million are scheduled, making it the richest day of racing in Louisiana history. Fair Grounds' four grade II stakes, including the 94th running of the Louisiana Derby, will be run on one day.

The four grade II races – which also include the Fair Grounds Oaks, New Orleans Handicap and Mervin H. Muniz Jr. Memorial Handicap – are part of a record 10 graded stakes on the 2006-07 slate.

"We are pleased to be able to offer a vastly enhanced stakes program for our first season back in New Orleans," said Soth. "Our goals were to enhance our major event days and fill in gaps in some divisions, and we believe this schedule accomplishes both."

The growth of the schedule is most apparent on the major event days that became the anchor of Fair Grounds' schedule two seasons ago. Each day has grown by one stakes race.

The 16th edition of Louisiana Champions Day on Dec. 9 includes 11 races, with the addition of the Ladies Sprint. The Colonel Power Stakes was moved to "Road to the Derby" Kickoff Day Jan. 13. The grade III Fair Grounds Breeders' Cup Handicap was added to Louisiana Derby Preview Day Feb. 10, and the previously dormant Bienville Stakes returns to the stakes schedule on Louisiana Derby Day.

The other major event is Louisiana Lagniappe Weekend on the meet's closing weekend, March 24-25. Inaugurated for last season's meet at Harrah's Louisiana Downs, Lagniappe Weekend features 10 stakes, including six for state-breds. Five stakes will be run each day.

The Bienville and Esplanade Stakes return to the schedule for the first time in more than a decade. Previously run for state-breds, both races will be sprints for older fillies and mares.

Besides the Champions Day Ladies Sprint, four other new races were added to the schedule: the "Buddy" Diliberto Memorial Handicap, named for the late New Orleans broadcaster, on Dec. 16 for older horses on turf; the Bonapaw Stakes, named for the locally owned Grade I winner, Dec. 23 for sprinters on turf; the Fortin Handicap, named for the street bordering Fair Grounds to the south, for older fillies and mares on March 17, and the Grindstone Stakes, named for the 1996 Louisiana Derby and Kentucky Derby winner, for 3-year-olds on turf on March 24.

Good and Tough sold to stand in Louisiana
7/26/2006 4:10:21 PM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Posted: 7/25/2006 12:46:29 PM

New York-based sire Good and Tough has been purchased by a partnership that will stand the Carson City stallion in 2007 at Michele Rodriguez's and Lee Thomas's Elite Thoroughbreds in Folsom, Louisiana.

Good and Tough, sire of Grade 3 winner Maddalena, has stood the previous five seasons at Lakland North in Hudson, New York. He commanded a $5,000 fee in 2006, and will stand at Elite Thoroughbreds for $3,000.

From 186 foals in four crops of racing age, the 11-year-old stallion out of Amy Be Good, by Northern Raja, has sired 92 starters, 72 winners, and six stakes winners, including Pisgah, an earner of $291,993.

Victorious in nine of 23 lifetime starts, Good and Tough captured three graded stakes, including the 1999 Commonwealth Breeders' Cup Stakes (G2) at Keeneland Race Course, and placed second to Yes It's True in the 1999 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash Stakes (G1) at Laurel Park the same season. A half brother to stakes winner Flashy Four, Good and Tough earned $809,341 for owner-breeder David Reynolds.

Evangeline Downs track report
7/21/2006 3:55:51 PM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted: 7/19/06

Young trainer Brandon Marks continues to have a successful meeting at Evangeline Downs and is ranked fifth in the trainer standings with 16 wins from 88 starts. Marks, 25, is a native of nearby Beaux Bridge, La., and has been training for about four years. This has been his breakout season, however, due to two of the region's top performers.

Watchem Smokey, 6, has been the comeback story of the year, winning three stakes in 2006, including the $75,000 John Henry at Evangeline on May 6. He took the second half of 2005 off for some freshening and has returned to the level that made him one of the most feared 3-year-olds in the region.

In his most recent start, Watchem Smokey shipped over to the Dallas area and finished unplaced in the Grade 3, $400,000 Lone Star Park Handicap.

"He bled in that race," Marks said Wednesday morning. "It was hot and humid that day, plus he was on the lead against some very good horses through a 1:10 three-quarter split."

Marks went on to say that Watchem Smokey is well on schedule to return in the $150,000 Evangeline Mile on Aug, 12.

Follow the Storm, a 3-year-old Stormin Fever colt, has Marks even more excited.

"We knew when we saw him in a sale in Florida that he was something special," Marks said. "He got colic real bad not long after and underwent emergency surgery, but he made it and has been outstanding since."

After finishing sixth in his debut in February, when he bled, according to Marks, Follow the Storm went on Lasix and has reeled off four wins in a row to rapidly complete his conditions. He was scheduled to make his stakes debut over the Louisiana Downs turf in the Excalibur Stakes on June 30 but was scratched because of some shoe issues.

"We are looking at a couple of spots for him coming up," said Marks. "We nominated to six-figure stake at Fairmount, plus there is the Prelude over the Labor Day weekend at Louisiana Downs. We think he deserves a shot."

Louisiana HBPA launches innovative workers' comp program
7/10/2006 5:38:02 PM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Posted: 7/9/2006 10:49:50 AM

Under a state-mandated change expected to cut trainers' coverage expenses in half, Louisiana-based trainers will buy their workers' compensation insurance through the Louisiana Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association.

Louisiana HBPA President Sean Alfortish said the program—essentially a group policy through American International Group (AIG)—will provide economic relief for trainers. The national average for workers' comp insurance is $23 for every $100 in payroll, Alfortish said.

"Ours will amount to $10," he said, adding that the Louisiana HBPA will pay a $2.5-million annual premium in order for trainers to cover exercise riders, hot walkers, grooms, and assistants.

A $1,200 fee for coverage is required, which gives a trainer 20 starts in a year. After that, the cost for starters increases to $60 per horse, a figure based on the 42,000 starters in the state last year. That fee, which Alfortish said is necessary in order to meet the premium, losses, expenses, and re-insurance plans, must be in a trainers' account before a horse can start.

A licensed physician, contracted by the Louisiana HBPA, also will be on call at the state's racetracks to provide medical attention to backstretch workers in order to keep insurance costs down.

Alfortish said the workers' comp plan, which started on July 1, is intended to revolutionize and change the profitability of training horses in Louisiana.

"I'm opening the doors to Louisiana racing for every trainer in the country to bring their stables down here, to have the most affordable workers' compensation rates in the country and some of the best purses with best track surfaces that exist in the United States," Alfortish said. "We want to be the leaders in this industry."—Myra Lewyn

Asmussen handed lengthy suspension
6/25/2006 2:09:33 PM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted: 6/24/06

The Louisiana Racing Commission on Friday upheld a ruling that suspends Steve Asmussen, the second leading trainer in North America, for six months for a medication infraction at Evangeline Downs in Opelousas, La. The suspension is scheduled to begin on July 10.

Asmussen has a 30-day window to decide if he wants to appeal the decision in court.

The ruling stems from a March 24 race in which the Asmussen-trained No End in Sight tested positive for the Class 2 drug Mepivicaine, a local anesthetic. Class 2 medications are defined by the Association of Racing Commissioners International as drugs that have the potential to affect performance. Local anesthetics are included in this class because of their potential use as nerve-blocking agents, according to the ARCI.

The medication infraction at Evangeline was one of two Asmussen had in March. The other was for an Acepromazine positive in New Mexico. Asmussen has appealed that ruling, and will have a hearing in August.

No End in Sight finished eighth in the optional claimer at Evangeline, and a ruling was issued on May 18. In addition to the suspension, Asmussen was fined $2,500 by the commission on Friday, said Charles Gardiner, executive director of the Louisiana Racing Commission.

"Since there was no purse involved, there were no redistribution issues," Gardiner said.

Asmussen said he attended the meeting, which was held at a hotel in New Orleans.

"Whether I agree with their findings or not is irrelevant at this point, and at this stage I'm informing the owners of the situation that we're in and will attempt to move forward, Asmussen said.

Asmussen ranks second among all North American trainers in wins and earnings in 2006. Through Friday, he had won 216 races for stable earnings of $6,815,636. Asmussen has divisions of his stable at five tracks: Arlington Park in Illinois, Belmont Park in New York, Churchill Downs in Kentucky, Lone Star Park in Texas, and Louisiana Downs in Louisiana.

The Sunland Park board of stewards in New Mexico issued a ruling that suspended Asmussen six months, fined him $1,500, and called for a loss of purse after Boots are Walking tested positive for the Class 3 drug Acepromazine, a commonly used tranquilizer, in a $50,000 stakes he won March 4. Asmussen was granted a stay in June, and will have a hearing Aug. 30. Class 3 drugs are defined by the ARCI as drugs that may or may not have generally accepted medical use in horses and have less potential to affect performance than Class 2 drugs.

Following the New Mexico hearing, the hearing officer will make a recommendation to the commission, said Rosemary Leeder, an official with the New Mexico Racing Commission. The officer has 30 days to make that recommendation, and the item will then be placed on the agenda for consideration by the commission. The matter could come before the commission in September or October, said Leeder.

LA House passes bill setting up jockey health fund
6/18/2006 7:20:51 PM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Posted: 6/17/2006 11:31:48 PM

The Louisiana House has approved a bill that would require the state's racetracks and horse owners to contribute to a health and welfare fund for Louisiana jockeys.

Lawmakers voted 61-29 on Friday to approve the measure, which would create the Jockeys Health and Welfare Benefit Fund. The bill was sponsored by Senator Don Cravins (D-Lafayette).

The legislation was returned to the Senate because a House committee amended it.

Cravins told the Associated Press that he hopes to make adjustments to the bill in a House-Senate conference committee so that the funding would be evenly divided among jockeys, tracks and horse owners.

Tracks and horse owners promised they would help with jockeys' health costs when slot machines for the state's tracks are approved, Cravins said.

Louisiana Insurance Shifts
6/9/2006 2:53:38 PM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted: 6/7/06

In a sweeping change, the Louisiana Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association will begin serving as the regulatory body of workers' compensation coverage for trainers in the state of Louisiana on July 1.

New legislation in the state has enabled the Louisiana horsemen's group to negotiate a single group policy for workers' compensation on behalf of all trainers. In the past, trainers had to secure their own individual policies, which were then submitted to the Louisiana Racing Commission.

"This is intended to eradicate the ongoing problem of rising workers' comp rates for trainers in the horse racing industry," said Sean Alfortish, president of the Louisiana horsemen's association. "It's basically a comprehensive yet simple plan to where all of the trainers are covered as a group."

Alfortish said the program calls for trainers to make a nonrefundable $1,200 deposit before starting a horse in the state. Those funds, due on an annual basis, will cover a trainer's first 20 starts in a given year. Alfortish said the cost for starters thereafter is $60 per horse. He said his goal in the next few years is to reduce that cost to $30.

Alfortish said that when trainers secure insurance individually, the national average is $23 per $100 of payroll. As part of the group policy, the cost will average $10 or less per $100 of payroll, said Alfortish.

In another policy change, Louisiana Downs and the Louisiana horsemen's association have agreed to a contract in which purses on all races will be paid back to ninth place. The policy is scheduled to begin with the third condition book at Louisiana Downs.

Gold Storm Sets 5-Furlong Mark at Evangeline
6/5/2006 3:20:04 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 6/4/2006 2:17:35 PM Last Updated: 6/4/2006 2:17:35 PM

Odds-on favorite Gold Storm outclassed his four rivals in the $75,000 Need For Speed Stakes at Evangeline Downs on Saturday evening while setting a track record for five furlongs.

Making his first start since May of 05', Gold Storm ($3.20) took command in the upper stretch and pulled clear under mild urging from jockey Tracy Hebertin the final furlong en route to a three-length victory in a track record :56 4/5.

Bubba Cascio trains the 6-year-old gelded son of Seeking The Gold. Gold Storm recorded his 10th lifetime win in 17 starts. With the $45,000 winner's share, he has now bankrolled more than $412,000 for owner Keith McKinney.

Cascio said Gold Storm suffered a suspensory injury in last year's Churchill Downs Handicap (gr. II) on Kentucky Derby Day.

"He's been in steady training since February and we thought this was a perfect jumping off point," the trainer said. Cascio said Gold Storm's next start would be in the $500,000 Smile Sprint Handicap (gr. II) on Summit of Speed Day at Calder Race Course July 15.

Inalako who was part of the contested pace of :21 3/5 and :44 3/5 valiantly tried to stay with the winner but ended up second best. All Wired Up checked in third, beaten 5 ½ lengths.

Evangeline Downs Enters Into Agreement With TVG
6/1/2006 2:07:21 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 6/1/2006 12:36:05 PM Last Updated: 6/1/2006 12:36:05 PM

TVG, the interactive horseracing network, has announced an agreement with Evangeline Downs Racetrack and Casino for the exclusive television and interactive wagering rights for the live Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse meets conducted at the Opelousas, Louisiana track. Evangeline Downs is in the midst of a Thoroughbred race meet that will conclude on Labor Day, Sept. 4. A Quarter Horse meet begins Sept. 20 and runs through November 25. Racing at Evangeline is held four nights per week, Wednesday-Saturday. All Evangeline meets will receive priority placement on TVG's television network.

"We are excited to add Evangeline Downs to our roster of exclusive race track partners," said TVG general manager David Nathanson. "Evangeline not only has a great history but is a vibrant racing facility that presents exciting Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse action that our viewers will enjoy from both viewing and wagering perspectives."

"Evangeline Downs is pleased to be partnered in an exclusive relationship with TVG," said Jonathan Swain, COO of Peninsula Gaming, the parent company of Evangeline Downs Race Track & Casino. "We see this as a great marketing opportunity, and a viable way to increase our fan base."

Louisiana Downs Track Report
6/1/2006 1:58:35 PM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted: 5/31/06

Gallant Dreamer ready to tackle stakes

Trainer Joe Petalino on Wednesday morning was going over the stakes schedules for a number of tracks around the country. He was looking at his options for Gallant Dreamer, who won her maiden impressively last weekend at Louisiana Downs.

"She's going to be the real deal, I believe," said Petalino.

Gallant Dreamer is one of 15 juveniles that Petalino has in training this season, and he said he feels the crop is one of his strongest ever.

She was making her second career start last Friday, after finishing a troubled second to the well-regarded Angel Island in a maiden special weight race at Keeneland in April. Gallant Dreamer stalked the pace under Quincy Hamilton and rallied between rivals to score a 2 3/4-length win in a 4 1/2-furlong race.

"I don't know which way I'm going to go yet, but her next start will probably be a stakes somewhere," said Petalino.

Gallant Dreamer is a daughter of Grade 3 winner Belong to Me. She races for Ilona Whetstone.

Among the open-company stakes for 2-year-old fillies in this region are the $65,000 Silver Spur Breeders' Cup at Lone Star on July 22 and the $50,000 Princess at Louisiana Downs on Sept. 9.

Comalagold to clash with Our Love

Comalagold and Our Love, two of the best turf sprinters at Louisiana Downs, will meet in the eighth race Friday. An allowance for fillies and mares, the race will be run at about five furlongs on turf. It should produce starters for the $50,000 Miller Lite Stakes at Lone Star on June 24 and the $50,000 Majorette Handicap at Louisiana Downs on Sept. 16.

At least that is the game plan for Comalagold, who will cut back to one turn and return to turf for the feature. Her biggest win came under such conditions, when she captured last year's Majorette over top-flight turf sprinter Nicole's Dream.

Larry Robideaux Jr. trains Comalagold and said the Miller Lite and Majorette are the two stakes objectives he has in the coming months for Comalagold, who is a stakes winner of $277,280.

"This gives her 22 days before the Miller Lite, then I'll come back here and run her in the Majorette," he said. "They're all five-eighths on the grass."

Robideaux has given the mount on Comalagold to Lonnie Meche, the red-hot jockey who won the $50,000 Barksdale last weekend with Northern Scene.

Our Love is trained by Jeff Trosclair and will be ridden by Gerard Melancon.

Quarter Horses to run January to March

Louisiana Downs will run a 40-date Quarter Horse meet in 2007, from Jan. 20 through March 27, said Mark Midland, vice president of racing operations for the track. The meet will run on a Saturday-through-Tuesday basis. Purses will be about $125,000 a day, said Midland.

"We're real excited about the Quarter Horse meet in the winter, because we had such great response to the Fair Grounds meet that time of year," said Midland.

Louisiana Downs hosted the Fair Grounds meet last winter in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The dates for the Louisiana Downs Quarter Horse meet flow with the dates for the Quarter Horse meet at Evangeline Downs.

Another bullet for Happy Ticket

For the second straight week, Happy Ticket worked six furlongs in 1:11.40. The move came on Wednesday morning, and it was the fastest of three at the distance. Happy Ticket is preparing for the Grade 2, $300,000 Fleur de Lis Handicap at Churchill Downs on June 17.

We Are Home Again!
6/1/2006 12:47:47 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Summer 2006 

The Louisiana HBPA has been back in New Orleans since the end of February. By the time you receive this issue of The Horsemen’s Journal, all of the renovations for the main office will be complete. Just in time for the hurricane season!

We would appreciate your prayers during this hurricane season, which begins June 1, 2006. The Levee Board assures us that the temporary levee repairs will withstand a category 3 hurricane by August. The levee project will not be fully complete for several years to come. We would like to once again thank all of our fellow horsemen for their generosity in providing aid to Louisiana horses and horsemen.

We would like to announce that Mrs. Sheila “Frankie” Menard is the new main office bookkeeper and is available to assist you with all your bookkeeping needs.

The Louisiana HBPA’s main office hours are: Monday – Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Central Standard Time. The office can be reached by phone at (504) 945-1555 or by fax at (504) 945-1579.

All medical claims should be sent to us at: Louisiana HBPA, 1535 Gentilly Blvd, New Orleans, LA 70119.

Great News for Louisiana Quarter Horsemen
6/1/2006 12:46:48 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Summer 2006 

The Louisiana State Racing Commission has approved the 2006/2007 race dates for its four Louisiana racetracks. The Louisiana HBPA, on behalf of the Louisiana Quarter Horse Association (LQHA), negotiated with Louisiana racetracks to grant at least forty (40) race dates at each racetrack for the upcoming Quarter Horse meets. It is the belief of the Louisiana Quarter Horse Association that if they are granted a year-round circuit in which to race, they will draw Quarter Horse stables from locations across the country that do not offer a full circuit of Quarter Horse racing. Although somewhat apprehensive, the Racing Commission granted the dates, making it imperative that the Association do everything possible to recruit these stables in order to fill full race cards for the 40 days granted at each racetrack in order to keep the dates.

The LQHA would like to take this time to invite Quarter horsemen from across the country to join us for some great Quarter Horse racing in Louisiana for 2006/2007.

The Quarter Horse Race Dates are as follows:

Delta Downs Racetrack & Casino: April 13 – July 9, 2006
Evangeline Downs Racetrack & Casino: September 20 – October 28, 2006
Harrah’s Louisiana Downs: January 20 – March 27, 2007

The New Orleans Fair Grounds is expected to fit its Quarter Horse dates in once it gets slots installed sometime in 2008.

Louisiana Thoroughbred Race Dates:

Evangeline Downs Racetrack & Casino: December 4, 2005 – September 4, 2006
Harrah’s Louisiana Downs Racetrack & Casino: May 5 – October 21, 2006
Delta Downs Racetrack & Casino: November 1, 2006 – March 31, 2007
The New Orleans Fair Grounds: November 23, 2006 – March 25, 2007

Overview of Louisiana Worker’s Comp. Program
6/1/2006 12:43:56 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Summer 2006 

Effective July 1, 2006

Each trainer who starts a horse at any Louisiana racing facility is required to open a “Worker’s Compensation Account” with the Louisiana HBPA prior to starting his or her horse or horses in the State of Louisiana. The Louisiana HBPA Worker’s Compensation program has a premium rate of 10% of estimated annual payroll in the racing industry, but it will be collected on a per start basis. The farm industry will be billed on the traditional percent of payroll.

Members of the program are responsible for keeping their work list current at all times and reporting their payroll quarterly. They are also expected to address safety issues in and around the barn area with their employees. The Louisiana HBPA has also implemented a mandatory drug and alcohol testing for each and every accident that has been reported by an employee. This is an “All States Policy” and can be transferable upon agreement with the Louisiana HBPA, with the exception of the following monopolistic states: North Dakota, Ohio, West Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming.

Application Process: The first phase of the program is designed to sign up Quarter Horse and Thoroughbred trainers stabled at racetracks and training centers in Louisiana. Applications will be provided via Field Reps, Field Offices, Bookkeepers Office, and mail outs, and they can also be downloaded from the Louisiana HBPA Web site at www.lahbpa.com.

Qualifications: Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse owners and trainers that have acquired a Louisiana State Racing Commission license are eligible.

Payment Method:

1. Trainers who are stabled at Louisiana racetracks and training centers will pay premiums on a per start fee, instead of the traditional percent of payroll. There is a minimum non-refundable deposit of $1,200.00 due on July 1, 2006 to advance your worker’s compensation account. Each time a member starts a horse, a $60.00 fee will be DEDUCTED from the $1,200.00. As starts increase and funds have diminished, you are responsible for funding your accounts to the tune of $60.00 per horse, per start as needed. Members will be responsible for depositing a non-refundable $1,200.00 in their Worker’s Compensation Account each and every physical year.

Please keep your account fully funded to avoid delays.

2. Quarter Horse and Thoroughbred farms will be charged at a rate of 10% of their estimated annual payroll. Members are required to pay 25% of their policy premium at the time of issuance, with the remainder paid quarterly. We would like all members that have Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse farms to forward their applications and payments to the Louisiana HBPA main office at: Louisiana HBPA, 1535 Gentilly Blvd., New Orleans, LA 70119, Attn: Worker’s Comp. Division.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to call Nick Leggio, Director of Louisiana Worker’s Comp., (504) 945-1555 (office) or (504) 813-3980 (cell).

Louisiana Worker’s Compensation Program
6/1/2006 12:41:47 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Summer 2006 

It’s official! The horsemen of Louisiana are in the insurance business. The “Horsemen’s Insurance Alliance,” our new workman’s compensation program, will go into effect on July 1, 2006, not withstanding any further delays. We are proud to announce that AIG’s proposal for workman’s compensation was approved by the Louisiana HBPA Board of Directors on May 4. We are confident that the insurance program we have built from the ground up will revolutionize the horse racing industry in Louisiana.

Due to the solid structure of this program, we will be able offer a 10% rate, which to our knowledge is the lowest rate in the country.

Louisiana Downs Track Report
5/25/2006 4:28:27 PM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted: 5/24/06

Happy Ticket looking ready

Happy Ticket worked six furlongs in 1:11.40 last Saturday at Louisiana Downs as she continues to train strongly for the Grade 2, $300,000 Fleur de Lis Handicap at Churchill Downs on June 17.

The race will be Happy Ticket's first start since finishing second by a neck to Spun Sugar in the Grade 1, $500,000 Apple Blossom at Oaklawn Park on April 8. Before that race, she was second by a neck to Round Pond in the Grade 3, $175,000 Azeri on March 11.

"Those two races, she ran her heart out," said Andrew Leggio Jr., who trains Happy Ticket for Stewart Madison. "We figured she needed a little rest. We gave her 10 days of eating grass, having fun."

Happy Ticket's work Saturday was her second since the Apple Blossom. She was a dappled picture of health when she came onto the track at about 9 a.m. under jockey Lonnie Meche. Happy Ticket turned in the quickest move of seven at the distance, and came home her final quarter in 23.59 seconds, according to clockers at Louisiana Downs.

"It was a pretty strong work, without asking her to run," Leggio said. "She just did it on her own. She's doing great. She can't train any better."

Happy Ticket returned to the track on Tuesday. She could work again next Wednesday, May 31, or on Thursday, June 1, said Leggio.

The year-end goal is the Breeders' Cup Distaff. Madison and Leggio are discussing the path to take to get her there, and beyond the Fleur de Lis will look at options in California and New York.

Madison said races of interest include the Grade 1, $250,000 Go for Wand at Saratoga on July 30 and the Grade 2, $300,000 Clement L. Hirsch at Del Mar on Aug. 6.

"That's just real tentative," said Madison.

Madison bred Happy Ticket, a daughter of Anet, a Grade 2 winner and grandson of Icecapade. Her dam is Love and Happiness, who is a daughter of Septieme Ciel.

"The cross between Icecapade and Septieme Ciel is good, and I liked Anet," said Madison. "He was a very versatile racehorse."

Madison raced Love and Happiness, and was advised to keep her as a broodmare because of the heart she showed on the track. She won 3 races and finished second in 3 others in 8 career starts. Happy Ticket has her dam's determination, and is a winner of 11 of 16 starts and $977,260.

"She gives you everything she's got," said Madison.

Happy Ticket's biggest win came in last year's Grade 1 Ballerina at Saratoga.

Meche reinstated, wins first day back

Lonnie Meche, who was suspended six months for an amphetamine positive last November in Texas, has been reinstated and resumed his riding career Saturday at Louisiana Downs, winning with his fifth mount on the card. On the same program, his brothers, Donnie Meche and apprentice Cody Meche, also won races. It is the first time all three have ridden at the same track at the same time. Lonnie Meche is a two-time title winner at Louisiana Downs.

"I'm glad to be back up," said Lonnie Meche, 31. "I'd been getting on a bunch of horses on the farm, so I stayed pretty much fit."

Meche won the ninth on Saturday with Tricky Storm ($6.80). One race later, he finished second on 36-1 shot Haines Junction in the 10th race. Cody Meche won that race aboard My Bakari ($11.60). Donnie Meche won the fifth race on the card with Aly's Vow ($7.40).

Ronald Ardoin, a six-time title winner at Louisiana Downs, is Lonnie Meche's agent. It is the first time Ardoin has worked as an agent, and he is also representing former jockey Curt Bourque's son, David, who is an apprentice.

"Lonnie's been asking me to take his book, and he finally convinced me to do it," said Ardoin.

Meches vie in feature

The Meche brothers are all named on contenders in the featured 10th race Friday at Louisiana Downs. Donnie Meche will be aboard top contender Total Command, who returns to dirt for the first-level allowance sprint. In his last start, Total Command was fourth to Proven Cure in an overnight turf stakes at Lone Star Park.

Lonnie Meche will ride Blue Groom, who in his last start won his maiden at Keeneland on April 8. Cody Meche has the mount on Dixie Tree, who with 2 wins in 4 career starts is one of the more accomplished runners in the field Friday.

* This week, Louisiana Downs plans to install a 15-foot projection screen to show its live races near the main entrance to both the casino and the track, said Mark Midland, vice president of racing operations. "You'll be able to watch the race from 200 feet away," said Midland.

Louisiana jockey bill advances
5/18/2006 11:54:04 AM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted: 5/16/06

The Jockeys' Guild dropped its objections to a bill in the Louisiana Senate that would limit the ability of riders to sue racetracks in the state after reaching an undisclosed agreement with the tracks, a lawyer for the guild said on Tuesday.

The bill, which would expand the definitions of equine facilities and equine employees to include racetracks, jockeys, and exercise riders, passed out of the Louisiana State Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday on a voice vote. The bill now moves to the Senate floor.

After the vote, Shane Gusman, a guild lawyer, said that the guild is now "neutral" to the legislation. He said that the organization had agreed to drop its opposition after reaching an agreement with the tracks that would allow jockeys to sue for "willful conduct" or "negligence."

Gusman declined to provide additional details about the agreement.

Racetrack owners contend that the bill is necessary to protect their facilities from frivolous lawsuits. With the exception of Fair Grounds in New Orleans, racetracks in Louisiana run slot-machine operations that are far more lucrative than the racing side of the business.

Evangeline bill introduced
5/18/2006 11:53:29 AM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Posted: 5/17/06

A bill that would allow Evangeline Downs to add table games to its slot-machine casino has been introduced at the current session of the Louisiana state legislature.

The bill would enable Evangeline to compete against three nearby Native American gaming facilities, all of which have or will be undergoing multimillion-dollar expansions, according to a release issued by the track on Tuesday. If the bill is passed, a local election in St. Landry Parish would still be necessary to allow the additional gaming.

According to the release, Evangeline has reached an agreement with the Louisiana Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association to pay 11 percent of the revenue from the tables games to purses. Based on a model of 20 tables, the new legislation would enable an additional $2.2 million in purse money annually.

Youbet.com, Louisiana Downs Have Marketing Agreement
5/18/2006 11:51:19 AM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 5/16/2006 2:10:23 PM Last Updated: 5/16/2006 2:10:23 PM

Youbet.com and Harrah's Louisiana Downs have joined forces on a multi-year program that will make the online wagering company the official wagering provider for the Bossier City, La., racetrack.

Louisiana Downs patrons will be encouraged to sign-up for Youbet.com accounts through on-track signage and videos, ads in daily racing programs, point-of-sale promotions, and online programs at the track's Web site. Youbet.com will promote racing from the track to its account wagering customers with double "Youbet Advantage" points for wagers placed on races every Thursday and Friday on Louisiana Downs races this year and next.

The points can be redeemed for prizes ranging from large screen televisions to trips to sporting events such as the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands, the Masters, and the NCAA Final Four. High-volume players will get cash rebates.

Youbet.com will feature Louisiana Downs content in targeted customer e-mails and mobile phone text messages. The company will deploy marketing resources to help promote on-track business, and the two companies intend to produce a series of online handicapping contests with cash prizes culminating with the Super Derby (gr. II), the track's marquee race.

"We believe we can grow our business by leveraging our content in the online channel," said Mark Midland, vice president of racing operations for Louisiana Downs. "Youbet is where the largest share of the online market is congregating to watch and wager on horse racing. So it makes a lot of sense for us to use their channel to target handle growth from new, young, and active racing fans from all over the country."

"We've said all along that Youbet is a conduit to growth markets for tracks that want to seize the opportunity to mine our customer base for new and sustainable sources of handle," Youbet.com chief executive officer Charles Champion said. "We're delighted to have the opportunity to prove the point by putting our online marketing expertise to work for a highly respected content provider like Harrah's Louisiana Downs.

"With this agreement, Youbet will be taking Louisiana Downs content and presenting it to customers not as a passive broadcast option but rather as a powerful, fully integrated marketing proposition that offers a true horse racing experience with handicapping, wagering, live broadcasts, instant replays and attractive player rewards."

Copyright © 2006 The Blood-Horse, Inc.

Guild opposes LA bill to provide liability limitations for tracks
5/16/2006 2:12:29 PM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Posted: 5/16/2006 11:15:00 AM

A measure to be heard on Tuesday in a Louisiana Senate committee will make race riding in the state "too risky" if it becomes law, according to a Jockeys' Guild official.

Guild Chairman John Velazquez said his group opposes Louisiana House Bill 56, which would protect racetracks in the state from liability lawsuits. He said Guild members would be left with little or no legal recourse if they are injured because of negligence of tracks or trainers. Jockeys in Louisiana are not covered under workers' compensation laws.

The measure, sponsored by Ronnie Johns (D, Sulphur), would amend a state law that provides liability limitations for equine activity sponsors, such as groups holding horse shows and auctions, to include licensed tracks. The bill passed the Louisiana House on April 19 and was to be heard on Tuesday morning in Louisiana Senate Judiciary B Committee.

"Horse racing is an extremely dangerous sport, and jockeys are killed and made quadriplegics every year in this country," Velazquez said. "If HB 56 becomes law, we will not, in good conscience, advise jockeys to race in Louisiana. It will simply be too risky."

Evangeline Downs Track Report
5/11/2006 2:16:48 PM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted: 5/11/06

Unlike the great John Henry, who won his first stakes race at the old Evangeline Downs before going on to bigger and better things, never to return to Louisiana, Watchem Smokey has proven this year that you can go home again.

Watchem Smokey's latest conquest came last Saturday night in, fittingly enough, the John Henry Stakes. Not only did he win, he shattered the track record by a full second. The John Henry was the third stakes win this year for Watchem Smokey, 6, all at Evangeline Downs.

An Oklahoma-bred son of Alphabet Soup, Watchem Smokey was purchased as a yearling in an Arkansas mixed sale in the spring of 2001 by Cecil Borel for $4,700. Borel campaigned Watchem Smokey through a 2-for-2 juvenile campaign at Louisiana Downs. As a 3-year-old, Watchem Smokey won his first two starts, both at Oaklawn Park, before taking an optional claiming event at Lone Star. Returning to Louisiana Downs, he then won the Airline Stakes, before Borel sold him privately to an owner for whom Bobby Frankel trains.

"We kind of lost track of him after he left Louisiana," said Carrol Castille, Watchem Smokey's present owner. "I know he went down in a nasty spill going down the hill at Santa Anita a couple of years ago, and then on Derby Day of last year he resurfaced at Churchill. We were looking to claim something to bring back here to run in some stakes, so I had Bernie Flint drop the claim in on him for the $100,000.

"You never know when you claim off Frankel, but we took a shot, and it has worked out great. He has performed phenomenally for us this year."

Brandon Marks now trains Watchem Smokey. Marks continues to win races at a high clip during the spring meet after enjoying a solid winter season. Castille said his plans for Watchem Smokey call for a possible trip to Lone Star, as well as a start at Louisiana Downs. - Jeff Taylor

Fair Grounds Slots May Have to Wait Until 2008
5/10/2006 3:48:40 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 5/10/2006 10:10:57 AM Last Updated: 5/10/2006 10:10:57 AM

Churchill Downs Inc. officials are encouraged by a rebound of their Louisiana operations in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, but it appears slot machines at Fair Grounds won't be operating until mid-2008 at the earliest.

Fair Grounds, heavily damaged by the hurricane last summer, is scheduled to reopen for live racing in late November. The New Orleans facility has a new roof, repaired barns, and underwent mold mitigation. Work continues on the interior of the grandstand/clubhouse, though two floors of the clubhouse are ready for use.

CDI president and chief executive officer Tom Meeker, during a May 10 conference call on the company's first-quarter earnings, said even though the entire facility may not be ready by Thanksgiving Day, he expects the 2006-07 meet to be a success.

As for the timetable for implementation of slot-machine gaming, he said: "Clearly, it won't be this year. We're clearly a year behind in our schedule (because of the hurricane damage). We're going to go through a meet down there, and there are still a number of questions endemic to that community.

"I would say the earliest we could start construction (of a slots parlor) is mid-year of next year, and for implementation, there's a nine-month build-out."

Meeker said the Louisiana legislature is considering bills that would aid Fair Grounds and its planned slots operation, as well as horsemen. Meanwhile, the company's off-track betting and video poker outlets in the New Orleans area are performing quite well, officials said.

With eight OTB parlors operating as of April 30, the video poker machines were 78% ahead of last year's total net win, and pari-mutuel handle was up 36% compared with a year ago. CDI obtained the OTB/gaming facilities when it bought Fair Grounds.

With Fair Grounds unable to host its 2005-06 meet, some of the dates were moved to Harrah's Louisiana Downs in Bossier City. Though daily average purses were a state record of $388,126--and almost 45% higher than they were the previous meet at Fair Grounds--Meeker said it's too soon to confirm published reports that 2006-07 meet purses will average at least $300,000.

"We'll be working on (the purse structure)," said Meeker, who noted improved business in the OTB and video poker sectors should help. "The purse structure down there should be pretty good. I'd suggest it will be fairly good--better than it used to be--but we still have to wait."

Copyright © 2006 The Blood-Horse, Inc.

LA Downs - Multiple changes, both on and off the track
5/4/2006 2:50:09 PM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted: 5/3/06

From staff to stakes, a number of changes have been made at Louisiana Downs, the Bossier City, La., track and slots casino that will open for a 93-date meet on Friday. The season will run through Oct. 21.

Louisiana Downs, following last year's meet, hosted an abbreviated Fair Grounds season that ended in January, and since then, change has swept through the plant. Mark Midland was named the new vice president of racing operations following the February resignation of Ray Tromba.

Tony Patterson was brought on as racing secretary after Pat Pope left his position in April. Travis Stone has replaced Frank Mirahmadi as track announcer. Stone, a native of New York whose style can be described as traditional, will call his first Louisiana Downs race at 1:25 p.m. Central on Friday.

Mike Raidt is the new track superintendent after George McDermott accepted a position with Lone Star Park.

The Super Derby and its supporting stakes have undergone a facelift, and the annual Breeders' Festival has been renamed Louisiana Downs Champions Day and will be moved up on the calendar to Aug. 19. The program of 12 stakes for Louisiana-breds is worth $1.2 million. Louisiana Downs has also opened up its first floor near the paddock, a capital improvement project that has almost doubled the square footage area for patrons, said Midland. There also will be free seating on the second floor of the grandstand.

"From the racing side, we've got some tweaks that we think will improve the business," said Midland, a former vice president of marketing for Churchill Downs Inc.

The Super Derby's purse and distance have been scaled back this year, reverting to the 2004 levels of $500,000 and 1 1/8 miles after a one-year experiment at $750,000 and 1 1/4 miles. The shorter distance is viewed as "our best chance to put the largest, most competitive field on the track for the Super Derby," said Midland.

The additional funds from the Super Derby were redistributed into the race's supporting stakes, making the Louisiana Downs Breeders' Cup Handicap and the Marie P. DeBartolo Oaks Handicap each worth $200,000. The Juvenile will remain at $100,000. Together, the four stakes are worth $1 million and will make up a pick four when they are run Sept. 23.

"Super Derby, we're really working to turn that into more of a Super Derby Day," said Midland. "The supporting stakes are all turf races, so we think those will fill extremely well. And the Super Derby usually fills very well, so we have a potential for just an outstanding pick four.

"It's something that we talked about with our horsemen, and we all agreed that this was the direction that we wanted to go in, so we're real excited about it. We think this will be the first year and we'll probably go even further with it down the road."

Purses at the meet will average more than $190,000 a day, said Patterson, who last worked as assistant racing secretary at Sam Houston Race Park. The stakes schedule is worth $4 million, and begins Friday with the $50,000 John Franks Memorial, a one-mile turf race for Louisiana-breds. The field of 10 includes the up-and-coming Cat Man, who has won his last three races by a total of 19 lengths for trainer Sam Breaux. Others of interest include Spritely Walker, Witt Ante, and Badtotheboneandrew.

Trainer Cole Norman will be looking to secure his ninth Louisiana Downs title, which would equal the record held by Frank Brothers. John Jacinto, who won last year's riding title, is now in Kentucky, but a strong colony is here, led by Carlos Gonzalez, Tracy Hebert, Gerard Melancon, E.J. Perrodin, and Luis Quinonez.

Louisiana Downs, in another change, will race three days a week for most of May before resuming a four-day-a-week schedule in June.

RACING SCHEDULE: 93 days; Friday through Oct. 21; Racing Friday to Sunday through June 4, then Thursday through Sunday most weeks, with holiday cards scheduled for May 29, July 3 and 4, and Sept. 4.

Jockey Guy Smith has surgery on broken neck after spill
4/27/2006 1:28:40 PM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Posted: 4/25/06

Jockey Guy Smith underwent surgery for a shattered vertebra on Tuesday after breaking his neck and shoulder in a spill on Saturday at Evangeline Downs.

Smith was hurt when Pronounced, his mount in the eighth race, fell. Jockey Sylvester Carmouche Jr. sustained a broken leg when unseated by Net Wire, who was unable to avoid the fallen Pronounced, who was vanned off the track.

"Everything looks like it's going to be fine. That's what the doctors are saying," said Wesley Landry, Smith's agent. "The surgery went well. They don't think there's going to be any paralysis. They're very optimistic."

Smith is expected to be released from intensive care on Wednesday, Landry said.

"They had to put a plate in his neck," he said. "He's also got a broken shoulder that they haven't decided if they're going to do surgery on yet."

Through Monday, Smith is second in the Evangeline rider standings with 16 wins from 80 mounts.

Louisiana approves requested Fair Grounds dates
4/25/2006 4:51:51 PM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Posted: 4/24/06

The Louisiana State Racing Commission unanimously approved on Monday Fair Grounds's request for an 81-day racing season in New Orleans beginning on Thanksgiving Day on November 23 and continuing through March 25.

Hurricane Katrina caused extensive damage to Fair Grounds's facility on August 29 after the storm ravaged the central Gulf Coast. Fair Grounds owner, Churchill Downs Inc., relocated the track's 2005-'06 live meet to Louisiana Downs in Bossier City for an abbreviated 37-day meet.

Live racing is scheduled to be conducted each Thursday through Sunday, with Mondays added in January and February.

Fair Grounds, Churchill Downs Inc., and local and state officials will address the approval at a news conference on Tuesday. Fair Grounds also will make a special announcement to assist in New Orleans' recovery following Hurricane Katrina.

Louisiana Downs taps Patterson as racing secretary
4/23/2006 3:35:20 PM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Posted: 4/22/2006 1:11:00 PM

Tony Patterson, a former racing secretary at Remington Park, was recently hired as racing secretary at Louisiana Downs, which will open its 93-day meeting on May 5.

Patterson replaces longtime racing secretary Pat Pope, who resigned earlier this month. He is a 22-year veteran of the racing industry and joins the Bossier City, Louisiana, track after six year as assistant racing secretary at Sam Houston Race Park. Prior to that, he was racing secretary at Remington Park in Oklahoma City.

A native of Ruston, Louisiana, Patterson previously worked at Louisiana Downs as a claims clerk and patrol judge.

"Tony's experience and ties to the local area make him a perfect fit with Louisiana Downs," said Mark Midland, vice president of racing operations. "We are thrilled to have Tony join our team."

Metairie OTB Latest to Re-Open in Louisiana
4/21/2006 4:12:11 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 4/19/2006 5:42:47 PM Last Updated: 4/19/2006 9:57:08 PM

The off-track betting parlor in Metairie, La., will re-open on April 20, Fair Grounds Race Course announced.

The Metairie location will be open initially for simulcasting only. The video poker operation will re-open at a future date to be announced.

Metairie will be the eighth OTB in southeast Louisiana to re-open since Hurricane Katrina struck Aug. 29. The Finish Line locations in Covington, Elmwood, Houma, LaPlace, and Thibodaux re-opened Oct. 26, the Gretna location opened Dec. 16, and the Kenner location opened Feb. 2.

The Metairie facility sustained more damage than did any of the other facilities, with approximately six inches of flooding. Furnishings and flooring were replaced throughout the facility.

Until video poker operations begin, the Metairie Finish Line will be open from 11 a.m. until the final race of the evening, Wednesday through Sunday, and 11 a.m. until approximately 7 p.m. on Monday.

Copyright © 2006 The Blood-Horse, Inc.

Stone joins Louisiana Downs as track announcer
4/20/2006 1:36:06 PM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Posted: 4/18/2006 12:14:00 PM

Louisiana Downs has tapped Travis Stone as track announcer for the track's 93-day meeting, which begins May 5 and runs through October 21.

Stone, who replaces Frank Mirahmadi, has called races at Suffolk Downs and refined his race calling techniques during the past two summers at Saratoga Race Course. During that time, he also wrote for The Saratoga Special daily racing newspaper and its sister publication The Special at Keeneland before joining Louisiana Downs.

A graduate of State University of New York College at Oneonta, Stone also attended Missouri Auction School, where he developed his voice and public address skills.

"Travis has a tremendous passion for racing, which is apparent though his race calling and writing," said Mark Midland, vice president of racing operations at Louisiana Downs. "He is an exceptional talent with a bright future in racing."

Afternoon Deelites sidelined from stallion duty
4/18/2006 1:56:46 PM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Posted: 4/17/2006 7:33:00 AM

Afternoon Deelites, a multiple Grade 1 winner who has sired four graded stakes winners in eight crops of racing age, is not expected to cover any more mares this year after suffering a bad reaction to a strangles vaccination.

The Private Terms horse out of Intimate Girl, by Medaille d'Or, has spent the last three years at Clear Creek Stud in Folsom, Louisiana, where he stands for $4,500. Afternoon Deelites entered stud in 1997 at Airdrie Stud in Midway, Kentucky, which retains a controlling interest in the stallion.

"His fertility was excellent at the beginning of breeding season, but since his extreme reaction to the shot, laboratory tests have shown [a] lack of live sperm," Clear Creek Stud Manager Val Murrell said. "Fertility specialists believe this condition will only last a couple more months and Afternoon Deelites should be back to normal for next breeding season."

Afternoon Deelites's top runners include Grade 2 winners Deeliteful Irving and Miss Pickums and Grade 3 winners Three Hour Nap and Lovely Afternoon. His progeny have earned $14,958,673.

A career earner of $1,061,193, Afternoon Deelites closed out his three-year racing career in 1996 with seven wins in 12 starts. He won the '94 Hollywood Futurity (G1) and the '95 Malibu Stakes (G1).

Fair Grounds Applies for 2006-07 New Orleans Meet
4/15/2006 2:28:23 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 4/14/2006 9:33:40 AM Last Updated: 4/14/2006 9:39:46 AM

Fair Grounds has applied to the Louisiana State Racing Commission to host an 81-day meet in 2006-2007 at its facility in New Orleans, president and general manager Randy Soth said April 14.

If approved, the meet would be the first conducted at Fair Grounds since Hurricane Katrina caused extensive damage to the facility and New Orleans last August. The application, filed April 13, is expected to be considered by the commission at its April 24 meeting in New Orleans.

The proposed schedule for Fair Grounds' 135th season of racing begins Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 23, 2006, and concludes March 25, 2007. Racing would be conducted Thursdays through Sundays, with Mondays added in January and February.

No designation of major events and stakes, including the Louisiana Derby (gr. II), has been made on the application. Fair Grounds officials anticipate a formal announcement regarding the 2006-07 racing season following the commission's formal approval of the track's dates application.

After Katrina ravaged the central Gulf Coast, Fair Grounds, owned by Churchill Downs Inc., was forced to relocate its 2005-06 meet to Harrah's Louisiana Downs in Bossier City. Because of the extraordinary circumstances, regulators approved an abbreviated 37-day meet, which was conducted from Nov. 19 through Jan. 22.

Repairs have been ongoing at Fair Grounds since the fall. The roof of the grandstand and clubhouse was completed March 31, and power was restored to the building last week. Backstretch maintenance, including repair and replacement of roofs, doors and stalls, is expected to be completed in time for the start of the 2006-07 meet.

The first event scheduled to be held at Fair Grounds since Hurricane Katrina is the annual New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, which begins April 28.

Copyright © 2006 The Blood-Horse, Inc.

Pope resigns as racing secretary at Louisiana Downs
4/13/2006 12:18:06 PM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Posted: 4/12/2006 1:43:00 PM

Pat Pope, longtime racing secretary at Louisiana Downs, resigned from his position on Monday.

Pope, 50, has worked for Louisiana Downs since the mid-1980s, he said. Pope continues to work as racing secretary at Oaklawn Park.

"They got new people when they let Mr. (Ray) Tromba go," Pope said, referring to Tromba's resignation in February as director of racing operations at the Bossier City track. "I think they want to go in a new direction.

I will miss Louisiana Downs because there's a lot of friends down there," he said.

Mark Midland, who replaced Tromba last month, said he wished Pope luck in his future endeavors.

"Pat Pope resigned his position yesterday to pursue other opportunities and we wish him the best," Midland said.

Louisiana Downs, owned by Harrah's Entertainment Inc., will immediately begin a search for a racing secretary, Midland said. The track's meet begins May 5.—Pete Denk

Louisiana Downs reduces Super Derby purse, distance
4/9/2006 1:33:17 PM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Posted: 4/7/2006 4:52:00 AM

Louisiana Downs announced on Thursday the reduction of the purse for its marquee race, the Super Derby (G2) on September 23, to $500,000.

The purse for last season's Super Derby was $750,000.

The Bossier City, Louisiana, track released a stakes schedule that features 48 stakes races for cumulative purses of $4.1-million for the upcoming season, slated to begin on May 5.

Purses on the Super Derby undercard races will be increased. Most significantly, the purse for the Marie P. DeBartolo Oaks Handicap, a 1 1/16-mile turf race for three-year-old fillies, was boosted from $75,000 to $200,000 this year. The Louisiana Downs Breeders' Cup Handicap, a 1 1/16-mile turf race for three-year-olds and older, will also be the beneficiary of a substantial purse hike from $125,000 to $200,000 for the 2006 edition.

The Super Derby distance will return to 1 1/8 miles for the 2006 edition after the event was contested at 1 1/4 miles last year, when Greg Norman's The Daddy battled for the early lead and held off A. P. Arrow by a neck.

The $1.2-million Louisiana Champions Day card will be held on August 19 with 12 races worth $100,000 each for Louisiana-breds.

The Louisiana Downs meeting will run through October 21.

Proposed Louisiana bill protects tracks against liability lawsuits
4/7/2006 4:24:48 PM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Posted: 4/6/2006 4:47:00 AM

A Louisiana House committee on Tuesday unanimously approved a bill that would protect Louisiana racetracks against liability lawsuits stemming from on-track accidents.

The measure, sponsored by Representative Ronnie Johns (D-Sulphur), would amend a state law that provides liability limitations for equine activity sponsors, such as groups holding horse shows, riding classes, and auctions, to include licensed racetracks.

The legislation was prompted by the breakdowns of several horses when racing commenced last year over Evangeline Downs's new track in Opelousas, Louisiana. The track ultimately renovated the racing surface, and repairs were costly--$2.7-million for the renovation and $500,000 for equipment to maintain the track, according to published reports. Horsemen, including jockeys, hailed the new track surface as safe.

Under the measure, tracks would have legal protection against "inherent risks of equine activities," including "certain hazards, such as surface and subsurface conditions."

Several lawsuits regarding the breakdowns are pending against Evangeline Downs, which is owned by Peninsula Gaming Corp., but would not be affected by the legislation if it becomes law, track attorney Alan Bares told the Shreveport Times.

Sean Alfortish, president of the Louisiana Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, did not immediately return a call for comment on the proposed bill.

The measure, House Bill 56, now moves to the House floor for debate.

Churchill to decide on Fair Grounds racing for 2006-'07 by April 15
3/16/2006 10:57:55 AM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Posted: 3/15/2006 11:40:00 AM

Churchill Downs Inc. Chief Financial Officer Mike Miller said Wednesday that the racetrack company would decide by April 15 whether it plans to conduct racing at Fair Grounds in New Orleans later this year.

"We're presently working on plans to open Fair Grounds for racing once we can guarantee we'll have a workforce in place and that there is a desire for racing in the area," Miller told shareholders.

April 15 is the deadline for proposed racing dates for this year. Fair Grounds typically begins its season on Thanksgiving, but because of damage to the track from Hurricane Katrina it conducted an abbreviated 2005-'06 meet at Louisiana Downs in Bossier City.

Churchill President Tom Meeker said that the level of business being done at the company's New Orleans-area off-track betting parlors leads him to believe that there is a demand for live racing in the area.

"We've had a number of discussions with the [Louisiana Racing] Commission," Meeker said. "We want to do the right thing for racing in Louisiana."

Miller said Churchill's insurance costs related to Fair Grounds would result in an increased expense to the company of between $5-million and $6-million due mostly to increases in deductibles the company would have to pay related to wind damage.—Ed DeRosa

New Orleans Carriage Company Rebuilds
3/15/2006 12:27:26 PM  -  The Horse/Blood-Horse 

Posted: 3/14/06

The horses and mules rescued last September from the flooded stables of Charbonnet Mid-City Carriages helped usher in Valentine's Day in Baton Rouge and Mardi Gras in New Orleans to the delight of many residents in Katrina- and Rita-stricken Louisiana. Business is much slower for the company than it was before Hurricane Katrina, and the stables aren't what they used to be, but a series of little successes have kept the Mid-City family hopeful.

Horse people around the world were captivated by harrowing rescue of the horses and mules from floodwaters in New Orleans, La., last fall. The Horse received hundreds of e-mails from concerned readers who wanted to know how they could help. (Click here to read "Saving the New Orleans Carriage Horses.")

Bonnie Clark, president of the Louisiana Equine Council, managed the equine staging area at the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales after the hurricanes, and she says that Louis Charbonnet, owner of Mid-City, his family, and Mid-City's employees are like family to her after the ordeal. Charbonnet has kept her updated on the happenings. Darnell Stewart, who was shown on the November 2005 cover navigating floodwaters on his Paint stallion Brandy is living in temporary housing at the stables. Robby Murphy (pictured in the November 2005 issue holding a rescued parrot) left his former career and has begun working for Mid-City, both as a driver and helping with maintenance of the carriages.

Clark explained, "I got a call on Valentine's Day, saying that a downtown development group in Baton Rouge had made a contract with Louis to bring up the carriages. Louis, Darnell, and the horses Bear, Gorilla, and Fidel (all who were rescued and stayed at Lamar-Dixon) and some of the mules were all there, and I got to take the inaugural romantic carriage ride around downtown Baton Rouge."

A few weeks later, Clark was invited to the Mardi Gras Zulu parade, where Stewart and Murphy rode. She waved and jumped to get Stewart's attention near the end of the parade route. "He stopped Brandy, stopped the whole parade, and reached down and gave me a golden coconut--the highest prize someone can give you at that parade," she said. "It was so sweet. He was just beaming. He and Brandy were back doing their deal, and it was neat seeing him so happy."

Stewart said he felt it was important to participate in the Mardi Gras parade to show that things are slowly inching back toward normal. "I just wanted to be out there," he said. "I've been riding for the last 22 years, and I won't miss this one. So we got some guys together, went to talk to the president of the Zulu club, cleaned up the horses and tack, and came Tuesday (Feb. 28) morning and rode and looked the best we can look."

Stewart is optimistic about business. "It's been up and down," he said. "One week we'll have a wedding or two, the next week nothing, but it's coming back. People are calling now about weddings and parades. We've had two parades this year. We still don't have all our animals." (Some of Mid-City's animals are still in Tennessee, where they were taken for evacuation last fall.)

"We don't have the pens like we used to," Stewart added. "They're all busted up and stuff down here. We're using the little stall room we have."

Last week, Charbonnet was attempting to purchase a barn north of Gonzales as a base for special events, carriage rides, and to be used as a boarding stable. Stewart said Charbonnet is keeping in mind the advantages of having a place farther north, should another hurricane hit. "We're only three months away from the storm season again," Stewart said with concern.

But right now, Stewart is focusing on the show and parade season. He and Brandy won ribbons in six out of seven events at a recent horse show; barrel racing and pole bending are the pair's favorite events. The St. Patrick's Day and Easter parades are coming up, and Brandy remains popular with the crowd. "Aww, they love him to death," said Stewart. "A lot of people have seen him and said, ‘That's the horse we've seen in the book!'

He laughs on recollection of Clark's golden coconut, an honor he says she deserves for all of her hard work and help. "That's the biggest treat they give in the Zulu parade," he said. "People come from miles and miles just to get that coconut."

2006 Louisiana Race Dates
3/7/2006 4:05:53 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Spring 2006 

The following are the currently allotted remaining 2006 race dates for Louisiana tracks:

Evangeline Downs Racetrack & Casino Thoroughbred Race Meet: March 30 – September 4

Delta Downs Racetrack & Casino Quarter Horse Meet: April 13 – July 9

Harrah’s Louisiana Downs Thoroughbred Meet: May 5 - November 4

The Louisiana racetracks will be applying for 2006-2007 race dates in April.

A Rare Act of Kindness
3/7/2006 4:04:38 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Spring 2006 

We would like to pay a special “thank you” to Mr. Richard Goetz and his family for the donation of his transportation services to the horsemen of Louisiana in this time of need.

When talks with the racetracks failed to aid with the transportation needs of the horsemen, Mr. Richard Goetz offered to haul as many horses as he had vanning capacity. This very generous act of kindness was made at no cost to the horsemen. The full expense of the transportation was complements of Richard Goetz Horse Transportation, Inc.

Mr. Goetz and his family started their company some 35 years ago. Mr. Goetz has provided this service free of charge as a gift to the hurricane relief efforts and has asked for nothing in return – only a chance to pay back an industry that has been so kind to his family through the years.

It is good to know that when the chips are down that we as horsemen still take care of our own.

Comings and Goings
3/7/2006 4:03:35 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Spring 2006 

The challenges brought about by the hurricanes not only changed the face of racing in Louisiana; we have a few new faces in the HBPA office. We are very proud to have these dedicated horsemen join our staff as we work together to rebuild and restore racing in Louisiana. New members of the HBPA staff include:

Mr. Nick Leggio – Director of Horsemen’s Insurance Alliance (Worker’s Compensation Co.)
Mr. Bill Hof – Auditor/Secretary Treasurer
Mrs. Frankie Menard — Horsemen’s Bookeeper (Main Office)
Ms. Rosalie Tomeny – Executive Secretary
Ms. Diane Alexander – Horsemen’s Bookeeper (Louisiana Downs)
Mrs. Pam Irwin – Assistant Bookeeper (Louisiana Downs)
Ms. Lea Mack – Horsemen’s Education Coordinator

A special thanks to Mr. Murray Woodward, Mrs. Gale Diaz, Mrs. Debbie Branigan, and Mr. Nelson Menard Jr. for their dedication and many years of service with the Louisiana HBPA.

Workman’s Compensation Update
3/7/2006 4:02:12 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Spring 2006 

We apologize for the delay we have experienced in the implementation of our much anticipated workman’s compensation program. We have been working diligently to produce a viable, competitive, and productive program for the horsemen of Louisiana. Instituting a program of this magnitude is very complicated and detail oriented, and therefore very time consuming. Louisiana HBPA President Sean Alfortish made a commitment to the horsemen of Louisiana to provide them with an affordable insurance program that will immediately reduce workman’s compensation rates by 50% in most cases.

There are a few variables that constituted these delays. First and foremost the destruction caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita:

• The displacement of the New Orleans HBPA employees and our local insurance brokers.
• The devastation of the HBPA office caused by flood waters and severe wind damage.
• Our insurance broker’s agency, which suffered destruction from Katrina and was hit again the first of February when tornados made their way down Canal Blvd., was inundated with emergency claims filed immediately after the hurricanes.

We have been negotiating extensively for months with one of the largest insurance companies in the industry via a brokerage firm located in California. This group has been very successful in representing organizations similar to the Louisiana HBPA; therefore we felt confident partnering with a firm familiar with the racing industry. After months of intense negotiating and feeling as though we were in the final stages, they were unable to provide a structured plan that would be affordable for our horsemen or feasible for the HBPA to undertake.

After lengthy discussions with trusted professionals and members of our team, we decided to extend our search and explore other avenues within the industry. Currently in the final phases with a new provider who we feel will be able to produce the best possible product for Louisiana, we expect that by the time you are reading this article, we will have finalized our program and will anticipate offering polices within the next two months.

We want to thank the horsemen of Louisiana for their patience and confidence in the HBPA to build a beneficial program to all who race in Louisiana. We will not roll this program out until it meets all the criteria promised by President Sean Alfortish. We look forward to servicing you in the very near future.

Sincerely,

Nick Leggio
Director Horsemen’s Insurance Alliance

Executive Director’s Report
3/7/2006 3:58:39 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Spring 2006 

Finally Home

The main office of the Louisiana HBPA has resumed business in its home location at 1535 Gentilly Blvd. in New Orleans, Louisiana. Our office staff temporarily relocated to Bossier City, Louisiana in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. By the grace of God, all of our employees and their families made it to safety and are rebuilding their homes and lives.

We are extremely grateful for the strength and dedication of our employees who temporarily relocated 300 miles away from their loved ones in order to serve our horsemen, many who were also dislocated from their homes and families. To all of our fellow horsemen who called, prayed, donated, and opened their hearts and homes to us, we are forever grateful.

Katrina Relief Efforts

Through relief efforts spearheaded by the National HBPA and the NTRA’s Racing to the Rescue Fund, we have been able to stable over 1,600 horses; house over 30 families; and provided food, clothing and emergency aid to over 300 families dislocated due to the wrath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. We would like to extend a special, heartfelt thanks to Mr. Bill Casner of Winstar Farms, who immediately offered to match funds raised for Katrina relief to aid Louisiana horsemen and other charities providing emergency relief in hurricane ravaged areas.

National HBPA President John Roark and staff Remi Bellocq, Laura Plato and Ronda Denham wasted no time in handling all of our correspondence and e-mails, keeping everyone in the racing industry abreast of the relief efforts around the country while spending countless hours packing hundreds of items donated to horsemen in the devastated areas. They were incredible!

Our National HBPA motto, “Horsemen Helping Horsemen,” has never been truer. In our darkest hours, the spirit and heart of our fellow horsemen gave us the strength we needed as an industry to rebuild our lives and businesses. God bless you all.

The Fair Grounds race meet, held at Louisiana Downs, was a great success for all parties involved. Record-breaking purses helped horsemen through the shortened meet. We would like to thank horsemen across the country that brought their stables in to support the Fair Grounds and the state of Louisiana that desperately needed some sense of normalcy again.

The HBPA would like to extend our gratitude to Evangeline Downs, CDI, Delta Downs, and Harrah’s Louisiana Downs for working together so diligently to insure the stability of Louisiana racing. We look forward with great anticipation to the reopening of Delta Downs on April 13 and the tradition of Thanksgiving Day at the New Orleans Fair Grounds this November 2006.

On behalf of the Board of Directors and racing membership, we would like to especially thank our president, Sean Alfortish, for negotiating the best possible race dates for Louisiana horsemen during this very difficult transitional period in racing. His hard work and dedication to the horsemen of Louisiana is greatly appreciated.

Sincerely,
Mona Romero

Asmussen completes sweep at Evangeline
3/5/2006 3:32:54 PM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted: 3/4/06

National training powerhouse Steve Asmussen completed a sweep of the two stakes for 3-year-olds this weekend at Evangeline Downs after sending out More Than Regal to victory in Saturday night's $50,000 Sportsman's Paradise Stakes. Asmussen also trains Devine Laughter who captured Friday night's $50,000 Green Oaks Stakes for 3-year-old fillies.

Liquid Silver finished second in the Sportsman's Paradise, a length and a quarter behind More Than Regal while Sweetening reported home third. The final time for the one mile distance was rapid 1:38.56, just a fifth off the track record.

Tracey Hebert, who also rode Devine Laughter on Friday night, placed More Than Regal ($6.20) well off the early pace that was set by Liquid Silver before advancing on that one three wide in the second turn. The top two finishers raced as a team past the furlong marker before More Than Regal edged clear in the late going under steady handling by Hebert.

The victory was More Than Regal's second from six starts and came on the heels of a popular maiden score at Oaklawn Park. The son of More Than Ready races for Vinery Stables and has earned just over $70,000.

Grade 1 winner Happy Ticket among 2005 Louisiana-bred champions
3/5/2006 2:18:28 PM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Posted: 3/3/2006 12:28:00 PM

Ballerina Stakes (G1) winner Happy Ticket, named Louisiana's champion older mare for 2005, headlines the list of Louisiana-bred champions honored by the Louisiana Thoroughbred Breeders Association.

Happy Ticket won the first eight races of her career in Louisiana before shipping to Arlington Park to win the Chicago Breeders' Cup Handicap (G3) as a four-year-old on June 18 in her second start of the 2005 season. From there, she finished second to Madcap Escapade in the Princess Rooney Stakes (G2) at Calder Race Course, won the Ballerina at Saratoga Race Course, and finished second behind eventual champion older female Ashado in the Beldame Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park.

The daughter of Anet finished her year with an 11th-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Distaff (G1) where she reportedly her soft palate. Happy Ticket, bred and owned by Stewart Madison and trained by Andrew Leggio, has won 11 of 14 starts, including the Louisiana Premier Night Distaff Stakes on February 18 at Evangeline Downs in her first start this year, and earned $842,260.

Mr. and Mrs. William Boorhem's Foxwood Plantation was named breeder of the year for the fourth straight year. Foxwood bred and owns Louisiana's champion older horse Zarb's Dahar, a multiple stakes-winning son of Zarbyev who won five of six starts and earned $205,060 in 2005 for trainer James Hodges.

Leestown, who stands at Jay Adcock's Red River Farm in Coushatta, was named stallion of the year. Nob Hill Native, the dam of champion two-year-old male Nob Hill Deelite, was named broodmare of the year.

Other divisional champions with (sire), breeder; owner; and trainer:

Two-year-old filly: Tortuga Flats (Wild Zone), Joseph Adcock and Neal McFadden; John P. Balensiefen; Ralph Irwin;

Two-year-old male: Nob Hill Deelite (Afternoon Deelites), Brehon Farm; Becky Winemiller; Patrick Mouton;

Three-year-old male: Badtotheboneandrew (On the Sauce), Mike Kennington; Stan Landry; Harold Hahn III;

Three-year-old filly: The Beter Man Can (Lord Avie), Stanley Seelig; Stanley Seelig; Patrick Mouton.

Insurance Coverage Key to Fair Grounds Meet
2/26/2006 8:45:46 AM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 2/25/2006 7:54:31 AM Last Updated: 2/25/2006 4:14:11 PM

The head of the Fair Grounds Race Course, which was heavily damaged by Hurricane Katrina, says he hopes to resolve by the end of March whether the track will have a horse racing meet next fall.

The track's owner, Churchill Downs Inc., has been mum on the future of racing in New Orleans. This year's Fair Grounds meet was a shortened affair staged at Louisiana Downs in Bossier City and minus its hallmark races for 3-year-olds, the Louisiana Derby and the Fair Ground Oaks.

"Pending a resolution of the insurance process, I would be very optimistic that there will be a race meeting here next year," Fair Grounds president Randy Soth said. "Hopefully, that would be resolved by the end of March."

Obtaining insurance is the biggest issue facing the Fair Grounds before it can hold another race meet, Soth said. Repairs are being paid for out of a $200 million insurance policy - with a $500,000 deductible - that was in place before the storm.

Soth said the track also would have to find enough employees, "but somehow, someway, I'll figure that out."

Repairs at the track are progressing smoothly,

The facility will be ready for the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival this spring, and there is no reason the track wouldn't be ready for racing next fall, Soth said.

By mid-March, a new roof will be in place over the grandstand-clubhouse building, Soth said. Then work will begin on repairs inside the building.

In the barn area, 46 of 48 barns were damaged by wind, water or both, Soth said.

"What's happening right now is repair of the ones that were most severely damaged," he said. "Anything wood is being replaced. Anything electrical is being replaced. All the water heaters are being replaced."

After the storm, the turf course and dirt track were saturated by salty floodwater, and soil was contaminated, Soth said. Churchill Downs track superintendent Butch Lehr and Donnie Richardson, Churchill's senior vice president in charge of racing at all the company's tracks, will visit the Fair Grounds to evaluate how to bring back those racing surfaces.

Work on an extension of the main building to house slot machines is "temporarily on hold, pending further evaluation of the city's recovery," Soth said.

Slots will not be ready for a 2006-07 Fair Grounds season, as originally forecast, Soth said.

Copyright © 2006 Associated Press.

Evangeline Downs jockey Weatherly dies
2/14/2006 11:23:51 AM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Posted: 2/13/2006 5:28:00 AM

Veteran Evangeline Downs jockey Jamey Weatherly died on February 2 at St. Martin Hospital in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana.

Funeral services were held for the 27-year-old rider on February 6 at First Baptist Church of Breaux Bridge.

In 11 seasons of racing Weatherly won 494 races from 6,567 mounts and his horses earned $4,349,679. In 2003, Weatherly guided Streak of Smoke to victory in the Evangeline Downs Sales Stakes and in 1996 he won the Minstrel Stakes aboard Prince D' Orleans'.

Weatherly is survived by his wife Josie Stokes Weatherly; two sons, Blaze Jeremiah Weatherly and Bailey James Weatherly; and a daughter Katherine Clair Weatherly.

Tromba resigns Louisiana Downs post
2/10/2006 4:17:01 PM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Posted: 2/10/06

Ray Tromba resigned last week as vice president of racing operations at Louisiana Downs, effective Thursday.

Tromba, 49, cited a desire to spend more time with his family after 18 years at the Bossier City, Louisiana, track. He joined Louisiana Downs in 1987 as director of marketing and public relations and was named general manager in 1994. He spent 3 1/2 years as corporate marketing manager for Santa Anita Park before joining the staff at the Bossier City, Louisiana, track.

The search for Tomba's replacement will begin next week.

"It's a real demanding business, but Louisiana Downs is in great shape," Tromba told the Shreveport Times. "We accomplished what I think are some great things. The hard part is leaving the great people who work out there. I love racing."

Tromba said he has no immediate plans to seek employment.

"Throughout the years, Ray has helped establish Harrah's Louisiana Downs as one of the South's finest thoroughbred racetracks," said Patrick Dennehy, the track's general manager, told the Times. "He has represented Harrah's Louisiana Downs well in the racing and local community. We thank him for his years of invaluable service to this property, and wish him and his family all the best."

Evangeline rider dies in car crash
2/5/2006 2:02:50 PM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted: 2/3/06

Jockey James Weatherly, a regular on the Louisiana circuit in recent years, died Thursday morning following an automobile accident near Lafayette, La. He was 27.

Weatherly was currently riding at the Evangeline Downs winter meeting and had won with two of his 39 mounts. For his career, Weatherly won 498 races from 6,596 mounts with earnings of more than $4.3 million. He is survived by his wife, Josie, and children Catherine, Bailey, and Blaze. Funeral arrangements are pending.

Evangeline stakes schedule worth $1.5-million
2/2/2006 11:57:19 AM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Posted: 2/1/06

Evangeline Downs has boosted the purses of the Evangeline Mile Handicap and the D.S. "Shine'' Young Memorial Futurity by $50,000 each, taking the value of those races to $150,000 apiece.

Those stakes, along with Louisiana Legends Night, anchor a 17-race stakes schedule at Evangeline's 2006 meet, which runs from March 30 through September 4.

The Evangeline Mile for three-year-olds and older will be run on August 12. The D.S. "Shine'' Young Memorial for two-year-olds at five furlongs is scheduled for the Louisiana Legends Night on July 1.

Louisiana Legends Night features $720,000 in purses and includes seven stakes races and three starter allowance races for Louisiana-breds.

Three $100,000 races—two divisions of the John Franks Memorial Sales Stakes on August 4-5 and the Lafayette Stakes on September 4—are also part of the track's stakes program, which offers $1.5-million in purses. Twelve $75,000 stakes races will also be contested.

"We are proud to offer this beefed up stakes schedule to our horsemen for our 41st-consecutive season in southwest Louisiana and feel it is certain to be the best ever," said David Yount, Evangeline's executive director of racing.

Horsemen Adament About Meet in New Orleans
1/30/2006 4:19:44 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 1/30/2006 1:38:50 PM Last Updated: 1/30/2006 1:57:14 PM

As Churchill Downs Inc. continues to assess whether Fair Grounds will be ready to host its 2006-07 meet beginning in late November, the president of the Louisiana Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association said anything less than a live meet in New Orleans would bring "strong opposition" from the organization.

Fair Grounds was damaged and New Orleans devastated by Hurricane Katrina in late August 2005. The track's 2005-06 meet, which concluded Jan. 22, was moved to Harrah's Louisiana Downs in Bossier City.

Louisiana HBPA president Sean Alfortish said CDI is statutorily obligated to offer 80 racing days within 20 consecutive weeks in New Orleans. A waiver was granted for 2005-06 given the circumstances, but that won't be the case for 2006-07, he said.

"They're obligated to run (at Fair Grounds)," Alfortish said. "They may say otherwise, but that's not reality. Churchill Downs in my opinion has two options--it either runs the meet at Fair Grounds or it sells the track and somebody else runs the meet. I can think of no reason or rationale CDI could give that would change our position regarding that matter."

Julie Koenig Loignon, director of communications and investor relations for CDI, said the company bought Fair Grounds in the fall of 2004 because it was a "good strategic fit" for the company. She said despite the hurricane devastation, "it is our intention to continue doing business in New Orleans."

Koenig Loignon said CDI must first see how the local market is recovering, whether enough qualified workers would be available for a live meet, and whether the company could obtain adequate and affordable insurance. CDI also owns six off-track betting parlors in the New Orleans area, and is licensed to build a slot machine parlor at Fair Grounds.

"We know our employees, horsemen, business partners, neighbors, and government and civic leaders are very eager to know when the racetrack might reopen and if we'll be able to race in New Orleans during our traditional dates in 2006-07," Koenig Loignon said. "We know our horsemen are very eager for answers about the 2006-07 racing season. At the end of the day, we need to determine whether the community of New Orleans will be ready to host a full-race meet--not just Fair Grounds. We hope to have the information we need to make that determination before it's time to apply for race dates this spring."

CDI needs about 500 workers for a live meet, she said. The company has delayed reopening its OTB parlor in Kenner because it can't find 35 workers.

CDI also believes seasonal housing is a concern because any temporary housing is being used by displaced residents. Alfortish and other horsemen said they believe the racing community would adapt and find accommodations in nearby Jefferson Parish, which was spared the brunt of the hurricane.

"I'm not trying to be critical, but Churchill Downs needs to show a commitment to the city of New Orleans and let the community build around us," Alfortish said. "The (New Orleans) Saints will be playing in September, and there's no reason Fair Grounds can't be ready."

CDI is proceeding with plans to get Fair Grounds ready to host Jazz Fest this spring. Power to the grandstand/clubhouse should be restored when roof repairs are completed in March.

Copyright © 2006 The Blood-Horse, Inc.

Record average purses at Fair Grounds at Louisiana Downs meet
1/30/2006 4:11:22 PM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Posted: 1/24/06

The 37-day Fair Grounds at Louisiana Downs meet handled $134.6-million in wagers for an average of $3.64-million daily at a special meeting which was moved from New Orleans to the Bossier City, Louisiana, track because of the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina.

Compared to last year's regular meeting at Fair Grounds, average daily wagering was down 13.1%.

But that downturn was expected, as Fair Grounds normally conducts at least 80 days of racing at its New Orleans facility that was devastated by the flooding that followed Hurricane Katrina. Owner Churchill Downs Inc. relocated a portion of the Fair Grounds meet to Harrah's Entertainment Inc.'s Louisiana Downs in Shreveport.

"Making this meet happen took real teamwork on behalf of our horsemen and state regulators and the great management team at our host site, Harrah's Louisiana Downs," said Fair Grounds President Randy Soth. "Through the support and cooperation of all of those stakeholders, we were able to offer 37 days of competitive racing with the highest average daily purses in Louisiana history. Just as important, we were able to keep Fair Grounds's legacy alive, and that makes our just-completed season especially gratifying."

Purse distribution for the meet totaled $14.3-million for an average of $388,126—a 44.9% increase compared to last year and a record for any meet in Louisiana. Horsemen responded to the generous purses by entering an average of 9.46 horses per race, up 13.7% from last year.

"Our objective from the outset was to ensure that our Louisiana horsemen had a place to compete within their home state, regardless of the disruption and economic uncertainty brought by one of the most damaging natural disasters in American history," Soth said.

On the track, Steve Asmussen finished as leading trainer with 38 wins, Roman Chapa took leading rider honors with 45 victories, and Heiligbrodt Racing Stable and Maggi Moss tied for leading owner honors with six wins each. Risen Star Stakes (G3) winner Lawyer Ron was named horse of the meeting.

Delta Downs Meet to Remain at Evangeline
1/12/2006 9:32:56 AM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 1/10/2006 7:50:23 AM Last Updated: 1/10/2006 8:31:00 AM

With reconstruction work continuing at Delta Downs Racetrack & Casino in the aftermath of Hurricane Rita, the track's Thoroughbred meet will remain at Evangeline Downs Racetrack & Casino.

Delta Downs had hoped to be ready for live racing Jan. 18 but was unable to meet a deadline imposed by the Louisiana State Racing Commission. The Vinton racetrack sought to run 40 days of its meet through March 25. The meet began in early December at Evangeline, located about two hours away in Opelousas.

The Sept. 24, 2005 hurricane damaged portions of the grandstand, lights around the three-quarter-mile track, and 13 barns.

"A lot of work was completed in a very short time," Delta Downs general manager Jack Bernsmeier told the racing commission Jan. 6. But a meeting with contractors indicated the facility wasn't ready. "But we couldn't get 100% (completion), meaning that we may end up with some trim molding missing or a bolt in the wrong place or missing--some small items still not done.

"So in fairness to the commission and to the horsemen, our belief was that we really had to be able to assure 100%, and we couldn't do that."

Delta Downs hopes to begin its customary Quarter Horse meet in April.

Delta Downs has rehired about half of its 1,100 employees. It had to lay off 450 employees. The track's slot-machine casino closed after the hurricane but reopened in November. Gross gaming revenue for November was $9.9 million, up slightly from the same month in 2004.

Copyright © 2006 The Blood-Horse, Inc.

Hotel to be added to Louisiana Downs property
12/22/2005 3:23:28 PM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Posted: 12/20/2005 11:38:00 AM ET

Louisiana Downs owner Harrah’s plans to add a six-story SpringHill Suites by Marriott hotel with 249 rooms to its racetrack and casino property in Bossier City, Louisiana.

Harrah’s Louisiana Downs will work with developers TVG Development, which has developed seven previous Marriott-flagged properties, and Wolff Urban Development as well as HMS Architects and Shreve Land Construction in building the all-suite hotel.

"The addition of the 249 all-suite room hotel will not only play a vital role in the economic development of our community but also enhance our ability to provide unparalleled entertainment experience to our guests," said Harrah’s spokesperson Pat Dennehy.

Louisiana Horsemen's Bookkeepers
12/15/2005 12:42:27 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Winter 2005 

Delta Downs: Judy McIntosh - (337) 589-7441

Evangeline Downs: Pat Thibodeaux - (337) 896-7223

Fair Grounds: Thomasina Leblanc - (504) 944-5515

Louisiana Downs: Thomasina Leblanc - (318) 742-5555

Louisiana HBPA Staff Contacts
12/15/2005 12:41:42 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Winter 2005 

Executive Director: Mona Romero

Katrina/Rita Relief Fund: Lea Mack

Assistant Internal Auditor: Staci Guillory

Horsemen’s Bookkeeper Supervisor: Bobbie Laviolette

Medical Plan Administrator: Murray Woodward

Medical Claims Processor: Gale Diaz

Pension Plan & Administrative Bookkeeper: Deborah Branigan

Horsemen’s Education Coordinator & Webmaster: Lea Mack

Special Projects: Nelson Menard Jr.

Louisiana HBPA Contact Information
12/15/2005 12:40:51 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Winter 2005 

Mailing address: P.O. Box 5339, Bossier City, Louisiana 71171

Telephone: (318) 746-8303

Fax: (318) 549-1627

Toll Free: (800) 845-4272

E-mail: lahbpa@lahbpa.com

Website: www.lahbpa.com

New Evangeline Downs Chaplains Represent the Best of Both Worlds
12/15/2005 12:39:55 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Winter 2005 

Chaplains Pete Criswell and Daniel Corte Jr., scheduled to join forces to provide outreach ministry to the horse racing community in Southern Louisiana during a time of acute need, represent the best of both worlds for the Race Track Chaplaincy of America.

Criswell, 60, has been an RTCA chaplain since 1983, when he began his ministry at Delta Downs. He is the most experienced of the organization’s 58 chaplains who serve at over 100 tracks and breeding farm areas throughout North America. “Chaplain Pete” served at Louisiana Downs from 1984 through 1988, when he left to take the same position at the newly opened Remington Downs. In 2001, he moved to the New Mexico tracks.

Daniel Corte Jr., 29, is the son of a San Diego Hispanic church pastor who also serves as the chaplain at nearby San Luis Rey Downs training center. Chaplain Corte Jr. is earning a bachelor’s degree from LaVerne University and took his first chaplaincy position last November at Delta Downs. He is part of the Hispanic culture and is computer literate.

The day before Hurricane Rita struck the area, Corte; his wife, Bianca; and their 10-day old baby, Daniel Corte III; evacuated Orange, Texas and moved to a tiny town near Alexandria, Louisiana, where his family and seven others spent over two weeks in a tiny cabin. He recently moved to the Shreveport area to assist Louisiana Downs Chaplain Jimmy Sistruck in his efforts to aid the hard-hit Louisiana horse racing community.

Chaplain Corte said he looks forward to ministering at Evangeline Downs until he can return to Delta Downs, and he said that he has received several calls from southern Louisiana horsemen encouraging him to return.

Chaplain's Corner: Dreamer
12/15/2005 12:38:39 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Winter 2005 

by Chaplain Jimmy Sistrunk

What an incredible year that we have experienced here at Harrah’s Louisiana Downs. It’s almost like a dream. We were able to see some things happen that we thought were impossible. And really, that’s what a dream is – something that is almost impossible.

Everyone needs a dream, something that they can believe in. A great movie just came out called “Dreamer.” Go see it, and it will inspire you to believe when all odds are stacked against you.

But you know, some of us need to dream again. Maybe you lost all you were dreaming for in a broken marriage, a business deal gone bad, or maybe even a devastating storm called “Hurricane Katrina or Rita.” I dare you to dream again!

The bible tells about a man who was a dreamer. His name was Joseph. God gave him a dream that one day his father and his brothers would bow down before him. The only problem was that Joseph decided to tell them about the dream. Resentment and jealousy arose, and Joseph’s brothers sold him to slavery in Egypt.

The first lesson we learn is that not everyone will believe in your dream. Just remember, God believes in you!

Joseph also was put in prison because he chose not to commit adultery with his master’s wife. After seemingly being forgotten in prison, one day he was summoned before the king to interpret a dream. Afterwards, he was promoted to second in command of all Egypt. His dream had finally been fulfilled.

Our other lesson we learn is that sometimes our dreams may take time. Don’t give up!

Well, needless to say, this has been a dream year for our chaplaincy. We averaged in the 90s in our weekly services, baptized 16 new believers, started a weekly bus run to Wal-Mart that averaged in the 60s, and the list goes on. And we’re just beginning – the best is yet to come!

May God Bless you all as we continue to serve.

Chaplain Jimmy

Louisiana HBPA Rejoins NTRA
12/15/2005 12:37:31 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Winter 2005 

On September 16, the Louisiana HBPA Board of Directors voted unanimously to rejoin the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA).

Said Louisiana HBPA President Sean Alfortish, “With all the wonderful support our horsemen have received and will continue to receive from NTRA Charities in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, it just seemed like it was time for us to rejoin.”

Alfortish continued, “Plus, we felt strongly that the NTRA has made great strides in re-focusing its mission – especially in the areas of lobbying, as a convening authority for the entire industry, and with its Group Purchasing Program, which has benefited many of our horsemen directly.”

Voter Registration Drive!
12/15/2005 12:36:40 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Winter 2005 

Due to the recent catastrophes, the demographics in our state will change considerably. It is imperative that we take a strong stance within the political arena to pursue what is in the best interest of racing and to defend the things we already have.

With a membership exceeding 5,000, we already have a strong influence in any election. Consider this … if every Louisiana HBPA member went out and actively pursued at least 10 friends and family members to register to vote and sign onto our database, when Louisiana horsemen go to the state capital or to Washington D.C., we will have the power to change the outcome of an election, whether it be local, state or national. In order to stay competitive in Louisiana, and with other gambling states, we will have to rise up and become a stronger voice for horsemen than ever.

Helping us with this voter registration drive will be the single most important thing you can do for the horse racing industry in Louisiana … not to mention yourselves and your family.

In order to update our current mailing list and to compile our voter registration database, please either mail, fax or e-mail the requested information below back to us as soon as possible at: P. O. Box 5339, Bossier City, Louisiana 71171, fax (318) 549-1627, or e-mail nmenard@lahbpa.com.

Information Needed:

Full Name

Member Type

Mailing Address

Current Address

Phone Number

Cell Number

E-mail Address

Voter Status

Voter District

Precinct Number

If possible, please include a copy of your voter registration card.

Voter registration cards can be filled out at any HBPA field office or at Stemmans Tack Shop.

Note: This information will not be shared with or distributed to any third party outside the Louisiana HBPA.

Workers Compensation Update
12/15/2005 12:34:38 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Winter 2005 

The official name for our workers compensation company is “Horsemen’s Insurance Alliance,” or “HIA.”

Due to hurricanes Katrina and Rita, we have been set back to January 2006. We are working diligently to beat the deadline. However, insurance companies are working overtime due to the hurricanes, as well. All meetings have been very productive, as there are so many fine details to be worked out. With the unveiling of the Horsemen’s Insurance Alliance, Louisiana will become innovators in the industry.

HBPA Goes to Washington
12/15/2005 12:33:38 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Winter 2005 

From October 6 through 9, Louisiana HBPA representatives Sean Alfortish, Mona Romero, Jim Gelpi, and HBPA lobbyist Bud Courson went to Washington, D.C. for a series of meetings with Louisiana’s Senators and House of Representatives about the state of affairs that Louisiana’s horse racing industry faces today. The trip was originally scheduled to discuss the many challenges the industry faces with internet wagering and the unlawful piracy of our racing signal in many countries abroad. However, with the unfortunate circumstances resulting from hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the most important subject to cover was the obvious blow the horse racing industry took due to the two hurricanes.

Due to these disasters, the capital was extremely busy, but thanks to lobbyist Bud Courson, who was able to arrange personal meetings with everyone on our list, with the exception of Congressman Jim McCrery, who was extremely busy with President Bush. We were able to meet and visit with Senator Mary Landrieu, Senator David Vitter, Representative Bobby Jindal, Representative Rodney Alexander, Representative William Jefferson, and Representative Melancon to lobby for federal help for all of our horsemen who have been displaced and suffered losses as a result of hurricanes Rita and Katrina. They were all very appreciative that the HBPA took the time to come to Washington and establish relationships that will take us through the next several years.

We want to especially thank Senator Landrieu’s office and her staff, who have agreed to “run the point” for us in obtaining federal relief from FEMA in order to aid the many horsemen who lost their homes, farms, barns, and businesses due to hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Fair Grounds Hikes Purses 18%, Adds Stakes
12/11/2005 11:10:30 AM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 12/9/2005 7:31:52 PM Last Updated: 12/10/2005 10:03:54 AM

Fair Grounds Race Course announced Friday that it is increasing its purse schedule by 18% and adding five new stakes races for Louisiana breds to its Harrah's Louisiana Downs schedule.

Overnight purses will feature an increase of $4,000 per race, effective with the Dec. 15 card.

The closing weekend of Fair Grounds' 134th season has been named "Louisiana Lagniappe Weekend" and will feature six $75,000 stakes for state breds. They include five first-time events: the Louisiana Lagniappe Sprint and Louisiana Lagniappe Ladies on Jan. 21, and the Louisiana Lagniappe Ladies Sprint, Louisiana Lagniappe Classic and Crescent City Oaks on Jan. 22. The Crescent City Derby on Jan. 21 remains on the schedule, while the Crescent City Oaks replaces the Battler Star in the 3-year-old filly division.

Three Louisiana-bred stakes next month received $25,000 purse increases to $75,000: the Red Camelia on Jan. 7 and the Dixie Poker Ace on Jan. 8.

The changes will increase purses to an average of approximately $370,000 per day, the largest ever for a meet in Louisiana.

The purse increase was implemented due to continued better than expected business levels at five Fair Grounds affiliated off-track betting facilities in the New Orleans area that reopened on Oct. 26. Fair Grounds Race Course and five other OTBs remain closed in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Fair Grounds' abbreviated 37-day race meet is being held at its temporary host site, Harrah's Louisiana Downs, in Bossier City.

Copyright © 2005 The Blood-Horse, Inc.

Delta Downs’s stakes program worth more than $1-million
12/7/2005 11:08:44 AM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Posted: 12/6/2005

Delta Downs will offer 14 stakes races worth $1,020,000 during an abbreviated 40-day Thoroughbred meeting that will run at the Vinton, Louisiana track from January 18 through March 25.

The season, originally slated to begin on October 21 and offer 45 stakes races worth more than $4-million, was shortened due to the effects of Hurricane Rita in September. The postponement of live racing at Delta Downs following the storm also prompted the cancellation of the $1-million Delta Jackpot Stakes (G3) and three other stakes on December 2.

Because of storm damage to its facility, Delta began its 2005-’06 meet on December with 26 days at Evangeline Downs.

The third edition of Louisiana Premier Night on February 18 will anchor the meet at Delta Downs. The card features six stakes races for Louisiana-bred horses, including the $150,000 Louisiana Premier Night Championship Stakes, a 1 1/16-mile race for four-year-olds and older.

Indigo Girl wins Louisiana HBPA Stakes
12/7/2005 10:07:58 AM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted: 12/4/2005

Longshot Indigo Girl broke on top and did not look back as she upset six rivals in Saturday's Louisiana HBPA Stakes at Evangeline Downs. Shes Dixies Eskimo chased the winner in vain throughout and had to settle for second, four and a half lengths behind and four and a quarter lengths in front of Living Lavida Lisa in third. Zarba the Great finished fourth followed by favored Hello Lucky, who faded after racing forwardly early. Shakopee was a late scratch.

Trained by Sam Breaux, who also sent out the runner up, Indigo Girl ($27.20) was ridden by Jason Eads and covered the five and half furlongs in 1:03.70 in leading every step of the way. The Louisiana-bred 3-year-old daughter of Leestown picked up sixth win from 12 starts as she made her first start since early May. She picked up $45,000 for her winning connections and has now earned over $217,000.

"I spoke to Mr. Breaux in the paddock and his only instructions to me were to let the filly decide race tactics," Eads said following the race. "When she broke I just let her do what she wanted and she was just breezing along, at the top of the stretch I took a peek back and didn't see anyone coming after me, I guess you could say I was just a very happy passenger."

Fair Grounds Rider Not Badly Hurt
12/7/2005 10:07:24 AM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted: 12/5/2005

Jockey Terry Thompson escaped serious injury in a one-horse spill in the first race at the Fair Grounds meet at Louisiana Downs on Sunday. He is scheduled to resume riding Thursday, said his agent, Coleman Lloyd.

Thompson was thrown when his mount, Fast Baby, broke down and fell while on the lead in the final furlong. Thompson was taken to Willis Knighton Medical Center in Shreveport, La., and X-rays were negative for broken bones, said Lloyd.

Louisiana Stallion Homebuilder Dead
12/7/2005 10:06:38 AM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 12/6/2005 7:30:03 AM Last Updated: 12/6/2005 7:30:03 AM

Homebuilder, a millionaire and sire of 25 horses that won or placed in stakes, has been euthanized because of a heart condition. The 21-year-old son of Mr. Prospector stood most of his career for the late breeder/owner John Franks and the last couple of years at Jay Adcock's Red River Farms near Coushatta, La.

Homebuilder initially raced for his breeder, James P. Ryan. A home builder, Ryan campaigned Homebuilder in the name of Ryehill Farm and won seven stakes with him, chief of which was the 1988 Fayette Handicap (gr. II) at Keeneland. Shortly after winning the Fayette, Ryan sold Homebuilder as part of the Ryehill dispersal at the Keeneland November sale to help raise money to fund programs for backstretch workers. Bought by Franks, Homebuilder fetched the dispersal's second-highest price, $1.6 million.

For his new owner, Homebuilder won the 1989 Baltimore Budweiser Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. III) in what was his last season of racing. He retired with 30 stakes wins or placings from 60 starts and earnings of $1,172,153.

Homebuilder stood several seasons at Josephine Abercrombie's Pin Oak Stud in Kentucky before being moved to Franks Farm (Southland Division) near Ocala, Fla. His 11 stakes winners included graded winners Built Up, who won or placed in 24 stakes, and Built for Pleasure, whose memorable victory came in the 1996 Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) at 143-1.

Homebuilder, who stood for a time at Ryder River Ridge Farm in Louisiana before moving to Red River, covered one mare this year before being euthanized in the spring. "She's in foal, and we're hoping it's a special foal," Adcock said. "We don't get too many millionaires down here, and it was a thrill standing a horse like Homebuilder."

Copyright © 2005 The Blood-Horse, Inc.

Fair Grounds - Servis plans to shuttle horses from Oaklawn, etc.
12/3/2005 10:06:02 AM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted: 12/1/2005

It is nothing on the scale of a Smarty Party, but John Servis is coming to Louisiana Downs for the first time.

Servis, who trained Smarty Jones, has never started a horse at Louisiana Downs, but with the Fair Grounds meet moved to Bossier City this season, and Servis just three hours north at Oaklawn in Hot Springs, Ark., there will be fairly regular trips south during the coming weeks.

"I've got some horses doing well, ready to run," Servis said.

One of them is Wild World, a 2-year-old who was entered in a maiden race Sunday. But no luck, even for the Derby-winning trainer. Wild World was one of several horses excluded from an oversubscribed race, and Servis's Louisiana Downs debut will have to wait.

Meanwhile, Servis said Rockport Harbor has continued training well as he prepares for his first start since last spring. Plagued last season by physical problems, Rockport Harbor breezed Saturday for the first time since he resumed training, going three furlongs at Oaklawn.

Rockport Harbor has no comeback spot etched in stone. "Not yet," said Servis. "I'm just going to let him tell me once we get farther along. Soundness-wise and all, it's good, knock on wood."

Round Pond, one of the best 3-year-old fillies of 2005, is "a couple weeks" behind Rockport Harbor in her training, Servis said, and may have her first breeze since being laid up next weekend.

Chapa winning with everything

Jockey agent Bobby Kelly had a defibrillator implanted in his chest this week. The way things are going, he might have had it set with jewels.

Kelly is representing Roman Chapa at the Fair Grounds meet at Louisiana Downs, and Chapa is having quite an amazing run. Through Sunday's races, he had 11 wins from just 26 starters and was on top of the standings, four victories ahead of the relentless James Graham. Moreover, Chapa traveled to Sam Houston for Texas Champions Night on Nov. 19, and won three stakes races there.

"So, that's 14 wins in six days," Kelly pointed out. He also was quick to point out the main reason for the Chapa barrage: Steve Asmussen.

Chapa right now is Asmussen's top choice at Louisiana Downs, and has ridden eight of Asmussen's nine winners at the meet.

"Steve's just hot, to tell you the truth," Kelly said. "You're only as good as the trainer you ride for."

Kelly is busy booking mounts less than two months after suffering a heart attack that almost killed him. He traveled to the New Orleans area early this week to have the defibrillator inserted in his chest - it will start his heart going if there's ever another failure - spent one night in recovery, and was on the road driving back to work Wednesday.

Mr. Sulu tunes up for Turf

Mr. Sulu, one of the best Louisiana-bred grass horses during the last several years, had his major prep for the Champions Day Turf on Dec. 10 when he breezed six furlongs Thursday at Louisiana Downs. Mr. Sulu was timed in 1:13.80, about six lengths better than the next-fastest of five works at the distance.

Trainer Josie Carroll wanted to run Mr. Sulu in an allowance prep race for the Turf on opening weekend, but Mr. Sulu got stuck on the also-eligible list and couldn't draw into the race.

"Absolutely, we would have preferred to have a prep," Carroll said. "But he's in good order, so it's up to him now."

Carroll, a Canadian, split her winter stable between Florida and New Orleans last year, but is trying California for the first time this season. She has 20 stalls on the West Coast, and was busy setting up her stable on Thursday morning.

Delta Meet Approved; First Part at Evangeline
11/29/2005 2:22:36 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 11/29/2005 11:18:09 AM Last Updated: 11/29/2005 11:18:09 AM

The Louisiana State Racing Commission, after a Nov. 28 tour of Delta Downs Racetrack & Casino, gave the Vinton facility the go-ahead to reopen for live Thoroughbred racing Jan. 18.

Hurricane Rita hit Delta Downs in late September. Portions of the clubhouse were damaged, as were 16 of 20 barns on the backstretch. The track was forced to postpone its live meet, which would have begun Oct. 21.

In the meantime, the first part of the Delta Downs meet will be held at Evangeline Downs Racetrack & Casino beginning Dec. 1. Evangeline, located about 2 1/2 hours away in Opelousas, wasn't impacted by any of the hurricanes that hit Louisiana.

"The bottom line is we want to do what is best for racing in the state of Louisiana," Evangeline executive director of racing David Yount said before the commission meeting. "This is an industry we are trying to save. Fifty percent of our resources have been eliminated due to two hurricanes. It has devastated our industry, which affects hundreds of people. It's a multimillion-dollar industry for the state.

"All we are trying to do is help salvage through these emergency times. We are opening our doors like any Good Samaritan would to be able to continue our businesses as normal as we can."

About $12.2 million in purse money has been transferred to Evangeline. The racing commission instructed the track to return the balance to Delta Downs when it's ready to resume live racing.

Delta Downs general manager Jack Bernsmeier said the racing facilities would be ready by Jan. 18. Delta Downs requested 40 days of Thoroughbred racing four days a week through March 25. The track expects to have 914 stalls ready by the opening date.

"All of the track lighting, all the railing, and all of the surfacing of the track will be in," Bernsmeier said. Repairs should be completed on the grandstand, hotel rooms, off-track betting area, jockeys' quarters, and veterinarian offices, he said.

Half of the track's 1,100 employees have been displaced, but Bernsmeier said he hopes to get everyone back once all of the repairs are done at Delta Downs. "We as a company (Boyd Gaming) are willing to do whatever it takes to makes those dates," he told the racing commission.

Before the plan was approved, the Louisiana Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association objected. President Sean Alfortish said his group has concerns Delta Downs may not be ready by Jan. 18, and he requested a deferral of the Thoroughbred meet approval until Delta Downs can guarantee that it will open for racing on time.

"Right now, we don't think the plan (to reopen) is adequate enough to provide the best interests for the horsemen," Alfortish said.

Commission chairman Bob Wright disagreed. "I think it adds stability to the horse people if we decide today that something should happen in mid-January rather than wait until Jan. 1," he said.

The commission approved the schedule with the stipulation Delta Downs officials give a status report to the commission Dec. 19. The racing commission, Jockeys' Guild, and others will conduct a surface inspection of the Delta Downs track on the report date.

Commission attorney Paul Bonin said if Delta Downs can't open by Jan. 18, it would be subject to a $5,000-per-day fine for each lost day of racing.

Fair Grounds, owned by Churchill Downs Inc., moved its 2005-06 meet to Louisiana Downs in Bossier City because of damage from Hurricane Katrina. Fair Grounds officials told the commission indicated live racing could return to New Orleans next Thanksgiving.

Delta Downs closed Sept. 22, two days before Hurricane Rita struck. The track's slot-machine parlor and other amenities reopened Nov. 3. The Louisiana State Police, which released a report on the impact the two hurricanes have had on the state's gaming industry, said the slots parlor at Delta Downs lost $15.9 million in revenue and $2.4 million in franchise fees.

"We are little bit off (in revenue) from where we were before the storm, but we have had the casino up and running for about three weeks," Bernsmeier said. "That part is good. We have a little more than half of the hotel rooms back open, and we are close to getting the rest of it open."

The Delta Downs slots parlor is one of the biggest moneymakers for its owner, Las Vegas-based Boyd Gaming, according to financial reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Copyright © 2005 The Blood-Horse, Inc.

Meeker Not Definitive on Racing’s Return to Fair Grounds Next Year
11/29/2005 2:03:56 PM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Posted: 11/26/2005 8:46:00 PM ET

Will Fair Grounds have a meet next year? Churchill Downs Inc. President Tom Meeker cannot definitely say that there will be racing in New Orleans in 2006.

"I wish I could answer in the absolute affirmative," he told the New Orleans Times-Picayune. "Right now, I can’t"

Meeker has pinpointed three things that are imperative for racing to return next year to Fair Grounds, which began an abbreviated 37-day meet on November 19 at Louisiana Downs near Shreveport.

While the company has a sense of optimism about the future of its New Orleans facility, Meeker said that first, the market has to return to the Crescent City and added that he is encouraged by the rate of re-population after Hurricane Katrina.

"We’ve got some pioneers coming into the New Orleans community," he said. "It’s very encouraging, and we have a sense of optimism. But the fact of the matter is, the basic infrastructure hasn’t been repaired.

"Number two, as we talk about the market, our operation was really directed at the local market. …," he said. "All business has to make these decisions. One could argue business has to come in first, create jobs, before people will come back.

"As we move down the road, we’re gong to be watching the development of the market, because we’re so dependent on the local market for our racing operation and slots operation," he continued. "Hopefully, there are some things that the state government, local government, and even the federal government can do to help us under a much larger plan—the redevelopment of New Orleans plan—to help us reach a bigger part of the tourism market than we have today.

"We have to deal with the facts as they are," Meeker said. "We have a city that is re-populating, that lacks basic infrastructure. Can we operate? Let’s talk about insurance. If we re-invested, we have to make sure we have adequate insurance. There’s a question if we can obtain it." Meeker added that a new roof would soon be in place on the grandstand at the New Orleans track and the at the backstretch stable area, which was flooded, was currently being pressure-washed.

"Our commitment to New Orleans remains firm," Meeker told the newspaper. "Does that mean we’ll open up tomorrow? No. By next race meet? Maybe, if all these things get worked out. We have staying power."

Nothing Easy About Fair Grounds' Forced Move
11/21/2005 12:50:01 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 11/19/2005 8:27:31 PM Last Updated: 11/19/2005 8:27:31 PM

Welcome to the "new normal." No red beans and rice. No oysters on the half shell. No cornbread dressing. The 134th season of Thoroughbred racing at Fair Grounds in New Orleans opened Nov. 19 in, of all places, Shreveport, Louisiana.

Tradition interrupted. For generations of racing fans in New Orleans, the phrase "Opening Day" is interchangeable with Thanksgiving. But in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, evacuees scattered like birds blown in the wind. Individuals sought refuge in hotels and Red Cross shelters across the south. Businesses struggled to regain continuity of services. For the Fair Grounds racetrack, it meant a crash course in crisis management and a steep, uphill challenge to establish an alternative presence. Somewhere. Anywhere.

With ten minutes before post time for the Fair Grounds at Louisiana Downs meeting, president Randy Soth (a man without an office) was pacing the press box and punching messages into his Blackberry device.

"Our very first objective was to find our employees," Soth explained about the recovery period. "We wanted to know where they were and if they were safe. We tried to resume some normalcy back to their life. Once we established a call center in Louisville and got a handle on where our employees were, we focused on establishing a race meet for the benefit of the horsemen."

For Soth and the remainder of Fair Grounds staff it was a wild scramble. "We all knew that we had an enormous job to accomplish," Soth said. "The first thing we did was throw job descriptions out the window. It was all hands on deck and total flexibility was the key to getting it done."

No argument from trainer Sam David, who had a horse entered in the first race. "After the hit we took, just being able to run a stable means a lot to us horsemen," David said. "For this business, we witnessed a unique cooperation across many factions. Everybody dropped their agendas and pulled together, including the state legislature. Today, on the surface of things it appears effortless but everybody dropped their agendas and pulled together, including the state legislature to make this happen."

The 37-day meet will be the shortest in modern Fair Grounds history but purses should surpass record levels, averaging $315,000 per day. "Everyone seems excited," said Fair Grounds director of racing Ben Huffman. "The horsemen like the purse structure and the stakes schedule. The trainers are champing at the bit."

The first of 34 stakes races for the abbreviated meeting was the $50,000 Gentilly Stakes run at one mile on the turf for Louisiana breds. Coming from off the pace, Jerry D. Lee's versatile 2-year old colt Desert Wheat romped to an impressive victory. "This is a pretty special moment," Lee exclaimed, holding the trophy. "Our churches in Tyler, Texas put up hundreds of evacuees from New Orleans. Who would have imagined it but now here we are in the winner's circle of the first stakes race for the Fair Grounds season?"

There may be no oak trees in the infield of Harrah's Louisiana Downs. The color of the racing strip is more red than bayou brown. The fans wear more Stetson hats and brass belt buckles than is typical of a New Orleans crowd but it was still Opening Day and many of the faces were familiar and smiling.

Donald Mable, a paddock regular at Fair Grounds, evacuated to Houston after a day and night of horror in the Super Dome. His forced journey continues as he waits for word of his house to be re-built.

"I came up here to Shreveport so I could have some fun and be around the horses," Mable explained. "What happened back in New Orleans is behind me. I got a job and a roof over my head. I consider myself fortunate to be alive."

Copyright © 2005 The Blood-Horse, Inc.

Evangeline track report
11/18/2005 2:17:29 PM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted: 11/16/2005

Interest continues to mount here in anticipation of a rare winter meeting that will begin on Dec. 1. Due to extensive damage suffered by Delta Downs at the hands of Hurricane Rita in late September, the winter and early spring dates for that track have been transferred to Evangeline. The unusual set of circumstances is also being played out in the northern part of the state, as Fair Grounds will conduct its racing this year at Louisiana Downs thanks to Hurricane Katrina, which struck in late August. That abbreviated 37-day season begins Saturday.

Stall applications closed this week for the upcoming meeting at Evangeline Downs, and all indications are that racing secretary Jason Boulet will have plenty of horses to work with.

"We've fielded literally hundreds of calls already regarding the availability of stalls from horsemen displaced from both Delta Downs in Vinton and from the Fair Grounds in New Orleans," said Boulet. "We will do everything in our power to accommodate and aid the many horsemen who have supported us, and racing, in Louisiana.

"The application process is ongoing," he said, "and we encourage all interested parties to apply."

Fair Grounds purses increase by more than $500,000
11/16/2005 3:42:13 PM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Posted: 11/15/2005 8:26:00 PM ET

A purse increase of more than $500,000 will boost overnight and stakes races when Fair Grounds opens its 37-day meet on Saturday at Louisiana Downs.

Damage from Hurricane Katrina has temporarily halted live racing at Fair Grounds.

Overnight purses will be increased $1,000 per race. Purses for four stakes races that will be run on January 14—the Risen Star Stakes (G3), Silverbulletday Stakes (G3), Bayou Breeders’ Cup Handicap (G3), and the Duncan F. Kenner Breeders’ Cup Handicap—were increased to $250,000 each.

The increases will boost purses to an average of approximately $315,000 per day, the largest ever for a meet in Louisiana. The increase was implemented following better than expected business levels at five Fair Grounds off-track betting facilities in the New Orleans area that reopened on October 26. Five other OTBs remain closed.

Top trainers, riders set for Fair Grounds at Louisiana Downs meeting
11/13/2005 11:35:32 AM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Posted: 11/11/2005 2:04:00 PM ET

With average daily purses expected to reach $300,000, the 37-day Fair Grounds meeting at Louisiana Downs in Bossier City, Louisiana, will feature a mix of some of the top trainers and riders from both tracks.

Steve Asmussen, who finished atop last year’s Fair Grounds meeting with 67 wins, will be well represented at the meeting, which begins on November 19, as will Cole Norman, who finished atop this year’s regular Louisiana Downs meeting trainer standings with 92 wins.

Robbie Albarado, who won the 2004-’05 riding title at Fair Grounds, will compete at the meeting, as will Brian Hernandez Jr, who earned the 2004 Eclipse Award as outstanding apprentice rider.

Major event days will include Louisiana Champions Day on December 10 and the "Road to the [Kentucky] Derby [G1]" Kickoff Day on January 14, along with the $400,000 New Orleans Handicap (G2) on January 7.

Four graded stakes are part of a $3.5-million program that will feature 34 stakes at the meeting.

Meadowlands jock challenge raises $25K
11/13/2005 11:34:41 AM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted: 11/11/05

The Katrina Invitational Jockey Challenge at The Meadowlands Racetrack raised $25,168 Thursday night to benefit Louisiana horsemen.

The event attracted Louisiana riders Kent Desormeaux, Craig Perret, Mark Guidry, and Eddie Martin Jr. They rode in one race, the third, against Gary Stevens, Aaron Gryder, Joe Bravo, Edgar Prado, and Stewart Elliott.

The challenge was originally planned for four races, but the riders spent the additional time signing autographs as part of the fund-raising effort.

The jockeys donated all riding fees and commissions from the four races, a total of $12,378. The Big M added $10,000, and fans and horsemen at the track gave $2,790.

"I just want to thank the Meadowlands fans for digging into your pockets and reaching deep and having some heart and helping these people to have a little bit of comfort time when we show up with some money for them," said Desormeaux.

The money will be turned over to the Race Track Chaplaincy for distribution.

Katrina victims big winners in Jockey Challenge at the Big M
11/13/2005 11:29:17 AM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Posted: 11/10/2005 10:51:00 PM ET

No formal scoring was kept among riders participating in Thursday night’s Katrina Invitational Jockey Challenge at the Meadowlands Racetrack. The focus instead was on the tally of funds raised by the special event held at the East Rutherford, New Jersey, track to benefit Louisiana horsemen affected by the destruction of Hurricane Katrina.

Two teams of jockeys, five of whom represented weather-battered Louisiana, squared off in a four-race challenge to raise much-needed relief funds for Louisiana horsemen and their family members who remain displaced by the August storm, which wreaked havoc on the Gulf Coast.

Racing Hall-of Fame members, Kent Desormeaux and Gary Stevens, joined by Craig Perret, Mark Guidry, Eddie Martin Jr., and Eddie Delahoussaye, comprised the visiting team. They rode against Joe Bravo, Aaron Gryder, Stewart Elliott, Edgar Prado, and other members of the Meadowlands jockey colony.

Challenge races—which were the third, fourth, sixth, and seventh on the card—were won by Gryder, Prado, Rajiv Maragh, and Jose Lezcano.

The challenge was the brainchild of Dennis Dowd, the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority’s senior vice president of racing. The Meadowlands donated $10,000 to the cause and the jockeys contributed their riding fees, which will be distributed through the Racetrack Chaplaincy of America.

Riders participated in a meet-and-greet with fans on the paddock level of the racetrack, signing autographs and posing for photos while accepting donations. The Louisiana contingent may have been blanked on the racetrack, but the raising of relief funds and general awareness were the primary concerns.

Desormeaux, a native of Maurice, Louisiana, has a first cousin, Blair Hebert, whose home is underwater.

"We want to thank the Meadowlands for their initiative to put this together," Desormeaux said. "You’ve got families down there with altered lives, their houses are gone and they’re are living in someone else’s home or places like motels.

"What it means to me is that these people won’t have to wonder where they’re going to buy the next bottle of milk for their baby. We’re bringing this money into their hands and they’re going know, at least for a little while, that the children will be fed."

Perret, a regular on the New Jersey circuit from 1976 through 1989, currently has 23 family members displaced by the storm.

"My family is shattered," he said. "These [jockeys] are here for the right reasons, to help people who need help. Whatever it takes to put on a show and help those people, that’s what we’re going to do."—Tom De Martini

Meeker Optimistic about Future of Fair Grounds
11/9/2005 11:22:30 AM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 11/8/2005 12:07:08 PM Last Updated: 11/8/2005 12:16:28 PM

Churchill Downs Inc. president and chief executive officer Tom Meeker said that in the weeks since Hurricane Katrina devastated CDI-owned Fair Grounds in New Orleans, the company has been working with federal, state, and local governments on a reinvestment plan that could include revamping the historic racetrack into a tourist destination.

Meeker noted the Fair Grounds racing operation and new slot-machine operation was geared toward patrons in the local market, but much of that local market has now been displaced.

"It's important to CDI that the Fair Grounds be given new opportunities to reach the tourism market and or other markets that were not severely damaged by Katrina," Meeker said in a Nov. 8 conference call to discuss CDI third-quarter earnings. "Toward that end, we've been discussing concepts such as developing the Fair Grounds into a destination point, building a permanent location for the Jazz Festival at the Fair Grounds, and expanding the gaming profile of our operations at the track and OTB locations."

Meeker expressed a strong desire for Fair Grounds to remain connected with the renowned Jazz and Heritage Festival, which the track has hosted for 10 years. "It alone produces a significant economic impact for that community and is part of an overall tourism portfolio for New Orleans," he said.

Meeker said all redevelopment concepts being discussed would require legislative action.

"Each of these concepts requires legislative action at either the state or local level, which as we know is always a difficult proposition," Meeker said. "However, given the unique position Fair Grounds occupies within the community, and the expressed willingness of local officials to discuss these concepts, we're looking ahead with a degree of optimism that clearly did not exist the day the waters started to rise."

Meeker also said reinvestment would rest on having a qualified workforce and the availability of adequate insurance. With initial concerns aside, he said CDI is confident in having both.

"Today local businesses are having a difficult time locating employees," Meeker said. "To that effort, we've made extraordinary efforts to locate our employees provide them with pay and financial assistance necessary to cope with the disaster. That effort has paid off as we opened five (of 11) old OTBs in the area not directly affected by the storm, putting some 100 members of our Louisiana team back to work."

Meeker said it has been indicated to him there would be adequate and economical insurance available from both traditional carriers or through a federally sponsored insurance program.

CDI chief financial officer Mike Miller said a highlight of CDI operating performance for the third quarter was the strength of its video poker business in Louisiana. Since the acquisition last year, 40% of old video poker machines have been replaced by new machines, with an investment of $3.6 million.

Miller said the five reopened OTB parlors are seeing "very brisk business," and the new machines have been successful.

"For those new machines, we've seen a net win in some instances double that of historic averages," Miller said.

Overall, Meeker remained very optimistic about the future of Fair Grounds.

"Without resort to hyperbole, I firmly believe there is a great opportunity in New Orleans as the community is rebuilt," Meeker said. "There is no doubt that it is a daunting task and one that will require time, but in the end there will be a new and broader operation that benefits the company as well as the community."

Copyright © 2005 The Blood-Horse, Inc.

Katrina Evacuees Moved to 'Magnaville'
11/7/2005 5:18:40 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 11/4/2005 5:45:41 PM Last Updated: 11/4/2005 5:45:41 PM

Magna Entertainment Corp. chairman Frank Stronach provided shelter at the Palm Meadows Training Center for 212 Gulf Coast evacuees on Sept. 4, six days after Hurricane Katrina devastated the region.

Friday he made good on his promise to provide shelter a lot closer to their homes. While many of the evacuees had already returned or went elsewhere, those who remained at the Boynton Beach facility were bussed Friday afternoon to Palm Beach International Airport, where they boarded a plane for Alexandria, La.

Alexandria has the nearest airport to "Canada Village," which Mr. Stronach established in Simmesport, La., near the Mississippi border. The community of manufactured homes, nicknamed "Magnaville" by locals, can be their rent-free home for five years if they wish to stay on.

Plans are underway to raise Angus cattle and grow organic vegetables there.

Copyright © 2005 The Blood-Horse, Inc.

Delta cancels $1-million race for 2005
11/3/2005 3:01:28 PM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Posted: 11/2/2005 4:18:00 PM ET

The postponement of live racing at Delta Downs due to Hurricane Rita has prompted the cancellation of the $1-million Delta Jackpot Stakes (G3) and three other stakes on December 2.

Hurricane Rita damaged many of the barns at Delta Downs, leading the Louisiana Racing Commission to shift most of the track’s 88-day meeting to Evangeline Downs.

The Jackpot and its supporting stakes will not be run at Evangeline. The card also was scheduled to include the $250,000 Delta Princess Stakes, $75,000 Treasure Chest Stakes, and $75,000 Sam’s Town Stakes.

Jockey challenge to benefit Louisiana horsemen
11/2/2005 2:18:19 PM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Posted: 11/1/2005

Louisiana horsemen will be the winners from proceeds raised at the Katrina Invitational Jockey Challenge, a special event at the Meadowlands on November 10 that features a team of New Jersey and New York-based jockeys against riders from Louisiana.

The Meadowlands will contribute $10,000 to the fundraising effort. Fans who contribute will be able to obtain autographs from the riders between 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. EST.

Jockeys Joe Bravo, Craig Perret, Gary Stevens, Kent Desormeaux, Aaron Gryder, Mike Smith, Mark Guidry, and Stewart Elliott have agreed to donate their riding fees for the event that will take place during the third, fourth, sixth, and seventh races. Desormeaux, Perret, Guidry, and Eddie Delahoussaye, a retired jockey who will be the captain of the Louisiana team, are all Louisiana natives.

"The winners in this competition will be the horsemen who have had their homes, farms, and livelihoods washed away by Hurricane Katrina," Dennis Dowd, the senior vice president for racing for the New Jersey Sports and Exhibition Authority, said. "We hope the riders, trainers, and horse owners as well as the public will be generous in their donations. With the funds raised by this event, hopefully we can help the Louisiana horsemen and kick start the rebirth of the racing industry in Louisiana."

Churchill mulls Fair Grounds expansion, 380 jobs in limbo
10/26/2005 4:44:08 PM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Posted: 10/25/2005

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Churchill Downs Inc. is considering an ambitious expansion plan for Fair Grounds that might involve the acquisition of more land and developing a hotel as it seeks a place in a newly evolving tourist market, but the storm may be taking a toll on a number of employees who worked at the New Orleans track.

About 380 employees from Churchill’s Louisiana operations were placed on furlough recently, and individuals will be terminated if Churchill Downs decides not to recall those employees for work by December 2. Meanwhile, the home office in Louisville is exploring the possibility of expanding Fair Grounds into mix-use tourist destination complete with racing, slot machines, and the annual jazz festival.

Churchill employed approximately 500 people in Louisiana at Fair Grounds and off-track betting parlors in the greater New Orleans area. Eighteen employees have been retained because of their roles in management, and another 102 employees have already been recalled from furlough to work in one of five OTBs that Churchill reopened this week.

The other 380 or so furloughed employees will receive full salary through December 2, and Churchill will continue to pay its share of the employees’ medical insurance through December 31.

"We want to encourage our folks to take a look for other work," Churchill Director of Communications Julie Koenig-Loignon said Tuesday. "We wanted to provide as much financial assistance during this transition period as possible. We’ve gone beyond what many employers in New Orleans have committed to."

Fair Grounds will conduct its 2005-’06 meet at Harrah’s Louisiana Downs. Koenig-Loignan expects Harrah’s to handle the majority of the day-to-day operations of the meet—program sales, concessions, etc., but said that some Fair Grounds management such as Director of Racing Ben Huffman and Director of Publicity Lenny Vangilder would work at Louisiana Downs on behalf of Churchill and Fair Grounds.

Churchill expects to race again at Fair Grounds in November 2006, but it hopes the facility will be more than just a racetrack. It had committed $10-million to adding a slots facility before Hurricane Katrina, but that sum could greatly increase if Churchill follows through on ideas such adding green space, building a hotel, adding more entertainment amenities, and/or becoming a light-rail system stop.

"We’re talking about coming our of this with something bigger and better," Churchill Downs Inc.’s Chief Financial Officer Mike Miller told the New Orleans Times-Picayune. "We need to think a little grander."—Ed DeRosa

Fair Grounds to Open Five OTB Locations
10/25/2005 1:07:25 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 10/24/2005 4:47:37 PM Last Updated: 10/24/2005 4:47:37 PM

Fair Grounds Race Course will open five of its Finish Line off-track betting locations on Wednesday, Fair Grounds President and General Manager Randall Soth announced Monday. Four of the OTBs reopening also offer video poker.

The Finish Line OTB locations in Covington, Elmwood, Houma, LaPlace ,and Thibodaux will be the first to open since Hurricane Katrina struck southeast Louisiana nearly two months ago.

"We are pleased to be able to return simulcasting and video poker for our fans at these five locations," Soth said, "especially with the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships coming up next weekend."

The Breeders' Cup, generally considered racing's Super Bowl, is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 29, at Belmont Park in New York. Wagering on Breeders' Cup day will be available at all five locations.

All locations will feature afternoon and evening simulcasting and all except Covington will again feature video poker.

Hours at the Elmwood, Houma and LaPlace locations are 8 a.m. until 1 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and 8 a.m.-3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. Thibodaux's hours are 8 a.m. to midnight Sunday through Thursday and 8 a.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday. Covington will open every day except Tuesday from 11 a.m. until the end of simulcasting.

Copyright © 2005 The Blood-Horse, Inc.

Louisiana Downs handle sees slight drop
10/13/2005 11:15:22 AM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted: 10/11/2005

Louisiana Downs in Bossier City, La., experienced a small drop in average daily handle on its races during the 91-date meet that ended Sunday. All-sources betting on the track's races averaged $1,985,467 a card, down 1.5 percent from $2,016,575 in 2004.

Louisiana Downs's ontrack handle of $199,835 a day on its races was about the same as last year, while offtrack betting on the track's races slipped 1.6 percent to a daily average of $1,785,631.

Louisiana Downs, which lost two weekend dates because of Hurricane Rita on Sept. 24, also lost patronage from Fair Grounds and its OTBs for more than a month this meet after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans on Aug. 28.

Cole Norman won his eighth consecutive training title with 92 wins and meet-best earnings of $1,326,297. John Jacinto led all riders in wins (133) and earnings ($2,370,911). Gary and Mary West Stables won the owner title with 17 wins, while the horse of the meet was Zarb's Dahar.

Fair Grounds account wagering systems up and running
10/7/2005 6:51:13 PM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Posted: 10/7/2005 6:34:00 PM ET

Fair Grounds’s account wagering systems are now operational after being shut down for several weeks in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

The track’s phone bet operators are accepting wagers at 1-877-629-9540. The automated system is not yet operational.

Fair Grounds’s Elmwood off-track betting facility on Citrus Boulevard is open on a limited basis. Although the facility is not yet equipped to accept in-person wagers, customers can cash winning pari-mutuel tickets issued before August 27, 2005, as well as make deposits or withdrawals to accounts.

More information about Fair Grounds’s phone or Internet wagering systems can be obtained by calling (877) 629-9542 or visiting the track’s website at http:// www.fairgroundsracecourse.com

Only 4 Rescued Horses Are Unidentified at Lamar-Dixon
10/6/2005 2:11:05 PM  -  The Horse/Blood-Horse 

Posted: 10/6/2005

Nearly 400 horses and mules have been processed at the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales, La., since post-hurricane rescues began, and according to Bonnie Clark, president of the Louisiana Equine Council, all but four have unique identification (breed association tattoos or microchips).

Clark has been heading up equine operations at the staging facility since the first shipment of rescued horses and mules arrived on Sept. 1. Of the 364 horses that have come through Lamar-Dixon, 176 remain there. "Most are owned and identified and we're just finding places for them to be moved," Clark reported. The target date for removing the remaining horses is October 10.

Twenty of the yet-unclaimed horses processed at Lamar-Dixon have microchips or tattoos that will reveal who the owners of the horses are; Clark has submitted the numbers to breed organizations and reference agencies and is waiting for a response. "We know that they will in some, way, shape or form, have contact information (associated with them)," she said. The other four horses have no tattoo or microchip.

Clark is happy that so many of the horses have been identified. "To my knowledge, I don't think this (identifying so many horses' owners after a disaster) has ever been done before," she said. "I've got to attribute that to the microchip system (required for horses being shipped in the state of Louisiana) and the way this whole system has been handled.

"We've been working closely with Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine and some of the USDA vets," who helped send out press releases about Lamar-Dixon being the place horse owners should check for their horses, she said. "If someone comes down and claims the horse and I can verify to that microchip, it is 100% accurate. That has been fantastic. I strongly encourage every horse owner to microchip their horse."

Amidst the happy reunions, there have been some deep disappointments. At least 10 times, owners who knew their horses were rescued arrived at Lamar-Dixon and did not find their horses there. Individuals who rescued horses independently need to contact Clark, because she has no way of knowing where these animals are. She is aware that some individuals might be trying to connect the rescued horses with the owners via the Internet, but Clark points out, "A lot of these horse owners are in shelters and don't have access to the Internet.

"I know they're trying to do a good thing and their hearts are in the right place, but they at the very least need to let us know what animals they have so I can let the owners know which organization is holding these animals," and the owners and horses have a greater chance of being reunited, she pleads.

If you have removed horses from the Louisiana Gulf Coast area and have not let officials at Lamar-Dixon know their whereabouts, please e-mail schurch@TheHorse.com so we can put you in touch with Clark. Owners are still contacting her looking for their lost horses.

Additionally, Clark wanted to dispel some of the Internet rumors about horses at Lamar. "Not a single horse has been stolen or sold," she assures. The only horses that have left Lamar-Dixon at this point were claimed by their owners.

Appreciation Ceremony Set

Today, Clark told The Horse that a special ceremony will be held at 5 p.m. CDT on Oct. 9 in appreciation of the many people who have helped with the horse hurricane relief effort at Lamar-Dixon, including veterinarians, volunteers, and employees.

"It's going to be a small appreciation ceremony, and it's not open for the public, but for the horse volunteers, veterinarians, veterinary students, supply donors, and the staff of Lamar-Dixon," Clark said. "Everybody that's been involved with this operation is invited. Louis Charbonnet (owner of the rescued Mid-City Carriage horses and mules--see story here) is going to have one of his trolleys and a carriage, and he's going to hook up two of his teams.

"On that day, I hope to announce that all of the horses' owners have been found," Clark added.

Owners Need to Claim Horses at Lamar-Dixon 10/2
10/3/2005 3:28:28 PM  -  The Horse/Blood-Horse 

Posted: 10/2/2005

Officials at the Lamar-Dixon Expo facility in Gonzales, La. asked owners to claim their horses before Oct. 1. As of Sept. 30, Lamar-Dixon still housed more than 200 horses rescued from the New Orleans area.

Horses not claimed before the deadline will remain at Lamar-Dixon until Oct. 15, at which point they will be sent to designated foster homes across Louisiana and neighboring states, on a provisional basis (if the owner contacts the foster home before the end of the provisional period, which will be determined in the following weeks, the horse must be returned to the original owner), according to Karen Eggert of the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry. All horses processed at the facility were vaccinated for tetanus and microchipped, allowing them to be tracked through a database.

"The location of the horses after Oct. 15 will be recorded in case the owner comes forward and wants to claim their horse at a later date," said Eggert.

Information on animals housed at Lamar-Dixon will continue to be available online at www.petfinder.com, or at 1-800-HUMANE1 (426-2631).

Relocated Fair Grounds Meet Approved - 9/30
10/2/2005 8:53:48 AM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted: 9/30/2005

The Louisiana Racing Commission on Friday took action to keep the state's racing calendar constant in the face of two hurricanes that, in less than one month, have temporarily shut down two of Louisiana's four racetracks. Hurricane Katrina struck Fair Grounds in New Orleans on Aug. 28, while Hurricane Rita crippled the stable area at Delta Downs in Vinton on Sept. 24.

The commission gave unanimous approval for moving an abbreviated 37-date Fair Grounds meet to Louisiana Downs in Bossier City, with the season to start on Nov. 19 and run through Jan. 22. The dates are the same ones agreed to earlier this month by Churchill Downs Inc., which owns Fair Grounds, and the Louisiana Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association.

There is about $8 million in the Fair Grounds purse account, and daily distribution for the Fair Grounds at Louisiana Downs meet will be about $270,000.

To free up dates for the Thoroughbred meet, the commission also approved the transfer of fall Quarter Horse dates from Louisiana Downs to Evangeline Downs in Opelousas, with some details still to be determined. Quarter Horses began racing at Evangeline last Saturday, and with the new dates, racing for that breed will continue at the track through Nov. 27. There is about $5 million in the Louisiana Downs purse account for Quarter Horses.

The commission also took initial steps to move Delta's upcoming Thoroughbred meet to Evangeline. The season would start on or about Dec. 1 and continue through March 26, but a portion of the meet could be run at Delta, depending on a suitability report given by the track's owners. A deadline of Nov. 15 was set for the report, according to Charles Gardiner, executive director of the commission. Delta was scheduled to open an 88-date meet for Thoroughbreds on Oct. 21.

Fair Grounds and Delta operate the two winter Thoroughbred meets in Louisiana, and the action taken by the commission on Friday went a long way toward giving the state's horsemen direction on where racing will be held in the coming months, and alleviating shipping confusion. Louisiana Downs, for example, is scheduled to end its Thoroughbred meet Oct. 9.

* In business from a meeting canceled last month because of Katrina, the commission approved a 98-date Thoroughbred meet at Louisiana Downs in 2006. The meet will start on May 5 and run through Nov. 4.

Delta Downs Meeting In Doubt
9/29/2005 7:15:26 AM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted: 9/28/2005

There was standing room only at a two-hour horsemen's meeting at Evangeline Downs in Opelousas, La., on Wednesday, with the immediate future of Delta Downs in Vinton. La., the main topic of discussion. Delta Downs was scheduled to open an 88-date Thoroughbred meet Oct. 21, but was hit hard last Saturday by Hurricane Rita.

The stable area suffered significant damage, according to a preliminary assessment by the Louisiana Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association.

"It's far too great to hold any meet in the foreseeable future," said Sean Alfortish, president of the Louisiana horsemen's association.

Alfortish said his organization estimates Delta will not be able to conduct racing until the early part or middle of 2006.

As a result, the Louisiana horsemen's group is in the process of trying to negotiate moving the Delta meet to Evangeline, which is located about 120 miles to the east and will open a meet for Quarter Horses on Saturday. Alfortish said the goal would be to start the Delta meet on or before Dec. 1. Delta's signature race, the $1 million Delta Jackpot, is scheduled for Dec. 2.

Delta is the second track in Louisiana to have an upcoming meet jeopardized by a hurricane. Fair Grounds in New Orleans suffered damage to its facility during Hurricane Katrina, and an abbreviated 2005-2006 meet is expected to be conducted this winter at Louisiana Downs. In order for that to happen, the scheduled Quarter Horse meet at Louisiana Downs would probably also have to be moved to Evangeline Downs.

Both moves are subject to approval from the Louisiana Racing Commission.

Storm Damages Delta Downs Backstretch
9/27/2005 11:21:39 AM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted: 9/26/2005

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.

Southwest Louisiana Gaming Facilities Shuttered
9/26/2005 11:20:09 AM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 9/25/2005 5:32:03 PM Last Updated: 9/25/2005 10:44:06 PM

Delta Downs Racetrack & Casino and several other gaming facilities in southwest Louisiana were shuttered as Hurricane Rita made landfall near the Texas-Louisiana border the morning of Sept. 24.

All hotel reservations at the Delta Downs hotel in Vinton near the Texas border were canceled through Sept. 25. The racetrack hotel had been housing as many as 100 Hurricane Katrina evacuees from New Orleans. Emergency preparedness officials called for a mandatory evacuation of Calcasieu Parish, where Lake Charles is located, Sept. 23. In addition to Delta Downs, Lake Charles' casino fleet shut its doors.

L'Auberge du Lac Casino and Hotel closed its $365-million resort and told employees to evacuate. It said it would reopen "as soon as the threat of the hurricane passes."

Harrah's Lake Charles and Isle of Capri Lake Charles also closed their riverboat casinos and ordered all employees to evacuate. Each property has two riverboats which remained docked at their facilities.

It's the second time in September the owners of the casinos have been impacted by a hurricane. Harrah's lost its Gulfport and Biloxi Grand Casino properties to Hurricane Katrina, which also forced the closure of its land-based casino in New Orleans. Boyd Gaming closed its Treasure Chest casino near Kenner, though the riverboat casino didn't sustain major damage from Hurricane Katrina.

The Isle of Capri lost its Biloxi resort to heavy storm damage, while Pinnacle Entertainment lost its Casino Magic Casino and Hotel in Biloxi. Its Boomtown Casino in Harvey near New Orleans is closed until further notice because of damage caused by Hurricane Katrina.

Copyright © 2005 The Blood-Horse, Inc.

Evangeline Downs to Reopen Sunday After Hurricane Rita
9/26/2005 11:17:38 AM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 9/24/2005 10:44:22 PM Last Updated: 9/24/2005 11:03:17 PM

Evangeline Downs Racetrack & Casino in Opelousas, La., will re-open on Sunday, September 25.

The facility was designed to withstand the impact of a major hurricane and it came through with flying colors.

Although the facility is totally operational Saturday, Evangeline Downs Racetrack & Casino will wait to re-open on Sunday.

Copyright © 2005 The Blood-Horse, Inc.

Evangeline, Louisiana Downs cancel cards as hurricane approaches
9/23/2005 8:01:50 PM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Posted: 9/23/2005 1:04:00 PM ET

Evangeline Downs in Opelousas, Louisiana, and Louisiana Downs in Bossier City, have canceled racing programs as Hurricane Rita approached the Texas-Louisiana border.

Evangeline canceled racing Friday and Saturday and Louisiana Downs canceled its Saturday and Sunday cards.

Sam Houston Race Park also canceled racing from Thursday through Saturday because of the storm expected to hit Houston on Saturday morning.

Evangeline’s off-track betting parlor and casino remain open, as do the same facilites at Louisiana Downs.

LSU Reinstates Rescue Plans as Hurricane Approaches
9/23/2005 7:56:03 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 9/23/2005 10:21:19 AM Last Updated: 9/23/2005 10:21:19 AM

The Louisiana State University Hurricane Equine Rescue Operation has reinstated its horse-rescue hotline as another major storm, Hurricane Rita, approaches the state.

The number is 225-578-9501.

LSU, which responded similarly in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in early September, said anyone with knowledge of horses in need of evacuation or rescue due to the hurricane is encouraged to contact a Hurricane Equine Rescue Operation representative at the number. The helpline will be available 24 hours a day.

Horse owners concerned for the welfare of their animals are encouraged to evacuate them if possible. Those unable to evacuate their animals are encouraged to open stall doors and pasture gates. Having tattoo or microchip numbers, photos, and other evidence of ownership would helpful and necessary for owners to claim their horses in the future.

Helpful tips to become reunited with displaced horses following the storm include painting your telephone number on the side of your horse and/or fastening ownership identification materials to its mane. Following the storm, the Hurricane Equine Rescue Operation team and volunteers will begin attempts to retrieve injured and/or stranded animals as soon as possible.

This hotline is provided exclusively for horses in need of evacuation and rescue. Those wishing to volunteer their time or services or provide supplies and/or equipment should visit the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine Web site (www.vetmed.lsu.edu) or the Louisiana Veterinary Medical Association Web site (www.lvma.org).

Those wishing to provide monetary assistance are encouraged to forward their contributions to "LVMA Equine Committee Foundation" (write "Horse Hurricane Relief" on the memo line) and mail to Dr. Sonny Corley, LVMA Equine Committee, 121 E. Gloria Switch, Lafayette, LA, 70507. The number is 337-235-9945.

Copyright © 2005 The Blood-Horse, Inc.

Louisiana breeders group temporarily moves office out of Fair Grounds
9/21/2005 8:13:02 PM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Posted: 9/21/2005 4:30:00 PM ET

The floodwaters at Fair Grounds have receded and emergency personnel and National Guard troops are gone, but it definitely is not business as usual at the New Orleans facility with only the track’s security force occupying the 145-acre site.

The Louisiana Thoroughbred Breeders Association packed up and temporarily moved its main office from the backstretch stable area at Fair Grounds to an office in Harahan, Louisiana, a community about ten miles southwest of New Orleans, which remained about 20% flooded on Wednesday in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Executive Director Tom Early said he made his first trip to the track on Monday and was relieved with what he found at his office.

"My office was high and dry," Early said. "We had absolutely no damage whatsoever." Repair work had yet to begin at Fair Grounds, which until Monday had been used as a staging area for National Guard troops in relief efforts, Early said. The track’s infield was used as a landing pad for helicopters.

The facility, which sustained structural damage to its grandstand and grounds, appeared to be drying out, and Early did not see any signs of floodwater. The barn area, which at one time was under three feet of water, showed signs that it had been flooded.

"I walked into one of the barns and the shedrows are all mushy still," Early said. The LTBA has two rooms in a business office loaned by the family of LTBA comptroller Therese Arroyo’s husband, and the office will remain in Harahan until Fair Grounds is open for the organization to return, Early said.

In the meantime, business is proceeding smoothly enough despite the lack of usual business office accoutrements, such as phone lines.

The deadline for early-bird nominations to races on the Louisiana Champions Day card, set for December 10 at the Fair Grounds meet at Louisiana Downs, has been extended to November 1, with no late nominations after that, Early said. The nomination fee is $150.

Early said his cell phone was functioning as the group’s office phone and that he could be reached at (504) 452-8202. His assistant, Roger Heitzmann, can be reached at (504) 432-1160.—Myra Lewyn

Churchill, Horsemen Agree on 37-Day Meet in Louisiana
9/15/2005 6:57:45 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 9/13/2005 5:20:26 PM Last Updated: 9/14/2005 10:12:39 AM

Churchill Downs Inc. Tuesday announced the company had reached a preliminary arrangement with the leadership of the Louisiana Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association ("LAHBPA") on details for a shortened Fair Grounds race meet from Nov. 19, 2005, to Jan. 22, 2006, for a total of 37 race dates.

Under the preliminary arrangement, the 37 Fair Grounds race dates would be conducted at Harrah's Louisiana Downs in Bossier City, La. As previously announced, CDI has determined that it is not feasible to conduct Fair Grounds' 2005-2006 racing season at its historic venue in New Orleans, La., due to damage and the surrounding devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. Fair Grounds was scheduled to conduct 83-days of live racing in New Orleans.

The preliminary arrangement would require a number of Quarter Horse race dates, currently scheduled for Oct. 28 to Nov. 27 at Harrah's Louisiana Downs, to be shifted to Evangeline Downs in Opelousas, La., thereby extending Evangeline Downs's Quarter Horse meet. The preliminary arrangement is subject to acceptance by Harrah's Louisiana Downs and Evangeline Downs, as well the Louisiana Horse Racing Commission and state officials.

"We are pleased to come to terms with our Louisiana horsemen on a preliminary arrangement that would allow the important tradition of Fair Grounds racing to go forward, despite the considerable challenges created by Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath," said Andrew G. Skehan, CDI's executive vice president and chief operating officer. "There are a number of issues to resolve, including how we would staff and manage a Fair Grounds race meet at Harrah's Louisiana Downs, and it will take some time to work through those details.

"We look forward to working with the LAHBPA, Harrah's Louisiana Downs, Evangeline Downs, the Louisiana Horse Racing Commission and state officials on a final agreement," said Skehan. "Our ability to work cooperatively and put the industry's best interests above our own will send an important message to our customers - and to countless Gulf Coast residents affected by this terrible storm - that Fair Grounds racing will go on."

The preliminary arrangement includes projected average daily purses of $270,000 and a limited stakes schedule, including a Jan. 14, 2006, "marquee" stakes day with four events: the Grade III Risen Star Stakes, Silverbulletday Stakes (gr. II), Bayou Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. III) and Duncan F. Kenner Breeders' Cup Handicap. The 14th running of Louisiana Champions Day, featuring a total of 10 stakes events for Louisiana-bred Quarter Horses and Thoroughbreds would be scheduled for Dec. 10, while the New Orleans Handicap (gr. II) would be tentatively scheduled for Jan. 7.

Under the preliminary arrangement, two of Fair Grounds' signature events, the Louisiana Derby (gr. II) and Fair Grounds Oaks (gr. II) would be put on hiatus for one year. A revised Fair Grounds condition book and stakes schedule will be released once a final agreement for a shortened Fair Grounds race meet has been accepted by CDI, Louisiana horsemen, the LHRC, state officials and the Louisiana racetracks involved.

"We are happy to have reached a preliminary arrangement that makes it possible for Fair Grounds' legacy to continue, while providing important winter race dates for Louisiana horsemen," said LAHBPA President Sean Alfortish."We also extend our sincere thanks to the management teams at Harrah's Louisiana Downs and Evangeline Downs for considering this preliminary arrangement and offering to be part of a solution that will benefit horse racing throughout our state. We look forward to reaching consensus with our industry partners - and to putting on a competitive race meet at a host site."

Copyright © 2005 The Blood-Horse, Inc.

Louisiana State University Equine Rescue Operations 9/14/05
9/15/2005 6:40:50 PM  -  The Horse/Blood-Horse 

Posted: 9/14/2005

September 2005 Article # 6143

Whereas the needs of horses and local equine facilities have changed somewhat in the two weeks following Hurricane Katrina, the rescue efforts of the Louisiana State University (LSU) team continue on a daily basis. Horses continue to be brought in, although on a much smaller scale. Horses and mules are now being claimed by their owners, and feed and supplies are being distributed as needed to a number of affected areas.

"We've got a good handle on things logistically right now," said Dr. Rustin Moore, director of the Equine Health Studies Program and Equine Clinic at LSU. "The initial rush of calls coming in and teams heading out to help has wound down considerably, but we still have a lot of people out there who need help at their own equine facilities, and we have a good number of horses who are going to require care for an unknown amount of time," he continued. "We knew going into this that we were in it from start to finish. So we'll just continue to take it day by day, respond to the needs that still exist and work toward finding the owners of the horses that remain in our possession."

The Lamar-Dixon Expo Center, the central staging area for horses recently retrieved from the New Orleans area, has taken in more than 350 equids and currently houses about 275 horses and mules yet to be claimed by their owners. The LSU team has successfully reunited many owners and horses and have released 75 or more to their owners, who have taken them to other boarding facilities.

"We're in pretty good shape right now in terms of supplies," said Bonnie Clark, President of the Louisiana Equine Council. Having worked in equine rescue during Hurricane Andrew, Clark has been the on-site coordinator of the equine staging area from the beginning. "Right now, its just a matter of staying up to speed with what we have, getting supplies to areas that are still in need, and working with owners to help them accurately identify their horses," said Clark.

"The response from the industry has been incredible," she added. "We've been out here day and night and are on the front line of this thing, but don't think for a minute we've been alone in our efforts...from feed companies to private hay haulers, medical and general supply vendors, volunteers, you name it, the outpour of support has been incredible."

"We're still sending out a few teams to select areas," said Moore, "but I think we'll see the last of the large scale deployments by the end of this week."

"It's been amazing to see the things we've encountered through these efforts," said Ky Mortensen, Director of Advancement for the LSU team. "If you take a look at some of the outcomes of various missions into different areas, we came back with horses, mules, goats, dogs, cats, birds, and iguanas. There is literally everything out there. We go into each area after horses, but when you get there, you take whatever comes with it," he continued. "Sometimes a horse comes with two birds and an iguana…and you simply have to make room and do the best you can to accommodate whatever happens to need help."

"We're doing pretty well here all things considered" said Dr. Dennis French, LSU field service veterinarian. "We've seen a lot of small cuts and bruises, and we did have a couple of horses that needed more advanced care when they first came in due to dehydration, but overall we really haven't had a huge onset of medical issues to contend with, which has been fortunate."

"Most of these horses coming in here have been a pretty resilient bunch," he continued. "This has been an incredible experience for all of us, and I know I've said it before, but the level of care and dedication that these horses have received from the veterinary students at LSU, it's simply been amazing."

At this time, rescued horses will continue to be housed at Lamar-Dixon through the end of this month until owners have either identified them and made arrangements for their transport and housing or long-term foster care is identified and implemented. Many individuals and farms offering assistance have been noted and can be called upon in the future should the need for long-term foster care be needed. Until then, owners are encouraged to identify their animals as quickly as possible. We urge owners who have not yet located their horses to go to Barn #4 at Lamar Dixon Expo Center and check in with a staff member and then begin looking through the remainder of the horses to determine if their horse(s) are there. Having tattoo or microchip numbers, photos, and other evidence of ownership will be helpful and necessary to claim the horses.

Currently, the team has a more-than-adequate volunteer base and sufficient hay, feed, medical, and other supplies. However, our needs are dynamic. Therefore, the best way to assist the Louisiana horse victims of Hurricane Katrina and to help offset the costs associated with rescue, recovery, treatment, sheltering, and rehabilitation of these horses, is to provide a monetary contribution. Please provide a monetary contribution by making a check payable to the "LVMA Equine Committee" (write "Horse Hurricane Relief" on the memo line) and mail to Dr. Sonny Corley, LVMA Equine Committee, 121 E. Gloria Switch, Lafayette, LA 70507 or call 337/235-9945.

Here's a glimpse of some of the efforts over the past few days:

Friday, Sept. 9
GROUP 3 – Departed @ 11:00 am
Drs. Jeremy Hubert, Ashley Stokes, and Sara Lyle with RT Fitch from Habitat for Horses with six-horse trailer and 45 bales of hay to take to Dr. Hebert (Plaquemine Parish Veterinarian) and another long stock trailer from Habitat for Horses. On the way back, will pick up a dog in respiratory distress in Plaquemine Parish animal shelter in school on Main Street.

OUTCOME: Hubert is headed back with three horses, one dog, two iguanas, and two birds. Stokes delivered a trailer load of hay for horses in Plaquemines parish to Dr. Hebert.

Saturday, Sept. 10
GROUP 1 – Algiers and New Orleans areas (Esplanade/Bourbon St. & Chartres) – Departed @ 9:00 am
Hubert, Lyle, Dr. Rocky Bigbie, Leslie Talley, Matt McGeachey, and others with Roger Seitzmeir in a truck and eight-horse trailer and Lyle's SUV.

OUTCOME: Brought back 11 horses (three stallions, six geldings and four mares) from the Algiers area. The two horses from Chartres/St. Claude had already been picked up, but they did bring back four dogs. There was no evidence of a horse on Esplanade/Bourbon and the request for evacuation of the one at Denny Stable was called off since someone else was picking up the horse.

Sunday, Sept. 11 – Departed @ 9:30 am
GROUP 2 – St. Bernard Parish and New Orleans
Dr. Dale Paccamonti, Dr. Robert Henderson, Talley, and two volunteers took one truck and a truck and six-horse stock trailer. They delivered a large truck load of food for people in St. Bernard Parish that had been helpful with the many horse rescues and were in need of food and supplies, including a generator. The food and the generator were gathered by Talley's church. They also took dog and cat food to drop off at the military check points since these people were feeding the dogs and cats and trying to collect them. They also went to look for a horse in the area around the Children's Hospital off of Tchoupatoulas street--the horse had been sighted and reported by Lt. Colonel Bruce Williams and Major Finn who were at the LSA Guard Point. This was a white horse reported to have some lacerations on its legs in the Washington Avenue/Jefferson area near Xavier University.

OUTCOME: They delivered the food for people and generator to Mr. Marvin Johnson in St. Bernard Parish and left dog food at several checkpoints in St. Bernard Parish. They ended up bringing five horses back from the area around Xavier with the assistance of the military personnel at the LSA Guard Point. These were delivered back to Lamar-Dixon about 9:30 pm.

Tuesday, Sept. 13,
GROUP 1 – Folsom and Covington Hay/Feed Drop for 2 farms – Departed @ 7:30 am
Jerry from Habitat for Horses along with helpers.

OUTCOME: Hay and vaccines were delivered to the two farms. On their way back, we got a report through the Helpline that there were 6 horses loose in a construction site along Hwy 1077 ~1-2 miles north of I-12 near Covington. This team responded and found the horses. They could not identify an owner or find any evidence of where the horses should go. They left word with the police dept. that the horses would be at Lamar Dixon and gave the Helpline number. They took the horses back to Lamar Dixon.

GROUP 2 – Deliver two horses for Tina Bodine to Christy Lewis in – Departed @ 9:30 am
Tina Bodine called and arranged for horses to be delivered to Laurel Hill Ranch. Carla Dupuis will arrive at Lamar Dixon ~ 8:30 am and transport these two horses.

OUTCOME: They transported the horses and then took some additional vaccines to a farm in Covington.

GROUP 3 – St. Bernard Parish – Departed @ 10:00 am
Henderson, Dr. Lee Ann Fugler and Talley will take the LSU truck and four-horse trailer along with a lady (Missy) whose horse has been spotted near the EBI in Braithwaite between EBI and the State Park. It is a small (13.5 hand) black mare with a small white spot on her forehead.

OUTCOME: They found the mare, caught her, loaded her, and were headed back. The other two horses with this mare followed the truck/trailer for about two miles so they decided rather than have these horses loose on the highway, they loaded them and took all three horses back to Lamar-Dixon.

Louisiana Breeders Sales Co. catalogs 455 horses
9/15/2005 6:26:28 PM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Posted: 9/14/2005

The Breeders Sales Co. of Louisiana has seen a significant increase from last year in the number of horses its has cataloged for its annual mixed sale at Louisiana Downs as 455 horses are set to go through the sales ring at the Bossier City, Louisiana, track on October 15-16.

The number of horses cataloged for this year’s sale is an 80.5% increase from last year’s sale, which was held on one day.

A total of 254 horses are cataloged for the yearling portion on day one of this year’s sale and 201 horses, including 161 broodmares, are set for the mixed portion on the final day. At last year’s sale, 181 horses of 225 offered sold for gross receipts of $1,199,950, which was down 1.7% from the previous year. The average price was $6,630.

Consignors and buyers seeking hotel reservations and accommodations or needing other information should contact Loretta Romero of the Louisiana Thoroughbred Breeders Association at (318) 746-6170.

Saving the New Orleans Carriage Horses
9/11/2005 8:36:05 AM  -  The Horse/Blood-Horse 

Posted: 9/7/2005

"I wasn't leaving," said Lucian Mitchell, 40, who stayed behind in New Orleans for nearly a week caring for 22 carriage horses and mules after Hurricane Katrina ripped through the city, destroying structures and lives, and leaving water that overwhelmed levees and produced catastrophic flooding. "If you love animals like I love animals, you'd stick with it, too. We did what we had to do to save them."

Mitchell is a hero to many horse owners and enthusiasts after he overcame dangerous conditions to save as many of the horses and mules that he could from Charbonnet Mid-City Carriage Company last week. Twenty-seven of the animals were evacuated prior to the storm coming and the waters rising. But before the trailers could get back, 22 animals ended up stranded in chest-high water, and Mitchell and Darnell Stewart, 34, another Charbonnet employee, weren't going to let the horses perish.

"We got them out right after the storm and kept them in the walls of the stable," said Mitchell. On Tuesday night, Aug. 30, after realizing how rapidly the water was rising after the levee broke, Mitchell and Stewart began moving the horses out to higher ground at a nearby park, sometimes swimming along with the horses in the rapidly rising water.

"After the storm passed, the water was up, and we were hauling animals, one at a time, in chest-high water to the park. He's short, I'm short…it was really rough," said Mitchell. "It took us hours--a couple of them stayed in the stalls because they were the biggest horses--they are Percherons--until the next day. Darnell's personal horse, (Brandy, a tobiano Paint that had been moved to Charbonnet from another stable before Katrina to be evacuated with the others), was also left in the barn, so we turned him loose (into the courtyard)."

Once the mules and horses were in the park, Mitchell and Stewart began tending to their needs. "We had them tied to the park fence and gave them enough rope so that they could eat," Mitchell added. "We had feed buckets from the stable and we were keeping them fed and watered and exercised, and we'd let them graze. I was walking in chest-high water and carrying feed and making sure they ate."

The fresh water came from five-gallon jugs that were obtained from National Guard members on an Interstate bridge on the outskirts of New Orleans. "We rode up on the bridge and pulled them back in a roll cart," explained Mitchell. The two took turns sleeping on a bridge at the park, "playing lookout," since New Orleans residents were continually trying to take the horses and mules.

A "dragging incident" described by The Horse in an earlier story was one of Mitchell's more adrenaline-filled moments. "People were trying to take animals to try to get to safety and cutting them loose," described Mitchell. "While we were fighting to get them back, one of the mules took off with me. Tootsie…she's a strong mule, a very strong mule. I'm about 155 pounds soaking wet, so you can imagine what I looked like--I was waterskiing!"

Mitchell managed to lead Tootsie back fairly close to the park, then he climbed on Fidel, his favorite horse, in order to get her the rest of the way into the park. "He acted like a champion," said Mitchell. "I guess I'm partial to him--he helped me out of that."

Wearing Thin

Five days into the nearly week-long vigil, Stewart rode Brandy to go look for help, but saw no chances of them getting the horses out of New Orleans. On his return trip, he injured his foot on some underwater debris. Stewart knew he needed medical attention, so he returned to the Interstate bridge for help. "Brandy swam for two hours trying to get to high ground," Stewart said. When he got to his destination, "I stopped and sat down and tied him up to a rail on the Interstate and waited and waited forever. (Brandy's) knees were busted up pretty bad from falling down in the water and hitting the curb."

Stewart was flown to San Antonio for medical treatment and Lucian retrieved Brandy. Stewart was frustrated that he had to leave the horse and Lucian during his brief stay in San Antonio, "I wanted to come back and see my horses."

About this time, things began looking bleak for Mitchell at the park. "I ran out of food except for a package of hot dogs, but I stuck it out. I wasn't leaving; I knew that," he said. "They tried to rescue me twice and I said, 'If you can find a way for the horses to go with me, I'll go, if not, I'm not going.' "

One horse had already died in the park. "I was single handed at the end and was drug a few times--I just hung in there," said Mitchell.

The Rescue

Help arrived Sunday, Sept. 4, around 3 p.m. CDT, when Lewis Sheldon (owner of Charbonnet), Mitchell's father Lucian Mitchell Sr., and other Charbonnet employees arrived with rigs.

"I had just prayed and hoped, and I seen the boss coming in with the trucks and trailers," said Mitchell. "We had only had communication with the police--we lost our cell phones and other phones the first night."

The 21 remaining animals were loaded on the trailers and brought to the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales, La. One horse with a history of health problems died on the trailer, and another horse was down and in shock on its arrival and had to be euthanatized.

"When they came to get us, I was glad to see my father again, glad to get the animals out, glad to be alive," Mitchell said. "I'm sorry I lost three though…I was trying to get them all out.”

The 19 surviving carriage horses and mules joined another 27 that had been evacuated to safety prior to Katrina's landfall. All 19 survivors from the Sunday rescue are medically stable. "Brandy's a little stiff, but I think he's going to make it," said Stewart. "We've been treating his knees…he's my barrel racing horse and my parade horse. He's been my partner, and he's a hero now.”

"We worked together the whole time," added Mitchell. "The whole crew works like a family. Mr. Sheldon made sure I had a home to stay in, and we're all in the house (Mitchell, his father, and Stewart in east Baton Rouge). We've just been sticking together like family. I hadn't heard from some of my family, then I did...everyone's OK now, and so I can rest."

Both Mitchells and Stewart are lifelong New Orleans residents with nowhere to live in the long-term. "Finances would help, anything they can spare, it doesn't have to be much," said Mitchell about their current plight. "The business is gone. All three of us are in the same house and running out of money and food."

When The Horse thanked Mitchell for taking time to talk to us, he replied, "I was talking to mules for seven days, so talking to a human is a blessing."

Mitchell was surprised to hear that many readers had contacted The Horse, wanting to help him and to praise him for his service. "It wasn't about being a hero or nothing like that," said Mitchell. "It was just the love of an animal, and I wasn't going to leave them at all. I own two horses of my own with my dad, and we can't find them---we're still kind of shook up about that."

Editor's Note: We are still obtaining the information on how to make a donation to Lucian Mitchell Jr, Lucian Mitchell Sr, and Darnell Stewart. Please watch TheHorse.com for updates.

Day in the Life of a Hurricane Rescue Team From LSU
9/11/2005 8:22:12 AM  -  The Horse/Blood-Horse 

Posted: 9/9/2005

"There are hundreds of little interest stories that have or will come out of this thing" said Ky Mortensen, Director of Advancement for the Equine Program at Louisiana State University College of Veterinary Medicine. "Some will be remembered for a long time, written down, and shared nationwide. Others will only live in the memories of those immediately involved. We got a call on Tuesday night from some of the guys from the Arkansas Horse Rescue team, letting us know that they had rounded up five mules and two horses and had cornered them near the railroad tracks downtown near the Aquarium and needed us to come and get them. That's what the LSU role has been--you call us, tell us where the horses are, what you need, and how to get there, and we get the trucks and trailers out there with veterinarians, technicians, and volunteers on board to handle the situation once they arrive.

"When the call for the mules came in, Dr. Dan Burba left immediately with our own LSU truck and trailer and headed into downtown New Orleans to try and find the mules. We were on the radio back and forth. He was driving right through downtown New Orleans, military everywhere, roads blocked, flood waters all around, shots being fired...it was crazy. Luckily we never lost contact, because we were at headquarters in front of a wall of maps, guiding him through the street maze to get him in the area where the mules were supposed to be, and he was just driving for all he was worth down there trying to do the best he could.

"I remember he said, 'Okay, I'm on the street (Elysian Fields Avenue), tell me where to turn and how far down they are...this is crazy down here, we need to find these mules as quick as we can and get out of here. Okay, I see them. Man they're all over the place! I thought they were supposed to be in a barn! This is going to be tricky...hold on, I'll get back to you.'

"That was the last thing we heard for awhile until he was able to get back with us about 20 minutes later," said Mortensen. "He and a technician had them all loaded and were leaving New Orleans. Amazing really, when you consider what they were up against.

"We should have well over 350 horses at Lamar Dixon by tonight," continued Mortensen. "By the time this winds down, who knows, probably close to 500. This weekend we should be getting close to having a pretty good handle on having brought in what needed to be evacuated, and knowing what is okay where it is for the time being. Right now, people need to know that there horses are here (Lamar-Dixon) and that they can come and claim them.

"We've been manning the horse rescue hotline 24 hours a day for about six or seven days now and it's been non-stop," said Mortensen. "There are literally thousands of individuals that have called in wanting to help or in need of help. We've simply divided them up into groups. Some are those that have horses that need to be rescued. Others are those with available resources, pasture, hay, stall space, and they want to make that available to anyone who needs it. Others are those that want to send money, and then we've got a lot of people who are willing to bring their trailer and physically come and get involved.

"We (LSU) have been at this for quite awhile now, and I think the most challenging thing has simply been the communication among groups in trying to coordinate the efforts and get everyone on the same page," he said. "Nobody was ever really placed in charge here; this has simply been a massive effort by a lot of different groups working with LSU from the beginning. It's a little hard to keep a handle on at times, but we're not complaining. Its working for the horses, so its working for us too.

"Every day we make several runs to various parts of New Orleans and the surrounding area," said Mortensen. "Sometimes its seven or eight trips, sometimes more, it just depends. Each evening we try to work as a team in headquarters and assess who is still out there and who we can get to the following day. Dr. (Rustin) Moore (director of the Equine Health Studies Program at Louisiana State University's School of Veterinary Medicine) puts it all on a schedule, lining up volunteers, trailers, and veterinarians from the clinic and surrounding area, technicians, supplies, etc. Then the following morning we all meet at Lamar Dixon, the assignments are handed out, and everyone hits the road. We won't know what the outcome of the day's efforts are until everyone is back that evening. Sometimes we come back with only a fraction of what we went after. Other times we end up sending additional trailers into an area where we ended up finding many more."

Following is a glimpse of what a typical schedule looks like for any given day during the rescue process, the people involved to make this happen on a daily basis, and the results of a day's effort.

Thursday, Sept. 8, 2005

GROUP 1 - St. Bernard Parish. Departed at 7:25 am. Four horses in a corral at a stable and others around. Toby knows where these should be located and Dr. Giardina will be in touch with them. He will go there in a 4X4 truck without trailer. Some (at least three up river) should be above and below the ferry. May be as many as nine horses at The Grove area.

NEEDS: Check inside the St. Bernard Fire Station; reportedly there is a horse inside the station. Need two trucks and large trailers for horses. Need two trucks and trailers for over 150 dogs (60 dogs at Sheriff's station and Army guards are bringing more). Food for people.

VEHICLES and DRIVERS: Dr. Chad Richard, Toby Wallace, with Roger from Georgia with 12-horse trailer, seven horses coming back. Dr. Neil Henderson and Leslie Talley with Texas LoneStar with long-horse trailer. Veterinarian and tech from Austin, Texas, with six-horse trailer (bringing back dogs and cats). Dr. Jason St. Romain with his 24-foot stock trailer (eight horses and bringing dogs and cats). Texas LoneStar with small stock trailer bringing dogs and cats.

OUTCOME: Two trailers are headed back with about 100 dogs, three cats, and a pot-bellied pig (called and told Renee). Leslie's trailer has seven horses. St. Romain trailer has dogs and cats. Austin, Texas, trailer has dogs and cats

GROUP 2 - Hahnville, La. Departed at 7:15 am. RUN #1 -Dr. Phil Deville, Dr. Ashley Stokes, and Dr. Cassie Johnson with Robbie Murphy in his 32-foot stock trailer to I-10 to 310 to River Road. E.J. Phillips (he will be at Lamar Dixon at 6:30 am) with nine Quarter Horse mares that are pregnant. They had been evacuated to here from Algiers, but need to be moved on to Lamar Dixon until he can find another location.

RUN #2 Mr. Lemaire and Mr. Forestier from Lafayette loaded their long stock trailer with barrels of water, 25 bales of hay, and 750 pounds of pelleted feed to deliver to Bush area. Then they go to Bush, La.,where 15 horses either need to be hauled out or feed and water need to be taken in. Take the same truck/trailer plus Pat Lemeire with a truck and 24-foot trailer.

OUTCOME: Delivered hay and water to Thornhill Road and took pelleted feed to Folsom Equestrian Center.

GROUP 3 - French Quarter area. Depart at 7:50 am. Dr. Shannon Gonsoulin & Dr. Artell went with Mr. Lucian Mitchell and Darnell Stewart and two long stock trailers from Dominigues to the Royal Carriage on Rampart and may go on to New Orleans East area where there are reportedly about 30 other horses. Dominigue Trailers and Pat.

OUTCOME: Brought back about 28 horses from Hayne Blvd. and Parry area. No animals at Royal Carriage on Rampart. There was a painted sign that said help 37 mules, but they were gone. It looks like someone got them out. There were no horses around the Hayne-Gannon barn. It looks like someone had gotten them out also.

GROUP 4 - Lakefront New Orleans East (Hayne Road/Crowder/Gannon/Bullard). Departed at 7:30 am to pick up 19-21 horses (at least three still loose). Drs. Harry Kleinman and Amy Snyder will take three trucks and trailers; #1 Red truck from Texas LoneStar/Habitat for Horses and #2 Texas LoneStar (red stock trailer with Amy Backo) and #3 Lonnie Berry (from Iowa) Dodge truck with stock trailer.

OUTCOME: Brought back 20 horses from Hayne/Crowder area (Yeager's Stables).

GROUP 5 - Plaquemines Parish. Departed at 7:30 am. Drs. Hubert and Fugler and Ben McMath in Dawn Kelley's truck/trailer headed to the store across the Belle Chasse area to deliver food to Marvin Johnson and to pick up horses that were identified in the area yesterday. Will connect up with Group 1 (Dr. Richard). Six horses on their way back from Lori Wilson's farm being transported by the Texas EquiSearch.

OUTCOME: Picked up four horses and delivered to Lamar-Dixon.

GROUP 6 - St. Rose Area. Mrs. Martha Lambert. Departed at 12:00 pm. Dr. Dale Paccamonti and Jeffrey Cardinale going after four horses owned by Ms. Laura West.

OUTCOME: Picked up four horses and a goat and delivered to Lamar-Dixon.

Group 7 - Texas EquiSearch picked up seven horses from Lori Wilson's farm in Plaquemines Parish and will be delivering them to Lamar-Dixon around 5 pm. They will drop off the trailers (which belong to someone down there). Lori Wilson will be right behind them by about 30 minutes with two other horses.

"The main thing now is to look at how we're going to handle this thing in the long run" said Mortensen. "Dr. Pete Haynes and I met last night with Dr. Bonnie Clark and Dr. Denny French, who have been coordinating and looking after everything at Lamar Dixon in terms of horses. We're working on a plan right now as to how we are going to care for these horses over the next weeks, and even months. Where we are going to be able to keep them, how we are going to look after them logistically, how we are going to verify ownership of those that are claimed, and what we are going to do if we end up with unclaimed horses on our hands months down the road.

"We are really concerned with getting these horses claimed and reunited with their owners," he said. "Everyone needs to know that if they are unsure about the location of a horse that is missing from the hurricane, there's a good chance he is doing just fine and he is sitting in a stall at the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales, La. People need to either go take a look themselves or send someone they know."

Those interested in providing financial assistance to the effort are encouraged to make their contributions to the Louisiana Veterinary Medical Association's Dr. Walter J. Ernst Jr. Memorial Foundation. This fund is established specifically for emergency efforts to help animals. By simply visiting www.lvma.org, potential contributors can click on "Hurricane Relief Fund" on the home page to download the form. Simply designating "Horse Rescue" on your check will ensure its use for the equine rescue effort. For more information or to make donations, please call the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine at 225/578-9900 (www.vetmed.lsu.edu) or the Louisiana Veterinary Medical Association at 800/524-2996.

Final agreement close on special Fair Grounds meet at Louisiana Downs
9/11/2005 8:09:57 AM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Posted: 9/10/2005 10:35:00 PM ET

Louisiana Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association President Sean Alfortish said Saturday that an agreement in principal had been reached with Fair Grounds owner Churchill Downs Inc. to move the part of the upcoming Fair Grounds meeting from the storm-ravaged New Orleans track to Louisiana Downs in Bossier City for an abbreviated meeting.

While some details of the agreement were still being worked out, Alfortish said the special meeting would begin two weeks before the traditional Thanksgiving opening day and would end on January 15. Ending on January 15 would prevent the meet from clashing with Oaklawn Park, located just 165 miles away from Louisiana Downs, when that Hot Springs, Arkansas, track begins its meeting on January 20.

Alfortish said that Churchill and the horsemen had agreed in principal to a 40-day meeting, with average daily purses of $250,000 or more, with racing four days a week. Last year, Fair Grounds ran an 80-day meet, its first under the ownership of Churchill Downs Inc.

"The 40 days could change a day or two depending on whether or not we race on some holidays and the stakes schedule," Alfortish explained on Saturday.

Churchill Downs spokesperson Julie Koenig Loignon said that Churchill would not go so far as to say that an agreement in principal had been reached but added that an official announcement could be made as soon as Monday. Previously, Churchill officials had said they would not comment on the special meet until after official announcement.

When Churchill canceled the scheduled 83-day Fair Grounds meeting because of storm damage at the track and the evacuation of the city that followed, it initially proposed a short meeting of 18 to 20 days at Louisiana Downs. The Louisiana horsemen requested a longer meet of about 45 days before settling on the current arrangement.

"There was a little give and take from each side and we reached an agreement in principal," Alfortish said.

Because the special meet will start in November, the agreement will require a Quarter Horse meeting scheduled for Louisiana Downs to be moved to Evangeline Downs in Opelousas, Louisiana. Evangeline Downs officials were not immediately available for comment on Saturday.

Alfortish, a New Orleans-based lawyer, said that Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco has agreed to sign an executive order to approve the change in racing dates, racing venues, and purse money.—Frank Angst

2 Trucks Headed to Gulf Coast from Natl. HBPA/USEF
9/10/2005 1:32:46 PM  -  National HBPA 

Posted: 9/10/2005 1:30PM

Friday, September 9th our first truck hit the road at 3:30PM bound for the distribution center in Hattiesburg, MS. The truck was loaded with horse feed, bedding, vet meds, shampoos, halters, wraps, buckets, fly spray, etc. It also carried a goodly amount of cat & dog products.

Saturday, September 10th our second truck departed early at 10:00AM heading for Louisiana Downs in Bossier City, LA. This truck contained food, clothing, linens, kitchen items, cleaning supplies, laundry detergent, tolietries, tack, halters, vet meds, horse feed, bedding, cat & dog supplies, etc. The ETA is 12 noon on Sunday.....

We have a third truck that will depart this coming weekend with primarily horse & pet supplies and have 12 palettes of goods collected and ready to load.

Rescuing the Horses of St. Bernard Parish
9/9/2005 4:41:08 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 9/8/2005 7:05:58 PM Last Updated: 9/9/2005 12:29:05 PM

Jay Addison, DVM, of New Orleans, La., hasn't been able to see if his home withstood Hurricane Katrina, and the house of one of his partners in veterinary practice, Ronald Giardina, DVM, was completely destroyed. Regardless of their situations, Addison, Giardina, and other area veterinarians, technicians, and volunteers are making their number one priority to rescue horses out of severely affected areas of Louisiana, particularly St. Bernard Parish, which is south of New Orleans. Addison told The Horse, "I took a crew in yesterday. This area has quite a large horse population, a lot of green space down there and a variety of horses. There are several Thoroughbred trainers that stable down there, and there are a lot of gaited horses, Paso Finos, Walking horses, and Miniature horses. The water is so nasty and high, if they're not on high ground, they're not going to survive.

"The area is pretty inaccessible," Addison continued, explaining that the team had to take a roundabout route to get into the St. Bernard area. "We went on the west bank of the Mississippi area and got in there on a ferry. It's just inundated with water. Some roads are passable, but some are still covered with water and the material that's in it.

"There is a lot of raw sewage, spilled oil, and gas," he explained. "There are a lot of dead, decaying fish in the water and decaying animals that died with the flood.

"A lot of the horses that were in stalls drowned," Addison said.

There isn't a solid count on the number of horses the team has pulled out of St. Bernard, but, "of the horses that were out and lived, we picked up 15 last night and brought them to the vet school (Louisiana State University). They were injured, cut up, had abrasions, and a lot had been standing in that water with so much tin and electrical cables. It's unbelievable what's down in that area."

Addison said that Luis Pomes, a St. Bernard's government maintenance employee, is one of about three people that remained in the Parish area. "He basically commandeered some equipment and some feed for the animals," Addison described. "He's going around and making sure they're being fed and watered. He's showering with water from the Mississippi River.

"He's (Pomes) packing five-gallon buckets of water up the levy and putting it in a container at the top so that the horses can get some fresh water," Addison continued, saying that teams are trying to get aid to Pomes as well.

The team has been able to bring in some additional fresh water, hay, and feed to the many horses in the area that are alive, but that rescuers haven't been able to remove yet. "It's very dire straits for that area," said Addison. "It looks like we're going to get the horses that are there--there's been a tremendous amount of response from volunteers to go in there with us. The survivors...we'll be able to get them out."

Each Day Is New "In this one area that we're working today (Sept. 7), there are maybe 20 or 30 horses down in there," described Addison. "Every day we have a head count, and we go into that area and we find areas where all of them perished, or we find areas where there are 20-30 horses that we didn't know about that were alive. Every time we go into a new area, it's a new day.

"There's nobody here...it's unbelievable," he related. "There is no communication, no cellular services, and no one who survived to care for the animals. The helpful thing is that it's so flooded, horses are seeking higher ground, and that's either the levees or the roads," which makes them easier to find. "The water is so nasty and high, if they're not on high ground, they're not going to survive."

The team hasn't been able to get to some of the barns that were still under water. "There were a couple of barns that had 60 horses in there each and the roofs are sticking out. We saw quite a few horses that were in the debris--about 30."

Of the horses they've rescued from St. Bernard, 15 or more were Thoroughbreds and there were a few ponies and miniatures. Addison said, "We're going back into today to try and get a small herd of Paso Finos and a couple of young Thoroughbreds that we couldn't get loaded yesterday with the manpower that we had.

"There are no fences," he explained. "The water and the wind pushed the fences down, so there's no place to corral them, and there's a lot of debris around, so we don't want them up some place where they're going to get injured. We have some dart guns (for the two young horses that were uncatchable) if we need them."

A Thoroughbred owner from the area, Marvin Johnson, helped a crew go into Plaquemines Parish, which is on the east side of the Mississippi River. Reportedly five horses were brought out of that area yesterday, but one had to be euthanatized.

Addison recalls two notable rescues from yesterday (Sept. 6): "We went into a place where we didn't think there were any horses or any survivors because we heard most of the horses were locked in stalls. We saw a Thoroughbred mare standing...it looked like she'd been nursing a foal, but there was no sign of the foal. She was standing behind some debris on what used to be a feed room, up to her knees in mud with some real serious lacerations around her fetlocks and knees that were very swollen. She just waiting to be rescued...I think she'll live.

"Another two horses found their way up to high ground and were standing out in front of the feed store, waiting for someone to open it up," he continued. "I thought they were pretty smart."

Addison was heading back into St. Bernard Parish when he was talking with The Horse. As his phone eventually lost service, he said, "The horse owners down here basically lost everything and they really need some effort to try and rebuild this industry."

Copyright © 2005 The Blood-Horse, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Louisiana Horsemen Carrying On
9/9/2005 4:38:28 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 9/9/2005 10:56:44 AM Last Updated: 9/9/2005 11:15:05 AM

A unique Fair Grounds at Louisiana Downs meet is not expected to have any effect on the way the Louisiana Thoroughbred Breeders' Association distributes breeders' awards money, according to Tom Early, LTBA executive director.

Early doesn't expect the organization to be forced to cut the amount of breeders' awards money paid from the normal 20% of the winner's share of the purse despite the possible loss of live racing dates due to the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina.

"I don't anticipate any reduction," Early said. "We're not going to have to cut the breeders award rate from 20% to 15%. I think we can continue to go because when you don't run "X" number of days at the Fair Grounds then you don't have those breeder awards to pay. So even though we're not generating money, we're not spending it either."

Early did predict a loss is the amount of money the breeders' awards program receives from the state's Off-Track Betting Parlors. "Where we're going to take a big hit is the OTB money because right now there are no OTBs, except for the few scattered throughout the northern and southwestern parts of the state," he said. "The eight or nine in metro New Orleans are obviously gone and won't be back anytime soon."

Early estimated the LTBA receives about $1 million per year from OTBs, which breaks down to $250,000 per quarter. "We may lose two quarters worth of money and that is what we use to pay the out-of-state breeders awards and the open race breeders awards."

The LTBA has the option of tapping into reserve money collected from slot machine revenue. In Louisiana, 15% of the adjusted gross revenue from slot machines is designated toward purses, and 2% is given to the LTBA to pay breeder awards.

Currently, Delta Downs, Louisiana Downs, and Evangeline Downs have slot machines. Fair Grounds was scheduled to go live with slot machines this year.

The horsemen's organization is also planning to go forward with their annual sale at Louisiana Downs, Oct. 15-16. The LTBA has 450 horses catalogued.

"The sale is still on as planned," said Early. "As for right now no one has said they can't come or that they're not coming."

Copyright © 2005 The Blood-Horse, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Fair Grounds Security Official Recalls Katrina
9/8/2005 9:17:23 AM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 9/7/2005 2:37:26 PM Last Updated: 9/7/2005 2:37:26 PM

Fair Grounds' assistant security chief Jim Schanbien, along with seven co-workers, showed dedication to their city and the historic New Orleans racetrack by volunteering to remain to help firefighters during the blustery violence of Hurricane Katrina and its watery aftermath. "It was the most wind I've ever seen," said Schanbien of Katrina's descent upon the Gulf Coast Aug. 29. "After Monday, we thought the storm had passed. But the next day the water started rising."

Shanbien said he, four members of his security detail, two members of the housekeeping staff, and the head of the food and beverage division stayed to assist the dozen or so members of New Orleans Fire Department who had designated Fair Grounds, specifically the parking lot and maintenance building, as an emergency staging area.

"I knew my family had made it out safe, and I thought it would be best if I stayed," Shanbien said Wednesday during a media teleconference arranged by Churchill Downs Inc., which owns Fair Grounds. "I knew the track, and and had access to the buildings, and we were able to help the fire department because we knew the surrounding area."

Schanbien said high winds sheered most of the grandstand roof and caused significant damage to the stuccod section of the West side of the complex. Remarkably, he said, none of the glass facing the infield was broken.

Schanbien said when the waters began to encroach, some local residents peaceably scaled or cut through some of the track's fencing seeking dry ground, but there was no lawlessness at the track itself.

Schanbien, who was evacuated by a Marine helicopter early Thursday, said water from a breech of the levee at the 17th Street Canal was waist-high on Gentilly Street outside the park. Water as high as three to four feet found its way throughout much of the track and its buildings, and the track's infield and both ovals were completely submerged.

"We met with the fire department each night and morning to discuss the damage," said Schanbien. "We stayed awake in shifts. It starting getting dangerous Monday and Tuesday when we started hearing gunshots off in the distance. When the gunfire got a little too close on Wednesday night we decided to get out. I don't think people were ever so happy to see the Marines when those choppers came."

In all, 19 individuals, including the firefighters, were evacuated form the grounds following mandatory evacuation orders and placed down at the intersection of the Causeway and Interstate 10.

"Uneventful," was how Schanbien, a former sheriff's officer, described the events. "The water never really threatened us." Schanbien also said the constant sight of Coast Guard, state police and other helicopters made it "look like a scene from M.A.S.H."

Schanbien said the group stayed in touch by land phone, and a single radio station, both powered by judicious use of their generators. Food and water were available by keeping the refrigeration units sealed as much as possible.

He said no horses were on the premises since the closing of the Fair Grounds' meet in March.

The other Fair Grounds employees who rode out the storm with Schanbien were: -- Nicole Ario, security -- Randy James, security -- Javahnie Jenkins, security -- Lamont Thompson, security -- Frank Ben, housekeeping -- Herbert Reaux, housekeeping -- Ron Adams, food & beverage/catering

Also Wednesday, CDI spokesperson Julie Koenig-Loignonsaid 267 of the roughly 500 full time employees in the area had been accounted for and that they were cross-checking personnel lists with the American Red Cross to locate the missing.

CDI is involved in discussions with the Louisiana Horsemen's Benevolent Protection Association and track officials at Harrah's Louisiana Downs about the possibility of holding a partial replacement meet at the Bossier City track.

Copyright © 2005 The Blood-Horse, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Longer meet being sought in Louisiana
9/7/2005 7:07:18 AM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted: 9/6/2005

The head of the Louisiana Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, the major Thoroughbred horsemen's group in the state, has proposed an alternative plan to the one informally introduced by Churchill Downs Inc. concerning a replacement meet at Louisiana Downs for the upcoming Fair Grounds racing season.

Sean Alfortish, president of the Louisiana HBPA since March, agreed that racing at Fair Grounds itself was untenable this season, but said his organization preferred a longer meet than the one outlined by CDI last Friday. A CDI official suggested that a meet of 18 to 20 days could be held during December at Louisiana Downs, but Alfortish said the HBPA would like the meet to run from late November through the end of February or the beginning of March.

"Our official position, we want to have no less than a 45-day meet," said Alfortish. "It's very important that we start racing on the traditional Thanksgiving opening date."

The Louisiana Racing Commission awarded Fair Grounds an 83-day meet beginning Nov. 24.

Under the Louisiana HBPA plan, racing would be conducted four days a week at Louisiana Downs, with daily purses in the $250,000 range, Alfortish said.

"We would still like to run the Louisiana Derby and the premier stakes for 3-year-olds," said Alfortish.

Andrew Skehan, the chief operating officer of CDI, confirmed through e-mail that he had held talks with Alfortish. Skehan offered no specific details, but said CDI was "happy to have input from our Louisiana horsemen on how best to approach conducting a race meet at Harrah's Louisiana Downs."

Skehan said CDI hoped to "come to consensus with horsemen on these issues in short order."

Alfortish said he has been in regular contact with officials at CDI and Louisiana Downs. He described negotiations between the two parties over moving the Fair Grounds meet to Louisiana Downs, located about 340 miles northwest of New Orleans, as positive.

"I would say they're getting pretty close to a basic agreement," Alfortish said.

According to Alfortish, an attorney with a practice in the New Orleans area, Fair Grounds has about $8 million in its purse account, money that must somehow be paid out to horsemen during an upcoming season. Alfortish said the HBPA calculations about race days and purse structure were based on the existing purse fund and additional purse money that could be earned through simulcast handle.

There is uncertainty about what sort of statutory obligation Fair Grounds has for its upcoming season. The track is required by law to run a certain number of dates in consecutive weeks in order to operate offtrack-betting parlors. The Louisiana Racing Commission would play a central role in moving forward any plan for the upcoming season, but the commission's offices were in New Orleans, and its membership has proven difficult to contact since the hurricane.

One impediment to a Fair Grounds-at-Louisiana-Downs meet beginning in November is a Quarter Horse meet scheduled to be held between Oct. 28 and Nov. 27 at Louisiana Downs. Alfortish said he has approached officials in the Quarter Horse industry about moving the meet, perhaps to Evangeline Downs.

Alfortish also said transferring purse money from one racetrack to another requires approval from the Louisiana legislature. The legislature is expected to convene in a special session to take up work related to the impact of the hurricane on the state.

Alfortish, who claims a long association with the racing industry, said his own farm across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans had sustained damage during Katrina, and that other horse farms in the area had felt the effects of the storm's winds. The Folsom Training Center in Folsom, La., which currently houses about 300 racehorses, was not seriously damaged and had running water.

Hurricane Horses Being Reached
9/6/2005 6:15:00 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 9/5/2005 10:05:23 PM Last Updated: 9/5/2005 10:13:42 PM

(LSU School of Veterinary Medicine press release)

As southern Louisiana reaches the one week anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, rescue efforts continue on a large scale for horses affected by the storm and subsequent flooding.

Lamar-Dixon Expo Center, the central staging area for horses recently retrieved from the New Orleans area currently houses 90 horses and mules yet to be claimed by their owners.

"Nineteen carriage horses and mules were reached last night from the downtown area" said Bonnie Clark, President of the Louisiana Horse Council. "We have them here and the veterinarians and student veterinarians have been working to stabilize these horses and prepare for the next to arrive as we anticipate a good number of additional horses to be reached and retrieved before the end of the day."

Working tirelessly since the beginning of the catastrophe, LSU Field Service Veterinarian Dr. Dennis French has been the primary veterinarian in charge of efforts at Lamar-Dixon and has coordinated all health monitoring duties with the assistance of a number of LSU veterinary students who have worked diligently under his supervision for days.

"We've had a few health issues with horses that have come in that have been drinking the saltwater from the flooding" said French, "the students and I have administered fluids and are working to stabilize them right now." "I'm not seeing any depression or any fevers, nothing that would indicate a contagious condition so at this point I think that all of the symptoms I'm seeing are purely the result of these horses being in a traumatized state".

"I can't tell you how proud I am of these students" continued French. "These kids have been with me day in and day out down here, they've taken all of the animals in, they have an identification and medical records system in place and have been with me step for step as we've gone through triage and worked to stabilize the animals we've received. "

Continuing to head up efforts at the LSU Horse Hurricane Helpline center in Baton Rouge, Drs. Rebecca McConnico and Rustin Moore have been heavily engaged in identifying horses that still need to be rescued and working to line up teams that can help when the time comes. "At this point, we've been given the primary assignment by the State Veterinarian's Office to assume the role of coordinating these rescue efforts as best we can" said McConnico.

"It's a matter of locating them (the horses) and finding out how to get them since many roads are not accessible because of flood waters, downed trees and power lines. Helicopter surveillance would provide a time-efficient way to assess the big picture, but this will likely have to wait until the stranded people are successfully evacuated. In the mean time, we need to get people on the ground who are in the area to go in and assess the situation at individual stables and then get rescue teams safely in and out, which to this point has been the challenge. We really need more people that can be available at a moments notice since this is such a dynamic process".

"Currently more than 300 horses remain to be reached in the New Orleans area that we know of" continued McConnico, "Teams continue to be dispatched with law enforcement accompaniment as logistics fall into place for each rescue effort. We've basically been prioritizing them by where we can go physically, and by which horse's we know are in the most immediate need of rescue based on their circumstances. We still have horses that are up to their necks in water. It's a challenge, because the logistics of each circumstance vary according to their location and condition."

Those interested in providing financial assistance to the effort are encouraged to make their contributions to the Louisiana Veterinary Medical Association's Dr. Walter J. Ernst, Jr. Memorial Foundation. This fund is established specifically for emergency efforts to help animals. By simply visiting www.lvma.org, potential contributors can click on "Hurricane Relief Fund" on the home page to download the form. Simply designating "Horse Rescue" on your check will ensure its use for the equine rescue effort.

For more information or to make donations, please call the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine at 225-578-9900 (www.vetmed.lsu.edu) or the LVMA at 1-800-524-2996.

Copyright © 2005 The Blood-Horse, Inc.

Evangeline Downs card raises more than $60,000 for hurricane relief
9/6/2005 6:10:28 PM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Posted: 9/6/2005 2:21:00 PM ET

With 100% of its revenue from Sunday’s racing card slated to be donated toward hurricane relief charities, Evangeline Downs will generate more than $60,000 for the cause.

Mike Howard, general manager of the Opelousas, Louisiana, track, said that on-track handle generated $63,000 in revenue that will be donated. Off-track figures were still coming in and Louisiana horsemen also committed their earnings from the night to the cause.

"It was great," Howard said. "Even though Sunday night is not a normal racing night for us, we had a crowd with numbers of a typical Friday night crowd."

Howard said people found a way to support the event despite tough times.

"A lot of the families here are doing things to help victims," Howard said. "It’s not uncommon for people to have 17 or 18 people at their homes as they help out family members. But people came out and supported this."

Evangeline is located 140 miles northwest of New Orleans and did not suffer any major damage from Hurricane Katrina on August 29.

Louisiana HBPA outlines alternative plan
9/6/2005 6:09:35 PM  -  Daily Racing Form 

9/5/2005

The head of the Louisiana Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, the major Thoroughbred horsemen's group in the state, on Monday evening outlined an alternative plan to the one informally introduced by Churchill Downs Inc. concerning a replacement meet at Louisiana Downs for the upcoming Fair Grounds racing season.

Sean Alfortish, president of the La. HBPA since March, agreed that racing at Fair Ground itself was untenable this season, but said his organization preferred a longer meet than the one outlined by CDI on Friday. A CDI official suggested that a meet of 18 to 20 days could be held during December at Louisiana Downs, but Alfortish said the HBPA would like the meet to run from late November through the end of February or the beginning of March.

"Our official position, we want to have no less than a 45-day meet," said Alfortish. "It's very important that we start racing on the traditional Thanksgiving opening date."

The Louisiana Racing Commission awarded Fair Grounds an 83-day meet beginning Nov. 24.

Under the La. HBPA plan, racing would be conducted four days a week at Louisiana Downs, with daily purses in the $250,000 range, Alfortish said.

"We'd still like to run the Louisiana Derby and the premiere stakes for 3-year-olds," said Alfortish.

Alfortish said he has been in regular contact with officials at CDI and Louisiana Downs. He described negotiations between the two parties over moving the Fair Grounds meet to Louisiana Downs, located about 340 miles northwest of New Orleans, as positive. "I'd say they're getting pretty close to a basic agreement," Alfortish said.

Alfortish said CDI was "receptive" to the HBPA proposal. "They're calculating how they can make it work under that scenario," he said.

According to Alfortish, an attorney with a practice in the New Orleans area, Fair Grounds has about $8 million in its purse account, money that has somehow to be paid out to horsemen during an upcoming season. Alfortish said the HBPA calculations about race days and purse structure were based on the existing purse fund and additional purse money that could be earned through simulcast handle.

Fair Grounds meet at Louisiana Downs in the works
9/3/2005 11:31:26 AM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Posted: 9/2/2005 8:52:00 AM ET

Churchill Downs Inc., which owns flooded Fair Grounds in New Orleans, will not conduct the track's 2005-'06 meet in the hurricane-ravaged city and is in discussions with Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. to shift the meet to Louisiana Downs in Bossier City.

"It is clear that we will not be operating a race meet in November at the Fair Grounds and as such, we’ve made contact with the folks at Louisiana Downs and we are under way in putting together a race meet at Louisiana Downs,” Churchill Downs Inc. President Tom Meeker said on Friday morning, stressing that the company is chiefly focused on locating and assisting its employees affected by Hurricane Katrina.

Definitive information should be available early next week regarding implemention of a temporary meet at Louisiana Downs, Meeker said.

About 30% of the company's 500 Louisiana employees have been located, either through Churchill's toll-free number or the Fair Grounds website (www.fgno.com), Meeker said.

Churchill plans to provide additional assistance in conjunction with other parties from the horse racing industry. In the meantime, Sam Houston Race Park President Robert Bork is assisting Churchill by establishing a presence at the Astrodome in Houston and in the community to help locate displaced employees and provide help, including temporary work in Houston.

Fair Grounds, which each spring conducts the Louisiana Derby (G2), a traditional Kentucky Derby (G1) prep, is one of the nation’s oldest racetracks and is located about ten minutes from famed Bourbon Street in the French Quarter. It sustained structural damage to its eight-year-old grandstand, rebuilt after a fire in 1993, due to the Category 4 winds from Hurricane Katrina.

The track's barn area is under about four feet of water, Meeker said. The track surface has been damaged as well.

Shifting the Fair Grounds meet to Louisiana Downs would provide Louisiana horsemen a place to run for substantial purses, Meeker said.

"We believe that [by] running a meet there, we can also provide some additional funding for those individuals who are in need—be they horsemen or employees of the track," he said.

Although contact has yet to be established with Bob Wright, chairman of the Louisiana Racing Commission, or Charles Gardiner III, its executive director, Meeker emphasized that he is confident that any potential problems associated with moving the Fair Grounds meet across the state—statutory as well as regulatory and “practical problems”—could be solved.

The number of racing dates, the length of the meet, and the purse structure for a Fair Grounds meet at Louisiana Downs are still under discussion, Meeker said.

"It will be a unique meet and we’re still working on the details," Meeker said. "We are looking at various alternatives and trying to fit this into the structure of [United States] racing at that time of year [Fair Grounds's meet traditionally runs from late November to about mid-March]," he continued. "We looking at it from the standpoint of purses, availability of horses, and concern for the horsemen to make sure we have an orderly path for them to follow for this year as well as next year."

Churchill plans to commit all of the upcoming meet's revenues to hurricane relief for horsemen and employees, Meeker said.

"We think this would be a great opportunity for the industry at large to pursue a course that would result in Churchill not making money but the horsemen and our employees getting the funds to restart their lives," he said.

Lousiana Downs owner Harrah's, which is a co-owner of Turfway Park in Northern Kentucky, also is continuing efforts to help its nearly 8,000 casino employees in Biloxi, Gulfport, and New Orleans. The company has set up an information center at its corporate center in Memphis to facilitate assistance those who have been evacuated and displaced.--Myra Lewyn


National HBPA sends funds & sets up network for Louisiana Horsemen
9/3/2005 9:42:44 AM  -  National HBPA 

Lexington, KY., Friday, September 2, 2005

The National HBPA President & Chairman John Roark, on behalf of the National HBPA Board of Directors and its many members across North America wish to thank all those who have pledged their support and funding to help the many horsemen and horsewomen of the Louisiana HBPA.

Said John Roark: “I know I speak for Sean Alfortish and the Louisiana horsemen in saying how much we appreciate everyone’s support. They’re going through a very difficult time, but with horsemen helping horsemen, we will ensure everyone makes it through this terrible ordeal.”

The National HBPA has undertaken the following initiatives:

• Emergency Short-Term Funding: In advance of more long-term fundraising, the National HBPA Foundation with the help of Thoroughbred Charities of America and the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, today provided the Louisiana HBPA’s Horsemen’s Relief Fund with $60,000 in emergency short-term funding earmarked for use in the coming days and weeks. These funds will be used for temporary housing, apartment rental, medicine, clothing and other necessities required by Louisiana HBPA member horsemen and their families.

• Emergency Toll-Free Horsemen’s Hotline. Beginning Saturday morning, National HBPA has added two operators who will be dedicated to handling any emergency incoming calls 9:00 am to 5:00 p.m. during the Labor Day weekend and thereafter as needed. The toll-free hotline 1-866-245-1711 will be used to collect information about stranded or missing horsemen and other hurricane related needs and will be passed along to the Louisiana HBPA or other appropriate agencies.

• Online Information Center. The National HBPA website will now feature an information center through which horsemen, donors and others who wish to assist can leave email messages. The website can be accessed at www.nationalhbpa.com and will also be initially linked to the Louisiana HBPA, Thoroughbred Times and Blood-Horse magazine websites. This will allow the National HBPA to more efficiently collect and distribute information related to: Lodging for horsemen and horses; information on how to make donations and updates on Louisiana HBPA operations. This will also serve to help the National HBPA link missing horsemen with the Louisiana HBPA offices.

Horsemen begin efforts to aid victims of Katrina
9/2/2005 9:24:09 PM  -  Daily Racing Form 

Posted: 9/1/2005

Horsemen and horse welfare groups are mobilizing to aid people and animals imperiled in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and Evangeline Downs, the central Louisiana racetrack, has pledged to donate all revenue from a special racing program this Sunday to a Red Cross group.

There was no new information Thursday about conditions at Fair Grounds Race Course, the New Orleans track caught in the middle of overwhelming floods. Officials at Churchill Downs Inc., which acquired Fair Grounds less than a year ago, have said that more information would be available after a detailed assessment of the racetrack could be made. Since most of the city is covered in water, and the population is being evacuated, any assessment figures to be days, if not weeks, away. The Fair Grounds race meet is scheduled to begin Nov. 24.

The national Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association has set up a network to provide relief to Louisiana horsemen. The group, based in Kentucky, is seeking volunteers in the region affected by Hurricane Katrina to be hosts for displaced people and is soliciting donations that will be directed to relief efforts. The organization can be reached through its website, www.nationalhbpa.com, or by calling 1-866-245-1711.

Telephone service in areas that were hit hardest by the storm remains spotty, and it has been difficult to determine the toll on horse populations in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. Although Louisiana Thoroughbred farms appear to have avoided the worst of the hurricane, there are significant populations of quarter horses and paint horses in hard-hit portions of Louisiana and Mississippi.

The Louisiana Thoroughbred Breeders Association was forced to abandon its office at Fair Grounds but remains open in branch offices at Evangeline Downs in Lafayette and Louisiana Downs in Bossier City.

Loretta Romero, the breeding group's northern manager, said Thursday that its staff was accounted for, including executive director Tom Early, whom Romero said was trying to make his way from New Orleans to Lafayette. Her office at Louisiana Downs was fielding calls from out-of-state breeders, mostly from Texas, who board their horses in Lousiana, but Romero said they had heard little yet from breeders in the areas known to have sustained the worst damage.

"Mr. Early lives in Folsom, and we're told they have a lot of damage down there," Romero said, referring to an area just north of New Orleans across Lake Pontchartrain.

The Louisiana breeders group can be contacted through its Louisiana Downs office at (318) 752-6375 and (318) 742-5555.

The United States Equestrian Foundation, based in Kentucky, is attempting to pair horses in need of shelter with people who are able to provide it. Interested parties can contact the organization via e-mail at kcadams@usef.org.

The Louisiana Equine Council is also providing assistance to displaced horses. That organization's website is lahg.net, and its toll free phone number is (888) 784-8760.

The National Horse Protection Coalition is collecting equine supplies and has already planned a shipment to the afflicted region. Donations can be arranged online at horseprotection.org.

At Arlington Park outside Chicago, jockey Mark Guidry, who was born in Louisiana, has helped to create a relief fund. "Thank goodness, my family is safe, and all my people live 20 or 30 miles down the Gulf from those people that are underwater right now," he said, "but that could have very easily been me and my loved ones suffering the way those people are suffering right now."

- additional reporting by Glenye Cain

Churchill Plans for 'Unique' Meet in Louisiana
9/2/2005 9:13:47 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 9/2/2005 11:59:01 AM Last Updated: 9/2/2005 1:15:59 PM

As a result of damage to Fair Grounds Race Course from Hurricane Katrina, there will be no live racing there this year and plans are being made for a "unique" meet at nearby Louisiana Downs in its place, according to Churchill Downs president and CEO Tom Meeker.

In a teleconference Friday, Meeker said details of the meet that will replace the Fair Grounds meet are still to be worked out in negotiations with Louisiana Downs general manager Ray Tromba, but that it would be not be as long as the Fair Grounds meet would have been and will not generate any revenue for the parent company. Fair Grounds was scheduled to open Nov. 24, and run through March 26, 2006 Owned by Harrah's Entertainment, Louisiana Downs is located in Bossier City.

Meeker said the Fair Grounds clubhouse and grandstand were not flooded by the hurricane, but there was some damage from water and wind. He said the barn area was covered by four feet of water and that the racecourse itself was also covered by water as a result of the storm. Meeker said company personnel had not been able to get access to any of the 10 off-track betting facilities operated by Fair Grounds in the New Orleans area to assess storm damage. He said Churchill's $200-million insurance policy, less a $500,000 deductible, would cover the damage and that the company would also file an insurance claim for the disruption of normal business stemming from the hurricane. Before the hurricane, Churchill was forecasting a pre-tax loss of $1.3 million from its Louisiana operations, according to chief financial officer Mike Miller.

Meeker said details of the Fair Grounds at Louisiana Downs meet were not firmed up, but noted it would be primarily serve as a means to generate income and purses for Fair Grounds personnel and horsemen. He said the temporary meet would also be scheduled to fit in with the national racing calendar.

"We are still working on the details, but it will be a unique meet," Meeker said. "We are concerned about not only establishing a meet there (at Louisiana Downs) but also in providing an orderly trail for horsemen who come to that meet. "We are looking at it from the standpoint of purses, availability of horses, and concern for the horsemen to make sure we have an order path for them to follow for this year as well as next year."-

Meeker said efforts by Churchill Downs to contact its approximately 500 Louisiana-based employees through a toll-free number (877-244-5536) and the Fair Grounds Web site had resulted in about 30% of its personnel making contact with the company. He reiterated that since Friday, Sept. 2, was pay day, Churchill was prepared to send checks to employees via overnight delivery or have their pay deposited directly into bank accounts.

Seven Fair Grounds security department personnel who voluntarily remained at the track when it and the OTB sites were evacuated last Saturday, Aug. 27, finally left Thursday, Meeker said, noting that the company felt it was in the best interests of the employees to leave due to the reports of shots being fired in New Orleans.

The Churchill president reiterated the company's commitment to its Louisiana operations. "We invested in that community because we liked it," Meeker said of New Orleans. "The nexus between the track and that community is a mirror image of what it is here in (Churchill's headquarters) Louisville...The Fair Grounds will be there and New Orleans will be there, but we have a huge challenge facing us not only as members of the community but the entire country."

Copyright © 2005 The Blood-Horse, Inc.

NTRA establishes Racing to the Rescue fund for hurricane victims
9/2/2005 9:03:59 PM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Posted: 9/2/2005 4:18:00 PM ET

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association will lead an industry-wide effort to provide financial relief to members of the horse racing and breeding community who have been affected by Hurricane Katrina.

The NTRA Charities-Racing to the Rescue Fund will receive contributions, 100% of which will be passed through existing charities established to aid in recovery efforts. New York-based Bessemer Trust, a Breeders’ Cup World Thoroughbred Championships race sponsor, will maintain the charitable fund.

"We call on every member of our industry and our fans to assist members of the Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama horse communities and their animals in their time of need," said NTRA Commissioner D.G. Van Clief. Jr.

Contributions may be made through the mail at: NTRA Charities—Racing to the Rescue Fund, c/o Bessemer Trust Company N.A. attention Robert Elliott, 630 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10111. For alternative ways to donate, contact the NTRA at (800) 792-6872.

The fund will be promoted on an NBC telecast of racing from Belmont Park, Keeneland Race Course, and Oak Tree at Santa Anita Park. On Breeders’ Cup day, jockeys, trainers, breeders, and owners will be encouraged to contribute a percentage of their winnings to the fund.

"We welcome the opportunity to use the October 29 Breeders’ Cup World Thoroughbred Championships as a means of raising funds for Hurricane Katrina victims, and in particular those within our own industry who have been impacted by this disaster, and endorse similar efforts at our member racetracks."

Racing Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux, a native of Maurice, Louisiana, will participate in the Breeders’ Cup day efforts.

"As a Louisiana native, I am particularly delighted that the horse racing industry is stepping up to do something to aid the thousands of people within the horse racing community who lost loved ones and homes to Katrina," Desormeaux said. "The situation down there is one of total devastation, and help is desperately needed and valued."

Horse Rescue Groups Mobilizing Hurricane Relief Effort
9/1/2005 2:18:37 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 9/1/2005 11:56:28 AM Last Updated: 9/1/2005 11:56:28 AM

Edited press release In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, horse rescue groups are mobilizing to provide assistance to horses and livestock impacted by the devastating storm and are seeking financial support for the effort.

The National Horse Protection Coalition, along with Texas based Habitat for Horses and the Louisiana Equine Council have joined forces to assemble and deliver much needed relief for the animal victims of hurricane Katrina.

The NHPC has secured a donated tractor-trailer that organizers hope will be filled with hay, feed and veterinary supplies for horses and other livestock who have been displaced by the hurricane.

"We are hopeful that our efforts will not only reduce animal suffering, but will also help to reduce any further financial and emotional loss to those affected," said Gail Vacca the Illinois coordinator for the NHPC.

The NHPC is currently seeking donations of hay, straw, horse feed, livestock feed, and veterinary medical supplies which are being gathered in DeKalb, Illinois to be transported to animal welfare organizations who are already set up in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. The loaded truck is scheduled to deliver the supplies in Louisiana as early as Sunday, Vacca said.

"Many of these animals are injured and hungry and in order to ward off any further loss of animal life in the aftermath of this tragedy, we are doing everything we can to get these supplies down to the hardest hit areas as soon as possible," Vacca said.

While Vacca's group is seeking donations of hay, straw, feed, and veterinary medical supplies from those in the DeKalb, Illinois area, others can make financial contributions are also needed and can made online at horseprotection.org or can be mailed to: National Horse Protection Coalition, 16217 State Route 23 , DeKalb, IL 60115

Evangeline to donate all revenue from special day to relief efforts
9/1/2005 10:15:06 AM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Posted: 9/1/2005 10:08:00 AM ET

In an unprecedented move, Evangeline Downs will donate 100% of its revenue from Sunday’s racing program to the Acadiana Chapter of the Red Cross Relief Fund as the Opelousas, Louisiana, track responds to the needs of victims of Hurricane Katrina.

While Evangeline is far enough west that it was not affected by Monday’s hurricane, receiving just some rain and 30 mile per hour winds from the storm, the track wanted to respond to the disaster that hit so close to home. New Orleans is located 153 driving miles southeast of Opelousas.

The special racing program of Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse racing will begin at 6:45 p.m. CDT.

"It’s a night when our entire racing industry will unite to help fellow Louisianans who are suffering from this horrific event," said Mike Howard, general manager of Evangeline, which is owned by Peninsula Gamng Co. "People have been asking us what they can do to help these victims. This event gives racing fans from all over Acadiana and the United States an opportunity to help."

Horsemen throughout the state have been affected by the hurricane.

"New Orleans is home to one of the oldest racetracks in the United States," Howard said of Fair Grounds, which has been flooded. "Our racing family spends nearly half the year there and our family does its best to take care of one another."

Howard added that all revenue, including revenue coming in from off-track wagers, would be contributed toward the relief effort.

"This is a time for the whole family to help out," Howard said. "We know that people will turn out."

Louisiana breeders group shifts operations from Fair Grounds
8/31/2005 9:49:36 PM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Posted: 8/31/2005 5:55:00 PM ET

The Louisiana Thoroughbred Breeders Association (LTBA) is in the process of shifting operations out of its offices on the backstretch stable area at Fair Grounds, which has been flooded by Hurricane Katrina.

Charlotte Stemmans, who is on the group’s board of directors, said association members needing to contact the LTBA should do so by calling satellite offices in Opelousas at Evangeline Downs at 337-942-1884 and Shreveport at Louisiana Downs at 318-746-6170 or board members located in areas not affected by the storm.

LTBA Executive Director Tom Early evacuated with his family to Mississippi as the storm approached, Stemmans said, adding that all LTBA employees had been accounted for expect Roger Heitzmann, Early’s assistant, who was last heard from on Friday night.

"He was in New Orleans on Friday; and nobody was quite sure where he was going," Stemmans said. "I’m assuming he got out; telephone communication is horrible."

Therese Arroyo, the LTBA comptroller, is in Lafayette and has the computer disk that holds association’s accreditation information, Stemmans said.

"We are going to be working to put all that information on computers in Lafayette," she said.

Deadlines on accreditation forms, which were due Wednesday, will be extended, Stemmans said, adding that forms mailed to the New Orleans office would most likely be returned to the sender. If the forms are returned, they should be re-sent to the LTBA offices in Opelousas and Shreveport.

There is a possibility that refugees from New Orleans would be housed in the sales pavilion at Louisiana Downs where the LTBA has scheduled a fall mixed sale for October 15-16, Stemmans said.

"But the sale will happen," Stemmans said. "We’ll just do what we have to do to make it happen."

Stemmans said she had not heard of injuries or casualties among the state’s Thoroughbred population, but she did not think that many horses would have been evacuated. She’s also heard from several South Mississippi horsemen, including some who have lost barns.

"As we’ve gotten information, people are either moving horses out or needing something," said Stemmans, whose family owns an equine supply company in Carencro. "There are a lot of horse people in [Mississippi’s affected area] around Picayune and Kiln.

"There’s a lot of people coming out of there and coming out toward Lafayette getting feed and stuff and going back," she said. "We’re trying to do what we can to help."—Myra Lewyn

Three of four Louisiana tracks dodge hurricane
8/31/2005 2:25:38 PM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Posted: 8/31/2005 12:48:00 PM ET

While Fair Grounds sustained damage to its grandstand and flooding of its grounds as a result of Hurricane Katrina, Louisiana’s other three Thoroughbred tracks sustained no significant damage.

Evangeline Downs, located in Opelousas, which is near Lafayette in the south central part of the state, saw some wind and rain from the storm but did not sustain damage. The track will offer a ten-race card Wednesday evening, beginning at 6:45 CDT.

Delta Downs and Louisiana Downs are both far enough west that they were not affected by the hurricane. Louisiana Downs, located in Bossier City in the northwest part of the state, will feature a ten-race card on Thursday, beginning at 1:30 p.m.. Delta Downs, located in Vinton in the southwest part of the state, is currently dark.—Frank Angst

Churchill Assessing Extent of Hurricane Damage at Fair Grounds
8/31/2005 10:39:10 AM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 8/30/2005 6:56:19 PM Last Updated: 8/31/2005 7:40:03 AM

Confirming that Hurricane Katrina had caused damage to the Fair Grounds Race Course in New Orleans, Churchill Downs president Tom Meeker issued a statement Tuesday saying the company will "reserve detailed comment on this matter until such time as we are able to conduct on-site inspections and more accurately gauge the impact Hurricane Katrina had on our Louisiana operations."

Fair Grounds and its affiliated off-track betting facilities and video poker operations are owned and operated by Churchill Downs Inc.

"We have much work to do in order to assess the status of our business operations and put in place a plan to move forward in Louisiana," said Meeker. "Given the difficulty of accessing areas affected by the storm, it could take several days or weeks before we have an accurate assessment. Right now, our greatest concern is for our employees, their families and our neighbors throughout the Greater New Orleans community.

"We know many of our team members are currently far from home and worried about the status of their homes and belongings. Our first concern is seeing to their immediate needs. The thoughts and prayers of CDI employees across the country are with them as we all come to grips with the aftermath of the storm."

Fair Grounds security personnel reported that the racetrack, located on Gentilly Boulevard, sustained structural damage to the grandstand facility and there is some flooding around the property. The condition of stable-area structures, including barns, and the 10 off-track betting facilities located around the greater New Orleans area is not known, the statement said.

Fair Grounds is scheduled to conduct its next live race meeting from Nov. 24, 2005, through March 26, 2006. The track was closed for live racing at the time the storm hit, so no horses or stable personnel were on-site.

The Churchill statement said the company carries insurance on Fair Grounds and its affiliated businesses to cover property loss and business interruptions and that the company is "preparing a team of employees and insurance industry representatives to assess damage to the racing property and off-track betting network, as well as the impact to Fair Grounds' overall operations and the track's ability to operate a race meet during the 2005-2006 racing season."

Fair Grounds recently received approval from New Orleans City Council to begin construction of a slot machine gaming facility, which would be added on to the racetrack structure. Construction of the new facility had not begun when Hurricane Katrina hit, but renovations to portions of Fair Grounds' stable area, including improvements to living quarters and the track kitchen, were underway at the time.

Copyright © 2005 The Blood-Horse, Inc.

Damage on Louisiana Farms Not as Bad as Expected
8/31/2005 10:37:53 AM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 8/30/2005 11:13:34 PM Last Updated: 8/31/2005 8:14:35 AM

The damage of Hurricane Katrina on south Louisiana Thoroughbred farms wasn't as bad as originally feared, but it will take time to repair and replace fencing and barns, as well as remove debris and tree limbs.

"It's not as bad as I thought it would be," said Val Murrell, general manager of Clear Creek Stud near Folsom, La., located about 50 miles north of New Orleans. "It's not going to be a picnic going home, but nobody got hurt and right now that's all that matters."

Murrell, in Grand Prairie, Texas, for the Fasig-Tipton Texas yearling sale, said it had been difficult trying to reach family and farm employees. "We've had trouble trying to reach someone at the farm, but we finally got through today (Tuesday)," he said. "From what I could find out in a few brief conversations, a roof was blown off a yearling barn, but luckily no horses got hurt. Most of the horses that were originally housed in that barn are here at this sale. I'm sure when we get home there will be more to do to clean it all up."

Like many farms and homes near New Orleans, Clear Creek is currently without electricity. "The horses are little uncomfortable in the heat without their fans and a little scared but they are all safe," Murrell said.

Terry Gabriel of Elysian Bloodstock, also located near Folsom, La., said he does know the extent of damage to his farm. "We're just having a hard time getting in touch with everyone," he said. "But from what little I do know, we're going to be all right."

Gabriel believes the hurricane kept many Louisiana horsemen from attending the sale, held Aug. 29-30 at Lone Star Park. "About 75% of the Louisiana buy-base comes from south Louisiana and they couldn't get here. Even if they could get here, people kind of lose their flow for a horse sale when something so serious is going on at home."

In an effort to aid with the relief efforts, the Texas Thoroughbred Association set up a table inside the sales pavilion to take donations for hurricane victims in Louisiana.

Copyright © 2005 The Blood-Horse, Inc.

Katrina damages Fair Grounds
8/30/2005 6:53:45 PM  -  Daily Racing Form 

8/30/2005 6:51 PM

Historic Fair Grounds Race Course, located in the heart of New Orleans, was not spared the heavy damage inflicted by Hurricane Katrina.

The Fair Grounds property was inundated with water, and a section of the roof in the grandstand had been lifted off by the storm's powerful winds. The property area around the grandstand and off-track-betting and video poker building was strewn with debris, and there appeared to be other damage to the grandstand. The racetrack was shown on a video taken from a helicopter that was broadcast on local and national television. Water could be seen covering the infield and throughout the barn area.

New Orleans had no phone service, and cell phones operating on the New Orleans area code (504) were virtually unreachable Tuesday. A spokeswoman for Fair Grounds's parent company, Churchill Downs Inc., said little firm information on specific conditions at the racetrack was available as of early Tuesday afternoon.

Julie Koenig Loignon, the CDI spokeswoman, said "a small contingent of security officers" had ridden out the storm and had confirmed damage to the roof and the main structure.

"We really don't know the status of anything beyond that," Koenig Loignon said. "We haven't been able to get at things, really."

Koenig Loignon said Fair Grounds management personnel had evacuated the city before the storm struck, and were coordinating assessments of the property from out-of-town hotels.

Fair Grounds isn't due to open until late November, with the stable area scheduled to begin accepting horses in October. This time of year, there would have been few people and animals at the track, which is located in the Mid-City neighborhood of New Orleans and sits blocks from Bayou St. John. The bayou flows between Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi River, and presumably would have overflowed its banks during the flooding.

Fair Grounds might have been affected by a levee break Tuesday that was causing water to rise in some parts of the city. The track is located less than five miles from the site of the break, and water was said to be rising in neighborhoods around Fair Grounds.

CDI acquired Fair Grounds last year to fill a winter void in its network of racetracks. Fair Grounds is all but approved to operate slot machines, and construction of a slots parlor at the track was to have soon begun.

Much of the Louisiana breeding industry also lay in the path of the hurricane. Many horse farms are located on the north side of Lake Pontchartrain in St. Tammany Parish, which sustained significant damage. Folsom, the center of horse farm country, lies some 21 miles from the north coast of Lake Pontchartrain.

Evangeline gets OK to race
8/30/2005 9:48:06 AM  -  Daily Racing Form 

8/30/2005 Hurricane Katrina dealt Evangeline Downs only a glancing blow Monday morning, and track officials have given the go ahead for racing Monday night. Located approximately 100 miles west of New Orleans, the Opelousas area experienced blustery winds but only a brief period of rain Monday morning as Katrina made landfall.

Fair Grounds Damage Unknown; Track Used as Staging Area
8/30/2005 9:47:23 AM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 8/30/2005 6:15:47 AM Last Updated: 8/30/2005 7:55:41 AM

As Hurricane Katrina moved through New Orleans Monday, the Fair Grounds racetrack sustained some structural damage and the track's parking lot was being used as a staging area from which rescue vehicles and personnel could work.

Julie Koenig-Loignon, a spokeswoman for Churchill Downs Incorporated, said there were some security personnel at the track during the storm and there were reports of some damage to the track structure, as of mid-afternoon Monday.

"The neighborhood around the track is sustaining heavy winds right now, and we do have some reports of damage to the track structure," Koenig-Loignon said. "We won't know how extensive for a while...as our guys are hunkered down and have limited views outside."

Copyright © 2005 The Blood-Horse, Inc.

The Little Program That Could
8/26/2005 10:10:36 AM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Fall 2005 

By Lea Mack, Horsemen’s Education Coordinator

The Louisiana HBPA has become an education leader in our industry. Though there was no “Racehorse Education Seminar” (RES) offered at Evangeline Downs this summer due to its temporary closing, several other good things have occurred.

We presented the RES program at the National HBPA convention in Toronto, Ontario, Canada this July. It was received with enthusiasm and has helped to put Louisiana among the leading education innovators in the horse racing industry.

As you know, Governor Blanco signed our Workmen’s Compensation Bill into law just after the convention. We brought two very workable options to our HBPA affiliates that they can model after us for their states.

Everything happens in baby steps, and the insurance program and the RES program are still in the early stages of what they can become. They will work hand in hand to help insure the health and longevity of horse racing in Louisiana and, hopefully, nationwide.

As you read in the last issue of The Horsemen’s Journal, we were to certify several high school agricultural teachers to teach the RES program in their schools as a vocational-technical life skill. That Super Summer Institute (SSI) seminar was completed on July 29, 2006. Fourteen Ag teachers and one Special Ed teacher have been certified to bring the knowledge we need in our employees to their students.

Five school districts in the state will be awarded the “Equine Care Program” by the Louisiana State Board of Education. Though this SSI was to be held at the new Evangeline Downs track in Opelousas, Churchill Downs Corporation allowed me to bring in live ponies at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans with which to certify these teachers. The cooperation of Fair Grounds security, maintenance and catering is to be highly commended. These teachers are still talking about their experience. I will have them here again for a day at the races and continuing education during their Christmas school break.

I encourage those of you who live in school districts that lack funding for this program to have fundraisers or open your checkbooks to these schools. This includes those of you who live in urban areas. Many folks on the racetrack and farms are from the inner cities of New Orleans, Chicago, New York, Miami, L.A. etc. Horses save many kids from going down a path of no return. Compassion for animals and the love they give back can show a youngster that not all is hopeless in his or her world.

Hope is what our industry is based on … we hope we get a baby from that mare, we hope we get that special yearling to the races, we hope that two year old breaks his maiden, we hope that Louisiana Derby winner will win the Kentucky Derby, etc. Hope is what drives us to get up every morning, seven days a week, 365 days per year, year after year.

Giving a youth the opportunity to feel the hope we take for granted can make a difference between drug addictions or alcoholism or jail and a life spent caring for the animals in our industry. I am a case in point. I have lived in 13 states, 36 cities, and three countries, and I am functionally literate in three foreign languages. All of this is due to my involvement in horse racing.

I applaud Oran Trahan, Tom Ball, and Kevin Presley, who gave me this opportunity, along with the former and present HBPA board members who have stood behind me while this program was in development. RES has become a giant snowball rolling over the top of me. Keeping up has been difficult, but very exciting and worthwhile.

I am looking for special individuals to teach this program at the racetracks. They will have people skills and compassion for these noble animals who allow us to make a living. Please contact me for further information.

I am proud of our Louisiana HBPA and the progress we have made in a very short time. There are many more exiting things to come.

I would especially like to thank the following people without whom this progress would not have occurred so quickly: Dr. Sam Monticello, McNeese State University; Yvonne Normand, St. Landry School Board; Brent Fontenot, St. Landry Accelerated & Transition School; Onetha Wheeler & Tricia Merrick, Louisiana State Board of Education; Sean Alfortish, Louisiana HBPA President; Mona Romero, Louisiana HBPA Executive Director; Tom Early, LTBA Executive Director; and Jay Addison, LVMA President.

Programs in Place to Help Horsemen and Their Employees
8/26/2005 10:07:59 AM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Fall 2005 

Louisiana HBPA President Sean Alfortish has announced that the Louisiana HBPA offers trainers two programs that support their backside employees and reduce worker’s compensation claims.

First, the Louisiana HBPA is contracted with the Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse of Northwest Louisiana, Shreveport, DHH of the State of Louisiana and provides certified counselors at all four tracks so there is continuity in treatment for clients.

Free evaluations and assessments are given for those situations of alcoholism, drug abuse, and gambling addictions. Detox treatment, in-house, and halfway house stays are assigned if needed.

A recent outreach program has been developed to meet the needs of training centers in northern Louisiana to facilitate those who wish to be reinstated with their licenses to work-on track.

Additionally, the Louisiana HBPA’s Employee’s Assistance Program (EAP) handles clients with anger management issues, behavior modification needs, depression, second marriage/sibling problems, legal and financial situations, and provides help caring for the elderly. Normally, three sessions get people back on track and reduce further escalating problems.

Clients may contact Kenna “Latch” Latiolais at (318) 222-8511 or contact field offices or chaplains at Louisiana Downs, Evangeline Downs, Delta Downs or Fair Grounds for respective schedules.

A Message from President Sean Alfortish
8/26/2005 10:07:03 AM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Fall 2005 

July 23rd marked the official signing of Senate Bill 292, the Louisiana HBPA Workman’s Compensation Self-Insured Plan. The passage of this bill was met with overwhelming success in both the Louisiana Senate and House, with only one dissenting vote.

A very well constructed and balanced fund will serve to immediately eliminate the high cost of worker’s compensation in the horse industry. We are anticipating a 50% savings instantly and further savings over the next three years.

In my opinion, we have become innovators of the horse racing industry. The obvious question is, when do we start? As we work through this process, we should be able to write policies before the year’s end.

Of course, we are working as fast as we can to get this done before then. You can keep up with our progress by visiting our website, calling the office, or by reading our newsletters sent out to our members.

From July 17 through 24, we attended the National HBPA convention in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, where we presented our newly legislated worker’s compensation program and our newly developed Racehorse Education Seminar. Both were very well received, and many HBPA affiliates are interested in finding a way to implement them in their states.

We shared a lot about our H2B-Visa issues as it relates to our Hispanic workers, our medical benevolence program and how it can best serve our backside employees, our E.A.P. (Employee Assistance Program) agenda and how it ties into the safety issues on the backside, and how to integrate our databases from state to state and track to track to share information on our employees as their issues impact our medical trusts.

I would like to extend my personal thanks to Mona Romero, Jim Gelpi, Bennett Powell, John O’Brien, John Unick, Bud Courson, Jim Nickel, Harry Lee Benoit, the HBPA Board of Directors and representatives of the LTBA and the LQHA for their tireless efforts in making this plan a reality. Additionally, on behalf of the horsemen, we would like to give special thanks to Senator Donald “Doc” Hines, Senator Don Cravins, Senator James David Cain and State Representatives Billy Montgomery, Joe Salter, Ronnie Johns, John Alario, Hollis Downs and Mike Strain, as well as the many members of our legislature who supported our cause.

We will be meeting with Governor Kathleen Blanco and State Representatives to discuss some ideas that I feel will not only serve to increase our purse structure, but also benefit our state. Our governmental specialists, CoursonNickel of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, are also making appointments for us to meet with our Washington contingency soon.

It is vitally important for all of us to share in protecting the horse racing industry. We have strong competition from Internet gaming entities from which horsemen do not benefit. We need to band together and stop the piracy that makes hundreds of millions of dollars from our signal unlawfully. I would like to encourage every HBPA organization and their memberships to do the same so that, together with the NTRA, we will strengthen the voice of our industry.

Louisiana approves Penn National’s acquisition of Argosy
8/18/2005 1:25:31 PM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Posted: 8/18/2005 11:14:00 AM ET

Penn National Gaming Inc. moved a step closer toward its acquisition of Argosy Gaming Co. on Tuesday when Louisiana gave regulatory clearance for the transaction.

Louisiana approved the move to buy the Alton, Illinois-based company pending a couple of requirements. Because of monopoly concerns raised by the Federal Trade Commission, Argosy’s Baton Rouge casino will be sold to Kentucky-based Columbia Sussex Corp. for $150-million so as not to conflict with Penn National Gaming’s Casino Rouge in the same market. Penn National Gaming also has agreed not to recruit workers from the current Argosy casino in Baton Rouge to work at its Casino Rouge.

Illinois is the final state remaining among seven states required to approve the acquisition. The state’s gaming board will meet on August 25 to review the deal. Penn National hopes to close on the deal by September 1.

Penn National owns its flagship track in Grantville, Pennsylvania, as well as Charles Town Races in West Virginia. The Argosy acquisition would make Penn National the third largest operator of gaming properties in the United States.

Horsemen’s Bookkeepers
6/7/2005 8:07:33 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Summer 2005 

Delta Downs - Judi McIntosh, (337) 589-7441

Evangeline Downs - Pat Thibodeaux, (337) 594-3129

Fair Grounds - Shannon Lloyd, (504) 944-5515

Louisiana Downs - Shannon Lloyd, (318) 742-5555

Louisiana HBPA Main Office
6/7/2005 8:06:44 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Summer 2005 

1535 Gentilly Blvd, New Orleans, LA 70119, (504) 945-1555, Toll Free Within Louisiana 1-800-845-4272, fax (504) 945-1579, e-mail: LAHBPA@aol.com.

Staff: Mona Romero, Executive Director; Randy A. Duke, CISA, CPA, CIA, Internal Auditor; Bobbie Laviolette, Horsemen’s Bookkeeper Superviser; Murray Woodward, Medical Plan Administrator; Diane Sims and Gale Diaz, Medical Claims Processors; and Deborah Branigan, Pension Plan/Administrative Bookkeeper.

Education Update
6/7/2005 8:05:49 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Summer 2005 

By Lea Mack, RES Coordinator & Instructor

It gives me great pleasure to present to you the 2005 New Orleans Fair Grounds graduates of the Louisiana HBPA “Racehorse Education Seminar.” From over 30 attendees, there were 22 who received certificates of completion. The RES program is a comprehensive, hands-on, 12-week course in which anyone who works with, owns, or just has a passion for horses may participate.

I am proud of our past and present board members for their long range vision of developing innovative ways to keep our Louisiana racing industry healthy. Their unanimous support of the development and implementation of RES is proving to be an exciting asset to our state’s horse industry as a whole. Our board sees the big picture of educating not only our dedicated backside employees, but also the need to include owners, farm personnel, track security employees, show horse and polo folk, and the backyard horse enthusiast.

All of us know how hard it is to find skilled, compassionate labor in our industry. Whether its on the track, on our farms, veterinarian assistants, tack shop workers, hay and feed company employees, horse van drivers, racing fans, or new faces who are considering working with horses, this seminar instills a foundation of horsemanship that benefits everyone. Most of all, it benefits these noble animals with which we make our living.

An exciting development that has occurred within the last year is the endorsement and sponsorship of RES by the LTBA, the LVMA, and the Louisiana State Board of Education. Thanks to Yvonne Normand of the St. Landry Parish School Board and Onetha Chrisentery of the State Board of Education, RES is now being offered in the Louisiana high school system as a vocational-life skills curriculum. This July, the Louisiana HBPA will certify as many as 15 high school agriculture teachers to teach RES in their schools.

With so many career options open to young people today, the perfect time to get them interested in our industry is before they’ve made a career decision. The influx of new faces who are horse savvy to work on the track or on our farms will, in the long run, keep the Louisiana horse industry progressive and growing.

One more innovative tidbit of interesting info, horsemen: on Wednesday, May 11, a Workman’s Compensation bill allowing the Louisiana HBPA to self-insure – designed to lower our premiums – was introduced by Senator Donald Hines and Senator Don Cravens. It passed the legislative insurance committee and, by the time this article is printed, hopefully it will have passed on the Senate floor. If the bill passes in this legislative session, horsemen may look forward to lower rates as early as September of this year (please visit our website at www.lahbpa.com for details).

Wrapped into the thought process of this legislation is RES. When you teach people how to do a job correctly, there is an inherent safety element. As an industry that polices itself, and hopefully will insure itself, trainers who have RES-certified employees will pay lower workman’s comp premiums in Louisiana. How’s that for incentive?

In a short time, I am hoping that our HBPA and its progressive ideas will be a model for other horse racing states. The Racehorse Education Seminar started May 25 at Evangeline Downs in Opelousas, Louisiana and will be held at the New Orleans Fair Grounds next. If you would like to know more about it or sign up for the classes, please visit our website (which is new and under construction, so bear with us) at www.lahbpa.com.

Click on the Education bar on the left of the screen, or you can call the Louisiana HBPA’s main office for contact information at (504) 945-1555.

New Appointments
6/7/2005 8:04:05 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Summer 2005 

The following are newly appointed Medical and Pension Trustees:

Medical Trustees - Larry Robideaux (Chairman), Christine Early (Trustee), Frank Rowell (Trustee), Sturges Ducoing (Trustee), Tom Abbott (Trustee), and Sean Alfortish (Trustee).

Pension Trustees - Sam David (Chairman), Charlotte Clavier (Trustee), Tom Ball (Trustee), Jake Morreale (Trustee), and Sean Alfortish (Trustee).

Delta Downs Racetrack & Casino
6/7/2005 8:03:04 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Summer 2005 

Delta Downs’ 56-day 2005 Quarter Horse meet is currently underway. It began on April 14 and will continue through July 17. The Vinton, Louisiana track’s 2005-2006 Thoroughbred meet is scheduled to begin on October 21, 2005 and continue through March 25, 2006, which represents 90 days of racing.

Backstretch/Condition Book Committee (Quarter Horse): Kenny Roberts, Chairperson; Danny Eldridge; Chad Hassenpflug; and Heath Taylor.

HBPA Field Office: backside across from kitchen; representative – Rena Braswell; hours – Tuesday through Saturday from 8:00 a.m. through 12:00 p.m.; providing medical assistance and medical applications; telephone (337) 589-9574, fax (337) 589-9607.

HBPA Assistance Program Schedule: Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 10:30 through 12:00 p.m.; located in the HBPA Field Office.

Confidential Assessment/Individual Counseling: by appointment only, Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., Counselor Rick Proffitt – (337) 430-0444 or Counselor Kenna “Latch” Latiolais – (318) 222-8511.

Chaplaincy: Chaplain “Jose” Cortez – (337)-589-9574; times and days for services to be posted soon.

Harrah’s Louisiana Downs Racetrack & Casino
6/7/2005 8:01:59 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Summer 2005 

The track’s 93-day Thoroughbred meet commenced on April 29 and will continue through October 9, 2005. The 2005 Quarter Horse meet will run for 24 days, beginning on October 28 and concluding on November 27.

We would like to extend a special thanks to Harrah’s Louisiana Downs for offering each owner running in a stakes race with a purse of at least $50,000 a complimentary lunch, and for giving the winners of that stakes race a complimentary video. You are very much appreciated!

The Backside Committee reported the track is in excellent condition and improvements have been made to the backside. We look forward to a very successful race meet.

Backstretch/Condition Book Committee (Thoroughbred): Sam David, Chairperson; Gerald Romero; Larry Robideaux; and Bill Boorhem.

On-Site Physician: Dr. Fred Willis, MD; Hours - 9:00 a.m. -12:00 p.m., Tuesday – Thursday.

HBPA Field Office: Representative - Don Harrison, (318) 746-8303.

HBPA Assistance Program Schedule: Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Friday at 11:00 a.m.

Confidential Assessment/Individual Counseling: by appointment only, Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., Counselor Melanie Russell – (318) 455-6122, or Counselor Kenna “Latch” Latiolais – (318) 222-8511.

Chaplaincy: Chaplain Jimmy Sistrunk – (318) 560-7466; times and days for services to be posted soon.

Evangeline Downs Racetrack & Casino
6/7/2005 8:00:37 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Summer 2005 

On Thursday, April 7, the new Evangeline Downs opened its doors. The track’s 2005 Thoroughbred meet will run 92 days, through September 5. The 21-day Quarter Horse meet will be run September 16 through October 16.

Congratulations to Evangeline Downs on a great opening weekend. Along with the Backstretch Committee, we will continue negotiations with Evangeline Downs to insure all areas of concern are met in a timely fashion. Feel free to contact a committee or Board member for any concerns you may have. We have a good working relationship with Evangeline Downs’ management, and they are working diligently to address each issue.

Everyone on the backside has noticed that in the two weeks we have been in office, the track surface has been completely reworked and had additional dirt and sand added. Temporary bathrooms have been added to the backside, and construction has begun on the dorm rooms for backside employees.

We expect and demand that the progress to which Evangeline Downs has committed to your HBPA will continue to improve. Evangeline Downs has made a strong commitment to our HBPA to become one of the premier racetracks in Louisiana.

Backstretch/Condition Book Committee (Thoroughbred): Connie Begnaud, Chairperson; Don Stemmans; Tom Ball; Michael Katz; Milton Junker; Troy Young; and Tom Abbott.

Construction Committee: Tom Ball, Chairperson; Tom Abbott; Sam Breaux; Keith Bourgeois; and Frank Rowell.

HBPA Assistance Program Schedule: Mondays, Tuesday, and Thursdays at 10:30 a.m.

Confidential Assessment/Individual Counseling: by appointment only, Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., Counselor David Fatheree – (337) 234-0830 or pager (337) 991-7623, or Counselor Kenna “Latch” Latiolais – (318) 222-8511.

Chaplaincy: Chaplain Bob Guidry; times and days for services to be posted soon.

HBPA Field Office: Located on the backside near track kitchen; Representative - Donnie Patin; Providing medical assistance and medical applications.

We Have a Website
6/7/2005 7:59:14 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Summer 2005 

Now in the construction phase … www.lahbpa.com.

Upon completion, you will be able to download license and medical applications, obtain information on the Medical Trust Program Benefits, Pension Trust information, legislation update and projects in the works, race dates, The Horsemen’s Education Program, etc.

A Message from President Sean Alfortish
6/7/2005 7:58:21 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Summer 2005 

Fellow Horsemen,

It is an honor to be your newly elected president. March 30th marked the first Board of Directors meeting, and we discussed a slate of issues that we feel are top priority. Some immediate changes to be expected are:

Workers Compensation – “Our Top Priority”: Senate Bill No. 292 – “Horse Racing – Authorizes a Horsemen’s Workers’ Compensation Insurance Program” – was introduced by Senator Donald Hines, President of the Senate, for the 2005 legislative session, beginning April 25th, 2005. We would like to thank Senator Donald Cravins for his assistance and support in co-authoring the bill.

The bill will provide the Louisiana HBPA with a self-insured fund. The Louisiana HBPA will attempt to finance the fund through premiums and other sources of revenue. The passage of this bill is critical to our industry because it has been rumored that LWCC is expected to increase rates by another 50% or more this year, for a minimum premium of $3,000 per year. Through this endeavor, the Louisiana HBPA hopes to reduce Louisiana horsemen’s premiums by 20-30% or more in the first year. Please keep in mind these are conservative projections.

Elimination of Sales Tax: I have been in contact with Governor Blanco’s office to interpret a current law which would eliminate state sales tax of all claims of racehorses in Louisiana. We are in direct competition with other racing states such as Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Ohio, Illinois, Delaware, New York, and Kentucky, who enjoy the benefit of sales tax relief on claims. The success of this measure will generate more money to our industry, give Louisiana owners a tax break, and keep us competitive with other states.

Expect a stronger presence from our organization over the next few years. We look forward to serving you.

I am committed to having our industry move forward and progress. I do ask for your patience in bringing about changes that will only serve to better horse racing in Louisiana. I assure you that the communication from our office to our members will reach unprecedented levels.

With your help and patience, your Louisiana HBPA will become an innovator and leader in this industry. Our future looks bright, and I welcome all comments, questions and suggestions you may have.

Sincerely,
Sean D. Alfortish

New Executive Director Appointed
6/7/2005 7:56:53 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Summer 2005 

Mona Romero has been appointed to replace Kevin Presley as the executive director of the Louisiana HBPA. Presley left the HBPA to pursue a new career opportunity.

Results of Louisiana HBPA’s 2005 Board of Directors Election
6/7/2005 7:56:05 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Summer 2005 

The Louisiana HBPA held its election this spring, and the Louisiana horsemen elected horse owner and attorney Sean Alfortish to be the organization’s new president. Congratulations to Alfortish and the other following Board members, who were sworn in to serve a three-year term on Wednesday, March 30:

Owners – Thomas Abbott, Thomas Ball, William Boorhem,Christine Early, and Arthur Morrell

Trainers – Charles “Connie” Begnaud, Keith Bourgeois, Sam David, Larry Robideaux, and Gerald Romero

Louisiana Horsemen's Bookkeepers
3/12/2005 5:05:53 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Spring 2005 

Delta Downs - Judi McIntosh - (337) 589-7441
Evangeline Downs - Pat Thibodeaux - (337) 594-3000
Fair Grounds - Shannon Lloyd - (504) 944-5515
Harrah’s Louisiana Downs - Shannon Lloyd - (318) 742-5555

Louisiana Field Offices
3/12/2005 5:04:18 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Spring 2005 

Delta Downs - (337) 589-7441
Evangeline Downs - (337) 896-8452
Fair Grounds - (504) 944-7887
Harrah’s Louisiana Downs - (318) 746-8303

Websites of Interest
3/12/2005 5:02:55 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Spring 2005 

The Louisiana HBPA invites you to visit the web sites of Louisiana racetracks.

Louisiana Tracks - Websites

Delta Downs, Vinton - www.deltadowns.com
Evangeline Downs, Opelousas - www.evangelinedowns.com
Fair Grounds, New Orleans - www.fgno.com
Harrah’s Louisiana Downs, Bossier City - www.harrahsladowns.com

Harrah's Louisiana Downs Update
3/12/2005 5:01:12 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Spring 2005 

Anthony Sanfilippo, president of Harrah’s Central Division, named a new general manager, Patrick Dennehy, to head the Horseshoe Casino and Harrah’s Louisiana Downs Racetrack in Shreveport, Louisiana. Dennehy served as senior vice president and general manager of Harrah’s Cherokee Casino in North Carolina, as well as general manager of Harrah’s New Orleans Casino.

The Bossier City racetrack will start its Thoroughbred race meet on Friday, April 29, with 93 days of racing to conclude on Sunday, October 9.

In order to express your concerns and recommendations, please contact one of the following members. All communications should be channeled through the above committee. Meetings with management will be scheduled on a regular basis.

Backstretch/Condition Book Committee (TB): H. B. Johnson, Chairperson; Jerry Cart; Billy McKeever; and Pat Mouton.

Fair Grounds Update
3/12/2005 5:00:22 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Spring 2005 

Mr. Randy Soth, president and general manager of Fair Grounds, attended the Louisiana HBPA’s last board meeting and reported on the proposed upgrading of the stable areas and Fair Grounds’ renovation timetable over the next couple of years. The main thrust would be:

Mr. Soth stated that an architectural firm was engaged several weeks ago to review numerous options for improving the quality of life for the individuals who live on the backside. These plans are presently on the drawing board. Provisions include additional living quarters, replacing all wooden stalls with cinder blocks, and creating flat roofs, with the possibility of erecting 20 to 24 sleeping rooms atop the roofs - to include bathrooms/showers - also high priority items.

Replacement of asbestos roofs on the barns and construction of sleeping rooms over the existing tack rooms will also become a reality, together with the construction of a dormitory.

A meeting with the City Planning Commission was held on February 14 regarding slot machines. Over the three to four weeks prior to the meeting, a gaming team was set up with a local architect, Mr. John Williams, and a gaming consultant from Euro-Kohl. A representative, Mr. Kevin Cyhamel from Churchill Downs, who is a vice president of gaming development, has been assigned to Fair Grounds for approximately 12 months.

Clearance of the Harrah’s Casino amendment allowing slots at Fair Grounds (which would be a land based casino) has been amended and approved. Meetings have been held with neighborhood groups basically to keep them abreast of the transition to casino gaming at Fair Grounds. A permanent casino facility is expected to be completed near the second quarter of 2006. Fair Grounds will house 500 slot machines at the initial opening of the casino and eventually will accommodate a maximum of 700 machines.

Fair Grounds has acquired a new voice, being that of newly hired track announcer, John Dooley. The 38-year-old native New Yorker is a graduate of St. John’s University. Dooley has studied under the direction of Tom Durkin, the voice of the Breeders’ Cup, and has had previous announcing stints at Lone Star Park at Grand Prairie and Arlington Park. John brings a clear, crisp voice to race-calling to go along with a creative sense of humor, which racing fans appear to thoroughly enjoy.

In order to express your concerns and recommendations, please contact one of the following members. All communications should be channeled through this committee. Meetings with management will be scheduled on a regular basis.

Backstretch/Condition Book Committee (TB): Jake Morreale, Chairperson; Sam David; Larry Robideaux; Howard “Tucker” Alonzo; and Joseph “Spanky” Broussard.

Evangeline Downs Racetrack and Casino Update
3/12/2005 4:59:13 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Spring 2005 

The Thoroughbred race meet for the 2005 season will have 92 days of racing, which will commence on Thursday, April 7 and will run through Monday, September 5.

Evangeline Downs inaugurated its first race meet at the Opelousas facility with its Mardi Gras Futurity. The Quarter Horse race meet for the 2005 season commenced on Saturday, February 5 and also includes February 24 through March 27, in addition to August 21.

In order to express your concerns and recommendations, please contact one of the following members. All communications should be channeled through these committees. Meetings with management will be scheduled on a regular basis.

Backstretch/Condition Book Committee (TB): Don Cormier, Sr., Chairperson; Connie Begnaud; J. D. Angelle; Tom Abbott; and James Rohner.

Backstretch/Condition Book Committee (QH): Leverne Perry, Chairperson; Gerald Libersat; and Earl Bankston.

Delta Downs Racetrack & Casino Update
3/12/2005 4:58:16 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Spring 2005 

Delta Downs’ 2004-2005 Thoroughbred race meet will end on Saturday, April 2. The Quarter Horse meet will begin on Thursday, April 14 and run through Sunday, July 3.

In order to express your concerns and recommendations, please contact one of the following members. All communications should be channeled through these committees. Meetings with management will be scheduled on a regular basis.

Backstretch/Condition Book Committee (TB): Connie Begnaud, Chairperson; Ann Watermeier; James Rohner; and J. D. Angelle.

Backstretch/Condition Book Committee (QH): Kenny Roberts, Chairperson; Danny Eldridge; David Chad Hassenpflug; and Alvin Brossette.

Medical Benefit Trust
3/12/2005 4:57:23 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Spring 2005 

Medical Trustees: John Trosclair, Chairperson; Murray Woodward, Plan Administrator; Lloyd J. Romero, Trustee; Christine Early, Trustee; Diane Sims, Claims Processor; and Gale Diaz, Claims Processor.

REMINDER: Owners and trainers must complete new applications every January and July in order to remain eligible for benefits.

Medical reimbursements are subject to IRS Form 1099, and members are advised to take the necessary steps to have physicians file claims directly with the Medical Department.

Horsemen Account Statements Online
3/12/2005 4:56:38 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Spring 2005 

Horsemen racing in Louisiana now have the ability to access their statement information for any Louisiana track over the internet. The Louisiana HBPA has joined InCompass to provide this feature. Horsemen are advised to contact the horsemen’s bookkeepers at tracks conducting current meets in order to receive their PIN number and receive further access instructions.

Louisiana HBPA Works to Head Off Workers Compensation Crisis
3/12/2005 4:55:57 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Spring 2005 

The Louisiana Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association’s (HBPA) Board of Directors has retained the services of the insurance firm of Maroevich, O’Shea and Coghlan of San Francisco, California - and specifically Mr. John Unick, who is the vice president and national sales representative - to develop a partially self-insured workers’ compensation program for Louisiana horsemen. Said firm and Mr. Unick were instrumental in developing a plan for California racing, which found itself in a critical situation involving the workers’ compensation issue.

Mr. Unick has made an initial presentation to the Louisiana HBPA Board in which he outlined what he foresees as a viable plan for Louisiana. Unick indicated that the plan will be slightly different from that initiated in California.

Unick also indicated that Louisiana racing is headed for a similar fate as California racing experienced, and he praised the Louisiana HBPA’s Board for taking a proactive approach to stabilizing and reducing workers compensation rates for horsemen.

Workers compensation rates for horsemen have skyrocketed over the past three years and threaten to put many operations out of business if left unchecked. Currently, the main carrier for Louisiana horsemen’s workers compensation coverage is through the state-backed LWCC, which is a situation that offers horsemen virtually no options.

The partially self-insured program Unick envisions for Louisiana will require an actuary to set up a captive insurance company specifically for this coverage. In order for the actuary to create this captive, a Letter of Credit will be established to offset excessive loss claims that may occur. It shall also require the participation by virtually all of the horsemen currently operating primarily in Louisiana to develop a premium base significant enough to make the creation of the captive by the actuary a feasible venture. Should the above conditions be met, Unick believes the current rates ranging from $22-24 per $100 worth of payroll - which is the second highest rate in the nation - can be initially reduced by 20-30%. Coupled with safety programs designed to reduce loss claims, Unick believes rates can eventually stabilize around the $15-17 per $100 worth of payroll range and will serve to reduce the letter of credit posted to offset claims.

Bennett Powell of Powell Insurance Agency of Metairie, Louisiana will be the statewide contact working with Unick, and both gentlemen are pursuing a March 1 target date to present the final product to the Louisiana HBPA Board for ultimate approval. In the meantime, the board urges all horsemen to assist Mr. Powell in securing data necessary to complete their presentation.

Insurance increased to $1-million for Fair Grounds jockeys
3/11/2005 2:54:43 PM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Posted: 3/11/2005 2:45:00 PM ET

Churchill Downs Inc. has signed an agreement with AIG Insurance to provide $1- million in on-track insurance coverage for jockeys who compete at Fair Grounds.

The announcement comes less than one month after the racetrack company announced that it is arraigning to secure such coverage for jockeys who compete at six of the tracks it owns and/or operates. Fair Grounds is the first of Churchill Downs Inc.’s properties to provide the $1-million coverage.

The increased major medical coverage, with $1-million in lifetime benefits for jockeys who ride at the New Orleans track, is effective immediately and replaces the $100,000 in coverage Fair Grounds provided for jockeys through an agreement with the Thoroughbred Racing Associations.

Churchill Downs Inc. will cover most of the cost for the new insurance premium and is in discussions with horse owners and jockeys about how the remaining cost of the increased coverage might be paid for.

"Churchill Downs Inc. is pleased to offer $1-million in coverage to jockeys at Fair Grounds as part of an industry-wide effort to provide jockeys with adequate on-track medical insurance," Andrew Skehan, chief operating officer for Churchill Downs Inc., said Friday. "We will move quickly to secure similar coverage for jockeys competing at [Churchill Downs Inc.] tracks in Kentucky, Florida, Illinois, and Indiana prior to the start of our 2005 Thoroughbred racing seasons in those jurisdictions.

Jockeys competing at Churchill-owned Hollywood Park in Southern California are already covered by workers' compensation insurance offered in that state.


Louisiana Horsemen’s Bookkeepers
12/14/2004 7:50:15 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Winter 2004 

Delta Downs - Judi McIntosh - (337) 589-7441
Evangeline Downs - Pat Thibodeaux - (337) 896-7223
Fair Grounds - Shannon Lloyd - (504) 944-5515
Louisiana Downs - Shannon Lloyd - (318) 742-5555

Louisiana HBPA Field Offices
12/14/2004 7:47:59 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Winter 2004 

Delta Downs - (337) 589-7441
Evangeline Downs - (337) 896-8452
Fair Grounds - (504) 944-7887
Louisiana Downs - (318) 746-8303

Websites of Interest
12/14/2004 7:46:33 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Winter 2004 

The Louisiana HBPA invites you to visit the websites of the Louisiana racetracks:

Louisiana Racetrack - Website Delta Downs, Vinton - www.deltadowns.com
Evangeline Downs, Lafayette - www.evangelinedowns.com
Fair Grounds, New Orleans - www.fgno.com
Harrah’s Louisiana Downs,Bossier City - www.harrahsladowns.com

Harrah’s Louisiana Downs Update
12/14/2004 7:44:21 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Winter 2004 

Harrah’s Louisiana Downs has realized supplementary purse revenue from its slot machines in the amount of approximately $9 million. From January through September of 2004, Harrah’s Louisiana Downs has reported a gross revenue from gaming devices of over $61 million.

The Bossier City racetrack began its Quarter Horse meet on Friday, November 11, 2004 with 20 days of racing to conclude on Monday, December 12, 2004.

In order to express your concerns and recommendations, please contact one of the following members. All communications should be channeled through the above committee. Meetings with management will be scheduled on a regular basis.

Thoroughbred Backstretch/Condition Book Committee: H. B. Johnson, chairperson; Jerry Cart; Billy McKeever; and Pat Mouton.

Fair Grounds Update
12/14/2004 7:43:26 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Winter 2004 

Churchill Downs did not miss a beat, welcoming racing fans to its newly acquired racetrack on Thanksgiving Day. Churchill acquired the bankrupt Fair Grounds in a $47 million transaction that required Federal Bankruptcy Court approval. Churchill has stated it will spend $4 million on much needed backside improvements. Representatives of the Louisiana HBPA have been meeting with Fair Grounds’ management on a regular basis.

Churchill Downs encompasses five other tracks throughout the country, and upper management stated that the Fair Grounds would become an exceptional fit for their racing operations.

Fair Grounds’ Thoroughbred racing season started on Thursday, November 25, 2004 and will run through Sunday, March 27, 2005.

In order to express your concerns and recommendations, please contact one of the following members. All communications should be channeled through this committee. Meetings with management will be scheduled on a regular basis.

Thoroughbred Backstretch/Condition Book Committee: Jake Morreale, chairperson; Sam David; Larry Robideaux; Howard “Tucker” Alonzo; and Joseph “Spanky” Broussard.

Evangeline Downs Update
12/14/2004 7:42:28 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Winter 2004 

On Monday, September 6, 2004 horsemen at Evangeline Downs in Carencro watched the end of an era come to a close for Thoroughbred racing. Many horsemen have been racing at Evangeline Downs in Carencro for over 20 years and will be saying farewell to countless friends who could possibly be moving on to other locations. Quarter Horses began racing at Evangeline Downs, Carencro in 1966, and management has informed the horsemen that the racing operation will be relocated to Opelousas, Louisiana at the end of November of 2004.

Because of the anticipated slot machine proceeds, the Opelousas location will offer higher purses to the horsemen. From January through September of 2004, Evangeline Downs has reported a gross revenue of over $50 million, and of this amount, in excess of $7 million has been contributed toward purses, with 1,617 devices in operation.

The Thoroughbred race meet for the 2005 season will have 92 days of racing starting on Thursday, April 7, 2005 and will run through Monday, September 5, 2005.

Evangeline Downs’ Quarter Horse race meet for the 2005 season has not been scheduled to date.

In order to express your concerns and recommendations, please contact one of the following members. All communications should be channeled through these committees. Meetings with management will be scheduled on a regular basis.

Thoroughbred Backstretch/Condition Book Committee: Don Cormier, Sr., chairperson; Connie Begnaud; J. D. Angelle; Tom Abbott; and James Rohner.

Quarter Horse Backstretch/Condition Book Committee: Leverne Perry, chairperson; Gerald Libersat; and Earl Bankston.

Delta Downs Racetrack & Casino Update
12/14/2004 7:41:22 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Winter 2004 

Delta Downs’ 2004-2005 Thoroughbred race meet commenced on Friday, October 1, 2004 and will run through Saturday, April 2, 2005. The Quarter Horse meet will begin on Thursday, April 14, 2005 and conclude on Sunday, July 3, 2005.

Delta Downs’ has experienced an overwhelming success from its slot machines at the casino. From January through September of 2004, Delta has reported a gross revenue of over $97 million, and of this amount, $14 million has been contributed toward purses.

The entertainment complex at the facility is still in the construction stages, with the hotel structure approximately 50% completed. Installation of a rubber brick paving has been completed in the paddock area.

In order to express your concerns and recommendations, please contact one of the following members. All communications should be channeled through these committees. Meetings with management will be scheduled on a regular basis.

Thoroughbred Backstretch/Condition Book Committee: Connie Begnaud, chairperson; Ann Watermeier; James Rohner; and J.D. Angelle.

Quarter Horse Backstretch/Condition Book Committee: Kenny Roberts, chairperson; Danny Eldridge; David Chad Hassenpflug; and Alvin Brossette.

2005 Louisiana HBPA Election of Officers
12/14/2004 7:40:25 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Winter 2004 

The election ballots are scheduled to be mailed on January 20, 2005 and must be received by February 9, 2005. Your vote is very important. Please ensure the ballot is filled out correctly and it arrives in a timely manner.

Fair Grounds Race Course Lawsuit Settlement
12/14/2004 7:39:43 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Winter 2004 

M. Oran Trahan, president of the Louisiana HBPA, is pleased to announce that the task of redistributing video poker purse revenue from the Fair Grounds is in the process of being calculated. The receipt of these monies is the result of a settlement reached with the Fair Grounds following a long-standing lawsuit and a Supreme Court victory by the Louisiana HBPA.

Approximately 10,000 checks totaling over $14 million dollars in net proceeds will be distributed by the end of November or early December of 2004.

Horsemen and jockeys who had earnings from 1992 through March of 2004 at the Fair Grounds are the recipients of these funds. Checks, statements and associated IRS 1099 tax forms will be issued to and mailed to the name(s) of the account(s) in our Horsemen’s Bookkeeper records. If you or any one you know feels that you might be entitled to these proceeds, please ensure your present address is updated. For further information, please direct your questions to the HBPA office in New Orleans at (504) 945-1555 or (800) 845-4272 (Louisiana only).

If you are one of the recipients of these monies, please take into account that any amount due to others from this distribution, such as for training fees and taxes, is your responsibility.

Slots bring boom for Louisiana-breds
12/9/2004 3:06:21 PM  -  Daily Racing Form 

NEW ORLEANS - Louisiana-bred horses have come an awfully long way in the past 20 years. Every day at Fair Grounds there are two or more large, competitive fields of Louisiana-breds, and Saturday's $1 million Louisiana Champions Day card will feature seven Thoroughbred and three Quarter Horse races.

Back in the 1980's, Louisiana-breds were not a major feature, according to Ronnie Virgets, a New Orleans columnist and television personality. "Back then we called them 'lousy breds,' " Virgets said. "They might have had one race a day, maybe the fourth race, restricted to Louisiana-breds."

Times sure have changed. Champions Day will showcase the cream of the Louisiana-bred crop - horses like defending Classic champion Spritely Walker, probable Juvenile favorite Crimson Stag; and showdowns between Destiny Calls and Happy Ticket in the Ladies, Mr. Sulu and Bebe Garcon in the Turf, and Zarb's Dahar and Zarb's Luck in the Sprint.

"It's been a long time coming," said Louisiana trainer Gary Palmisano, who will saddle Destiny Calls in the Louisiana Champions Day Ladies. "Over the years, as the regular pots grew, so did the statebred pots. People would go to Kentucky and buy a horse for $100,000, then get a $10,000 horse here and run for the same pot in a Louisiana-bred race. Gradually the horses got better, and now the yearling prices are going up. Back then if you got $7,500 for a horse, you got plenty. Now you can get 50 to 60 thousand for a Louisiana-bred."

Crimson Stag, a 2-year-old colt by Glitterman, epitomizes the improvement in Louisiana-breds. All of his races have been against open company, including a maiden victory at Saratoga and a pair of in-the-money finishes at Keeneland. The Juvenile will be his first start in a restricted race.

In the old days, Louisiana-breds would race in open company only on the rarest of occasions. But in the 1990's, several very good horses emerged from Louisiana. Free Spirit's Joy won the 1991 Grade 1 Super Derby. Dixie Poker Ace won the first three runnings of the Turf. Scott's Scoundrel became the richest Louisiana-bred in history over a six-year career from 1994 through 1999 that netted $1.27 million over 50 races, including open-company victories in the 1995 Prelude, the Grade 3 New Orleans Handicap in 1996, the Louisiana Handicap in 1997, and the Evangeline Downs Mile Handicap in 1998. Hallowed Dreams won the first 16 races of her career in 1999 and 2000. Walk in the Snow, Fuse It, and the late Oak Hall have all distinguished themselves in recent years.

The architect of the Louisiana Thoroughbred breeders' program is Tom Early, secretary and treasurer of the Louisiana Thoroughbred Breeders Association. Early runs the operation from a trailer on the Fair Grounds backstretch.

"I've been here 31 years and I've seen it all," he said.

Early said that when offtrack betting parlors were legalized in the state in 1987, "we realized $270,000 in additional money and began to build on that. In 1989 the board of directors of our association had the idea to do something like the Maryland Million."

That idea turned into Louisiana Champions Day in 1991, seven races for different divisions of Louisiana-bred horses. That same year, the association voted to open its breeding program to outside stallions.

"Prior to 1991 you had to breed back in Louisiana," Early explained. "It made it possible for a lot of people to breed to better quality horses. We've seen a steady rise in yearling prices and a steady rise in the foal population since then."

Sean Alfortish, a New Orleans lawyer who was involved in the lawsuit against the previous owners of Fair Grounds over the distribution of video poker revenue, is an enthusiastic owner and breeder.

Alfortish points to the last Keeneland yearling sales as proof of the progress Louisiana-breds have made. "There were Louisiana-breds selling there by stallions like Fusaichi Pegasus and Wild Again," he said. "We're not far from a point where you might get six figures for mares dropping foals in Louisiana, which was unimaginable five years ago."

The Louisiana breeding industry got another boost when Churchill Downs Inc. bought Fair Grounds.

"The first thing new general manager Randall Soth said was that CDI wanted to package multiple stakes into big race days," said Early. "I thought, well, we've got just what they want on Champions Day. We're 14 years ahead of the curve on Churchill with that idea."

Soth believes that there is much potential in the Louisiana-bred program.

"They're very excited about what they're seeing in terms of stallions coming in to stand in Louisiana," Soth said. "What's going to happen is you'll see stallions coming from outside Louisiana to breed to Louisiana-bred mares. The slot machine revenue has made an enormous impact on the purse money available for Louisiana-breds at Delta Downs, and we anticipate it will impact the purse structure here as well."

With slots approved for Fair Grounds and likely to be in place sometime in 2005, another quantum leap in the quality of the Louisiana-bred program is already in progress. Early points to the quality of this year's Champion's Day fields as proof of that progress.

"This year in particular the Classic is the most competitive it's ever been," said Early. "In previous years one horse would always be a standout. I guess the favorite must have won the Classic 70 percent of the time."

Those "lousy-breds" are downright respectable these days.


Churchill Downs Inc. completes purchase of Fair Grounds
10/18/2004 5:24:56 PM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Posted: 10/15/2004 5:24:00 PM ET

A day after the first significant autumn cold front pushed through the Crescent City, there was a breath of fresh air for the financially troubled Fair Grounds.

Churchill Downs Inc. announced Friday it successfully closed its $47-million purchase of Fair Grounds and its five off-track betting facilities. The racetrack conglomerate also acquired the assets of Finish Line Management Corp., which consists primarily of five OTB facilities in the New Orleans area, and Video Services Inc., the owner and operator of more than 700 video poker machines in nine locations that include Fair Grounds, for a total of $10.5-million.

Fair Grounds is now one of seven tracks under the Churchill umbrella and the first to operate primarily in the first quarter of the calendar. Fair Grounds's upcoming 82-day season will begin Thanksgiving Day, November 25 and conclude March 27.

Churchill’s purchase enabled Fair Grounds to pay a $25-million out-of-court settlement with the Louisiana Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association over distribution of video-poker revenues during the past decade. Fair Grounds filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in August 2003 in reaction to a $90-million judgment favoring the horsemen.

The settlement, which originated in a 1993 HBPA lawsuit against all Louisiana tracks, was paid Friday on its due date. Fair Grounds was the last Louisiana track to settle with the horsemen.

"That was a unique set of circumstances," Andrew Skehan, Churchill Downs Inc.’s chief operating officer said about the horsemen’s lawsuit during a Friday afternoon press conference. "Unfortunately the circumstances aren't as we would like them to be, but otherwise there was nothing in particular about the operating environment or (Fair Grounds) that I would say is going to be a special challenge for us going in."

A $4-million renovation of the track's backstretch stable area and workout facilities will be Churchill’s first major project.

"The grandstand's about seven years old and is in very good shape," Skehan said, "but the backstretch is a little run down. It's fine, but it needs some TLC."

Fair Grounds employs 500 yearly employees and 500 more during the racing season, and Skehan is hoping to increase those numbers.

"I wouldn't be surprised that, if we do our job and business improves, I would expect to add more people," Skehan said.

Skehan said the track, which will be overseen by Randy Soth, who replaced Bryan Krantz as president and general manager, would continue to play host in the spring to the annual New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, which it has done since the early 1970s.—Ed Cassiere


Churchill to spend $4-million to renovate Fair Grounds backstretch
10/7/2004 10:00:20 AM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Posted: 10/6/2004 11:37:00 PM ET

Churchill Downs Inc. plans to spend $4-million on renovations of backstretch and horsemen facilities at Fair Grounds over the next two years, according to track President Randall Soth. Soth, former general manager of Calder Race Course, was appointed president of Fair Grounds in late September after Churchill reached an agreement to purchase and assume control of the New Orleans track from the Krantz family.

"In terms of immediate changes, perhaps the most visible will be capital improvements we plan to make in the stable area within the first two years," Soth told Bayoubuzz.com. "Churchill Downs Inc. will invest $4-million to improve backstretch living conditions and other needed renovations to the facilities our horsemen depend on for their stock and employees."

Soth also said Churchill would introduce a new logo combining the Fair Grounds name with Churchill’s Twin Spires mark and would be involved in the New Orleans community.


Randall Soth Named President and General Manager of Fair Grounds Race Course
10/1/2004 2:48:19 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 9/30/2004 2:53:51 PM Last Updated: 9/30/2004 2:58:45 PM

Churchill Downs Inc. has named Randall Soth president and general manager of Fair Grounds in New Orleans. The announcement was made Sept. 30 by CDI's executive vice president and chief operating officer Andrew Skehan, to whom Soth will report.

Soth will assume his new position as soon as CDI completes the purchase of Fair Grounds, which is scheduled to occur on or before Oct. 15. The U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Eastern District of Louisiana authorized the sale of Fair Grounds to CDI Sept. 24 when it approved the bankruptcy reorganization plan submitted by CDI; Fair Grounds Corp., principal owner of the racetrack; and the Louisiana Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association.

Soth previously served as vice president and general manager of Calder Race Course, CDI's live racing operation in Miami, where his responsibilities varied from supervising various departments, to directing simulcast efforts, to ensuring safe working conditions throughout the facility and the stable area. Before he joined the Calder management team in 1996, Soth spent 20 years in a variety of racetrack management positions.

Soth served as general manager of Retama Park in San Antonio, Texas; as vice president of racing at Sam Houston Park, also in Texas; and as racing secretary for the following New Jersey racetracks: Monmouth Park, Atlantic City Race Course, Garden State Park, and Meadowlands.

In his new role, Soth will lead Fair Grounds and its management team through the transition into the CDI family of companies.

Soth said it was a tremendous honor to be chosen to lead one of the nation's oldest and most storied racetracks.

"Horse racing has long been an important part of Louisiana's rich cultural heritage, and I welcome the opportunity to help pilot this grand institution through present challenges and towards future success," Soth said in a release. "I look forward to working with the track's team of employees, Louisiana horsemen and the New Orleans community as we build on Fair Grounds' traditions and truly bring this remarkable racing venue back to national prominence."

A replacement for Soth has not been named; however, Calder president Ken Dunn said a national search is under way.

"Randy has been a fundamental part of Calder's management team, as well as a trusted friend and counselor," Dunn said. "We will certainly miss him, but this is a fantastic opportunity for Randy and for our future teammates at Fair Grounds."

Copyright © 2004 The Blood-Horse, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Bankruptcy Court Approves Churchill Downs Purchase of Fair Grounds
9/25/2004 9:50:33 AM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 9/24/2004 12:17:54 PM Last Updated: 9/24/2004 12:17:54 PM

The U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Eastern District of Louisiana, has approved Churchill Downs Incorporated's $47-million purchase of Fair Grounds, according to a release from Churchill Downs. CDI, the Fair Grounds Corporation, and Louisiana Horseman's Benevolent and Protective Association are expected to close the transaction on or before Oct. 15. "The bankruptcy court's ruling today brought us one step closer to achieving what we believe is an excellent strategic fit between Fair Grounds and CDI and an ideal entrée for our company into a city and state with such a rich heritage," said Thomas Meeker, CDI's president and chief executive officer in a prepared statement. "The Fair Ground' tradition, quality racing and winter-race schedule are well complemented by CDI's operational expertise, industry-leading brand and simulcast network.

"Going forward, we will now turn our focus on closing the transaction, immersing ourselves into the New Orleans racing community and supporting the Fair Grounds staff in delivering an outstanding 2004-2005 meet," Meeker continued. "We will look to the continued guidance and involvement of Fair Grounds management as we undertake this important transition process and begin building what we believe will be a long and prosperous partnership with employees, patrons, horsemen, and the community at large.

Fair Grounds is scheduled to open its 82-day meet Nov. 25 with a closing date of March 27.

Copyright © 2004 The Blood-Horse, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Louisiana Horsemen's Bookkeepers
9/11/2004 7:10:35 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Fall 2004 

Delta Downs - Judi McIntosh - (337) 589-7441
Evangeline Downs - Pat Thibideaux - (337) 896-8452
Fair Grounds - Shannon Lloyd - (504) 944-5515
Louisiana Downs - Shannon Lloyd - (318) 742-5555

Louisiana Field Offices
9/11/2004 7:09:11 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Fall 2004 

Delta Downs - (337) 589-7441
Evangeline Downs - (337) 896-8452
Fair Grounds - (504) 944-7887
Louisiana Downs - (318) 746-8303

Evangeline Downs
9/11/2004 7:07:59 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Fall 2004 

“REAP” foaled at Evangeline Downs. This baby, out of Necessity, by Helping Hand, arrived at Evangeline Downs on June 12, 2004 and is already showing great promise. You guessed it - REAP is not a horse. It stands for Racing Employees Assistance Program. REAP is modeled after the very successful Backside Benevolence Fund (BBF) at Louisiana Downs. This new group’s mission will provide relief to those of the licensed members of Evangeline Downs racing community and members of the families of the foregoing. Such relief will include, but not limited to, financial assistance for medical care, food, housing, clothing, education, counseling, emergency transportation, recreational activities and job placement and training.

A fundraiser was held on Tuesday, August 10, at the Holiday Inn Holidome in Lafayette on I-49 to establish a sound financial footing and included a banquet, live and silent auctions, door prizes, and a reverse drawing worth $5,000. Entertainment was provided by Cajun Comic Murray Conque and guitarist Randy James. “Gold” tables seating eight persons were purchased for $600. “VIP” tables seating eight people were purchased for $250, and individual tickets were $25.

REAP officers: David A. Yount, president; Oran Trahan, vice president; Kelly Woodley, secretary; Charlotte Clavier, treasurer.

REAP Board Members: Frankie Bertrand, Adrienne Breaux, Julie Calzone, Lena Charles, Linda Coco, Patricia Dupuis, Chaplain Bob Guidry, and Rita Sam.

Louisiana Racetrack Casinos
9/11/2004 7:06:06 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Fall 2004 

According to the Louisiana Gaming Control Board, Delta Downs Racetrack & Casino prevails as the most profitable racetrack casino in Louisiana, having produced more than $45 million in purse money since February of 2002. It generates approximately $1.6 million a month in purse revenues.

Harrah’s Louisiana Downs was the second racetrack casino to open on May 21, 2003 and has taken in approximately $63 million in gross revenue. On April 30, 2004 the number of slot machines was increased to approximately 1,402 machines with the opening of the new casino expansion. The renovation of Louisiana Downs is costing approximately $110 million. During this 12-month period, approximately $9.4 million in purse revenue was produced. Even though Harrah’s Louisiana Downs is in competition with riverboat casinos in the Bossier City/Shreveport area, Louisiana Downs generates an average of $728,000 slot revenue on a monthly basis for purses.

Owned by Peninsula Gaming, Evangeline Downs opened the doors to its casino at the new site in Opelousas on December 19, 2003, with approximately 1,163 slot machines in service. Evangeline Downs’ slot machines yield approximately $5.5 million a month in revenue. The racetrack casino has brought in $815,000 slot revenue toward purses per month.

The Fair Grounds still looks forward to installing slot machines, as passage was obtained in a parish referendum in the Fall of 2002. It is anticipated that the Fair Grounds could have as many as 500 machines by 2006.

Louisiana Horse Racing Exhibit, "Win? Place? Show?"
9/11/2004 7:04:21 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Fall 2004 

Louisiana HBPA President Oran Trahan is pleased to report that the Louisiana HBPA will be co-sponsoring the “Win? Place? Show?” horse racing exhibit, which will be showcased during the Louisiana State Fair in October and November of 2004 at the Louisiana State Exhibit Museum, Greenwood Road, Shreveport, Louisiana. Chaired by Revella Norman, her committee that also includes members Eulogia Myers, Marcia LaMarche, Heather LaMarche, Holly LaMarche, and Mona Romero, has been busy working with the museum curator, Mary Zimmerman, preparing for this major event.

The first of its kind in Louisiana, the committee anticipates over 250,000 attendees to the fair, and over 60,000 visitors are expected to visit the museum.

The Louisiana HBPA is having an economics professor from Louisiana State University (LSU) compile an economic impact study on what racing contributes to our state, which will be highlighted in the exhibit. A segment called “Generations-Hoofprints,” honoring those families with more than one generation serving in racing, will also be showcased. You are invited to join us during this exhibition from October 10 through November 30, 2004 at the Louisiana Exhibit Museum Building., Exit I-20 on North Greenwood Road, Shreveport, Louisiana. The event will begin on Sunday, October 10, with an afternoon reception.

Bookkeeper's Corner
9/11/2004 7:02:49 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Fall 2004 

To serve the horsemen more effectively, the HBPA bookkeepers require current W-9 forms on file from all owners and trainers. Your current address is an important source of information whereby address labels are created to be used in the mailing of checks, statements, newsletters, and ballots for the upcoming 2005 election of the HBPA president and board of directors.

Louisiana CHIP Plan (Free Children's Health Insurance Program)
9/11/2004 7:01:52 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Fall 2004 

The Louisiana CHIP plan provides free health benefits for eligible children from birth up to age 19. This free plan is based upon eligibility of a family’s annual income and provides for hospital visits, emergencies, routine examinations, physicals, dental care, and more at no charge to qualified participants. Recent changes in the program have made it easier to qualify for coverage as the income scale has been modified. To learn more about the Louisiana CHIP plan, call HBPA’s main office for a brochure or call Louisiana CHIP directly at 1-877-252-2447.

Medical Plan Update
9/11/2004 7:00:30 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Fall 2004 

Medical trustees: John Trosclair, chairperson; Lloyd J. Romero, trustee; Christine Early, trustee; Murray Woodward, plan administrator; Diane Sims, claims processor; Gale Diaz, claims processor.

The Medical Benefit Trust for the first quarter of 2004 reflects $1,356,036.10 in revenue and expenditures of $1,155,857.90. Revenues for 2002 were $3,731,647.28, with expenditures of $3,744,583.43, and the calendar year of 2003 reflected revenues of $4,826,024.48 and expenditures of $4,706,291.95. Monthly payments on claims have averaged approximately $287,584.21 to members, backstretch workers, and their eligible family members, along with retirees, their spouses, as well as spouses of deceased retirees. The HBPA receives approximately 300 to 350 claims for processing each week.

Under the Medical Trust, HBPA also provides on-site medical physicians at the Fair Grounds and Harrah’s Louisiana Downs, as well as annual flu shots at all racetracks in October and/or November. Additionally, the HBPA supports a Substance Abuse and Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Parents should seek the benefits of the Louisiana CHIP State program for assistance with free health care for children by calling 1-877- 252-2447.

Reminder to Members: Complete new applications each January and July. If we do not have a current application in your file, this will delay processing of your claim.

Members are encouraged to submit claims in a timely manner. The Medical Department has 30 days to process your claim.

Applications and revised plan supplement sheets are available at all HBPA field offices or the HBPA’s main office at (Louisiana only) (800) 845-4272.

Medical reimbursements are subject to IRS Form 1099, and members are advised to take the necessary steps to have physicians file claims directly with the Medical Department.

Attention Trainers: Regarding Your Employees — Please advise your employees that eligibility for medical assistance will prevail for seven (7) days after a race meet is over in Louisiana. The employee must reapply once again at a recognized Louisiana track with live racing to qualify for medical coverage.

Louisiana Horsemen - Mark Your Calendars
9/11/2004 6:57:32 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Fall 2004 

The ballots for the 2005 election of Louisiana HBPA officers are scheduled to be mailed in mid-January of 2005. Your vote is very important. Please ensure the ballot is filled out correctly and it arrives in a timely manner. The term is for three years.

Fair Grounds Agrees to Churchill's Bid
9/3/2004 9:50:24 AM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 9/1/2004 6:55:00 PM Last Updated: 9/2/2004 9:56:21 PM

Churchill Downs Inc. has agreed to buy the bankrupt Fair Grounds in a $47 million deal that requires federal bankruptcy court approval, the New Orleans track announced Wednesday.

The announcement came after Fair Grounds had reached a preliminary agreement with horse owner Mike Pegram for $40 million that would have made Pegram an 86% owner of the track. Pegram declined an offer to match the Churchill offer, Fair Grounds said.

"In the end, the Churchill proposal ... is most favorable for our unsecured creditors and minority stockholders," Fair Grounds president Bryan Krantz said in a statement.

Fair Grounds officials expect a confirmation hearing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court on Sept. 24.

Louisiana horsemen are a chief creditor in the track's bankruptcy reorganization and were involved in talks because a court has ruled they are owed $90 million from the underpayment of video poker proceeds to racing purses. The Fair Grounds and the horsemen have agreed to settle that dispute for $25 million.

Thomas H. Meeker, Churchill president and chief executive officer, said the agreement brings both horsemen and the Fair Ground's creditors and shareholders together to share a common goal.

"It is paramount to all parties to bring the deal to closure as quickly as possible, well in advance of the upcoming race meet," he said.

Fair Grounds' season begins on Thanksgiving and runs through March.

Meeker called the Fair Grounds a strategic fit for Churchill and said the New Orleans track "will benefit greatly from our operational expertise, industry-leading brand and simulcast network"

Churchill Downs has tracks in California, Florida, Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky, and an extensive off-track betting operation.

The track's statement said that it is anticpated that Krantz, who currently serves as president and general manager, will remain at the track in the position of chairman for three years.

Copyright © 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Fair Grounds, Mike Pegram Sign Agreement
8/17/2004 5:07:46 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 8/17/2004 12:25:02 AM Last Updated: 8/17/2004 2:44:41 PM

Fair Grounds racetrack signed an agreement Monday with Michael E. Pegram that will allow the track to pay Louisiana horsemen $25 million as part of a settlement over video poker and avert bankruptcy.

Horsemen had agreed to take $25 million in the settlement instead of the $90 million a judge said the Fair Grounds owed them from video poker. Fair Grounds was required to provide an agreement with a qualified investment partner as a condition of the horsemen's settlement.

If the bankruptcy court accepts the Fair Grounds motions, an auction of the track set for later this month will be canceled. Still, exactly what the Fair Grounds ownership will look like in the future remains unclear.

Churchill Downs Inc. had said it planned to make an opening bid, if the auction was held, of $45 million. But Monday's agreement with Pegram appears to take Churchill Downs out of the picture.

Track spokesman Mark Romig announced the agreement and said track owners would have no further comment Monday.

"Because the transaction is subject to court approval, any further comment would be premature," Romig said in a statement.

Pegram, a horseman himself, came close to having a horse win the Triple Crown in 1998. Pegram's Real Quiet won both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, only to lose the Belmont Stakes. He is based in California and Kentucky.

Churchill Downs Inc. had announced earlier in the day that they were withdrawing from negotiations with Fair Grounds.

Thomas Meeker, CDI's president and chief executive officer, said in a statement, "We believe that our offer is fair and exceeds any other offer that the debtor has received. However, we have been unsuccessful in reaching a satisfactory agreement with the parties involved."

Copyright © 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

The Fair Grounds, Horsemen Reach Deal
8/9/2004 3:44:59 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 8/8/2004 1:10:22 PM Last Updated: 8/8/2004 1:10:22 PM

The Fair Grounds and Louisiana horsemen reached a $25 million settlement over video poker purse revenue Aug. 7.

The agreement, hammered out Friday night and approved by attorneys from both sides Saturday, stems from a $90 million judgement against the track rendered in March by a state district court. The New Orleans track subsequently sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and was facing an auction of its holdings Aug. 16.

With the settlement, Douglas Draper, an attorney representing the Fair Grounds, told The Times Picayune that the track will seek dismissal of the bankruptcy proceedings.

A state district judge ruled that the Fair Grounds had been improperly withholding video poker revenues from purses for more than a decade. Three other Louisiana tracks had settled the dispute with the Louisiana Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association prior to the March hearing.

Fair Grounds President Bryan Krantz called the settlement "a big step in terms of resolving the future of the track.

"I guess now we have to concentrate on what complete resolution of a new business will look like going forward," Krantz told The Times Picayune.

On Monday, the Fair Grounds plans to ask the bankruptcy court to approve the deal and put off the auction, Draper told the newspaper.

In addition to the monetary settlement with horsemen, the Fair Grounds has also agreed to pay off other creditors in full, an amount estimated at $12 million, and provide $750,000 for backstretch improvements at the storied track over the next two years.

The Fair Grounds is negotiating for an ownership partner to help pay off the debt. The Krantz family owns controlling interest.

"We will continue to pursue it all," Krantz said. "What we are trying to do is in the best interest of the current equity shareholders, the horsemen, the racing public and the whole industry."

Steve Thompson, an attorney for the horsemen's association, said the settlement "is fair and represents all that can be achieved, given the financial realities and economic circumstances of the Fair Grounds. I am genuinely pleased for the horsemen who have been so patient."

Copyright © 2004 The Blood-Horse, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Judge approves Fair Grounds bankruptcy statement
7/12/2004 4:37:29 PM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Posted: 7/9/2004 11:18:00 AM ET

Fair Grounds took a step closer to a bankruptcy auction when a judge approved the track’s amended disclosure statement for Chapter 11 reorganization on Thursday. The New Orleans track is scheduled to be auctioned in bankruptcy court on August 16. Churchill Downs Inc. will have the first bid.

The Louisiana Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, Video Services Inc., and an unsecured creditors’ committee had objected to the original disclosure statement Fair Grounds filed in April.

Jan Hayden, a Fair Grounds bankruptcy attorney, said the sides worked out their differences prior to Thursday’s hearing, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports.

La. Horsemen Object to Fair Grounds Bankruptcy Plan
6/10/2004 5:10:26 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 6/10/2004 7:57:39 AM Last Updated: 6/10/2004 10:14:18 AM

Louisiana horsemen have filed an objection to the Fair Grounds' bankruptcy disclosure statement, alleging that the track misrepresented and omitted key financial information.

On April 19, the Fair Grounds filed the disclosure statement as part of its plan calling for an auction of the historic track through a federal bankruptcy court. The objection was filed by the Louisiana Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association. Track attorney Douglas Draper said the move was not unexpected.

"Ultimately, at the end of the day, there must be an auction. When there's a plan confirmation, there must be an auction," Draper said.

The court is scheduled to consider approval of the disclosure statement during a hearing Monday. If the disclosure statement is approved, the track's creditors would have to approve the reorganization plan.

A major issue to the horsemen is the track's video-poker operation, which is run by the company Video Services Inc. Jim Gelpi, a lawyer for the horsemen's group, said the group had not been allowed to see information dealing with video-poker revenue.

In March, a state district court ruled that the Fair Grounds owes the horsemen almost $90 million for improperly withholding video-poker revenue from racing purses. In May, the track filed a suit to have the judgment thrown out. That case is pending.

Copyright © 2004 The Blood-Horse, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Louisiana Horseman Seeks U.S. Congressional Senate Seat
6/4/2004 3:12:39 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Summer 2004 

Louisiana State Representative Arthur Morrell has announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate. Representative Morrell is the First Vice President of the Louisiana HBPA’s Board of Directors.

Father of four sons and five grandchildren, Representative Morrell and his wife, Cynthia, have been married for 37 years and live in the New Orleans area. Representative Morrell is seeking to fill the vacated Senate seat of John Breaux, who will not run for another term. Representative Morrell is a graduate of Southern University of New Orleans and received a Jurist Doctorate degree from Southern University Law Center in Baton Rouge. Please consider voting for Representative Arthur Morrell when you visit the voting polls on election day in November.

“Spirit of the Thoroughbred”
6/4/2004 3:11:52 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Summer 2004 

Louisiana HBPA President Oran Trahan is pleased to report that the Louisiana HBPA will be co-sponsoring the “Spirit of the Thoroughbred,” which will be showcased during the Louisiana State Fair from October through November of 2004 at the Louisiana State Exhibit Museum, Greenwood Road, Shreveport, Louisiana. Chairperson Revella Norman and her committee, consisting of Eulogia Myers, Marcia LaMarche, Heather LaMarche and Holly LaMarche have been busy working with the museum curator, Mary Zimmerman, preparing for this major event. The first of its kind in Louisiana, the committee anticipates over 250,000 attendees to the fair. Over 60,000 visitors are expected to visit the museum.

Reve' stated, “We are so privileged to have lived through the transitions of our racing sport - from the Acadiana bush tracks that served as a kindergarten for many known jockeys such as Eddie Delahoussaye, Randy Romero, Shane Sellers, Robby Albarado, and Kent Desormeaux. The heart and determination of enduring trainers, like my late husband, Gene Norman, Pierre LeBlanc, Pola Benoit, Junius Delahoussaye, and Frankie Brothers, who worked their operations with so much more of a struggle and constant inconveniences. I can recall trainers covering three tracks with only a pickup truck and horse trailer. The earlier days will be shown in photographs, and there will be historical events of history highlighted. It will be educational, as the museum has over 200 students viewing daily. Just a lesson in how silks are selected in design is a class lesson.”

The Louisiana HBPA is having an economics professor from Louisiana State University (LSU) compile an economic impact study on what racing contributes to our state, which will be highlighted in the exhibit. We have a segment called “Generations-Hoofprints” honoring those families with more than one generation serving in racing. The Romero family, featured in “Casey's Shadow,” are represented by father, Lloyd Romero, jockey Randy Romero, and other sons who are trainers, Gerald and Edward. The Borel family is also featured, as is Don Cormier, Sr., who is an owner, trainer, and breeder, and his family and numerous others are involved in racing.

Due to increased purses fought for by many of these people who will be highlighted, our Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse industry is being brought to new heights, and people are constantly upgrading their pedigree quality.

It will be the “Spirit of the Thoroughbred,” and the “Spirit of the People” connected with the horse. So exciting - the majesty of it all!

The Louisiana HBPA invites you to join us during this exhibition, which runs October 10 through November 30, 2004, at the Louisiana Exhibit Museum Building, Exit I-20 on North Greenwood Road, Shreveport, Louisiana. The event will be begin Sunday, October 10, 2004, with an afternoon reception. If you have anything of interest for this exhibit, please contact Reve' Norman or Kevin Presley at (504) 945-1555.

Louisiana Racetracks and Casinos
6/4/2004 3:10:37 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Summer 2004 

According to the Louisiana Gaming Control Board, Delta Downs Racetrack & Casino prevails as the most profitable racetrack casino in Louisiana, having produced more than $33 million in purse money since February of 2002. It generates approximately $10 million a month.

Harrah’s Louisiana Downs was the second racetrack casino to open on May 21, 2003 and has taken in $46 million in gross revenue with an operation of 905 slot machines. On April 30, 2004, that number was increased to approximately 1,400 machines with the opening of the track’s new casino expansion. The renovation of Louisiana Downs is costing approximately $110 million. During this 10-month period, more than $5.3 million in purse revenue was produced. Even though Harrah’s Louisiana Downs is in competition with riverboat casinos in the Bossier City/Shreveport area, Louisiana Downs generates an average of $4 million on a monthly basis.

Owned by Peninsula Gaming, Evangeline Downs opened the doors to its casino at the new site in Opelousas on December 19, 2003, with approximately 1,163 slot machines in service. Evangeline Downs’ slot machines yield approximately $5 million a month in revenue. The racetrack casino has brought in more than $1.9 million for purses to date.

Delta Downs Update
6/4/2004 3:09:46 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Summer 2004 

Delta Downs’ Thoroughbred race dates for the 2004-2005 season will start on Friday, October 1, 2004, and run through Saturday, April 2, 2005, for 101 days of racing. At this time, the Quarter Horse meet dates have not been determined for 2005.

In order to express your concerns and recommendations, please contact one of the following members of the Louisiana HBPA’s Delta Downs Backstretch/Condition Book Committee (QH): Kenny Roberts, chairperson; Danny Eldridge, David Chad Hassenpflug, and Alvin Brossette. All communications should be channeled through this committee. Meetings with management will be scheduled on a regular basis.

Evangeline Downs Update
6/4/2004 3:09:02 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Summer 2004 

Evangeline Downs is pleased to announce the hiring of veteran Warren Groce as its new Director of Racing and Racing Secretary. Mr. Groce, a native of New Orleans, stated that he is thrilled to be back home in the South.

This will be the final year of racing at the facility in arencro. Thoroughbred live racing will commence at the new racetrack in Opelousas in 2005. Evangeline Downs is the first racetrack and casino in the country to be built from scratch.

There is a possibility that the new facility in Opelousas could include an arena for equine sporting events such as hunter-jumper shows, barrel racing, and other horse related events. A decision on this new arena should be expected within the next six (6) months.

Evangeline Downs’ Quarter Horse race meet is scheduled to open on Thursday, September 16, and end on Sunday, October 31.

In order to express your concerns and recommendations, please contact one of the following members of the Louisiana HBPA’s Evangeline Downs Backstretch/Condition Book Committee (TB): Don Cormier, Sr., chairperson; Connie Begnaud; J.D. Angelle; Tom Abbott; and James Rohner. All communications should be channeled through this committee. Meetings with management will be scheduled on a regular basis.

Fair Grounds Update
6/4/2004 3:07:40 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Summer 2004 

Fair Grounds’ Thoroughbred racing season starts on Thanksgiving Day, November 25, 2004, and will run through Sunday, March 27, 2005, for a total of 81 racing days.

Harrah’s Louisiana Downs Update
6/4/2004 3:07:04 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Summer 2004 

Harrah’s Louisiana Downs’ 2004 racing season will include a 19-day Quarter Horse race meet which will commence on Thursday, November 11, and run through Sunday, December 12.

In order to express your concerns and recommendations, please contact one of the following members of the Louisiana HBPA’s Harrah’s Louisiana Downs Backstretch/Condition Book Committee (TB): H.B. Johnson, chairperson; Jerry Cart; Billy McKeever; and Pat Mouton. All communications should be channeled through this committee. Meetings with management will be scheduled on a regular basis.

Fair Grounds Appeals Video Poker Rulings
5/10/2004 9:56:17 AM  -  Blood-Horse 

The Fair Grounds Corporation filed suit Friday seeking to annul the March 24 judgment against Fair Grounds for approximately $90 million in video poker revenues granted to the Louisiana Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association.

Fair Grounds is also challenging last April's Louisiana Supreme Court ruling which interpreted the state's methodology for video poker revenue sharing between Louisiana racetracks and the LHBPA.

The action was filed in the 19th Judicial District Court in Baton Rouge. Fair Grounds contends that it obligated itself contractually to the development of video poker only after the LHBPA agreed to the state's interpretation of the gaming statute in question and the state's procedures for calculating purse supplements in 1992. It claims a letter from a LHBPA attorney at the time that recently surfaced supports Fair Grounds' position.

The LHBPA sued the state and all racetracks in Louisiana in 1994 over the manner in which the state directed that purse supplements from video poker be calculated. The issue went all the way to the Louisiana Supreme Court, where last year the court reversed a ruling by the Court of Appeal in favor of Fair Grounds. The district court rendered the recent $90 million judgment.

Fair Grounds filed for protection under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code in 2003 after the Supreme Court ruling.

Copyright © 2004 The Blood-Horse, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Judge Puts Fair Grounds Debt to Horsemen at $89M
3/23/2004 9:53:34 AM  -  Blood-Horse 

A state district judge ruled March 22 that Fair Grounds owes horsemen almost $90 million in damages from the video-poker" onmouseover="window.status = 'goto: poker';return 1" onmouseout="window.status=''">poker lawsuit that led to the track's filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization last August, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported.

In 1994, the Louisiana Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association sued Fair Grounds and three other tracks over the revenue. The lawsuit claimed the tracks illegally reduced purse supplements.

A district judge ruled in favor of the horsemen, but the First Circuit Court of Appeal overturned the ruling. Last spring, the Louisiana Supreme Court agreed with the horsemen the tracks used an illegal formula for about 10 years. The Supreme Court sent the case back to the district court for a determination of damages, which was made by Judge Jewel Welch.

The amount is $64,620,645, but with interest, it's $89,901,934. Fair Grounds is the only track involved, because Harrah's Louisiana Downs, Evangeline Downs Racetrack & casino" onmouseover="window.status = 'goto: casino';return 1" onmouseout="window.status=''">Casino, and Delta Downs Racetrack & casino" onmouseover="window.status = 'goto: casino';return 1" onmouseout="window.status=''">Casino reached settlements with the horsemen.

Fair Grounds president Bryan Krantz said the track disagrees with the judgment and would continue the appeals process, the Times-Picayune reported.

The bankruptcy case is moving closer to resolution. Fair Grounds must submit a reorganization plan to the bankruptcy court by March 29.

Copyright © 2004 The Blood-Horse, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Krantz responds to criticisms of Fair Grounds management in open letter
3/15/2004 9:54:01 AM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Prompted by recent remarks made by trainer Tom Amoss in published reports that were critical of management at Fair Grounds, which has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, Fair Grounds President Bryan Krantz issued an open letter to trainers at the New Orleans track on Monday addressing several points of Amos’s complaints, including mutuel operations and housing in the backstretch stable area. The text of the letter follows:

Open Letter to Trainers: I read with great regret comments made by Tom Amoss published [recently], and I wish to address these for you.

In the years of my family involvement in this business, we have at all times been proactive with both horsemen and customers. Some have continually opined how this business should be run but mainly have offered only generalities and criticism when things have not gone well for their own interest. In fact, last year one solution offered for reversing the downward trend in starters per race was to terminate Mervin Muniz as racing secretary. My response was to assure the critic that we were making moves to bolster the racing office by bringing in new key support for Mervin with the acquisition of Ben Huffman as stakes coordinator and Jason Boulet as Mervin’s chief assistant. Both men are considered to be rising stars within our industry in their capacity as racing officials. Yet rather than give any new staff member the benefit of Mervin’s depth of knowledge, much less give Mervin the respect of living his last year with dignity, this trainer would have us toss him aside after years of dedication and productivity of high order. This year, under the direction of Ben and Jason, we have made strides in our number of average starters per race for this meeting in the face of the negative bias by some, the wet winter, and continued competition from increased purses at Delta Downs, Oaklawn Park, and Tampa Bay Downs. All of us are aware that the most likely solution for improving the field size numbers at Fair Grounds is increased purses. This cannot be achieved until the reorganization plan is complete and slot income provides the new revenue necessary. In addition, our new racing office staff has made adjustments to how condition books" onmouseover="window.status = 'goto: books';return 1" onmouseout="window.status=''">books are presented and managed to balance the purse budget so that no overpayment or purse cut will occur even with downward trends in wagering" onmouseover="window.status = 'goto: wagering';return 1" onmouseout="window.status=''">wagering at this race meeting.

One comment that was particularly sad is we are not in touch without patrons .We have for many years interacted with our customers seeking constructive review of our operations. Numerous customer surveys and demographic studies indicate Fair Grounds enjoys a near 80% customer satisfaction ranking for its overall racing experience. Our pricing for services is very competitive when compared to other sports venues in the area and racetracks in similar markets around the country. Free general parking, $4 valet parking, $1 general admission, $4 clubhouse admission are relative bargains in our industry. Our food pricing and quality on concession stands and in our main dining room compete favorably with pricing and quality of other local venues.

In contrast to this opinion we receive regular rave reviews from customers on food quality and service. The phased in automatic teller machines provide more convenient service to customers and have performed well as noted by increased wagering" onmouseover="window.status = 'goto: wagering';return 1" onmouseout="window.status=''">wagering on track many days this season with comparable attendance. This trend in customer service is also in use at many other tracks such as Del Mar, Philadelphia Park, and Sam Houston. Over 60% of the Philly and Houston business is transacted by STAN terminals. This transition is no different than what the banking industry has done with ATM’s or the airline industry has done with their ticketing. In addition, our grandstand is one of the cleanest and well-kept facilities in racing. It has been acknowledged by many of the leaders of our industry as an ideal facility for customer service. We regularly receive accolades from customers for their experience at the track.

The Fair Grounds player rewards system has become a model for the industry. We were among the first to offer this type of recognition to our customers and have thousands enrolled in the program. Our account wagering" onmouseover="window.status = 'goto: wagering';return 1" onmouseout="window.status=''">wagering flexibility allows for seamless convenience for fans to access their accounts at home, at local OTB’s and at Fair Grounds. Combined with metro-area wide cable distribution, even the most casual fan has easy accessibility to our sport. While our growth has been stymied by a dispute with TVG, an employer of Mr. Amos, we have developed a significant infrastructure for maintaining brand identity in our own market for customer retention against intruding out of state account services. This regional based presentation provides our local fans a product they can identify with in the local market rather than being force-fed a product driven by consolidated track ownership.

We have not only invested in convenience for racing fans but the Fair Grounds has also made significant investment in backstretch improvements during our stewardship. This includes millions of dollars in dormitory renovations, roof replacements, electrical system upgrades, and plumbing upgrades. With the added pressure for living accommodations on site for backstretch personnel in the last several years, the Fair Grounds has given greater emphases to security for those living in on site housing during our racing season. We have been one of the few racetracks providing social services to all backstretch personnel. With the large influx of Hispanic help over the last several years we have attempted to address both the social and cultural issues created by this growing demographic along with the responsibility for those needs previously presented. Fair Grounds was one of the first tracks to offer substance abuse counseling and fully support a chaplaincy to address general safety net social service for trainer’s employees. By partnering with the local YMCA and other local social support organizations we have made progress toward providing a better environment in which to live and work for the work force for Fair Grounds trainers. We readily acknowledge a need for additional housing on the backstretch and have been delayed by our current financial struggles in building the new dormitory and room additions necessary. This will be a priority for next year along with continuing renovation of existing facilities. We will also institute new maintenance review procedures for tracking day-to-day issues, which have gone unattended. For anyone to suggest racing and backstretch conditions at Fair Grounds have not made marked strides in the last 14 years must view life from the myopic circumstance of a very narrow agenda. We have numerous challenges ahead in the next three weeks. We await further court action on our appeals in the litigation with the [Louisiana Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association] and we must submit a reorganization plan to the bankruptcy court.

While this race meeting winds down I will take satisfaction in knowing Vickie [Krantz] and I have done the right thing. Not only have we acted honestly by following the statutes as directed by our regulators but we also have stepped up with millions of dollars of hard cash to fight to keep this business alive. Once again my family has sacrificed to continue our involvement in the sport we love so much. We have not taken the easy way out. We are committed, in much the same way Marie Krantz and Mervin Muniz were, to seeing racing and the Fair Grounds is a success for many years to come.


2004 Racing Dates in Louisiana
3/13/2004 11:56:23 AM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Spring 2004 

Delta Downs’ 2003-2004 Thoroughbred race meet commenced on Friday, October 31, 2003 and will run through Saturday, March 27, 2004. The Quarter Horse meet will begin on Friday, April 9, 2004, and end on Sunday, August 15, 2004. The 2004-2005 Thoroughbred meet will begin on October 29.

The Thoroughbred race meet at Evangeline Downs for the 2004 season will have 87 days of racing, starting on Thursday, April 1, 2004 and running through Monday, September 6, 2004.

Evangeline Downs’ Quarter Horse race meet is scheduled to open on Sunday, August 22, 2004 and end on Sunday, October 31, 2004, for a total of 29 days of racing.

Fair Grounds’ Thoroughbred racing season started on Thanksgiving Day, November 27, 2003 and will run through Sunday, March 28, 2004. Fair Grounds will reopen again on Thanksgiving Day, November 25, and will race through March of 2005.

Harrah’s Louisiana Downs’ 2004 racing season will encompass a Thoroughbred meet from May 14 through October 31 and a 19-day Quarter Horse race meet that will commence on Thursday, November 11, 2004 and run through Sunday, December 12, 2004.

Roussel makes Fair Grounds bid
3/11/2004 10:00:14 AM  -  Daily Racing Form 

NEW ORLEANS - Louie Roussel III, a former owner of the Fair Grounds, confirmed Wednesday that he had made a formal offer to buy the financially troubled racetrack. Roussel, reached by telephone in Florida, said he had made a $30 million offer.

Last week, a bid of $28.5 million from Churchill Downs Inc. - unconfirmed by CDI officials - was made public. Roussel, who sold Fair Grounds to the Krantz family in 1990, said 70 percent of his bid would be used to pay a Louisiana horsemen's group that Fair Grounds might owe millions of dollars.

"Right now I'm the high bidder," Roussel said.

But the timetable for the Fair Grounds changing hands - if indeed the Krantz family gives up control of the racetrack - could be far-reaching, and other undisclosed bids could exist. Moreover, if all or part of Fair Grounds is sold, strict monetary value is only one among several factors considered in assessing a bid's viability, according to Douglas Draper, an attorney closely involved with the Fair Grounds bankruptcy case. Draper said Wednesday that "six to eight" parties were negotiating to acquire all or part of Fair Grounds.

Fair Grounds declared bankruptcy last spring after the state's Supreme Court ruled 7-0 against the track in a lawsuit filed by the Louisiana Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association contending Fair Grounds improperly disbursed profits generated by video poker machines. A state district court judge postponed issuing a judgment amount at a hearing March 1, but a ruling on damages that could go as high as $90 million could be issued March 23.

Fair Grounds must submit a reorganization plan in bankruptcy court by March 29. The publicized bids for the track, and rampant rumors of interested parties and pending agreements, are part of the combustible run-up to that act.

Draper said he was "sort of surprised that things have become as public as they are. Usually, one bidder doesn't want another one to know what they're doing."

The pending financial judgment against Fair Grounds complicates the bidding process by introducing an essential third party, the horsemen's group.

Draper said it was possible that an interested party could purchase the horsemen's claim. Such a move could preclude another possible scenario, wherein Fair Grounds was auctioned off in bankruptcy court. If an auction does come about, it could take different forms. One is the introduction of a so-called "stalking horse," an entity whose bid is judged to represent the best overall outcome for Fair Grounds's creditors. In court, another bidder can arise to challenge the stalking horse.

Another possibility is a blind auction, where interested parties submit their bids, which are then judged for suitability by the court.

Emblematic of the convoluted fluidity of the Fair Grounds current situation was still another scenario offered by Draper.

"The [district] court could still say the horsemen aren't owned anything," Draper said.


Churchill Downs reportedly negotiating for Fair Grounds
1/14/2004 10:19:30 AM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Fair Grounds, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last August, may become the latest racetrack to join ranks with Churchill Downs Inc.

Churchill officials reportedly are negotiating with the Louisiana Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association to acquire legal claims against the track, possibly indicating the company’s intention to purchase the facility.

In an unsigned document dated October 2003 and examined by the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Churchill would pay a specific percentage of whatever a judge awards the horsemen’s group in its case against Fair Grounds.

Horsemen have contended the track owes them in excess of $90-million due to underpayment to purses from video poker" onmouseover="window.status = 'goto: poker';return 1" onmouseout="window.status=''">poker" onmouseover="window.status = 'goto: poker" onmouseover="window.status = 'goto: poker';return 1" onmouseout="window.status=''">poker';return 1" onmouseout="window.status=''">poker" onmouseover="window.status = 'goto: poker';return 1" onmouseout="window.status=''">poker proceeds over the past decade.

Fair Grounds President Bryan Krantz acknowledged the track is listening to potential buyers but also states that his family, which owns a controlling interest in the track, wants to stay in control.

"There are interested parties within the world of pari-mutuel racing, but there are interested parties on the gaming side as well," Krantz told the Times-Picayune. "I can’t really comment on Churchill’s interest."

Julie Koenig-Loignon, Churchill director of communications, would not comment on the company’s interest or involvement in the development.

In addition to its flagship track in Louisville, Churchill Downs Inc. also owns Hollywood Park, Arlington Park, Calder Race Course, Ellis Park, and an interest in Hoosier Park.

Fair Grounds has until March 29 to submit a reorganization plan. Krantz said that talks between Fair Grounds and the horsemen are ongoing.


Louisiana Horsemen’s Bookkeepers
11/30/2003 1:57:15 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Winter 2003 

Delta Downs - Judi McIntosh - (337) 589-7441
Evangeline Downs - Pat Thibodeaux - (337) 896-7223
Fair Grounds - Shannon Lloyd - (504) 944-5515
Louisiana Downs - Shannon Lloyd - (318) 742-5555

Louisiana Field Offices
11/30/2003 1:55:48 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Winter 2003 

Delta Downs - (337) 589-7441
Evangeline Downs - (337) 896-8452
Fair Grounds - (504) 944-7887
Louisiana Downs - (318) 746-8303

Websites of Interest
11/30/2003 1:54:29 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Winter 2003 

The Louisiana HBPA invites you to visit the web sites of Louisiana racetracks:

Louisiana Tracks - Websites
Delta Downs, Vinton - www.deltadowns.com
Evangeline Downs, Lafayette - www.evangelinedowns.com
Fair Grounds, New Orleans - www.fgno.com
Harrah’s Louisiana Downs, Bossier City - www.ladowns.com

Harrah’s Louisiana Downs Update
11/30/2003 1:52:04 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Winter 2003 

The Louisiana HBPA is pleased to announce that the task of redistributing video poker purse monies at Louisiana Downs has been completed. The receipt of these monies is the result of a settlement reached with Louisiana Downs following a long-standing lawsuit and a Supreme Court victory by the Louisiana HBPA.

Approximately 7,000 checks totaling nearly $5.7 million has been distributed by U.S. mail.

Horsemen and jockeys who had earnings from 1992 through 2001 at Louisiana Downs are the recipients of these funds, and the checks and associated 1099 tax forms were issued to, and mailed to, the name(s) of the account(s) in our Horsemen’s Bookkeeper records.

If you are one of the recipients of these monies, please take into account that any amount due to others from this distribution, such as for training fees and taxes, is your responsibility. If you or anyone you know may have had an address change during this time period and feel that you might be entitled to these proceeds, please direct your questions to the HBPA office in New Orleans at (504) 945-1555 or (800) 845-4272 (Louisiana only).

Harrah’s Louisiana Downs’ 2004 racing season will encompass a 19-day Quarter Horse race meet that will commence on Thursday, November 11, 2004 and run through Sunday, December 12, 2004.

Fair Grounds Update
11/30/2003 1:50:57 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Winter 2003 

The voters of Orleans Parish authorized installation of slot machines at the Fair Grounds facility on Gentilly Boulevard in October, and it is anticipated that the machines will be up and running in 2005.

Fair Grounds’ Thoroughbred racing season starts on Thanksgiving Day, November 27, 2003 and will run through Sunday, March 28, 2004.

Evangeline Downs Update
11/30/2003 1:50:11 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Winter 2003 

Construction at the new Evangeline Downs’ racetrack and casino facility in Opelousas, Louisiana, is on target, with the casino structure being closed in on three sides. Inside work is starting to progress, the parking area is blacktopped, and the track itself is outlined.

The casino phase of the racetrack facility is expected to open in February of 2004, and live racing is scheduled to commence in the spring of 2005.

The Thoroughbred race meet for the 2004 season will have 87 days of racing, starting on Thursday, April 1, 2004 and running through Monday, September 6, 2004.

Evangeline Downs’ Quarter Horse race meet is scheduled to open on Sunday, August 22, 2004 and end on Sunday, October 31, 2004, for a total of 29 days of racing.

Delta Downs Update
11/30/2003 1:49:26 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Winter 2003 

Delta Downs’ 2003-2004 Thoroughbred race meet commenced on Friday, October 31, 2003 and will run through Saturday, March 27, 2004. The Quarter Horse meet will begin on Friday, April 9, 2004 and end on Sunday, August 15, 2004.

Delta will host an exciting 2003-2004 Thoroughbred race meet, with an additional 14 days of racing, including a proposed $1-million Delta Jackpot open race in December of 2003. Additionally, Delta is pleased to announce a $1-million Louisiana-bred premier night in February of 2004.

In order to express your concerns and recommendations, please contact one of the following members of the backstretch/condition book committee (TB). All communications should be channeled through this committee. Meetings with management will be scheduled on a regular basis.

Backstretch/Condition Book Committee (TB): Connie Begnaud, Chairperson; Ann Watermeier, James Rohner, and Thomas Sam.

Hosting National HBPA Winter Convention
11/30/2003 1:48:43 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Winter 2003 

President Oran Trahan is delighted to announce that the Louisiana HBPA will be hosting the 2004 National HBPA Winter Convention in New Orleans, headquartered at the Royal Sonesta Hotel in the heart of the French Quarter on Bourbon Street. Any city that has the name of bourbon for a street name must be a fun place to be!

The convention will commence on Saturday, January 31, 2004 and end on Wednesday, February 4, 2004. The staff is planning an exciting and unforgettable time in the Crescent City for the conventioneers.

Fair Grounds aims to settle with horsemen
10/22/2003 1:33:32 PM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Hoping to reach a settlement, Fair Grounds officials planned to meet with horsemen in late October or early November to discuss how future slot machine revenue can be used to defray what could be a debt of more than $100-million. Fair Grounds President Bryan Krantz said on October 14 that "there will be some discussions in the next couple of weeks with the Louisiana Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association to try to resolve that problem with them."

How a settlement can be reached is "kind of the 600-pound gorilla," he quipped.

Fair Grounds filed for protection in bankruptcy court this summer after being slapped with a ruling in another court that could require the track to pay horsemen more than $100-million. The debt stems from the track’s alleged underpayment of purses from video lottery terminal proceeds over the past decade.

When New Orleans voters decided on October 4 to allow the Fair Grounds to operate slot machines, track officials breathed easier in anticipation of future revenue.

In search of other revenue, Fair Grounds officials are continuing to talk with Dubai World Cup Committee and Emirates Racing Association executives about handling simulcast signals and wagering on United Arab Emirates races, Krantz said.

"They’re still expressing interest," he said. "We’ll keep talking, and hopefully at some point it will make sense to do it. My opinion is that we can do a great job for them and we’ll keep telling them that."—Michele MacDonald


Louisiana Horsemen’s Bookkeepers
10/8/2003 1:10:44 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Fall 2003 

Delta Downs - Judi McIntosh, (337) 589-7441
Evangeline Downs - Pat Thibodeaux, (337) 896-7223
Fair Grounds - Shannon Lloyd, (504) 944-5515
Louisiana Downs - Shannon Lloyd, (318) 742-5555

Louisiana HBPA Field Offices
10/8/2003 1:09:18 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Fall 2003 

Delta Downs - (337) 589-7441
Evangeline Downs - (337) 896-8452
Fair Grounds - (504) 944-7887
Louisiana Downs - (318) 746-8303

Web Sites of Interest
10/8/2003 1:08:09 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Fall 2003 

LOUISIANA TRACKS WEB SITES

Delta Downs, Vinton - www.deltadowns.com
Evangeline Downs, Lafayette - www.evangelinedowns.com
Fair Grounds, New Orleans - www.fgno.com
Louisiana Downs, Bossier City - www.ladowns.com

Louisiana State’s Horse Racing Exhibit
10/8/2003 1:06:32 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Fall 2003 

The Louisiana State Exhibit Museum located on Greenwood Road in Shreveport, Louisiana will present a Louisiana racing historical and educational exhibit during the Shreveport State Fair in October through November of 2004. All State Fair attendees are given free passes to the museum.

A reception will premier the opening of the exhibit, which shall continue on a Louisiana track tour during 2005 at all four racetracks. A permanent display location will be established, possibly at one of the new hotel racinos presently under construction.

Louisiana is rich in racing cultural and history, and many of the nationally known jockeys began their careers in Louisiana, such as Eddie Delahoussaye, Randy Romero, and Shane Sellers.

The exhibit will offer a division entitled “Generations – Hoofprints,” representing those families who have had more than one generation and one more than one family member participate in racing.

Original bush tracks will be featured.

There will be histories of each racetrack and all horse organizations.

A symposium will be featured during the museum exhibit, having prominent racing individuals to inform the general public of our industry. Chairperson Revella Norman and committee members Eulogia Meyers, and Marcia LaMarche and daughters Hope, Heather, and Holly, are creating a booklet for distribution. If anyone has contributions for this forthcoming exhibit, please call Reve’ Norman at 1-800-845-4272 in Louisiana.

Reve’ announced, “It is time to market our product to the general public in a positive manner - with Seabiscuit awareness, the timing is excellent. Too long, we have remained foreign to people who are interested in becoming part of this industry.”

Louisiana Downs Update
10/8/2003 1:05:24 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Fall 2003 

In order to express your concerns and recommendations, please contact one of the following members. All communications should be channeled through this committee. Meetings with management will be scheduled on a regular basis.

Backstretch/Condition Book Committee: H. B. Johnson, Chairperson; Jerry Cart; Billy McKeever; and Pat Mouton.

Harrah’s Louisiana Downs was anxious to welcome patrons to its temporary casino, which opened on May 21, 2003 at the Bossier City racetrack. Harrah’s Louisiana Downs could offer approximately 900 slot machines by the time its race meet opened on June 27, 2003. Harrah’s expects to open a new permanent casino facility at Louisiana Downs, with close to 1,500 slot machines, by June of 2004. The new casino facility will be connected to the existing racetrack by a new entryway featuring several new restaurants. The company plans to complete all improvements by June of 2004. This property will become the only land-based gaming facility with slots in the Shreveport/Bossier City area. Harrah’s Entertainment, Inc. operates 26 casinos in the United States.

Harrah’s Louisiana Downs race meet will end on November 9, 2003.

Evangeline Downs Update
10/8/2003 1:04:36 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Fall 2003 

In order to express your concerns and recommendations, please contact one of the following members. All communications should be channeled through this committee. Meetings with management will be scheduled on a regular basis.

Backstretch/Condition Book Committee: Connie Begnaud, Chairperson; Don Cormier, Sr.; Tom Ball; Glenn Delahoussaye; and Will Meaux.

With construction currently underway in Opelousas, Louisiana, the casino phase of the racetrack facility is expected to open in February of 2004, with live racing commencing in the Spring of 2005.

Evangeline Downs is tentatively scheduling a Quarter Horse meet for the year 2005.

Delta Downs Update
10/8/2003 1:03:41 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Fall 2003 

A very successful Quarter Horse meet started on April 4, 2003, and concluded on July 13, 2003. As a result of slot machine proceed supplements for its spring/summer meet, Delta Downs paid $4,932,783 in Quarter Horse slot machine revenue toward purses.

At the end of the meet, the overpayment of Quarter Horse slot machine purse supplements through June of 2003 was $238,197.69. During the Quarter Horse meet, Delta Downs paid a total of $4,070,889 to Louisiana-bred Quarter Horse races and paid $861,894 to all other races from out of state. Regular Quarter Horse purses paid were $1,289,500, and Quarter Horse video poker money paid amounted to $458,200.

Louisiana Legislative Report of the 2003 Regular Session
10/8/2003 1:02:59 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Fall 2003 

With the conclusion of the 2003 Louisiana Legislative Session, the Louisiana HBPA is pleased to announce the passage of House Bill #2027, which will require the owner of a licensed pari-mutuel wagering facility to pay 20% of the net device revenue derived from the operation of devices at that licensed establishment to be used to supplement purses for the horsemen. This is an increase from video poker revenue which was, at times, as low as 13%.

Two other legislative bills of great concern were presented in the legislature this session.

House Bill #1978 would provide immunity from lawsuits arising against video poker licensees complying with rules adopted by the gaming control board or state police gaming division, and further this bill would require that the division and the Louisiana Gaming Control Board shall indemnify and hold harmless, including damages, reasonable attorney’s fees and costs, involving a licensed party who is sued in a civil action for following and complying with mandatory, properly promulgated rules, regulations or forms of the board or division.

House Bill #1985 was an attempt to possibly reverse the Supreme Court’s ruling on the video poker lawsuit. It clarified legislative intent by defining revenues received by the established owner for purposes of calculating amount of money to be used for purse supplements. Finally, the bill would apply both prospectively and retroactively.

The Louisiana HBPA would like to express its sincere thanks for the strong effort and united support from horsemen across the state who assisted in the defeat of this legislation.

Fair Grounds Slots: Up to $3 Million a Year for Purses
9/16/2003 10:09:55 AM  -  Blood-Horse 

Slot machines at Fair Grounds would generate $2 million to $3 million a year to supplement purses, according to figures released by state officials in Louisiana.

Voters in Orleans Parish will decide Oct. 4 if the track will be allowed to have slot machines. The proposition calls for Fair Grounds to have up to 300 slot machines through June 2004, up to 400 in 2005, and up to 500 slots from then on.

There also is a provision that if the revenue generated by a New Orleans land-based casino operated by Harrah's Entertainment exceeds $350 million in any 12-month period, the track would be allowed to increase its total number of slot machines to 700.

The Louisiana Gaming Control Board must still give final approval to Fair Grounds to have slot machines. The track would have to get rid of its 80 video poker machines if slots are approved.

Fair Grounds is the only racetrack in the state that doesn't have or isn't approved for slots. Fair Grounds officials have cited slots as a means to increase purses and attendance.

Figures from the Louisiana State Racing Commission show attendance at Fair Grounds and its off-track betting parlors has dropped as much as 30% in the last five years, and total live handle during that same period is down 13%, from $27.4 million to $23.9 million.

If slots are approved, 15% of adjusted gross revenue would go to purses, and 3% to breed associations. The track would keep whatever remains after it pays 22% of adjusted gross revenue in state and local taxes.

The state Legislative Fiscal Office has estimated a Fair Grounds slots parlor would generate from $9 million in net proceeds in 2004 to as much as $30 million by 2006.

Fair Grounds spent $45,000 through August for its bid to win voter approval for slot machines, according to campaign finance reports filed by the Fair Grounds Political Action Committee in Baton Rouge, La.

The Fair Grounds PAC campaign finance report shows it received a $45,000 contribution from Fair Grounds Corp. Henry Braden IV, of the individuals paid for services, also represents Pinnacle Entertainment, which is building a $325-million casino resort in Lake Charles, La., and owns riverboat casinos in Bossier City, La., and Harvey, La.

Fair Grounds officials have said they plan to spend up to $100,000 on their campaign to get the track approved for slots.

There already is organized opposition to the referendum on Fair Grounds slots from the Bureau of Governmental Research, a non-profit, citizen-supported, independent research group that says it's "dedicated to informed public policy-making and the effective use of public resources in the New Orleans Metropolitan Area."

In a study released earlier this year, the bureau wrote about the Fair Grounds slots issue. The group stated its opposition to the proposition because it believes New Orleans doesn't need more gambling. It also said a 24-hour slots parlor "could have a negative impact on the surrounding neighborhood."

Copyright © 2003 The Blood-Horse, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Louisiana Downs settles HBPA lawsuit over purse payments
6/23/2003 11:24:08 AM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

One of two Louisiana racetracks involved in extended litigation involving millions of dollars in underpayment of purses from video poker proceeds over the last decade has reached a settlement with the state’s Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, which filed a lawsuit in 1994. Louisiana Downs in Bossier City settled with horsemen on Thursday, according to HBPA attorney Steve Thompson, leaving Fair Grounds in New Orleans as the only track to continue negotiations.

Thompson would not disclose the terms of the settlement.

Fair Grounds President Bryan Krantz told the New Orleans Times Picayune that his meetings with horsemen have produced little common ground.

"I don’t think either entity has said we’re not going to talk anymore," Krantz said, "but I don’t think either entity has a lot to talk about."

Two other Louisiana tracks named in the original lawsuit, Evangeline Downs and Delta Downs, previously settled with horsemen.

The Louisiana Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of the HBPA and upheld the ruling on June 6. State District Judge Duke Welch of Baton Rouge, who ruled in favor of the Louisiana HBPA in March 2001 before a state appeals court’s ruling in favor of the tracks, will determine how much of the disputed funds Fair Grounds will owe to horsemen unless a settlement is reached.


Louisiana Horsemen’s Bookkeepers
6/11/2003 10:19:59 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Summer 2003 

Delta Downs - Judi McIntosh, (337) 589-7441

Evangeline Downs - Pat Thibodeaux, (337) 896-7223

Fair Grounds - Shannon Lloyd, (504) 944-5515

Louisiana Downs - Shannon Lloyd, (318) 742-5555

Louisiana HBPA Field Offices
6/11/2003 10:18:42 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Summer 2003 

Delta Downs - (337) 589-7441

Evangeline Downs - (337) 896-8452

Fair Grounds - (504) 944-7887

Louisiana Downs - (318) 746-8303

Web Sites of Interest
6/11/2003 10:17:20 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Summer 2003 

The Louisiana HBPA invites you to visit the web sites of Louisiana racetracks:

Louisiana Tracks - Web Sites

Delta Downs, Vinton - www.deltadowns.com

Evangeline Downs, Lafayette - www.evangelinedowns.com

Fair Grounds, New Orleans - www.fgno.com

Louisiana Downs, Bossier City - www.ladowns.com

Louisiana Downs Update
6/11/2003 10:13:40 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Summer 2003 

Harrah’s Louisiana Downs was anxious to welcome patrons to its temporary casino which opened on May 21 at the Bossier City racetrack. Harrah’s Louisiana Downs will be able to offer approximately 900 slot machines by the time its race meet opens on June 27.

Harrah’s expects to open a new permanent casino facility at Louisiana Downs with close to 1,500 slot machines by June of 2004. The new casino facility will be connected to the existing racetrack by a new entryway featuring several new restaurants. The company plans to complete all improvements by June of 2004. This property will become the only land-based gaming facility with slots in the Shreveport/Bossier City area. Harrah’s Entertainment, Inc. operates 26 casinos in the United States.

Harrah’s Louisiana Downs race meet will end on November 9, 2003.

Evangeline Downs Update
6/11/2003 10:12:12 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Summer 2003 

Senator Donald Cravins was the guest speaker at the groundbreaking ceremony on February 26, 2003, in St. Landry Parish for Evangeline Downs’ new state-of-the-art racing and casino facility. Local officials and many other state officials, together with representation of the horse racing industry, were also on hand to turn over the first shovel of dirt at the ground site.

On Thursday, April 17, 2003, officials at Evangeline Downs unveiled renderings of the new racetrack and casino being built in St. Landry Parish near Opelousas, Louisiana. The artist’s conception of the exterior and interior is on display in the grandstand area of the existing track. The building phase of the casino is expected to open in February of 2004, and live racing will commence in 2005.

Evangeline Downs’ General Manager David A. Yount announced that the track has joined the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) retroactive to January 1, 2003. Mr. Yount stated that Evangeline Downs was excited regarding the opportunity to join a well-funded national organization that promotes horse racing with a unified message, and he believes that NTRA membership will greatly assist a smaller track such as Evangeline Downs to project racing in a professional manner deserving of the sport.

Evangeline Downs’ Thoroughbred race meet commenced on April 4 and will run through September 1, 2003.

Delta Downs Update
6/11/2003 10:06:28 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Summer 2003 

A very successful Thoroughbred meet concluded on March 23, 2003. As a result of slot machine proceed supplements for its winter meet, Delta Downs paid $10,965,900 in Thoroughbred slot purses.

The outset of Delta Downs’ Quarter Horse meet was on April 4, 2003. On March 31, 2003, the book balance for the Quarter Horse slot machine purse supplements was $3,274,607.

As of March 31, 2003, Delta Downs’ slot machines have been online for approximately 13 months, with net proceeds of $148,971,114.

Racing dates for Delta Downs’ Thoroughbred meet have been approved. The meet will commence on Friday, October 31, 2003, and run through Saturday, March 27, 2004.

Medical Trust
6/11/2003 10:05:37 PM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Summer 2003 

Trustees: John Trosclair, Chairperson; Lloyd Romero; Christine Early

Murray Woodward, Plan Administrator; Diane Sims, Medical Processor

The Louisiana HBPA would like to remind its members that funding for the program is provided by Statute (R.S. 4:183) of the Louisiana State Rules of Racing from the horsemen’s share of the pari-mutuel handle at Louisiana racetracks. This medical benefit plan is a self-funded assistance program for Louisiana horsemen actively racing in the state and is NOT an insurance program, nor is it an additional medical plan.

To become eligible and remain eligible for benefits, an applicant MUST file an application every six (6) months. The Medical Department has 30 days to process your claim. Claims for medical expenses/charges submitted later than ninety (90) days following the date for the first treatment WILL BE DENIED. Therefore, it is urgent that your claims are filed in a timely manner. We ask that you refrain from holding on to claims for months at a time before submitting your bills.

Remember to complete new applications each January and July. If we do not have a current application in your file, this will delay processing of your claim.

Applications and revised plan supplement sheets are available at all Louisiana HBPA field offices. Please contact any Louisiana HBPA field office or the main office for a medical benefit schedule.

Contact Information
4/25/2003 8:32:49 AM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Spring 2003 

Websites of Interest:

The Louisiana HBPA invites you to visit the websites of Louisiana racetracks.

Louisiana Tracks Websites
Delta Downs, Vinton www.deltadowns.com
Evangeline Downs, Lafayette www.evangelinedowns.com
Fair Grounds, New Orleans www.fgno.com
Louisiana Downs, Bossier City www.ladowns.com

Louisiana HBPA Offices

Louisiana HBPA Field Offices
Delta Downs: (337) 589-7441
Evangeline Downs: (337) 896-8452
Fair Grounds: (504) 944-7887
Louisiana Downs: (318) 746-8303

Louisiana HBPA Horsemen’s Bookkeepers
Delta Downs - Judi McIntosh: (337) 589-7441
Evangeline Downs - Pat Thibodeaux: (337) 896-7223
Fair Grounds - Shannon Lloyd: (504) 944-5515
Louisiana Downs - Shannon Lloyd: (318) 742-5555

Racing Awareness In Louisiana
4/25/2003 8:29:26 AM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Spring 2003 

The horse racing industry in Louisiana dates back as early as the 1820s. The Louisiana HBPA has begun working on a project whereby all facets of the horse racing industry – racing, racetrack facilities, breeding, and training (just to name a few) - will be compiled and promoted through the use of videos, CDs, and brochures. Attention will be given to both Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses.

Our primary objective is to inform and distribute this information to our state legislators in the hope of bringing to light the economic impact of our industry and how widely it is dispersed throughout the state. Many legislators are not aware of our far-reaching industry and do not comprehend the complexity of our business. Hopefully, this promotional measure will prove to be very significant when horse racing issues are presented to committees of the Louisiana Senate and House of Representatives. These promotional tools will also be distributed to other venues as needed.

The Louisiana HBPA has appointed a committee chaired by Ms. Christine Early, with representation from the four Louisiana racetracks and breeder organizations. We welcome your comments and suggestions toward making this program a success.

Louisiana Downs Update
4/25/2003 8:28:46 AM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Spring 2003 

During the 2002 race meet, Louisiana Downs’ average daily purses amounted to $166,717.

Harrah’s Entertainment signed an agreement in August of 2002 to purchase controlling interest in the racetrack for $73 million. Slot machines are scheduled to be installed at Louisiana Downs this coming summer and should be in place by the next racing meet.

According to General Manager Ray Tromba, a much-needed face lift to the 29-year old facility will begin shortly.

Fair Grounds Update
4/25/2003 8:28:01 AM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Spring 2003 

Backstretch/Condition Book Committee: Jake Morreale, chairperson; Christine Early; L. Jay Cuccia; Andrew Ney; and Walter Bender.

The Fair Grounds is steeped in history, and hopefully the following few items will be of interest to you.

The oldest continuously operating racetrack in the country, the Fair Grounds in New Orleans opened its gates in 1852. Since that time, the love of horse racing has spread throughout the country.

New Orleans was heavily influenced by France in 1873, and a “post parade” was established and witnessed at the Fair Grounds for the first time. This parade called for the horses to walk “in the French manner” in a procession up and down the homestretch for the patrons to view. Even today at all U.S. tracks, horses and riders parade to the post “in the French manner.”

In 1882, electric lights were used for the first time in the grandstand at the Fair Grounds.

Pari-mutuel wagering was introduced as an option to horseplayers, and by 1900, Fair Grounds was the only racetrack in the country that had accepted and continued the system.

Continuing on, the 132nd Fair Grounds’ Thoroughbred meet will conclude its run on Monday, March 31, with average daily purses of $263,281.39 being paid out. It is anticipated the legislation to obtain slot machines at the New Orleans-based track will be sought this year.

Evangeline Downs Update
4/25/2003 8:26:49 AM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Spring 2003 

The Louisiana State Racing Commission and the State Gaming Control Board have awarded Peninsula Gaming, the new owners of Evangeline Downs, licenses to operate a combination pari-mutuel wagering racetrack and slot machine casino. This new “racino” facility must be completed within two years and will be located in St. Landry Parish near Opelousas. Live racing will continue at the old racetrack until the new site is completed. Mr. Michael Luzich of Peninsula reported that he expects to break ground in March for the casino, and the first phase of the racetrack construction will be followed later in the year.

Ms. Deborah Harkins, Peninsula’s Gaming attorney, reported that the slot machine casino will be built first to generate revenue. This will be followed with the construction of a grandstand and then the racetrack. The building phase of the casino expects to open in February of 2004, and live racing will commence in 2005.

Delta Downs Update
4/25/2003 8:26:10 AM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Spring 2003 

The Thoroughbred meet will complete its run on March 23, with increased purses due to slot machine operation. Average daily purses of $171,596.77 are being paid out.

In order to express your concerns and recommendations, please contact one of the following committee members. All communications should be channeled through these committees:

Backstretch/Condition Book (Thoroughbred) – Connie Begnaud, chairperson; Sue Granger; Bret Thomas; J.D. Angelle; and Brian Huval.

Backstretch/Condition Book (Quarter Horse) – Sue Granger and Kenny Roberts, co-chairpersons; Charles W. Lyles; K.C. Carden; and Brian Huval.

Recently, two new barns have been completed, including new lighting on the backside, and a new emergency light system on the track is being installed. Plans for a new 400-room hotel are on the drawing board. New dormitories and small modular housing on the backside will be available for a nominal rental fee.

With the inception of slot machines on February 13, 2002, at Delta Downs, reports show that as of December 31, 2002, the 15% purse supplement has reached a staggering $17,192,939.70, of which 70% ($12,035,057) is dedicated to Thoroughbred purses and 30% ($5,157,881) will be dedicated to Quarter Horse purses.

Pension Trust Update
4/25/2003 8:25:28 AM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Spring 2003 

Trustees: Don Cormier, Sr., chairperson; Judy Behler; Jake Morreale; and Lloyd Romero. Deborah Branigan, pension administrator.

As of January 28, 2003, there are 142 Louisiana horsemen receiving pension benefits.

Please notify us in writing of any changes in personal information (i.e., a change in marital status, beneficiary designation, address or telephone number) so that your records can be updated. It is extremely important that all information for pension benefits be as current as possible. If you have any questions or need any assistance, please call Debbie (toll free in Louisiana) at 1-800-845-4272. Also, you are encouraged to contact the main office at the above 800 number to stay abreast of your pension eligibility.

Please Note: Trainers may be actively training at the age of 65 or older and, if requirements have been met, are eligible to begin receiving monthly pension benefits.

Medical Trust Update
4/25/2003 8:24:18 AM  -  The Horsemen''s Journal - Spring 2003 

Trustees: John Trosclair, chairperson; Lloyd Romero; and Christine Early. Murray Woodward, plan administrator; Diane Sims, medical processor.

Organized in December of 1993, the Louisiana HBPA Medical Benefit Trust was established to provide its members, their employees and other eligible applicants financial assistance with medical, hospital expenses, prescriptions, dental and optical coverage. This plan is currently paying average monthly benefits of $132,000 and is estimated to pay approximately $1.5 million in benefits by year’s end. The Medical Department receives an average of 3,000 claims to be processed monthly.

Reminder to members: Complete new applications each January and July. If we do not have a current application in your file, this will delay processing of your claim.

Members are encouraged to submit claims in a timely manner. The Medical Department has 30 days to process your claim.

Applications and revised plan supplement sheets are available at all Louisiana HBPA field offices.

Medical reimbursements are subject to IRS Form 1099, and members are advised to take the necessary steps to have physicians file claims directly with the Medical Department.

Attention trainers - regarding your employees – please advise your employees that eligibility for medical assistance will prevail for seven (7) days after a race meet is over in Louisiana. The employee must reapply once again at a recognized Louisiana track with live racing to qualify for medical coverage.

Under the Medical Trust umbrella, Louisiana HBPA also provides a substance abuse program and an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) at each Louisiana racetrack. Parents should seek the benefits of the Louisiana CHIP state program for assistance with free health care for children.

It is with regret that we had to revise the benefits schedule due to an ever-increasing receipt of claims. Because of escalating rates pertaining to health insurance premiums, numerous members having been forced to discontinue their private insurance programs, and Louisiana HBPA members are relying solely on Louisiana HBPA’s medical assistance. This number has gradually increased from 1,500 to 2,000 members now using the Louisiana HBPA plan.

Please contact HBPA’s field or main office for a medical benefit schedule.

Evangeline Downs settles dispute with Louisiana HBPA
3/1/2003 5:49:39 PM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

Evangeline Downs has reached an out-of-court settlement with the Louisiana Horsemen’s Benevolent Protective Association over payment of proceeds from the track’s video poker machines.

Evangeline agreed to pay an undisclosed amount to the LHBPA, which contended that the track owed it $6-million for making too many deductions before paying the organization, the Associated Press reports.

Louisiana law requires tracks to pay 50% of video poker proceeds following three deductions.

The LHBPA sued four Louisiana tracks—Evangeline, Delta Downs, Fair Grounds and Louisiana Downs—for video poker proceeds. A state district judge ruled in favor of the LHBA in March 2001, but an appeals court ruled in favor of the tracks. The case was argued in the Louisiana Supreme Court this week.

Delta Downs has already settled with the LHBPA. The Supreme Court case would now only apply to Louisiana Downs and Fair Grounds.

Harrah’s purchase of Louisiana Downs approved
12/18/2002 1:30:27 PM  -  Thoroughbred Times 

The Louisiana Gaming Control Board has given clearance to Harrah’s Entertainment Corp. to purchase Louisiana Downs and add slot machines at the Bossier City racetrack.

Harrah’s valued the sale at $183.4-million, which includes both the purchase of the track as well as renovations and capital expenditures. Also included in the deal are several businessmen who had been interested in purchasing Louisiana Downs before Harrah’s got involved.

Harrah’s is the third gaming company to get involved in the Louisiana racetrack marketplace.

Boyd Gaming Inc. purchased Delta Downs in Vinton last year and added slots there in February 2001 and Peninsula Gaming is working on a deal to move Evangeline Downs from Lafayette to St. Landry Parish so that it can install and operate slot machines there.

Peninsula Gaming Eyeing Full Ownership of Evangeline Downs
8/3/2002 4:05:03 PM  -  Blood-Horse 

Date Posted: 8/2/02 3:37:20 PM Last Updated: 8/2/02 3:37:20 PM

Peninsula Gaming, an Iowa riverboat operator, may soon be the sold owner of Evangeline Downs racetrack in Southern Louisiana. William Trotter has informed state regulators that he is negotiating to sell his half interest in the Lafayette track, according to The Advocate newspaper in Baton Rouge.

"We have been made aware of the negotiations on a sale of his interest," Sgt. Troy Leonard, public information officer of the Louisiana State Police casino gaming division told the paper.

The racetrack would neither confirm nor deny that negotiations were ongoing.

Peninsula Gaming bought 50% of the track from B.I. Moody, along with a half interest in two promissory notes, for $15 million, according to U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission records. The deal was closed in February.

Evangeline Downs intends to relocate to St. Landry Parish where voters said they would welcome the operation of 1,525 slot machines alongside pari-mutuel racing. Video poker was rejected by voters in Lafayette Parish in 1996 and the track has been without any form of alternative gaming since 1999. Peninsula Gaming estimates it will cost about $90 million to build the track, a dirt and turf course, and facilities for the slot machines.

The state now has Evangeline Downs' full application to operate in St. Landry Parish and has started its review. Evangeline Downs is one of three racetracks in the state with permission to run slot machines. Delta Downs is already running its casino and Louisiana Downs is still working on its renovation plans.

If the move is completed and Evangeline Downs is rebuilt, the slot machines are expected to contribute more than $200,000 a day to purses.

Copyright © 2002 The Blood-Horse, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

 




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