Bossier City, LA – The 2018 Thoroughbred racing season at Harrah’s Louisiana Downs got underway on Saturday, May 5.  It was a bittersweet beginning of the meet for 2016-2017 leading trainer Joey Foster.


The Vinton, Louisiana resident topped all conditioners with 301 starters and a record of 68 wins, 55 seconds and 48 third-place finishes in 2017.  He had won the 2016 meet with 41 wins, after finished third in the standings in 2015 with 39 wins.  His stakes winners last year included Big Game Baby, in the $75,000 Elge Rasberry and Illusionofreality, who kept her four-race win streak alive in the $50,000 Louisiana Cup Distaff.

And while he hopes to continue to build on his momentum this season, Foster, along with the entire Louisiana Downs racing community, faced an unspeakable tragedy last month involving one of his exercise riders, Amaniel Ortiz.  A tornado hit Haughton, a community just east of Bossier City, around midnight, at the Hill Crest Mobile Home & RV Park on Highway 80. His daughter, Carly Stephanie Ortiz Osorio, 2, was killed when a large tree fell on the family’s camper.

“It was beyond what words can describe,” said Foster. “It’s stuff that you see on TV but can never imagine that it can happen to someone you know.”

A memorial service took place on Tuesday, April 17 at Hill Crest Memorial Funeral Home in Haughton and Carly was laid to rest.  Ortiz and his wife,  Delfa, have a 1-year-old daughter named Maddie.

Ortiz has been employed by Foster for the past eight years. Affectionately dubbed “Shorty” by the trainer, he is now back to morning works at the barn.

“He works for me from 6:00 to 8:00 am and then gets home,” explained Foster. “Mornings are really tough for Delfa and he needs to be there for her.”

Foster credits Chaplain Jimmy Sistrunk and everyone at Louisiana Downs for banding together to assist the Ortiz family.

“That part was amazing,” added Foster. “You expected everyone here to show their support, but people all over the country responded with donations and letters.”

Sistrunk has been in daily contact with the Ortiz family and admits that in his fifteen years of serving as a Chaplain, he had never dealt with such a heartbreaking catastrophe. However, he was encouraged by the unprecedented outpouring of support, both locally and nationally for the Ortiz family.

“It was so touching for me to see the generosity and compassion from people all over the United States when they heard about Carly,” said Sistrunk. “People in the racing community are always quick to lend a helping hand, but this was very special.”

Sistrunk adds that donations are still needed for furniture and many other items that were destroyed by the force of the tornado. Anyone wishing to assist the family can mail a check payable to the Winner’s Circle Fund for the Ortiz Family and send it to the Winner’s Circle Church, P.O. Box 157, Princeton, LA, 71067.

John McGary Back as the Voice of Louisiana Downs

Track announcer John McGary returned to the booth for his fourth season at Louisiana Downs. McGary, 52, was the announcer at Evangeline Downs for ten years and now divides his time between Louisiana Downs and announcing the races at Zia Park in Hobbs, New Mexico in the fall. He and his wife, Julie, make their home in Bossier City.


“We had a great opening day,” said McGary. “There was a fantastic turnout on Saturday for the Derby and I called my first turf race on the Monday card; the course looked really good!


McGary is looking forward to the marquee race of the Louisiana Downs meet, the Grade 3, $300,00 Super Derby, which is set for September 2.


“I love the decision to move it to the Sunday of Labor Day weekend,” he added. “It’s perfectly placed on a major stakes weekend. It will give us an opportunity to really shine.”


Mother’s Day Diamond Dig This Saturday

Harrah’s Louisiana Downs will celebrate Mother’s Day on Saturday, May 12.  Live racing gets underway at 3:15pm. Mothers can swipe their Total Rewards card in to the Diamond Dig drawing at the Racing Kiosk located across from Racing Publications. Ten entrants will be drawn for a chance to dig on the racetrack for a Diamond Ring valued at $2,500! One lucky Mom will celebrate with the gorgeous diamond and nine others will walk away with a Cubic Zirconia Ring. The Mother’s Day Diamond Dig will take place following the seventh and final race of the day.


Post Times and Stakes Schedule

Live racing will be conducted Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and Saturday with a 3:15 p.m. (Central) post time through September 27.


The 84-day meet will include 14 stakes highlighted by two major events, Louisiana Cup Day on Saturday, August 4 and Super Derby Day on Sunday, September 2. As previously announced one major change for the upcoming season is that the Grade 3, $300,000 Super Derby will return to the main track at a distance of mile and one-sixteenth on Sunday, September 2.


Wednesday and Saturday Race Day Promotions

Louisiana Downs offers value for racing fans each Wednesday with Dollar Day. They will be able to enjoy $1 hot dogs, $1 beer at the Paddock as well as $1 programs. Saturday’s weekly promotion is the Family Four Pack featuring four hot dogs, four sodas, a program, and a box seat for four at the affordable price of just $16.


The Total Rewards program is free for horseplayers. With the swipe of their card each Saturday, members will receive valuable incentives.  These include:

  • Play $250 or more to receive a 5X multiplier
  • Play $1,000 or more to receive a 7X multiplier
  • Play $5,000 or more to receive a 10X multiplier

Participant’s multiplier cannot exceed a total balance of more than one hundred thousand (100,000) Reward Credits during one promotional day after the multiplier is applied.

About Harrah’s Louisiana Downs

Located near Shreveport in Bossier City, Louisiana, Louisiana Downs opened in 1974 and was purchased by Caesars Entertainment in December, 2002. With annual Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse racing seasons, the track is committed to presenting the highest quality racing programs paired with its 150,000 square foot entertainment complex offering casino gambling, dining and plasma screen televisions for sports and simulcast racing.

For further information, please contact:

Trent McIntosh  |  Assistant General Manager
8000 East Texas Street | Bossier City, LA 71111
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