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‘I Am Horse Racing’ Aims to Shine Positive Light on Sport of Racing

BY NATALIE BRUNELL ARCADIA

ARCADIA, Calif. — As the daughter of a jockey, Christina Blacker spent nearly every day of her childhood at the Santa Anita race track.

In fact, she was born into a community dedicated to horses and the sport of racing.

“My mom actually scheduled a c-section on a Tuesday because there was no racing that day so my dad could be here for when I was born,” Blacker said.

She was just four-years-old when she first jumped into a saddle herself and fell in love with thoroughbreds.

 

 

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CARLOS LOZADA, JOEY FOSTER AND END ZONE ATHLETICS, INC TOP THE STANDINGS FOR THE 2019 THOROUGHBRED MEET AT HARRAH’S LOUISIANA DOWNS

Bossier City, LA – The 2019 Thoroughbred racing season at Harrah’s Louisiana Downs, which got underway on May 4, concluded on Wednesday, September 25. The meet leaders, Carlos Lozada, Joey Foster and End Zone Athletics, Inc., were honored for their accomplishments on the final afternoon of the 84-day meet.

Both major racing events, Louisiana Cup Day on August 3 and Super Derby Day, which took place September 7, featured excellent fields. For the second year in a row, Hall of Fame conditioner Steve Asmussen won the richest race of the season, the Grade 3, $300,000 Super Derby with Rotation. The son of Tapit, bred and owned by Winchell Thoroughbreds, LLC, rallied strongly for his first graded stakes score under jockey Richard Eramia.

One of the most memorable events of the season was the creation of the Harrah’s Louisiana Downs Racing Hall of Fame. The ceremony took place on Saturday, July 13 with  John Franks; Edward J. DeBartolo, Sr.;  Frank L. Brothers; C.W. Walker; Ronald Ardoin, Larry Snyder; Sunday Silence andFree Spirits Joy inducted into the inaugural class.

Voting for one additional Hall of Fame member in several categories was offered to the fans and they elected trainer Bobby Barnett, jockey Calvin Borel; former general manager Tom Sweeney as well as the incomparable Alysheba as additional inductees.

Officials also introduced a new wager, Super Tuesday Pick 4, on Tuesday, June 25.  The wager teamed two Caesar’s Entertainment racetracks: Harrah’s Louisiana Downs and Indiana Grand Racing and Casino, which both offer Tuesday matinee racing programs. Two races each Tuesday from both racetracks were selected and offered to fans at a reduced takeout of 15%.

“We were thrilled to induct honor such outstanding horses and trailblazers into our Racing Hall of Fame,”said Eric Halstrom, Harrah’s Louisiana Downs vice president of operations.  “The fan vote was very well-received and we will certainly offer that again in 2020. It was also a great beginning for the Super Tuesday Pick 4, which gave us an opportunity to attract new fans as we teamed with the talented and innovative team at Indiana Grand.”

 

Carlos Lozada Wins His First Leading Rider Title

Carlos Lozada was dominant throughout the meet, topping a very competitive jockey colony to claim his first ever leading rider title. The 34-year-old native of Puerto Rico finished the meet with a record of 428 starts, 95 wins, 70 seconds and 52 thirds and purses of $1,076,410.

He began riding in the United States in 2007 after attending Puerto Rico’s Escuela Vocational Hipica, the famed jockey school with a noted list of riders, including Irad Ortiz, Jr, Jose Ortiz as well as 2018 Harrah’s Louisiana Downs top-ranked rider, Emanuel Nieves.

The soft-spoken rider was the 17th-ranked rider in 2018 at Louisiana Downs, but united with former jockey and highly successful agent, Ronald Ardoin, this year.

“There is no doubt that Ronald made a big difference for me,” said Lozada. “He works hard in the mornings and got me a lot of mounts. He won so many races in his career and was very helpful when I asked for advice.”

One of the biggest wins of the meet came on Super Derby Day when Lozada guided Sugarland Thoroughbreds LLC’s homebred Eskenformore to victory in the $60,000 River Cities at odds  of 30-1.  He had ridden the 6-year-old mare, trained by James Hodges, and explained his change of tactics in winning the turf feature.

“I rode her like I knew her,” stated Lozada. “I felt she needed to be closer to the lead and knew she had plenty left for the finish.”

Winning leading rider honors at Harrah’s Louisiana Downs meant a great deal to the devoted family man, supported by his wife, Eileen Quinones and their three sons: Anthony, Jean Carlos and Jandriel.

“I was a little nervous toward the end,” he acknowledged. “Providing for my family is most important to me, but I want to thank every owner and trainer who believed in me and gave me the opportunity to win my first title!”

Lozada will head to Delta Downs for their upcoming Thoroughbred meet, which gets underway on Tuesday, October 8.

It was also a very successful season for Joel Dominguez, who finished second with 91 trips to the winner’s circle, edging Lozada in purses, with mounts earning $1,091,671. Dominguez, who was third in the standings last year, is represented by retired rider Don Simington. Jockey Aubrie Green finished third with 54 victories; a solid step up from her seventh-place finish here in 2018.  Richard Eramia and Hector Del-Cid tied for fourth with 47 trips to the winner’s circle.

 

 

Joey Foster Wins His Third Louisiana Downs Leading Trainer

Benton, Louisiana horseman Joey Foster picked up his third leading trainer title at Harrah’s Louisiana Downs, winning 54 races from 218 starters to top his fellow conditioners this meet.

The very popular trainer won his first title here in 2016, repeating the feat in 2017 and finishing second to Karl Broberg last year. He saddled a mix of claiming and allowance horses throughout the meet, with standouts including Mizztic Tale, who won three of his four starts this meet for owners Brett Day and Kevin Spretz. Also, Play on Becky picked up her third victory of the season on Wednesday, September 25 for her breeder and owner Jim Horton.

“I want to thank each of my owners for their support,” said Foster. “They are the ones that put the show on; training horses is the easy part, but keeping great owners is key.”

Foster also acknowledged his wife, Cheryl, who he refers to as “the backbone” of the barn, and the hard work of assistant trainer, Amaniel Ortiz, affectionately known as “Shorty”.

The Foster trainees will head to Delta Downs as well as Fair Grounds. Foster cited Our Lost Love, a 2-year-old filly Louisiana-bred daughter of Half Ours, as one of his runners to watch. Bred and owned by Tri-Star Racing LLC, she broke her maiden impressively here on September 14.

“She ran a great race and earned an 83 Beyer (speed figure),” said Foster. “We will run her on Louisiana Champions Day (December 14) at Fair Grounds.”

Last year’s leading conditioner, Karl Broberg, finished second with 45 wins. Beverly Burress, who saddled 18 winners last year, finished the meet with 28 victories, including a stakes score with Run Rocket in the $60,000 A. L. (Red) Erwin on the Super Derby card. Steve Asmussen and Jorge Lara tied for fourth with 20 winners each.

 

Leading Owner Title Goes to End Zone Athletics, Inc.

End Zone Athletics, Inc. repeated as owner of the meet, and unlike last year, when the title went down to the final day, the national leader held a comfortable lead throughout the meet.  The highly successful partnership of Karl Broberg and Matt Johanson won 25 races this meet to earn leading owner honors.

“I want to thank Darwin Quevado, my assistant at Louisiana Downs for all he has done,” said Broberg.  “We used quite a few riders, but I was pleasantly surprised by Aubrie Green.”

Broberg confirmed that he will send a string to Delta Downs for their upcoming Thoroughbred meet and will also have a barn at Fair Grounds when their season gets underway.

Dream Walkin Farms, Inc. was second in the standings with 14 wins and horses owned by Ronnie P. Ward made 11 trips to the winner’s circle. Indian Creek Thoroughbred Farms, LLC and Penny Scarberry tied for fourth with ten wins in the 2019 Thoroughbred meet.

 

Harrah’s Louisiana Downs to Offer Training and Stall Space to Horsemen

Harrah’s Louisiana Downs is pleased to offer horsemen an opportunity to train and stable their Thoroughbreds during the months of October, November and December.

When the Evangeline Training Center closed in 2018, officials acknowledged that many Louisiana Thoroughbred trainers were in need of a facility to stable and train their racehorses.  The Bossier City-Shreveport metroplex offers convenient proximity for shipping to Delta Downs in Vinton, Louisiana; Fair Grounds in New Orleans; Remington Park in Oklahoma as well as upcoming live meets at Sam Houston Race Park and Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

Space and availability for Thoroughbreds is limited and will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. Horsemen are encouraged to contact David Heitzmann, Harrah’s Louisiana Downs Director of Racing at (318) 741-2511 or (318) 741-2512 for rates and information.

 

Quarter Horse Racing Returns to Harrah’s Louisiana Downs on January 4

The 2020 Quarter Horse dates for Harrah’s Louisiana Downs have been approved. The 46-day meet will commence on  Saturday, January 4 and continue through Wednesday, March 18.

 

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.

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Fasig-Tipton, Keeneland Push Back Starting Dates Of November Mixed Sales

Fasig-Tipton and Keeneland have pushed back the starting dates of their respective signature November mixed sales by a day to allow more time for travel and inspection following the Breeders’ Cup, which takes place Nov. 1-2.

Fasig-Tipton has adjusted the date of its selected breeding stock sale, The November Sale, to Tuesday, Nov. 5. The sale had previously been scheduled for Nov. 4.

Keeneland announced that its 2019 November Breeding Stock Sale will begin on Wednesday, Nov. 6, at noon, and run through Sunday, Nov. 17. The November Sale was originally scheduled to begin Tuesday, Nov. 5.

 

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Risen Star, Louisiana Derby, Lecomte Will All Be Longer In 2020

Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots has announced that 56 stakes worth a combined $7.13 million will be offered during the upcoming 2019-20 racing season, which is set to begin Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 28.

“We are proud to once again continue our growth and support of the thoroughbred racing industry with our purse allocations and this diverse and dynamic stakes schedule” said Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots president Doug Shipley. “We look forward to our 148th racing season and the continuation of bringing many of the best horsemen and jockeys from around the world to enjoy the high caliber racing at Fair Grounds in New Orleans.”

The “Louisiana Derby Day” card on March 21 will feature eight stakes worth a total of $2.425 million, including the 107th running of the Grade 2 $1 million Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby for 3-year-olds.

Previously run over nine furlongs on dirt, the distance of Louisiana Derby has been extended to 1 3/16th miles. The third and final local prep on the Road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve, the race is worth 100-40-20-10 points to the top four finishers. Run at 1 1/16 miles, the 52nd running of the G2 $400,000 Twinspires.com Fair Grounds Oaks for 3-year-old fillies offers the same number of points en route to the G1 $1.25 million Longines Kentucky Oaks.

“We’ve also lengthened the Lecomte from 1 mile and 70 yards to 1 1/16 miles and the Risen Star from 1 1/16 miles to nine furlongs,” said Fair Grounds’ racing secretary Scott Jones. “The Lecomte has always been a popular early season prep for the horsemen and we wanted to provide the horses a longer run into the first turn. The elongated distances of the Risen Star and Louisiana Derby will help differentiate our races from the other Kentucky Derby preps. We consulted with key participants from recent years, and they were in favor of the slight alterations.”

We are proud to once again note 2019 has been a banner year for 3-year-olds who campaigned at Fair Grounds:

  • G2 Risen Star runner-up Country House, who was also fourth in the Louisiana Derby, was the adjudicated winner of the G1 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.
  • G3 Lecomte and G2 Risen Star winner War of Will won the G1 Preakness Stakes at Pimlico.
  • Serengeti Empress and Liora, the one-two finishers in the G2 Rachel Alexandra, also ran first and second in the G1 Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs.
  • Street Band, winner of the G2 Twinspires.com Fair Grounds Oaks, won the G3 Indiana Oaks at Indiana Grand and the G1 Cotillion at Parx.
  • G3 Lecomte runner-up Hog Creek Hustle, who also competed in the G2Risen Star and G1Louisiana Derby won the G1 Woody Stephens at Belmont.
  • Mr. Money, who competed in both the G2 Risen Star and G1 Louisiana Derby, rattled off four consecutive G3 victories prior to finishing second in the G1 Pennsylvania Derby.

A pair of nine furlong, high-impact stakes for older horses are also scheduled on the Louisiana Derby Day program – the G2 $400,000 New Orleans Classic and the G2 $300,000 Muniz Memorial Stakes, to be run over the Stall-Wilson Turf Course. In addition, four undercard stakes are slated for the lucrative card, including the $100,000 Tom Benson Memorial for older fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on grass and a trio of Louisiana-bred events – the $75,000 Costa Rising Stakes, a 5½-furlong turf sprint, the $75,000 Crescent City Derby for 3-year-old males at 1 1/16 miles and the $75,000 Crescent City Oaks for females at 1 mile and 70 yards.

On January 18, the “Road to the Derby Kickoff Day presented by Hotel Monteleone” features a pair of key 3-year-old events — the G3 $200,000 Lecomte Stakes, now run at 1 1/16 miles, and the $150,000 Silverbulletday Stakes for fillies at 1 mile and 70 yards. The top four finishers in each race receive 10-4-2-1 points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby and Oaks respectively.

Four stakes for older horses will also be presented on the January 18 program — the $125,000 Colonel E.R. Bradley Stakes at 1 1/16 miles over the Stall-Wilson Turf Course, the $100,000 Louisiana Stakes at 1 1/16 miles, the $100,000 Duncan F. Kenner Stakes at six furlongs and the $100,000 Marie G. Krantz Memorial Stakes for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on grass.

On February 15, “Louisiana Derby Preview Day presented by Lamarque Ford-Lincoln” features a pair of key 3-year-old stakes — the Grade II $400,000 Risen Star Stakes presented by Lamarque Ford-Lincoln, now run at 1 1/8 miles, and the Grade II $300,000 Rachel Alexandra Stakes presented by Fasig-Tipton, increased by $100,000 for this year’s renewal, for fillies to be contested over 1 1/16 miles. The top four finishers receive 40-20-10-5 points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby and Oaks respectively.

The Rachel Alexandra has produced the last two Kentucky Oaks winners in Monomoy Girl (2018) and Serengeti Empress (2019) and 2014 winner Untapable also took down the Run for the Lilies. The Fair Grounds is hopeful the Rachel Alexandra will soon achieve the Grade 1 status is deserves.

Four stakes for older horses will also be presented on the February 15 program — the G3 $200,000 Mineshaft Stakes at 1 1/16 miles, the G3 $150,000 Fair Grounds Stakes for at nine furlongs on turf, the $100,000 Colonel Power Stakes at 5½ furlongs on turf and the $100,000 Albert M. Stall Memorial Stakes for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on turf.

The December 21 “Santa Super Saturday presented by Coca-Cola” card offers a six-pack of $75,000 stakes. Four of the races are for older horses — the Tenacious Stakes at 1 mile and 70 yards, the Bonapaw Stakes at 5 ½ furlongs on turf, the Blushing K.D. for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on turf, and the Buddy Diliberto Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on turf. The other two are six furlong events for juveniles – the Sugar Bowl Stakes for the boys and the Letellier Memorial Stakes for the girls.

Louisiana Champions Day presented by Acadian Ambulance will be held on December 14. With the races run over various divisions and distances on both dirt and turf, the program features ten stakes restricted to Louisiana-breds. Each Louisiana Champions Day is worth $100,000 with the exception of the Louisiana Champions Day Classic, which carries a $150,000 purse.

Named in honor of the Hall of Fame jockey who passed away in August, The Randy P. Romero Memorial Overnight Stakes (formerly Captain Maestri) will be run on February 1 (3-year-olds, one mile on turf).

Named in honor of the longtime horse racing reporter and author who passed away in July, The Bob Fortus Memorial Stakes (formerly the Tiffany Lass) will be run on December 26 (fillies and mares, 3-year-olds and up, 1 mile 70 yards on dirt)

Stakes races named last racing season in honor of the late Thoroughbred owner and New Orleans icon Tom Benson, who owned the NFL’s New Orleans Saints and NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans, and Shantel Lanerie, the late wife of long-time jockey Corey Lanerie and the inspiration for the Shantel Lanerie Breast Cancer Foundation, also remain on the schedule on March 21 and February 8 respectively.

Take note that the open undercard stakes on “Road to Derby Kickoff”, “Louisiana Derby Preview Day” and “Louisiana Derby Day” as well as the Thanksgiving Day Classic will now be run for $100,000, up from $75,000. In addition, Fair Grounds has eliminated handicap conditions for stakes races. These races will now be weighted under allowance conditions.

The 80-day, 2019-20 Fair Grounds racing season run conclude Sunday, March 29. Regular post time will be 12:30 p.m. CT. The exceptions are Louisiana Derby Day (March 21 at 11 a.m. CT), “Twilight Racing” (December 7 and January 25 at 3 p.m. CT) and “Starlight Racing” (March 13 and 27 at 5 p.m. CT).

“On the heels of a banner 2018-19 season, we’re excited to offer another outstanding stakes program to horsemen and fans,” said Fair Grounds’ racing secretary Scott Jones. “Our biggest days are direct feeders into the Kentucky Derby and Oaks, and the recent results of the horses who have participated with us in New Orleans speak for themselves. This year will be no exception. We are equally excited to see an enhancement in purse money for some of our stakes and we are confident that the program and our day to day racing product we will be well supported by our horsemen.”

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Membership, Louisiana Champions Day Deadlines Near

Pay 2019-20 Membership Dues
by September 30 

to avoid increase in fee
Until September 30, Dues $75.00
Beginning October 1, Dues $85.00

Louisiana Champions Day
Early Bird Nominations $150
Also Due by October 1st
Final Nominations $500
Close November 15

Louisiana Champions Day Gala
Is Back for 2019!

Friday, December 13
Copelands Tower in New Orleans
All members receive free admission
Non-member tickets $55 each

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Illinois Racing Board Grants Arlington 2020 Race Dates

Board had threatened one week earlier to deny Arlington race dates.

 

The Illinois Racing Board has voted to grant Arlington International Racecourse its normal summertime racing dates for 2020 despite concerns about owner Churchill Downs Inc.’s decision not to pursue a casino license that would have generated millions of dollars for the purse account.

The vote, at a packed meeting Sept. 24 in the Chicago Loop, came after a week’s delay during which an IRB committee sought potential changes in CDI’s position. None was forthcoming, although CDI senior vice president and general counsel Brad Blackwell told the IRB the company is “still trying to figure this out,” referring to new Illinois legislation authorizing racinos.

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More Than 600 Stakeholders from Across the Racing Industry Sign Public Letter In Support of Protecting Lasix as a Choice on Race-Day

LEXINGTON, KY (Friday, Sept. 20, 2019) – A unified industry group believes banning Lasix will adversely impact the health and welfare of racehorses, as well as the strength of our industry. Today, a letter (posted below) was released with more than 600 signatures in support of protecting Lasix as a choice for horsemen and veterinarians to administer on race-day for the well-being of equine and human athletes. The initial round of signatures from racing stakeholders features individuals from across the industry. Signatures will continue to be collected going forward. Click here to be added to the list.

Public Letter on Stance to NOT Eliminate the Choice to Administer Lasix on Race Day

A recent open letter proclaimed that “horse racing is at a pivotal moment in its long history in the United States.” On this we agree. We also agree all of us love and cherish the equine athletes upon which our industry is built. To that end we believe in practicing the highest standards of horsemanship, and we continually work to improve the care, health and safety of our thoroughbred racehorses.

In that regard, we support horsemen and our veterinarians having the continued option to run a horse with a race-day administration of the therapeutic and protective medication furosemide (Lasix).

We, too, are ready for change and will eagerly embrace change if the alterations are done for the greater good of equine health and welfare. We are committed to reforms emphasizing transparency and developments that will address misunderstandings from those in the non-racing public as well as ensuring our horses are treated with the highest degree of care. The eradication of our choice to administer race-day Lasix will not do any of those things.

It is our belief that banning Lasix will adversely impact the health and welfare of our racehorses as well as the strength of our industry. Research also proves an increased number of horses will bleed significantly out of their nostrils, or into in their lungs, and an increased number will die.

We understand and agree things can and should be done to improve the safety and welfare of our equine athletes. It is just as important to understand what is NOT causing catastrophic injuries, as it is understanding the underlying causes. Many continue to claim Lasix will interfere with post-race drug testing due to dilution, but this argument has long been disproven. Lasix is a short-acting diuretic and the dilution effect is gone in two hours. However, the tightly regulated administration of Lasix is required four hours before a race. Thus, Lasix has no ability to interfere with blood or urine testing after a race.

No one takes our stance on this position casually, but we believe we must not be led down a path created by perception and not facts. For this reason we must stand for what is in the best interest and safety for our equine and human athletes.

This letter includes an initial round of over 600 signatures from racing stakeholders and signatures will continue to be collected going forward. Click here to be added to the list.

Signatures include the following: Rusty Arnold; Steve Asmussen; Buff Bradley; Bret Calhoun; Anita and James Cauley; Dr. Nancy Cole; Brad Cox; Boyd Caster; Wayne Catalano, Jake Delhomme; Michael Ann Ewing; Greg Foley; Vickie Foley; Tim Glyshaw; Larry Jones; Dallas Keen; Marshall Gramm; Dr. Chuck Kidder; Mike and Penny Lauer; Mike Maker; Ron Moquett; Randy Morse; Maggi Moss; Loren Hebel Osborne; Joe Orseno; Joel Politi; Allen Poindexter; Louis J. Roussel III; Clay Sanders; Chester Thomas; Mike Tomlinson; Tom Van Berg; Kelly Von Hemel; Gary and Mary West; Ian Wilkes; Jack Wolf; Erv Woolsey.

The entire list may be viewed as a PDF file and can also be found at this link (list updated as of 9/20/19):

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Keeneland September Sale Produces Near-Record Returns, Record-Priced Filly

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The 2019 renewal of the Keeneland September Yearling Sale didn’t keep up with last year’s record-setting edition when it came to the measurables. Even so, the returns from this year’s auction established a steady cruising altitude for the marketplace, showing it’s fully clear of the Great Recession that brought the Thoroughbred industry to a screeching halt a decade ago, and it proved it can still hit some of the pre-bust economy’s most dizzying heights.

A lot has changed from then to now, but two pillars remain unweathered from the glory days of the mid-2000s: The first is that horse that ticks all the proverbial boxes will bring serious money. The second is, if the horse ticks them with authority, Godolphin and the Coolmore partnership will meet in the back ring to do battle for them.

 

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FORMER TRAINER, BILLY MCKEEVER, JR., KEEPS TRACK SURFACES IN TOP SHAPE AT HARRAH’S LOUISIANA DOWNS

Bossier City, LA – Billy McKeever, Jr. brings a unique skill set to his role as the highly-respected track superintendent at Harrah’s Louisiana Downs.

The 56-year-old was born in Shreveport and grew up in nearby Benton, Louisiana. His late father, Billy McKeever, Sr., was a very successful Louisiana-base trainer. McKeever followed that same path and trained  for six years, beginning in 2001, winning 59 races. His most prolific runner was Crowned King, who ran third in the 2003 Super Derby at Harrah’s Louisiana Downs.

In 2006, McKeever was evaluating the future of the Kentucky-bred Crowned King, who had won eight races and bankrolled over $580,000.

“He was six, and I was thinking it might be time to retire him,” recalled McKeever. “I started considering that maybe it was time for me to retire too.”

McKeever applied for the barn area supervisor job at Louisiana Downs and began in January, 2007. He worked closely with Brian Jabelmann, who was a consultant involved in the management of the track surfaces.

Jabelmann recommended McKeever for the job of track superintendent and he has held that position for the past 11 years.

McKeever is supported by a staff of 20 and each team member is fully committed to their assigned duties. Just one example is that two men have the first shift, beginning at 3:00 am to water the track before training begins at 6:00 am.

“Everybody in the department knows their job, but if we get five inches of rain, I don’t have to ask; the entire crew will be out there, opening additional weep holes and doing whatever has to be done to have the track ready for racing,” he explained.

To keep the Franks Turf Course green throughout one of the hottest summers in recent history was no easy feat. McKeever shared that he consulted with Scott Tolar of Evergreen Turf Solutions.

“This year we worked with Scott on a new fertilizer program, which really paid off,” said McKeever. “Of course, 28-30 loads of water each day was required, but the fertilizing program got us the best root I have seen.”

Another very important component of a safe track surface is creating the optimum composite for the main track. McKeever sends samples to Michael Depew, a respected “lab man” in Michigan.

Getting the correct mix of sand and clay is essential and the combination is different for the winter Quarter Horse meet versus the Thoroughbred meet, which runs from May through September.

McKeever is accessible to trainers, jockeys and track veterinarians and takes their feedback into account.

“Probably from training horses, I know that if I getting news about horses having joint or soft tissue injuries, changes might need to be made,” he added.

McKeever gives special thanks to the operations team at Louisiana Downs for approving the necessary funds to ensure safe track surfaces.

“Both Trent McIntosh, and now, Eric Halstrom have been incredibly supportive of spending money when needed,” stated McKeever. “I have gone to them explaining that we need to buy $75,000 worth of material and I get the necessary approval. To know they have the confidence in my judgement means a lot.”

Joey Foster, who is the current leading conditioner at Louisiana Downs, is one of many horsemen to give high marks to McKeever.

“Billy does an awesome job on both our dirt and turf tracks,” said Foster. “We have hardly had any rain, just a sprinkle during our hot summer, but the surfaces continue to be kind to our horses. Plus, we can go to Billy if we have concerns; he does a great job and is a very nice guy!”

And not that anyone would need further proof that horses are pretty important to McKeever, he shared that Crowned King, who is 19, is enjoying retirement on his farm in Benton!

 

 

Announcer John McGary Off to Zia Park This Week

Harrah’s Louisiana Downs track announcer John McGary will wrap up his duties in the booth on Wednesday, September 18. He will head to Zia Park in Hobbs, New Mexico to call the races for their 2019 live racing season which begins on Saturday, September 21. This will be the third season that McGary has traveled west to call their Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse races.

Stepping in for the final four days of the meet will be Brian Arrigoni, who serves as the racing analyst at Canterbury Park. Five years ago, Arrigoni was a fan, attending the races at the popular Minnesota racetrack, and introduced himself to Eric Halstrom, who was their General Manager and now serves as Vice President of Operations at Louisiana Downs. Halstrom was impressed with Arrigoni’s love of racing and hired him. He serves as one of the track’s handicappers and hosts their paddock preview show with a variety of co-hosts, including track announcer Paul Allen. The popular Allen calls play-by-play for the Minnesota Vikings on KFAN and is the voice of the Minnesota Vikings Radio Network. When Allen’s NFL duties took him away from the booth, Arrigoni called the Canterbury Park races on August 18.

“This is a very exciting for me,” said Arrigoni, who will make his first visit to Louisiana.  “I am very grateful to Eric for hiring me at Canterbury and offering me the opportunity to call the final four days of the Louisiana Downs meet.”

The two Minnesota Vikings fans will reunite with Arrigoni stepping in beginning Saturday.

“I’m very familiar with Brian’s abilities and his enthusiasm and love of racing,” said Halstrom. “He will be a great replacement for John during the last week of our meet. It will be an excellent way for him to get some experience and exposure as well.”

 

Memorable Week for Jockey Emanuel Nieves

Last year’s leading rider Emanuel Nieves was injured in a spill on May 7 and just returned to action at the end of August.  On Wednesday, September 17, he won the sixth race aboard Mizztic Tale for trainer Joey Foster and finished second on Swift Shock in the final race of the afternoon. The 26-year-old native of Puerto Rico had little time to celebrate his comeback victory as he quickly departed for the for the hospital where his wife, Milyorie went into labor with the couple’s first child. Ian Emanuel was born early this morning and all three are doing well!

 

Trainer, Jock Trainer, Jockey and Owner Standings

As of September 18, Joey Foster leads his fellow conditioners with 53 wins this season topping.  Karl Broberg who has won 45 races. Beverly Burress has saddled 28 winners and  Jorge Lara andSteve Asmussen are tied for fourth with 19 wins each.

Carlos Lozada continues to lead the jockey standings with 91 wins holding off Joel Dominguez by three win Aubrie Green has won 50 races to move up to third in the standings and Richard Eramiarounds out the top four in the standings with 47 winning mounts.

 End Zone Athletics, Inc. has built an insurmountable lead in the quest for owner honors with 25 wins. Dream Walkin Farms, Inc. is second with 13 winners and Ronnie P. Ward follows with 11 victories and Indian Creek Thoroughbred Farms, LLC rounds out the top four owners with ten winners since the meet began on May 4.

 

Final Week of the 2019 Thoroughbred Meet

Live racing will be conducted Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and Saturday with a 3:15 p.m. (Central) post time through Wednesday, September 25.  The closing day of the season will include the presentation of the End of the Meet honors for the leading owner, trainer and jockey.

 

 

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.

 

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