Commission Approves Louisiana Downs to Open June 6

Money from the canceled Super Derby (G3) will be directed toward overnight purses.

 

Louisiana Downs received authorization by the Louisiana State Racing Commission during a May 5 teleconference to begin its Thoroughbred meet June 6 and continue until Sept. 23. The commission also approved the cancellation of the track’s lone graded race, the Super Derby (G3), which carried a $300,000 purse last year.

“We decided to take care of the local horsemen and put all that money toward overnight purses,” David Heitzmann, director of racing at Louisiana Downs, said in an interview after the commission meeting.

Purses in Louisiana are heavily subsidized by revenue from racetrack casinos, which have been suspended due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. Determinations are still being made regarding the track’s purse structure, according to Heitzmann.

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Judge Sides With Louisiana Horsemen, Allows Training

Barring further legal action, training four days a week begins April 13.

The Louisiana Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association announced April 9 that Louisiana District Court Judge Sharon Wilson has dissolved a temporary restraining order obtained by Boyd Gaming that resulted in no racehorse training at some state tracks.

Boyd Gaming, which owns Evangeline Downs and Delta Downs in Louisiana, had been allowing stabling at its facilities but not training, citing health concerns related to COVID-19 for staff, among other reasons. Louisiana Downs, owned by Harrah’s, another gaming company, also prohibited training recently.

Under the terms of the court decision and barring further legal action, training on a four-days-a-week basis begins April 13, said Benard Chatters, the president of the Louisiana HBPA and a trainer at Evangeline Downs in Opelousas, La. He estimated there are 500 horses stabled there who have been limited to walking since mid-March.

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Amoss to Self-Quarantine After Interaction With Payton

Trainer added in his tweet that he “will be tested at the earliest possible time.”

Trainer Tom Amoss tweeted March 19 that he would self-quarantine for 14 days after learning that New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton—who was in the winner’s circle with him at Oaklawn Park March 14—tested positive for COVID-19. The trainer added in his tweet that he “will be tested at the earliest possible time” but feels great and has no symptoms.

Amoss, whose primary winter training base is Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots in New Orleans, was at Oaklawn in Hot Springs, Ark., to watch Joel Politi’s Serengeti Empress win the March 14 Azeri Stakes (G2) by 6 1/4 lengths under Joe Talamo. Fair Grounds and Oaklawn raced last week, mostly without spectators.

 

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Partial Interest Sold in Louisiana-bred 3-Year-Old No Parole

Moss said a decision on an upcoming race would likely not be made until next week.

 

Unbeaten Louisiana-bred 3-year-old No Parole will have an additional owner when he races next, perhaps a prep race toward the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1). Majority owner Maggi Moss said Feb. 13 she has sold a minority interest in the Violence  colt to Greg Tramontin.

No Parole—3-for-3 in state-bred competition—won his first two races at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots in six-furlong sprints before stretching out to two turns in the Feb. 8 Louisiana Bred Premier Night Prince Stakes at a mile at Delta Downs. Spurting to the lead, he relaxed and cruised under the wire 6 1/2 lengths in front under regular rider James Graham.

 

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Nominations Ongoing For Randy Romero Pure Courage Award

Nominations accepted through Jan. 15, with a presentation to be made March 21.

Following the death of Hall of Fame jockey Randy Romero this past summer at 61, supporters in his native Louisiana are keeping his legacy alive at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots in New Orleans. Besides the track naming a race after the famed jockey—the Feb. 1 Randy P. Romero Memorial Stakes—a group of nine friends have created the Randy Romero Pure Courage Award to honor a North American jockey who, like Romero, battled back from injury and adversity to achieve success.

The recipient of the award will receive a bronze trophy in a presentation at Fair Grounds on Louisiana Derby Day March 21, organizer Rick Mocklin said.

Romero, a winner of 4,294 races and $75.2 million in earnings over a career from 1973-99, was the regular rider of such elite distaffers as Go For Wand and Personal Ensign, with whom he teamed to win the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) in 1988 to finish an unbeaten career. He won 122 graded stakes and riding titles at 10 tracks, including Belmont Park, Arlington Park, Gulfstream Park, Keeneland, and Fair Grounds.

He managed to do this despite a slew of injuries that shortened his career and left him fighting pain for much of the second half of his life. Among these injuries was a near-fatal sauna explosion at Oaklawn Park that burned 60% of his body in 1983, after which he contracted hepatitis C from blood transfusions during skin graph operations. He returned to riding 14 months after the Oaklawn accident.

The 1990s brought more physical setbacks, including when Go For Wand was fatally injured in the 1990 Breeders’ Cup Distaff and Romero crashed to the ground, breaking eight ribs and a bone in his shoulder. He finished riding later that decade, with Mocklin acting as his agent for a couple of those years.

“He went through so many things that 10 riders might not go through in their career, but Randy was always looking to ride again,” Mocklin said. “No matter what the injury was, he was looking when he could ride again and get back in the saddle.”

The goal of the Randy Romero Pure Courage Award is to honor a rider who shows the same kind of determination.

Mocklin said the nine people organizing the award—which include trainer Dallas Stewart and Kentucky restaurateur Tommy Walters—are funding the trophy’s purchase and will vote to determine the winner. To be eligible, a rider needs to be nominated before the committee’s Jan. 15 deadline, with nominations made to Mocklin at 504-382-9787 or via email to info@shantellaneriefoundation.com.

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Desormeaux Returns to Louisiana to Ride at Fair Grounds

The 49-year-old rider leaves California, his longtime base.

Cajun-born Kent Desormeaux, who began his Hall of Fame career as a jockey at the unsanctioned “bush tracks” of Louisiana on his way to riding more than 6,000 winners, has returned home to Louisiana to ride full time at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots this winter.

Frustrated by reduced opportunities in California, where he has predominantly ridden since 2014, Desormeaux sought a change in circuits. He is experiencing one of his quietest years as a jockey, with 34 winners from 269 mounts and earnings of $2.4 million. He last rode at Del Mar Nov. 10, winning with one of his two mounts that afternoon.

 

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